Macbook for Live Music

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by MarkW19, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. MarkW19 macrumors 65816

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    #1
    I play in a couple of bands, and this year it's time for an upgrade to my gear. I'm going to swap my keyboard workstation (Korg Trinity) for something else. But, I suddenly had the idea of using a Macbook...

    I was wondering if anyone had any experience of using a Macbook for play live music? Basically, it will be my sound source, so will be a Korg Trinity/Roland Fantom substitute. I'll need to get some great sounds (pianos, strings, brass, bass, synths - everything!), and most of all - it needs to be ROCK solid. I do this for a living, so certainly can't have something give up on me half way through a gig!!

    I'll be plugging a MIDI controller keyboard into it, to control all the sounds and layers etc. Switching sounds needs to be very quick, with of course no stuttering, and perfect sound quality/ease of changing sounds while on stage.

    Or, isn't it quite the time to put your faith in a Macbook for this sort of thing, and should I be sticking with hardware keyboards for a while?

    Can anyone please advise? Reliability is the main point here :)
     
  2. Kelly™ macrumors regular

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    Jan 4, 2008
    #2
    To be honest im not sure why you haven't been using one for this already :) ;)

    You will however need the best specs available, like you see in my signature to be 100% happy and sure nothing will slow on your or otherwise.
     
  3. Scarlet Fever macrumors 68040

    Scarlet Fever

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    #3
    I think the MacBook can't hurt you, so if you want one, go out and buy it. At the very least, you'll be using it to record your ideas onto.

    I've had my MacBook for coming up to 2 years now, and it has been a little champion. I've taken it everywhere, and after a bit of (unintentional) abuse, it's still going strong.

    The MacBook will give you great sounds, thats a given; I'm just not sure how quickly it will change sounds for you. I'm thinking of getting into DJing, and when I do, a MacBook will sit in the centre of my setup, with Ableton Live running on it :)
     
  4. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #4
    Well, what was stopping me before was just the reliability really! Having worked for Roland for many years, and with Korg products before that, I was just comfortable with their workstation keyboards, and knew I could 100% rely on them.

    Plus, I don't have any other use for a Macbook as I have a MacPro at home, and an iPhone for out and about. So its sole use would be just to take out live.

    I'm going to wait until MWSF, I'm particularly interested in seeing the ultra-portable. Not lugging around 2 keyboards will be a lifesaver. I'll be putting a lot of RAM in it. HD will be as much as I need for the samplers/synths I choose. But I wasn't looking to spend any more than the price of a new keyboard (approx £1300) INC. some good sounds sources and probably Logic Express for the environments, for using presets for playing sound combinations live, and changing quickly via MIDI.

    What sort of stuff do you do live? What are your experiences with the reliability of playing sounds live from a MIDI keyboard? What software instruments do you use for your sounds?

    Thanks for your help!
     
  5. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #5
    I've heard good things about Ableton, with it's responsiveness for live work, and reliability. But, it's designed for manipulating audio/loops really. I'll probably go with Logic as my sequencer.

    And, the Macbook will be ONLY for playing, not for ideas (I use my Mac Pro for that), so I need to know it will be 100% reliable before I get it, just for this use!
     
  6. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #6
    Logic Mainstage looks amazing - has anyone had any experience with it?
     
  7. Lewk macrumors newbie

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    #7
    I'm getting a macbook to be my main music computer soon and i'm interested in the performance of mainstage now the graphics processor has been bumped slightly in november. I'm no keyboard player so I'm not sure how use mainstage will be but it should be interesting to explore.
     
  8. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #8
    Apparently the graphics card is one of the most important factors for Mainstage to work well, strangely. It says it needs a Macbook Pro as a minimum.

    I spent about 4 hours researching everything last night. 2GB RAM is a minimum, and dedicate the machine just to the purpose (goes without saying). The main thing obviously in a live setting is the reliability, and people have had mixed experiences with Mainstage. Some have had no problems, others have said it glitches, sometimes doesn't change patches etc.

    I think the only thing I could do would be to get a MacBook and logic studio, and try them for 2 weeks. I can return the MacBook for a courier charge of £60, but technically not the software. But I may decide to keep that anyway for recording, or I'd argue that its not fit for its purpose if I have a brand new high spec MacBook and am working within its limits and not being stupid with it, with a clean machine and no more external hardware.

