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Why I want my DAW back

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

59 Perlen in front of Music gear

Ok, the headline is a little provocative. But in essence, it's about exactly that. And I'm finally getting around to writing it down. The last 3 weeks I have been completely absorbed with my current project - you have surely read about "Shopping Bag", if not, you can read more about it here and here. And what can I say, in retrospect, this event was a big success for both for me as a musician and also for the group of performers.

I gained a lot of insights and experiences from this project that I want to share with you and reflect on for myself, which is a big part of my creative process. The focus is on one elementary question: Does it always have to be hardware?

First learning: Yes, I can do live!

This seems to be obvious but I'm fairly new to live performing. The most important realisation was the moment when the complete setup was in place and we started rehearsals. What had been conceived "theoretically" in the weeks before in my small studio at home had suddenly arrived. And, it worked great - musically, logistically and conceptually.

I had never put on such a big performance before, so this moment was extremely important for me. It gave me a lot of confidence and massively helped my vision for upcoming future projects (and there are many coming very soon!).

Second learning: Keep the live setup simple

I often mentioned that the "logistics" factor played a big role for dawless performances outside the studio. That was the reason why my own requirement for this project was simplicity.

Originally, I wanted to keep the entire setup as small as possible. Unfortunately, that didn't work out quite as well as I had imagined in the end: all in all, the entire equipment weighs just under 28 kilos. I added to many effect pedals and used the gear that was a bit over weighted. But I couldn't change this so I decided to go through it this time and try to learn from it as best as I can.

The sheer weight is a problem for transportion by plane. Most airlines allow a maximum of one piece of hand luggage.

You can't check in the equipment, the risk is too high that the luggage gets lost or damaged. This would result in the cancellation of the whole event. No way.

Ergo, the whole setup MUST go in the cabin. For the PerFourMer I got a carry case and the other machines and all the cables were stowed in a huge Producer Backpack.

Actually, I was lucky that my airline allowed a weight of 15 kilograms per piece of hand luggage and 2 of them for one flight. The suitcase weighs 12 kilos, the backpack 15 kilos. I was lucky.

But I will be performing the same set (in slightly modified sequence) in Copenhagen at the end of the year. This destination flies with another airline and they allow 1 piece of hand luggage up to max. 8 kilos only.

We will solve the problem by having my companion take one of the two pieces. Another solution, according to the airline, is to book a business fare (which costs 3x as much) or a 2nd flight ticket.

You can see from this little essay that hardware can be problematic if you want to travel with it and have to organise everything yourself.

What I take away from this debate is that - beside reducing the gear to the essence - it's important to budget generously for the cost of transporting the hardware and also to take into account any extra costs that may arise at the airport for excess weight or size.

What I will do differently in future

And this realisation inevitably leads me back to the question of the simplicity of the set. I had designed the performance to meet the requirements with just a few pieces of equipment.

The PerFourMer has turned out to be my favourite and even though it's HUGE, I want still continue to take it with me on trips.

However, this isn't the case with the Analog Rytm. I often thought about whether it would have been better to take the Digitakt in terms of transportability, because I hardly ever used the functions for which I had actually chosen the AR.

Similar thoughts went through my head regarding the Squarp Pyramid and the effect pedals (from these, I used 1 only for 1 track).

Why I want to do more with the DAW

Finally, it all culminates in one overarching question: Is the use of expensive, complex and large hardware justified? Many parts of the performance I could have done with a computer to be honest. I asked myself over and over again if my idea of producing without computer makes sense at all.

Take the sequencer, for example. The arrangements of the set are pretty simple. Pretty often there are single notes only that are rolled out into a carpet of sound with the help of reverb.

Another example are the samples. Sure, many of them have been modulated with LFOs and play "Not just like that". But, during the performance, almost without exception, I just turn the tracks on and off, so I have to ask myself if the use of the heavy AR is actually justified (mind you, in the context of this performance and in the context of the portability of a setup).

The only part that has had a significant impact on the overall performance as an instrument is the analogue syntzesizer, the Vermona.

I've been thinking more and more over time about what it would be like if parts of the set came out of the computer and the rest continued to be generated by hardware. That way the whole set could become massively smaller and easier to handle.

This question is of course elementary for me as a hardware advocate! But it makes no sense to stubbornly follow an ideology that conceptually entails so many disadvantages and causes avoidable costs.

How I ideally imagine the setup for on the road

At the centre is my MacBook. I have a fairly new MacBook Pro M1, which offers enough computing power to handle my reverb fetish. The computer runs Ableton Live, which I will use to sequence both software and hardware synths (which will give me many new possibilties on top!). At the same time, the laptop replaces the effect pedals, which also weigh around 2.5 kilos with cables.

The entire set is stored in Ableton clips that I can launch with the Launchpad Pro. This device is light and flat and takes up little space in my luggage. With the Launchpad I can also modulate effects and control other aspects of the music.

Last but not least, the Perfourmer is connected to the MacBook as the only real hardware piece of the set. The synth has grown on me and will definitely continue to travel with me. The output will go into Ableton where I can add effects to it.

Furthermore, a small midi / audio interface will be necessary to control the hardware synth and feed the audio back into the Mac. I have the Motu M4 in mind, it offers 2x2 inputs (with which I could loop in the PerFourMer outputs separately) and a midi interface in a small housing. It is bus-powered and weighs only about 700 grams. Seems to me to be the ideal device for my purpose.

Mind you. In this discussion, I am referring exclusively to sets that I need for mobile use hehe. My hardware studio will remain as it is :D (apart from the fact that I will sell some devices because I simply don't need them).

What are your experiences when travelling? Let us know in the comments section below :D

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Mark Allin
Mark Allin
Aug 26, 2022

Great to read Mathias. My live set has Ableton at the centre with mainly Ableton effects l, one pedal and and the the Analog 4. I’m tempted to be DAWless but it just allows me to do so much. Maybe we can use the time I have booked with you to discuss live sets? Also I’d love to join one of your events and perhaps you would like to play in the UK next year?

59 Perlen
59 Perlen
Aug 26, 2022
Replying to

Hey hey Mark, great to read your comment! Yes for sure we can use the sessions for that! Just book yourself in. Regarding my gigs, I updated the calendar on my website this morning with all confirmed concerts until the end of this year. I would be happy to see you there ! And yes, it would be great to come to England next year, so you have ideas ? Cheers my friend ! Calendar (works best on desktop, unfortunately):

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