Daws offer a lot of options, as a tool for (always limited) hardware biased setup, but I think that the real point is the default meaning of the word "live act" in the electronic music world - it is too broad and confusing. It is often understood as music made strictly on hardware, but foremost - live in front of you. From samples, looped sequences pre-programmed or composed live, played by hand with little automation. On the other hand, for many folks, it means that the daw is a centre of operation, and the person is using controllers to do the same things, as above. And, hell yeah, daws offer so much more automation, they can even generate sequences! Plugins don't weight as much as a full setup for an acid rave. The third group, are people who don't mind how you do the music. For some of them, it is most impressive when they "See? This dj, or whatever it is called, when she presses that button it makes that deep bass sound! She is doing it live!" While for some, it is just music, and the records sound better from synths, with full compression and final studio touch - the mastering. But nothing beats an impression of making something live, in front of the audience. The fourth group, or thing, are folks who record at home studios using daws to record music. All tracks recorded separately, and mastered to the last drop, then professionally mixed. The performers vs producers. Or maybe dawless should refer to all groups of musicians. You can do one or both things, if you do both, keeping the same quality, you are a badass. And if you don't? You may even be a badass too by pressing space on your laptop, triggering sequences in the MIDI connected hardware synthesizers. Live act means nothing.
Thats a live act:
This is what I love about synthesizers nowadays - they connect people - freaks. Only through electronic music, I met a bunch of engineers, artists, designers etc. who spent all their savings on gear - GAS all the way :) ...and indeed, synth players, in general, appear to have more and more "collection" type of approach, rather than making actual music. I do not criticize it, I just love it - people spending time. self realising, traveling through space - whatever makes them happy, and who knows, maybe some will make a significant point or a big change in the music scene.
One guy, Art Kanashibari, Artur, created a set of meetings where anyone could bring the synthesizer with him and play in a pre-distinguished style, manner - eg. ambient in G minor, or minimal in C minor. Everybody had their 30-minute set. Sometimes we went in pairs, solo, sometimes all at once. The atmosphere was easy, and I was especially enjoying the experimental side of those meetings - also how synths worked on stage.
All those meetings were connected with City Full of Sounds initiative (Miasto Pełne Dźwięków) and their events had tens of people attending. That was the target of the Jams. However, it appeared that only a dozen people were making music in live conditions. The Warsaw Electronic Jams... seven? of us? Art Kanashibari as the founder, Piotrek Mazurek, Piotrek Tempczyk, Albert Wallin, we became friends quite regularly, not frequently, meeting. Few More I can't remember names now, or I am too fucked up to check at the Facebook page. I like such meetings, it is funny how easy it is to gather synthesizer freaks. If you only know some.
We met again. 7th May 2018. Music non-stop.
LIVE RECORDING (of some momentum)
In March 2017, one year ago, while I finished one of the live acts, my Juno DS, with all my drafts and crafted sounds - fell and broke down on a stone floor. (I was sober, to be precise, that's why it was a real bummer).
That Juno DS has a bunch of compositions. I figured once that I cannot rely on recording everything live, I must have some basics prepared, some simple sequences, which I can build up during the performance. It was a very important thing, which took me a lot of time to prepare, and it was all gone. I am not talking about electronic music but my Tothead and my deep house (unnamed) project - all laying in pieces.
If you ask me before March 2017 if I make techno, electronic or club music, I would say - NO! As the Tothead and deep house projects were aimed to be a sophisticated, odd tempo signature melange of ambitious jazz and ethnic music, with modern technology drive and taste. Whatever you call it.
After the accident, I ended up with a monophonic bass synth (TB-3), monophonic synth (Minibrute) and drum performer (TR-8). Of course, I also had some effects and Kaosspad which can work as a looper. Without Juno DS I thought that all is over. I treated all other synthesizers only as accompanying stuff to Juno DS. I did not have money for a new synth and the next one, I would be able to buy next year. After four days of pretending that music does not exist, I decided that I am not going to waste time. I sat down with the abovementioned minimum setup and, with a smart use of Kaosspad looper (It has four tracks, each can have own length, always 4x4, no odd tempo signature) I started making 4x4 music. A simple base with lots of effects, plus a reverbed-to-max synthesizer, delays, Kaosspad effects, some pre-recorded vocal samples - whatever I tried to do with a beat, started sounding as club underground music - all the way.
It was the beginning of Klar Kinelis project. Then in April, I "moved back to Poland from Switzerland". People, who know my story will laugh now, but that is somehow true. I have re-entered Poland and Warsaw in a very different way. Something changed in me. I started to feel that techno is a hidden gem of modern electronic music. It is so powerful and engaged. I can make a deep house track in 30 minutes, but I need at least one whole day to complete a single techno track - and I am not talking about producing and mixing the sequences, but preparing sound patches for every 7 minutes of the live act (my single track average). At the same time, I realized, that the thing I was doing with Juno DS - having most of each track prepared (programmed in the sequencer) to use and expand them during the show - was a disaster to creativity in live situations. Now, I just have an empty canvas, which will not fill for itself. I have freed my mind through techno music.
