General Advice – Welcome!

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 1 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, where I give you some general advice on performance. In August 2021, I created a video to announce the book release and to say a few words about my motivation for writing the book, as well as the accompanying video content. You can watch this video here.

To watch the videos for any of the other chapters, just click through the tutorial tabs. Alternatively, you can head to my YouTube channel.

About the chapter:

Performance styles in electronic music are as diverse as electronic music genres. Some artists perform on DJ decks, some play traditional instruments with backing tracks and others use DAWs with MIDI controllers. Again others work with visuals. Some acts are bands, where each performer has a specific role. Solo acts, on the other hand, control every aspect of their performances. What works in a live show depends on the music, the act, the band members’ skills and the performance situation. 

All successful artists are well-rehearsed and have a clear concept for their shows. This rehearsal includes managing stage fright, developing a performance persona and responding to feedback in a constructive way. All successful performances are immaculately planned, from playback rigs to improvisational systems. They are adapted to different venues and audiences. Great shows are memorable experiences that also carry an intrinsic message that is clearly communicated to the audiences that watch them.

DAWs and Controllers

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 2 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, where I talk about DAWs and hardware controllers. You can watch the two accompanying tutorial videos for this chapter here. In these videos, I show you how you can take a complex Logic Pro X production and turn it into a flexible, intuitive live performance in Ableton Live. The first part introduces looping clips, one shots and follow actions. The second part talks about live effects, synths, vocals and visuals.

About the chapter:

DAW and controller setups are popular among electronic music performers due to their rich offering of creative opportunities. Projects can easily be shared online and new plugins can be flexibly added, which makes for highly portable and customizable live show setups. The crossover between production and performance is easily achieved, especially when both take place in the same DAW. Clip-based DAWs offer the performer much flexibility and room for improvisation: in Ableton Live, Bitwig, Maschine, Logic Pro X or FL Studio we can store and trigger musical ideas in a non-linear way. The chapter also discusses the options for integrating hardware controllers to create live arrangements, perform mashups, play on software instruments, control effects, or as additional sound sources. It also discusses how we can either structure prepared material for easy access in the live show or record new material on the fly. The chapter touches on collaboration, randomness and generative approaches and GUI customization to fit the requirements of the show. The chapter ends on a tutorial that shows a specific Ableton Live performance set. 

MIDI and CV Performance Controllers

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 3 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, where I talk about MIDI and CV performance controllers. You can watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, I demonstrate how you can perform electronic music without a laptop. We are using two very different MIDI controllers – a Squarp Pyramid MIDI sequencer and a MIDI keyboard – to control a Moog Sirin Limited Edition Bass synthesizer, a Vermona DRM-1 MK-III drum synthesizer and a 90s Gameboy colour. The result is a grungy, noisy LoFi warehouse rave sound.

About the chapter:

This chapter explores the design paradigms and functions governing the world of hardware controllers for electronic music performance. In order to use hardware controllers confidently, it is useful to have a good understanding of how they communicate with each other. Therefore, the first half of the chapter introduces two commonly used types of control signals. First, the old but still popular CV/Gate connection type is explained. Next, the MIDI protocol is introduced, including MIDI 2.0 and MPE (MIDI polyphonic expression). In the second half of the chapter, the vast world of hardware design paradigms is discussed. Among these are simple controls like buttons, knobs, faders and sliders, controllers that resemble traditional musical instruments, modular controllers, motion-controlled performance hardware, sequencers, clock signal generators and more.

DJing and Turntablism

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 4 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, where I talk about DJing and Turntablism. You can watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, deep house legend Dan Murray gives you a complete introduction to DJing, using three different setups. You will see Pioneer CDJs, Technics, an Allen&Heath Xone mixer, MIDI controllers and more.

About the chapter:

A DJ’s job far transcends the seamless blending of tracks. Successful DJs possess two key skills. First and foremost, they must curate music tracks to create engaging sets. Many will select their material on the fly, by reading audience responses and gaging what works best in the moment. DJs have the power to tell a story through their sets, building up energy levels gradually, or changing the mood over time. Secondly, DJs need to possess creative mixing skills. This does not only involve matching the BPMs and keys of adjacent tracks, or syncing up kick drum hits. Through the creative application of effects, looping and even virtuoso scratching techniques, DJs can showcase their very own personal style. In this way, DJ decks are not mere playback devices. Many DJs also expand their setups with synthesizers, drum machines, MIDI controllers and even laptops running entire DAWs.

