5 Tips For Managing Your Keyboard Sounds Live

(Note: this blog’s concepts should apply to anyone that uses an electric instrument.)


It’s so hard for keyboard players to manage their keyboard onstage, let alone deliver an amazing performance at the same time. 


I have been seriously revamping my keyboard rig for both studio and stage (more on that later), and I’ve been lucky enough to pick the brains of some of the best keyboardists in Nashville (special thanks to Grant Pittman and Luke Moseley for the help) about how they manage their rigs. Here are 5 of the things I’ve been hearing: 


1. Keep your rig as simple as possible.


Tons of keyboards onstage might look cool, but it'll make the likelihood of something going wrong higher. Also, big rigs take longer to setup, giving you less time for sound check. I usually play no more than three keyboards at a time, and most of the time I use one or two.  


2. Don’t use too many plugins. 


Focusing on learning a few plugins really well will allow you to quickly dial in sounds. If you’re using MainStage, I’d recommend learning the ES2 and EXS24 sampler. I use these synth plugins more than any other, and they’ll cover the vast majority of your needs. 


3. Build up your preset banks. 


Find a bunch of sounds you really like, then save them as presets somewhere easy to find. This will keep you from scrolling through thousands of irrelevant presets, saving you some major time. You could also buy some packs from my store to get started. 


4. Tweak those presets. 


Once you’ve built up your presets, tweak them for the specific situation. Try not to use the same patches for every song- even subtle tweaks like adjusting cutoff can keep the sound interesting and fresh. 


5. Keep things the same for muscle memory. 


I recommend mapping your knobs and faders to specific parameters that stay the same in the project. (i.e. volume, cutoff, and resonance on the same controller across all patches). This will allow you to quickly reach out and adjust crucial parts of the sound without having to use your computer.