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What's on our stage?

June 13th, 2016
tech, music  [html]
The Free Raisins play mostly-traditional music in a mostly-acoustic way, but there's really quite a lot of electronic technology on the stage:

Without these electronic tools it would be very hard for us to be the band we are:

  • If Amy were playing a real piano instead of a keyboard, she either wouldn't be facing the rest of the band or would be much farther away, which would make coordination harder. Playing real pianos also means you have to put up with whatever piano happens to be in the hall, which might have stiff keys, poor tuning, or a weak low end. And Amy couldn't stand up to play anymore.

  • Without amplification, a trio can't fill a room. To play big dances we'd need more people to fill out the sound. Once you do that, the small-group dynamic of paying close attention to each other and trying out new complex things on the fly doesn't fit anymore. Additionally, it's pretty hard for the mandoin to keep up with a piano and fiddle acoustically, being quieter.

  • A real kick drum would be enough of a pain to travel with that we probaly just wouldn't do drums.

  • At this point a quarter of our sets have some kind of alternate keyboard sound, which also just wouldn't be worth it: eight different piano-like objects on stage that mostly just get used for 3min over the course of the show?

There are a few things that aren't as critical, though:

  • Paper setlists are only slightly less convenient than computerized ones.

  • The tempo meter is handy and reduces arguments, but we could easily go back to just playing whatever speed feels right and looks right for the dancers if we needed to.

The main thing to me in thinking about technology for live sound is that I want it to expand our flexibility, not limit it. For example, I'm happy with electronic drums I trigger with my feet but I would not be happy with a drum machine that you configure for a specific beat and it goes and does that. Similarly, I'm happy for Audrey to play the same fiddle line each time we play a specific part of a specific set, but if she instead kicked off a recorded version it wouldn't be good. When a person is making music by manually initiating each sound you have what you need to get the live dynamic I enjoy, regardless of how the sound is actually generated.

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