This chapter covers the history of DJing, from Régine Zylberberg to David Guetta. We examine different DJ roles and look at the most commonly used tools and techniques, including CDJs, mixers, Technics decks and software such as Traktor or Serato. The last section is a tutorial showcasing three contrasting DJ setups.

Incorporating Acoustic Instruments and Vocals

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 5 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which is about incorporating acoustic instruments and vocals in electronic live music. You can watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, the band Emb:Re generate live vocal harmonies via MIDI from the main vocal, using a TC Helicon voice processor. This performance is accompanied with a live synth performance and violin.

About the chapter:

The majority of Western popular music is created in DAWs and consists of vocals and electronic elements. Electronic pop, EDM, dance, hip hop, trap, grime and many other electronic genres are all produced around a lead vocal. A large number of electronic artists also involve traditional instruments and there are many fusion genres that combine acoustic and electronic elements.

This chapter showcases interesting artist examples where vocals, instruments and electronic elements are blended. Records do not need to be performed in the same way as they were created – sometimes, added instruments can create visual interest and make the performance feel more “live”. Other times, bulky and difficult-to-transport instruments that form part of a record are performed on samplers. The chapter also discusses microphones, DI boxes, effects and sound manipulation for vocals and popular instruments.

Live Synthesis and Sound Design

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 6 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which is about live synthesis and sound design. You can watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, I demonstrate how you can perform live with synths. My setup includes an OB6 hardware synth and a ROLI Seaboard, controlling the Equator MPE soft synth in Logic Pro X.

About the chapter:

Electronic music is defined by synthesis and sound design. Artists, companies and brands have unique sonic personalities that are instantly recognizable by their fans and customers. We can create unique sonic signatures through composition, arrangement, vocal styles, recording techniques, mix parameters and more – but electronic music would not exist without synthesizers and samplers. Synthesizers and samplers are well-loved for their impressive sound-producing capabilities. They also look and sound great on stage and allow us expressive control over the sound, in the moment.

This chapter discusses sonic branding, synthesis technology, introducing synthesis techniques like additive, subtractive, FM, waveshaping, sampling, granular, wavetable and physical modelling synthesis. It debunks typical controls like oscillators, amplifiers, amp envelopes, filters, modulation, clocks, effects and more. Next, the chapter offers an overview over the rich history of artists shaping their sound through synthesis and sampling. The last section shows how synths and samplers can be used on stage, introducing techniques for both hardware and software synthesizers.

Performing Without a Laptop

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 7 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which is about performing without a laptop. You can watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, former Infadels guitarist and producer Matt Gooderson introduces his custom modular synth setup, which includes a Make Noise Rene sequencer, Intellijel Tête and Tetrapad, 2HP Plucks and more.

About the chapter:

Nowadays, almost every part of our lives takes place on computers, from shopping, to work and socializing. Our electronic music setup does not need to. The options for compiling a unique hardware setup are endless. From setups consisting of sequencers, MIDI controllers and synths to complex modular rigs, any combination of tools can be achieved. This allows artists to create deeply personal instruments and to explore the benefits of creative restriction.

This chapter explores the building blocks of hardware setups, including control signal generators, control signal routing tools, sound sources, sound processors and effects and mixers. Each building block can be a separate building block, but there are also all-in-one tools available. The chapter also discusses cabling and connections and breaks down a complex modular rig in a tutorial written by Matt Gooderson.

Programming Custom Performance Tools

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 8 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which is about programming custom performance tools. You can watch the three accompanying tutorial videos for this chapter here.

In the first video, Dr Jon Francombe and Professor Stephen Davismoon break down BBC R&D Audio Orchestrator, a tool that lets you turn your laptop, phone and tablet into a surround sound system. In the second video, experimental sound artist Fracesc Moya builds a generative music performance GUI from scratch in Max. The third video is an introduction to live coding in SuperCollider, presented by Eli Fieldsteel, assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, who hosts his own YouTube channel dedicated to SuperCollider.

Download Francesc’s Max patch here.

Download Eli’s SuperCollider code here.