Understanding electronic music better, I have first played some weird shit, which was often understood as happy, tech house or melodic techno music (no idea why probably because it was not dark, despite minor scales). For me, techno is a resurrection of African music - brought up listening to USA hip-hop music, I am now playing black electronic music - a high tech soul.
I am looking into the future, not past, so if someone says, your music is not this or that or that I am playing crappy shit, I do not care. This year gave me confidence and a feeling to keep on walking on a very narrow path - so narrow that if I lean to the left or right from it if I stop listening to my soul, I will burn out and get frustrated.
You should always make things for yourself.
A wise man once said "It's the ear, not the gear", but I can take it to the next level - "It's the ear and how you use your gear".
My setup can be considered to be a modest one if we narrow it down to budget. I only spent €4000. I am a pianist, and since synthesizers with key-beds are usually larger and heavier than "Albeton setups" or modular rigs, since I plan to easily travel with my gear I did not buy the top shelf products, but I focused on comfort, simplicity and something I can rebuy, if someone would pour beer on it. I also noticed that a lot of products which cost more are far more complicated and often require menu diving or focusing (like Elektrons or Dave Smith synths), yet they have much more to offer sonically. Anyway, the fact of using a piece of hardware already makes the sound superior to computer ones. I recently jammed in a professional studio with some excellent PAs installed in every corner, you could hear every little thing, hiss, bump coming from your gear, and I could not believe how cheap and shallow any bass drum or bass would sound, coming from my friend's Ableton setup. At the same time, every synthesizer uses the same techniques of sound shaping and routing (well, it is very similar at least), so I believe that if you spent time learning every little part of your synth, experimenting with different techniques, will lead to better results, than buying more expensive gear where you can achieve the same results by diving in more complicated menus. Also the compressors, mixer's EQ, this is what you should focus on, while the source should remain simple - like in jazz ensembles. The sound comes from instruments which have everything at hand, no hidden aspects, you not only play but also experiment, using it in a different way, than intended (eg. playing drums on a double bass case). Then, here is this guy sitting at the stereo sum, who can add spice, like reverbs, different EQ settings, add a compressor etc. In my case everything is done by a single person - me.
When I started playing techno and live electronic music in general, back in 2017, my knowledge of how things work club and dance wise, was very basic. I think I had a lot of self-confidence, frankly speaking. Every month when I play or not play, but simply hang around a turned on gear with a sustained chord, I learn that many things I did previously, were wrong partially or totally. I started minimizing my setup, focusing on using very little synths, to achieve a comfortable flow. I started using my mixer as a sound-shaping tool (the magic of equalization) by using the audio levels more properly. Then I noticed, that even a TB-3, which is a digital, very basic (limited controls) bass synthesizer, can sound unique, fat and juicy and be better, than a possibly overrated, Moog synthesizers. Yes, I wrote that :) Some synth freaks might consider it as heresy, however, every sound can be shaped and amplified in such a way, that without visual reference, just by hearing the sound, you might think - Damn, that must be a fine piece of bass synth. Now, I understand how the Ableton productions sound often so well - it's the engineering, the mastering process.
Keeping in mind, that complicated equipment leads to frustration and slows down the flow, and that learning and experimenting with your sound-shaping tools, like mixer's equalization, appropriate effects application, leads to a point, where not the number of gear matters, but the skill.
I stopped using the Arturia's Minibrute as additional lead synth leaving only one bass, one drum and one lead/pad synthesizer + ES2 as drum sampler and KP3+ for effects processing. I might limit it, even more, leaving ES2 out or the TB-3.
When in early June 2017 I started working on my "demo tape", I knew it is not going to be ...as easy as playing live.
Why? When you play live, when you improvise, what you play is established by eg. air humidity, what you been doing thought past few days, the dress of that girl dancing in front, the crazy hairstyle of that guy watching my every move on the filter knob etc. Everything makes everything.
A very important aspect of playing live is the fact that people see you in front of the instrument, they can often relate the changing sound to the hand movement. This takes listening to a different level. While, when you put on your headphones and sit down in an underground train with your eyes shut, you start to listen to music in a very different way. There is no relation between artist and music, as there is only music, you also focus on things which might not be that obvious or visible while performing live. A listener who does not know that my music is played on live electronic instruments might think that it is an Ableton sequence or everything is made from long samples etc.
In this case, I have a problem because my demo should be with a video presentation, and since it is not possible in all cases, the recording should be made in a different way, then just recording and mastering a live session.
Or maybe I am mistaken. We shall see. From May to June I should have a bit more time to finally make some decent progress in my techno project.