It's Alive! Leveraging Technology In Our Live Sound

Pat says:

Some rock artists shun technology.  For instance, the iconic Jack White has said “Technology is a big destroyer of emotion and truth” and he clearly has made decisions in his career that reflect that opinion.

I must confess that I disagree. Certainly it’s true that If technology is used as a crutch to prop up untalented artists then it can have a detrimental effect on art and culture. But that need not be the case. If technology is used to enhance already good music then it can be an asset. Currently our band is trying to add two technological elements to our live sound:

1)     We have been incorporating prerecorded tracks – synths, strings and backup vocals – into our live sound. These are things we have already written and played (or our collaborator Phil Mann has written and played) and are simply added to the mix as we play through the songs during a show. We just don’t have the resources to have additional personnel on stage and this is an inexpensive way to help fill out our sound. I use my laptop and a Presonus interface to send the tracks into the house speakers.

2)     We are going to start using a Roland TM-2 drum module machine to transform our drum kit from purely an acoustic drum kit into a “hybrid kit”. By hybrid I mean that the audience hears both the original playing of our drummer Kyle as well as electronic drum hits on top of his playing. Electronic triggers are placed on the snare and kick drum and when the drum is struck it triggers the module to send an additional electronic hit to the speakers. This helps boost the punch and volume of the drums. It can also help the drums complement each particular song more – a more electronic song can have an 808 kind of vibe or a very dark song can have distorted, aggressive sounds.

Why are we going to the trouble of doing this? Firstly, it creates a more exciting, more dynamic experience for the audience. It provides a fuller sound inexpensively and we aren’t required to add more personnel to do it. Secondly, I think competitive pressure pushes us into making these decisions. If audiences are going to see bigger rock bands (or pop or EDM artists for that matter) then they set the level of quality they experience as an expectation for future concerts that they go to. As a smaller band we can't allow the gap between us and larger bands to be extremely wide in terms of sound quality and sonic detail.

In the end what really matters is how good our music is and how well we perform it – the technology is just used to enhance the music. If  this gear all crashes on us in the middle of a set then we would keep playing the tunes as normal (and some, less perceptive people may not even notice :) ). I am always looking for new ways to incorporate technology so keep on the lookout for more!

Pictures of Gear:

1) Drum Trigger Module

2) Gear For Backup Tracks