About the chapter:

Software programming skills can give performers more control over their sound, stage presence, artist image and creative process. This chapter begins with a general introduction to programming and introduces key programming environments relevant for musicians, such as C++ within JUCE. After a series of general, inspiring artist examples, the chapter focuses on node-based programming languages, including  Max and Pure Data, and live coding environments, such as SuperCollider.

When we trade commercial tools for the blank canvas of programming environments, we are no longer biased by the look and feel of popular tools. Instead, we have to critically think about who we are as performers and focus on the essentials. Whether we want to create a sonic result more quickly, present effects parameters in a novel way, make our signal flow more robust or let algorithms inspire us, there are enough reasons to leave our comfort zone.

Building Custom Hardware Tools

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 9 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which is about building custom performance hardware tools. You can to watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, Dominique Pelletier a.k.a. R41NB0W TR4$H demonstrates how we can build a light theremin and house it inside of a Gameboy shell.

About the chapter:

By building custom performance hardware, we can create memorable live shows and perform with completely new sounds. We can build ground-breaking devices from scratch or repurpose things that were not originally meant for music, for a unique and innovative artistic expression. This chapter has an abundance of case studies that cover new instruments built from scratch, devices that turn the human body into musical instruments, artists that add functionality to existing instruments and musicians that perform music on toys and household items. The chapter also includes tips on how to get started with electronics and hardware hacking.

The Performance Setting

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 10 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which is about performance settings. You can watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, live sound engineer Steven Massey breaks down the tech behind large festival and broadcast playback rigs.

About the chapter:

Performance settings have a huge impact on the look and sound of a show.  While concert halls and controlled acoustic spaces allow for intricate sonic detail and creative spatial mixing, the sound at stadiums and festivals is an unwieldy beast. Complex MIDI controller setups may work well in a small bar, but will likely become visually lost on a huge festival stage. The role of the performer can vastly differ, and range from the spiritual leader in a warehouse rave, to the intellectual philosopher-artist in the concert hall. Therefore, artists should be well-aware of what works and what does not in the spaces they plan to perform in. This chapter presents common live sound technology, including PA systems, monitoring and mixing desks, it discusses the importance of soundchecks and it also lays out the key parameters that are important in live mixing. Next, a wide range of performance settings is discussed, discussing the implications for the artist. The tutorial at the end introduces a typical large-venue playback rig.

Stage Design and Visual Parameters

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 11 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which is about stage design and visual parameters. You can watch the accompanying tutorial video for this chapter here. In this video, I demonstrate how you can perform live with custom visuals in the Ableton Live session view by using the third party plugin EboSuite. The visuals are created in Magicavoxel, Photoshop and Premiere Pro, to achieve a pixely retro games look.

About the chapter:

Visual parameters can turn music performances into holistic, multisensory experiences. They can reinforce the emotion and energy flow of the music, through abstract representations of the music in colour and shape, or by providing an additional narrative context. The song concept and artist brand can be communicated more clearly through a combination of visuals and sound, rather than sound alone. We can create performance personas that resemble who we are in real life, or are entirely fictional. Live visuals can also be used to amplify what is happening on stage.

This chapter summarizes the existing tools for creating visual interest, including moving visuals, lighting, dancing and acting, fashion and stage design, offering insight into how they can be used to support the overall creative vision.

Planning and Promotion

Welcome to the webpage for chapter 12 of my book “Performing Electronic Music Live”, which talks about planning and promoting live shows. You can watch the five accompanying tutorial videos for this chapter here. In each video, trance legend Woody Van Eyden presents key industry tips, from networking and building your team to being unique. Woody is an internationally acclaimed award-winning music manager, DJ, trance producer, performer and label owner. He presents a handy list of Do’s and Don’ts for artists that want to succeed in the music industry, basing his advice on his work with renowned artists such as Alex M.O.R.P.H. and ATB.

About the chapter:

The current chapter provides an introduction to promotional strategies that artists can use in order to grow their audience and to gain interesting performance opportunities. Overall, consistent branding, high-quality music, a strong, remarkable artist identity and a compelling performance style are the most important ingredients for getting interesting gig opportunities. We need to place ourselves in clearly defined scenes and know our audience. We also need to get to know connectors, mavens and sales people that can help us grow our career. The chapter talks about music branding principles, key marketing materials that artists will benefit from and networking. Throughout the chapter, the reader is referred to many in-depth resources for further reading.