Sharing your approach to live gigs


Hi everyone,

I am just starting my prep work for an electronic live gig at the end of this year.
I want to start fresh with new songs and re-think my workflow. I would love to hear how you approach a live gig, this would help me to build my own way :slight_smile:

This impulse came from a great series of video I saw from @cuckoomusic explaining his own approach. These thoughts are really inspiring. Thank you Cuckoo!

Myself, I hesitate between different approaches :

1- Complete improvisation using A4+ Expressive E touché + AR.
i would just prepare sound kits, define a scale and a tempo/time signature per song, prepare performances on the devices.
I would then improvise sequences, arrangement, apply performance FX live.

2- Pre-writen patterns on A4 + AR
Arranging live, applying Fx live, maybe playing keyboard on top of it, or add another box if i feel my brain can handle it!

3- record everything and mix my songs in ableton live.
Extract stems and remix them live using an Octatrack, or Maschine !

And you! Share your way! :smiley:


I’m a bit confused. The title seems to imply that you’re interested to hear our approaches to live sets, but in your text no question in that direction gets asked. Instead you present three basic concepts you envisioned and seem to imply for us to pro/con-rate them - again with no question added to help us understand what you’re looking for.
Please be more specific :slight_smile:


Oh, sorry. I will edit my first post if it is unclear.
Yes your approach interests me much, and it would greatly help me to build my own.

I meant :
How do you play live? What do you bring to the stage? How do you bring creativity on stage?
What is prepared and what is played live, and how?
How do you balance pre-production work and live playing?

also sorry my English is approximate, this doesn’t help! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


In my gigging days, if we were going to play a venue for the first time, we’d visit before the date, and then have a chat with the FOH asking if there’s any peculiarities regarding sound in the venue, and take a good look at their PA etc. Then we’d have a good idea of what gear to bring and how to prep our sound, rather than leave it till the 5 minuet sound check on the night.


Hey thanks for the mention :slight_smile:
You wanna make a set with room for creativity and live musical ingredients, right? But by reading point 3 it seems like you will have a lot of songs too, so perhaps a mix of 1 and 2 would be nice for you?

Making a whole set based on 100% improv with prepared kits can be pretty tough. It can be cool, but very tough work. Perhaps having a few prepared pieces of music in there would be a place for you to shine and present your more elaborate compositions, which is more difficult to pull off while improvising. Like 25% prepared songs, 75% improv?


Yes Yes Yeeeeeeesss! :smiley:
I’ve been “Djing” my tracks too much, i want more creativity now!


Basic stems, with room to improvise over the top is my usual basic approach. Those stems might be audio, MIDI sequenced synths or a combination.

I’m doing a completely improvised set in September, but it’ll be ambient electronics with me and another synth guy, plus a guitar player. …but, say - full-on dance music is typically too highly produced and heavily layered, to produce on the fly.



I bounce separate stems of everything into Ableton. I chop them into sections (Intro/Outro/A/B). Each section can be triggered by the row triggers on an APC 40. The other clip triggers on the APC 40 are reassigned to be 100% Wet effect sends. I can then rearrange songs live by triggering different sections, using the faders to cut stuff in and out and the sends to send them to delays/reverb/beat repeat and control these from the APC.

Kinda based on this video:
It makes it a bit “live”, but less live than I want it to be…


Once Overbridge appears I’m aiming to combine the above approach with that by using Ableton to send pattern changes to the Digitakt instead of the stems… (tbh this is kinda possible with the beta as is I think)
The Digitakt will provide drums and other bits AND control a Minitaur, A Shruthi and a couple of gameboys/some other chipsynth/DIY stuff so there’s space for more live improvisation. But I will keep the APC40/laptop dub mixing set up as the main control of the “outs” (or get a desk eventually maybe) so there’s kind of a running train that you can mess with in multiple ways in terms of sound/rearrangement so it can be perfomed with one set of hands, but be a bit different every time.


I aim 4 to 5 songs (20-30 min)
You are right 5 completely improvized tracks seems really tough work! I am not affraid to keep the music minimalistic in order to be able to handle it, but that 75-25% would definitly help bringing a skeleton to the set.


Cuckoo’s videos are already making me think that’s too much “stuff” to move about though




Do you mean that you 1st produce an entire song, and then your live approach is to extract stems minus chosen parts, to play it live or improvise on it live?

