I’ll admit it, I love prepping my keyboard rig for performances. This weekend, I’m subbing in for a funk/pop group with a 50 song repertoire, making it challenging to switch patches quickly. Worse yet, I’m not going to be doing a practice beforehand with them. Keeping that in mind, here’s two options I’m attempting to pick between:
Method #1: Song Specific Patches
Pros: every patch is customized, ability to alphabetize
Cons: time consuming to create, hard to find the right patch quickly when the band goes off setlist
Details: For most shows, this is the way I like to work. Custom designing each patch specifically for each song in the setlist is super-professional, and usually fits better than going with preset sounds. If you use Mainstage, you can also switch two keyboard’s patches at the same time using midi.
The downside is if you get in the middle of a performance and you want to switch sounds on one keyboard, you’re stuck having to switch both keyboards since they're linked together. Also, if the band leader decides to change the setlist last minute (I find this happens frequently), you’re stuck scrolling through dozens of patches to find the correct sound.
Method #2: Quick Recall Patches
Pros: super fast to program, quick to pull up onstage, and simplifies going off- setlist.
Cons: patches aren’t as close to the originals.
Details: Instead of creating individual patches for each song, I create a bunch of general use sounds for my keyboards, and then either map them to buttons in Mainstage, or program them to specific recall buttons on my Nord Stage. Here’s the sounds I like to use:
1st Tier Keyboard (Nord): pianos, electric pianos, organs, pads
2nd Tier Keyboard (Mainstage): strings, accordion, brass, bells, synths, ethnic instruments, effects
When I’m in practice, I take notes on my setlist with the patch number or name that I should use for the specific song. In performance, I hit the buttons to select the correct preset according to my song patch notes from rehearsal. It’s much faster than the one-patch-one-song approach, and it allows me to improvise more onstage if a sound doesn’t work.
The downside, of course, is that you simply can’t match the specific song’s keyboards as closely. Often live this isn’t as much of an issue because of sound system limitations in most venues.
Which method should I choose? Which method are you using? Do you have another method I haven’t thought of? Leave a comment below!