    We'll see...
     
  9. NewbieNerd macrumors 6502a

    NewbieNerd

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    #9
    Any new experience with the Logic/MainStage + MB vs MBP thing? I'm very interested in this myself. I actually bought a 200GB 7200rpm drive for my MacBook before I gave it away (long story), so I'm in the position to be buying either a MB or MBP soon. I definitely want to get Logic Studio and have hopes for using MainStage for live performances.

    So yeah, I've got this sweet hard drive sitting at home, but the drive isn't user replaceable on the MBP, so that + the price difference makes me want to get a 2.0 MB and throw in the hard drive and 4GB of RAM. I'll be getting a Mac Pro in a few months too probably, so power isn't the issue, just having enough for MainStage. Of course the glossy screen of the MacBook could be an issue on stage as well, meh! Any feedback is appreciated!
     
  10. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #10
    Well, it seems the main issue with the Macbook is its built in graphics card. Mainstage didn't used to be able to run on the Macbook at all, but now apparently it can after the latest update. But, Mainstage is very graphics heavy (too much so, by the looks of it), so the low-end graphics of the Macbook may be a problem.

    That's really it - the processor is just about the same, the FSB, cache, RAM spec...

    I was holding off until yesterday, hoping Apple would update the MBP and/or introduce a new 12" model like they used to have, but alas.

    So, I bit the bullet last night and ordered a Macbook Pro 2.2 with 2GB RAM, 200GB 7200RPM drive (means I don't have to take an external FW HD with me to most places), and - glossy screen. I don't think the light will be much of a problem, I hope not anyway. I just much prefer the vividness of glossy vs matte.

    I do have slight reservations though, as the same spec (apart from a slightly less powerful processor and slightly slower HD) in Macbook variant is a LOT cheaper (£500, ~$1000).

    I hope I've done the right thing...I just want Mainstage to run smoothly.
     
  11. NewbieNerd macrumors 6502a

    NewbieNerd

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    #11
    Yeah, me too... I loved the glossy screen of my MacBook, and I love it now on my aluminum iMac. I know the matte screen would be a safer call for gigs though, but the lure of the beautiful screen....

    I don't blame you on the MBP choice. I was hoping for something new yesterday as well, but ah well. I would just like to hear that someone has done the MacBook + MainStage thing and either had success or no. I need resolution, man! :D
     
  12. Killyp macrumors 68040

    Killyp

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    #12
    I hate to say this, but I'd go a completely different route, just stick to a good, flexible hardware synth and use the MacBook as a '2nd choice' workstation.

    1. I find the latency on a MacBook/MacBook Pro, even at say, 2 msec enough to make your playing *slightly* sloppier.

    2. They do crash, although much less than PCs in my experience, but still a lot more than a good hardware synth.

    3. They're not as flexible/powerful when it comes to really manipulating them on the fly. Sure you can get a great MIDI controller etc... but I still find a proper hands-on synth much better to work with.

    4. No matter what software I've used, it never sounds as good as good virtual analogue synth.


    Get a good synth/controller combo, such as the Alesis MultiMix, and then think about adding in a laptop for samples etc. They're just not as good for playing.

    Oh and btw, you'd want a MacBook Pro. The backlit keyboard/graphics card/alu casing really is a lifesaver on the road. The big screen is a plus too...
     
  13. NewbieNerd macrumors 6502a

    NewbieNerd

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    #13
    I actually want this to go along my guitar and bass. I've been doing the pedal thing, which is cool, but it gets pricy, especially for 2 instruments, and a hassle for doing lots of different settings. I don't like the multieffects pedals either because I don't particularly like the sound quality and again, it's a hassle for creating different settings, even saving them.

    That said, I have no experience with MainStage or any of Logic, so I can't vouch the effects quality or easy of use there either... But yeah, point taken, especially on the MBP note.
     
  14. DarthTreydor macrumors 6502

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    #14
    I play guitar in a band and I got a mbp to run native instruments guitar rig which I control with a foot controller. I also use it to play and manipulate loops in ableton live during certain songs. The MacBook pro is great. I can be using both programs at once without any lags or dropouts. The 15" screen is great and easy to see. The MacBook would probably work for what I do but I like the larger screen and the antiglare matte makes my life easier on stage.
     
  15. Lewk macrumors newbie

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    #15
    Well, I've decided to order a standard macbook. Mainstage would just be an added bonus for me - as a bass player, i don't have that much use for it at the moment. I think the macbook will do everything I want it to do. The 5400rpm drive shouldn't make too much difference either as I will be sticking 4gb RAM in it and will probably never record more than a stereo signal in any case.
     
  16. cogsinister macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    The MacBook will only take 2 gig of ram......if you put 2x2 gig sticks in it only sees about 2.5 gig i think........you need a MacBook pro to propperly use 4 gig of ram...
     
  17. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #17
    No, the Macbook will take 4GB of RAM as well.

    There aren't that many differences between the two! Expansion, connectivity, graphics, that's about it! CPU exactly the same, FSB, cache, same RAM...

    Unfortunately I've paid almost double to get a MBP, mainly for its graphics, because of Mainstage. I feel slightly ripped off!! Yes, it has a bigger screen, illuminated keyboard etc, but I think there should be a bigger difference...
     
  18. cogsinister macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Oh right, i didnt know that the new MB would take 4 gig....i stand corrected said the man in the Orthopaedic shoe....
     
  19. NewbieNerd macrumors 6502a

    NewbieNerd

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    #19
    Nah, both are Santa Rosa now, so both support up to 4GB of RAM. Plenty of people around here run with that, and you can even upgrade to 4GB in the MacBook on the Apple Store, not that I'd recommend that, heh!
     
  20. Bobbi Flekman macrumors regular

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    Jan 14, 2008
    #20
    And also good as a backup.... Nothing more embarassing then setting up your gear on stage and finding out that your computer died.
    One thing I have set as a rule is that (apart from updates) the computer doesn't see a network connection. The less interference from other programs the less things that can go wrong. In other words, use the laptop, run Logic on it, run the synths, but nothing more than that.

    Trade off... Do I take and a DX-7, a D-50, a M1, a stage keyboard, etc. with me? Or can I make do with a good facsimile? My experience, the fight against the guitar's volume makes it a moot point. In studios though take all the gear with you that you can get your hands on.

    Seconded. And don't hold out on speed and memory. Don't forget that it is a sort of job computer. You'd go for good hardware and software.

    That said, I am still waiting on confirmation whether the NI stuff is really, really Leopard compatible.

    If you want more hardware like with virtual instruments, look up Muse's Receptor
     
  21. ipo macrumors member

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    Sep 6, 2007
    #21
    go with the pro

    the MacBook's sound output isn't charming at all :( and i don't mean
    the lame speakers. There is certain amount ot hi=freq noise which could become even unbearable.
    SO go with the pro. as it seems we have to wait a while ,for the update...
     
  22. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #22
    The headphone output on the MBP is so much better than the MB?

    I'm taking a stage piano (Roland) out with me, and not just a controller. That way, if the Mac does happen to crash or anything, I can just switch to the stage piano until I get chance to sort the Mac out. The sounds won't be as good, and I won't have all the layers set up etc., but at least I'll be able to carry on!

    I spent £1500 on a MBP on Tuesday (2.2ghz, 4GB, 200GB 7200rpm), whereas the exact same Macbook (except slightly slower CPU and slower HD) would have been less than £1000. So, I'm feeling slightly silly, and guilty. I don't have much use for the extra expansion either.

    Can someone please reassure me I've made the right choice by paying half as much again for the MBP, when it doesn't seem that much of an upgrade? :)
     
  23. Lewk macrumors newbie

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    #23
    well I don't think anybody would seriously use a macbook/pro for music without a decent audio interface. I'm going for the Focusrite Saffire LE Firewire interface myself.
     
  24. MarkW19 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #24
    I've got no need for an external audio interface, as most of my music will be created on the computer using software, and converted to its destination format on the computer as well.

    I only need the audio output to be good enough for live use (and monitoring), which I'm assuming on the MBP, it'll be more than good enough.
     
  25. Lewk macrumors newbie

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    #25
    Ah, ok. I wouldn't trust it myself, if only for interference from the other components inside the laptop. Plus adapters and converters isn't exactly a great signal chain. Then again, I'm concentrating more on studio work than live work. I too will be using the computer to make all my music, I just feel that an external audio interface is a vastly superior soundcard to the one that will come in any laptop. Let me know how you get on though, i'll be interested to know what it's like.
     

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