Or is it a more experimental approach from the beginning?
I was thinking maybe having a bunch of generic stems at your disposal, playing it and modifying it on the fly, with no specific pre-made songs on your mind.


I’ve done 1 gig so far in Oslo (hei Cuckoo!) and I had prepared it the following way:
Novation Circuit - 10-15 pre-composed baselines and leads + live solo playing
Volca Sample - 10 full patterns to serve as a backup
Electribe 2 - Live beatmaking, stabs sequencing and controlling the Circuit’s synths 1&2
Microgranny - sampled loops that I’ve produced before and live sequence / mash them with the E2

I composed everything so it fits together, no matter which parts I combine, but that left less room for key + bpm changes.

In summary: went really well but it was a lot of gear / wiring to do and I ended up improvising a lot more than I expected so the prepared parts were actually limiting my flow. Apparently the more preparation you have the less ability to change the mood on the go if you notice the crowd isn’t into it (or you just need to have greater amount of styles / moods which are prepared )

What I would change: since then I bought a Digitakt - my ambition is to show up with ONLY DT for live and keep it really simple with logistics (maybe max one more module in addition).

P.S. Really dig Cuckoo’s vids on the subject and I support his “DT as an instrument” credo. With the ctrl all function and compressor it’s just perfect for live.


Wow, this is advanced DJing! :sunglasses:

This seems possible without overbridge, using a dummy clip with program change command. no?


Hello what’s your music genre ?
Because “Music genre” to me have an impact on how you “approach the live gigs”


oh yeah, sure, sorry - that’s not the bit I need Overbridge for - it’s the fact that it now ouputs as separate channels. So you can send say, track 1 to the first fader on the APC40, and if it’s say, a snare, then you can send that snare to delays/filter/whatever on it’s own, while the rest of the beat keeps going.

without the separate outs you’d have to send all the drums to the same effects, and can’t (e.g.) cut the kick drum out for a few bars or whatever…

So I would maybe have four external synth channels, one for Digitakt kick, one for Digitakt snare, and then a group for hats/percussion or whatever to a total of eight, meaning you can mix the peformance as you go.
You can kind of do this just with the Digitakt with mutes to some extent, but doing it through ableton gives access to a load of different effects and easily assignable controls and means you can have multiple external synths included.


I am not very experienced with performing live myself, but from my experience as a concert visitor I would say it is also important to consider which Elements of your show are visually entertaining and adding excitement and drama to support the music emotionally. The listeners don’t see what exactly you are doing when pushing knobs and sliders. Me personally I am fine when the music is playback to a certain degree as long as the stage presence of the artist is appealing and daring. So I would think more about performance and style, not so much about technical aspects and Musical skills.


I want to build basic song structures based on step programming with melodic content.
I would like to tend to a basic structure maybe like intro / part A / part B / part A / outro in order to see if i can build it live (improvisation).
i am into hip hop and groove, elecronic pop music, techno with a melodic content…

I have an A4, AR and ableton. just bought a used Octatrack as a test. also consider Maschine instead of the octatrack.
I want to constraint with these tools and build new songs around it, made for live.
I am too lazy to transpose my existing tracks (build with a lot of overdubs on ableton) for that purpose.


Create some patterns on the A4 & MD. Maybe two weeks worth of work. Show up for soundcheck then jam the bejesus outa the patterns using track mutes, ctrl all, env, fx, filters, changing up grooves with pattern lengths etc.

I try not to overthink the whole process tbf. For me, it’s all about having fun with the jam and not getting worried about a strict structure for the tracks, just let it flow.


If it’s heavily produced dance music, then there’ll be more of a pre-produced “song” element. If it’s electronic chill-out or ambient, then there’ll more of an improvised element.


I think the answer depends greatly on where you play. Playing a “concert” is a lot different than playing a club gig (e.g., back to back with DJs). In the club context, it’s important to be able to build energy over the course of the set, have at least some sort of continuity and create a flow for the dancers. It’s really hard to do that in a completely improvised way. I’ve heard people like Atom and Tobias that can do it, but they are on a whole other level. My group plays clubs exclusively, and we take a stem-based approach where we have rough sections and transition points worked out for tracks. Then, we do a lot of exploration in between those points (modulation, riffs on the keyboard, improv sounds and fx).