What is your live set philosophy?


Interesting, I’ve been perceiving this matter very similaraly! When doing mixes/sets, how are you handling any kind of progression of the root note (?) of your tracks? To me it seems like there’s always the two routes of mixing; smooth blend between the two tracks, or quick cut from one to the next. Obviously this wheel of fifths is an unbelievably solid guide, but it gets a bit too banal to just progress around your fifths. Sometimes it seems as if some kind of definitive melody is the third option of mixing. With the machines giving you so much control over the programming of your tracks, a short melodic transition from one root note to the next could work very nicely too.
But at the same time you’re absolutely right, melody seems to be the antidote to the sculpturesque character of techno. At least the… ahem… good kind of techno. Things often begin to sound very cinematic or unbearably cheesy when there’s some harmonic thing going on in the tracks.
It’s a thin line to walk, I guess.


don’t care much for the root note - my drums are on DT and tonal stuff on DN. I just mute DN, leaving a kick or something else to hang from DT (global mute) then changing patterns and then gradually unmuting tonal stuff from the next pattern on DN. I guess fading and root notes are more a dj thing when mixing.

Otherwise totally right about the melody, I’ve fallen in this trap many times, wondering why it sounds cheesy:)) Remember watching an interview with Alessandro Cortini, talking about that, was very on point. It comes also from the tradition of abstract music and minimalism. If you look for minimalist music in Wikipedia, there are examples of classical music that stays away from resolving melodies, starting from Eric Satie and his Gymnopedie, through Steve Reich and others. I guess this is where the difference between “song” and a “track” comes from - songs are much more in the domain of pop music in general - a definite form.



a bit more about the transitions - imagine a sparse tonal riff going on, I dip it in endless reverb then mute it, leaving the reverb swell go along the remaining beat. Then I filter the reverb and switch to the next pattern (again, global mutes) where the next tonal riff penetrates through the reverb tail of the previous pattern along with the new beat (or just the kick of it). I’m also a fan of hard transitions, even pressing stop, leaving longer samples to hang, switching patterns and pressing play again.


Yeah I suppose this is what I meant by smooth blend or quick cut. Not in a DJ way of thinking, but as a much more general idea.

Still, I sometimes find two tracks with clashing harmony hard to slowly blend together without losing any momentum. Nice to go into reverb and filter ambience territory, but I feel like this requires more time to fully develop. Kind of slows down all the pacing the mix might have had before. Or I don’t know, maybe I’m losing myself too easily in these ambience things.
Alternatively, a hard jump as a transition works, but you can’t have your whole liveset full of cuts.
Lately I found it nice to take an element from the incoming track - one that doesn’t fit with the current harmony - and introduce it with a melodic variation. Like a tom or some acid tweet that’s tuned to the current root note, but already hints at the next root note. When the next track comes, I gradually take the emphasis on the previous root note out of the melody.

I really have no idea where I’m going with these posts, haha. Seems like I’m arguing some point, but really I’m also just rambling about.

Any chance you still remember which interview of Alessandro Cortini you watched?


I’m building a live set right now, so I can’t tell how it works out yet, but I thought I share what’s my strategy while building it. I’ve played in a jam band for some years so I’m building on this experience.

TL;DR: Perform and listen to your performances when you build up a live set. Start off with a very crude version of a track (like a single pattern) and then automate things you are not happy with and iterate.

There are two things which are important to me:

A) I need to to feel like I’m in control of what’s happening in the set

If I get the feeling I’m not in control of the live set it would feel like ‘acting’ instead of performing and I know that I’m a terrible actor. Also performing is much more fun than acting for me. How much actual control I need to have over the things happening to achieve that feeling depends in my opinion simply on skill and in the exact opposite way one might think. I consider a real musical Zen master who is able to perform live by just pressing play and let an mp3 run for an hour while still having the feeling of performing and being in control. Beginners like me however need a lot of boxes and knobs which do stuff to achieve that feeling, but I hope to get closer to actually DJing once I get better as a musician. Having actual direct control means to me being insecure in how things should sound.

(I know this might be controversial and you can disagree with everything I wrote; It’s just my opinion)

B) What I do shouldn’t be annoying to people listening to what I play

Of course there will always be someone who doesn’t like what I’ll be doing, but at least I shouldn’t be annoyed listening to what I play. What I learned from the jam band sessions is that you can have an amazing jam and feel like Joe Satriani the whole time, but if you listen to recordings afterwards you want to through up. It’s really easy to fool yourself while playing, so, even if it seems like a no brainer, I think it is important to actually listen to what you are playing when you are not actually playing.

The trick is now to find the balance between A) and B) as they are opposed to each other: More freedom means more can go wrong and potentially be annoying. Less freedom means being less in control. What I do to build the set is the following. I jam out at home until I arrive at a pattern of 4,8 or 16 bars that I like (most of the time it will be 8; It is very hard for me to come up with something that is 4 bars or 16 bars that is not annoyingly tedious because it is too long or to repetitive). This would be the basis of a track. Then the performance of a track will consist of building and deconstructing the pattern. I usually record several performances of a single track and then try to get rid of the most annoying hickups by automation and try different ways of constructing and deconstructing until I converge to something which I’m confident with. This I do with every track in the set. When I’m done with that (which currently is not the case) I go and tryout transitions between tracks in a similar manner.


@Martebar It went great!

It felt more like a dj set than a live performance, as it was taking place in a bar and people were here to hang out and weren’t really paying attention to what I was doing.

Some aspects I need to work on for next time:

  • try to have transitions between tracks. (I will use some of the good ideas discussed above). This time I was fading each songs to silence. The tempos differ a bit but I could keep a melodic element or a pad while I transition the pattern tempo to the next song’s BPM.
  • take more risks/add more live playing. I ended up not using the microKorg as I felt I had not rehearsed enough with it. I could also do more live tweaking than I did.

I recorded the set so I can work on improvements. You can check it out here: https://youtu.be/XHx93zCsUTA
(Sorry, you can’t really see what I’m doing as I could not find a suitable filming angle)


what i love about detroit techno is the fusion of this into more trad songs and melodies. Both can exist at the same time (and things can be cheesy in the most romantic way)


How I approach live performance:

What kind of ACTIONS and EXPRESSIONS do I feel inspired to do when my music is LOUD?

For example, if you like to do DJ style interactions (cutting, crossfading, beat juggling, send/return style effects), then load everything into Octatrack and use the 2 pairs of stereo outs and connect to 2 sides of a DJ mixer that has 3 band EQ and an effects send/return system…Anything else is icing on the cake.

Start SIMPLE. Live performances are incredibly disorienting, especially in the dark. Unless your performance context is a well-lit, stand-very-close-and-dissect-everything-the-performer-does-type event, most people will care more about the music than what you are doing to it live. You need to focus on setting things up to give you the control over the most noticeable parts of the music.

This is why muting, unmuting, pattern changing, and synth tweaking are the most common elements of a live performance.

Here’s an example of me explaining a recent setup after a show


I like your thinking and appreciate the explanations.

Looking forward to the full live set on here soon :wink:


haha, thanks:) you know - one thing is to theorise, completely different to pull it off as planned :stuck_out_tongue: