MainStage Mondays: 10 Essentials For Building Your First Keyboard Rig

So you downloaded MainStage, and you’re excited to start using it live. What else do you need to have to get going? Here are 10 things to get before you step onstage: 


1. Sustain pedal


Sustain pedals help you hold notes like on a real piano, and they’re super cheap. Here’s some of my favorites.


2. Midi controller


Depending on what your needs are, this is going to vary quite a bit. I’ll be writing an updated blog soon about my favorite midi controllers, but until then visit your local music store to find out more, or read this blog about midi controllers I wrote last year. 


3. Audio interface


Audio interfaces allow you to turn the digital signal in your computer into an analog signal that can be sent to a mixer. Again, there are lots of choices, but here’s a few of my favorites. 


4. Direct box


Direct boxes allow you to convert the line level outputs of your audio interface to a hi-z signal that can be sent long distances through cables with minimal noise. Most venues have DI boxes available, but it’s good to have some just in case. Here’s my personal favorite.


5. Two USB cables


You’ll use these two standard USB computer cables to connect to your audio interface and midi keyboard. If you buy new, USB cables should come along with your purchases. 


6. A keyboard stand


Again, this is one of the essentials. You can pick them up for cheap, but make sure to avoid the less expensive stands- I had a cheap one collapse on me when I was younger and ruin a 600 dollar keyboard. Here's the stand I’ve had the best luck with over the years.


7. An audio cable (or two)


These will go into the outputs of your audio interface and into the direct box. I’d recommend getting two, if you plan on running in stereo. Here are some basic, solid instrument cables that I’ve used for years with no problems. 


8. In ear monitors or keyboard amp


These will help you hear yourself onstage, and depending on the situation, might be used to help others around you hear, too. You can drop a lot of money on both of these, but it’s worth it: if you can’t hear, you can’t play great. 


For in-ears, I dropped $700 on a pair of Westone 4R in ears, but you can get an okay pair from Shure for around $100.


For keyboard amps, I’d recommend Behringer unless you plan on dropping $600+ on a top line amp. Here’s my personal favorite.


9. A fast computer


You probably already have this, but it’s worth mentioning. Buy from Apple’s refurbished store to get a faster computer for cheap- here’s a link.


10. A laptop stand


I use a high stool as a laptop stand occasionally, but there are lots of options. Check out Amazon for ideas. 

My personal Mainstage keyboard rig: Nord Stage 2, MOTU MicroBook II, MacBook Pro, and Ultimate Support Keyboard Stand.

My personal Mainstage keyboard rig: Nord Stage 2, MOTU MicroBook II, MacBook Pro, and Ultimate Support Keyboard Stand.