Okay.. So your geared up for using loops. You’ve got a few samples to toy around with, you’ve bought Ableton Live and your ready to use it on Sunday. You have everything loaded in.. and then.. BAM!!! it happens. Well maybe more appropriately.. nothing happens. You’ve pressed #1 on your computer keyboard a million times before and never had a problem, but this time, the one time your in front of people, #1 doesn’t work. In this post we will take a look at a few steps to overcoming the dreaded Technical Anxiety that we’ve all faced before. So take a seat, calm down and lets figure out what to do next time!
1) Lose the ‘Tude dude.
You’ve Prepared for hours on end during the week to make sure everything goes well for Sunday. You’ve checked and re-checked the loop to make sure its good, and everything went well in rehearsal during the week, but when Sunday sound check rolls around it’s not working. The pressure is on. You feel time ticking down towards the beginning of the service. You set everything up right and the sound guys swears he isn’t getting any signal. The easiest thing to do is to lose your cool because “the sound guy is an idiot and he clearly doesn’t know what he is doing…and only if the pastor wasn’t such a cheapo we could afford to pay a sound guy” and THEN…..You see the cable isn’t plugged into the Direct Box. All it was the whole time was a stupid unplugged cable.
If you can train your self to not get emotional and start to think in lists and analyze the situation then problems will be solved a lot quicker. Think of everything that is in the “signal flow” of the loop/click channels.
2 loop channels out of Live 1/2 (Is live showing signal out of the master channels?)
M-audio 410 outputs 1/2 (Do I have the proper Driver selected within live?) (Is the interface receiving audio?)
2 1/4″ cables (Do these cables work?)
2 DI’s (Am I plugged into the input and not the output of the DI?) (Does this DI need Phantom power or a battery?) (Is the DI working?)
2 XLR’s (Are these cables bad?) (Are they the right cables?)
2 channels on the snake (Are the channels bad?) (Are they the correct channels?)
Thinking of things in a list like this will allow you to quickly diagnose problems without losing your cool (and possibly testimony) with your team.
2) Have a Backup Plan Whenever Possible
It’s always a good idea to have a plan B for when plan A doesn’t work. Here a few quick examples:
-Copy any files used for that morning to multiple locations that you can access quickly. (Internal Hard Drive, External Hard drive, Thumb drive)
-Have a band member or another staff member bring their laptop with Live (or whatever program you need) installed on it.
-Store an extra power supply for your computer at Church (For those mornings without your coffee when you forget it at home!)
-Carry a (1/8″ to 2 1/4″) cable with you in case your interface stops working. Worst case scenario go to mono loops & click if you have to (If you normally use a cable to split the audio out of your computer then carry a back up also or store one at the church.)
-Have extra DI’s, cables, batterys etc.. on hand for quick switch out at church. (A cable tester will come in handy when you need to check a cable quickly)
3) Eliminate all Possibilities for mistakes
If there is a point of weakness in your chain then eliminate it. Here are a few examples.
While serving in the Campus Praise Band @ Liberty University we used an External Click synced via midi to Ableton Live for our Click sound. One thing we noticed on accident was that as the battery started to die in the Click it would start to lose sync and we would have the loop in time and the click way out of time. Here were a few solutions of ours:
-Have spare batteries on hand
-Buy a power supply for the Click (Should of done this first!!)
-Have Live’s click turned on and assigned to a volume fader on our Trigger finger so at anytime we need to go to Live’s default Click we could turn it up and it was there. ( This required having the Click routed to a 3rd output on our interface, and if we needed to use it we could unplug the external click and quickly plug in the click out of Live)
Here are a few other tips:
-Have a click channel for each song even if it has a loop. (For some reason if the loop messes up you can atleast go to the click and keep the band together)
-Label as clearly as possible. Whenever I am firing a clip within Live for each song, I have each song labeled as detailed as I can. Don’t just use my system for labeling, use whatever allows you to quickly understand each clip. It needs to be labeled so that if you looked at the clip you could understand and comprehend all that info in a split second.
4) Have an “Oh Crap*” button
This is the most important aspect of defeating the “Technical Anxiety” beast. No matter what goes wrong there should always be a stop button that can stop it all. It is named the “Oh Crap” button for appropriate reasons. When everything starts to go wrong and you go “Oh Crap!!” you can hit it before things get much worse. For Live the “Oh Crap” button comes in the form of assigning a Key or Midi Pad to the “Stop” button on the transport controls of Live
5) Murphy is a reliable man
If there is anything you can bet your money on it is that things are going to mess up at some point. If it can go wrong it will. Maybe not this Sunday maybe not for a year but it WILL go wrong. So when you make a mistake learn to laugh it off. It happens to the best of us so don’t take it too seriously, it helps to keep us from becoming prideful! Whenever it happens realize that every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. Look back and analyze what happened and try to figure out why it didn’t work. It won’t be a mistake if you can learn from it and with that new found knowledge you can now prevent it from happening again. So be as prepared as you can for it not to happen and when it does happen, look back and analyze what caused it and learn from your mistakes.
If you have any great screw up stories feel free to share them! Consider this a place for Techno Therapy!