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Author Topic: Piano gigging pc: help me build  (Read 1222 times)

superboyac

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Piano gigging pc: help me build
« on: August 21, 2012, 12:48:36 PM »
Ok folks,
Seems like my most immediate next project is to build a pc to gig with.  I'm now playing in two bands and I want a rock solid portable setup to take with me and play the keyboard through VST software on the PC.  The reason why I am doing this and not using the onboard sounds of my keyboard (which is a good keyboard) is because these VST software sound so much better.  It has to be.  They have the entire hardware aresenal of a desktop pc versus whatever lame specs are on the keyboard.  I just got a new Roland RD-700NX, which is the top of the line keyboard and they've supposedly improved the sounds drastically.  It's good, no doubt.  but I also have TruePianos, which is a software VST and it's simply incredible.  I can't go back.  So to make this all work, I need a beefy machine that will be as portable as possible.

So I want to get a very good soundcard, probably an RME.  And I'm going to stuff the pc with max RAM and as high a CPU as reasonable.  GPU is not a big deal.  Solid state hard drive is probably a must.  I'm going to run Windows.  I need as small a case as possible.  I will also consider rack cases if they are small since the audio hardware I'll be using will most likely be intended for rack mounting.  I'd like it to be light, if possible, maybe carry with one hand.  One trick is going to be to figure out what type of monitor I'll be using, it needs to be either super small or something unconventional, like a foldout monitor that can be tucked into a rack space on sliders, or something.  I don't necessarily want to go that fancy as I know those kinds of things are very expensive.  I'm not afraid of really unconventional setups.

I'm also aware that things like V-Machine exist, which is essentially what I'm building.  But the difference is the power of what I'm building will be way more, I'm talking full desktop power, not mobile ARM power.  So please, no hammering me about how expensive or overkill this stuff is, unless you see me making misinformed decisions.

Another interesting feature of this setup will be the bootup scenario.  As a live gigging instrument, I'd like it to be where I turn the computer on and it boots right into the vst host software.  This probably means just tweaking the startup behavior.  I'm just nervous about things that can go wrong during a live gig.

40hz

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Re: Piano gigging pc: help me build
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2012, 01:34:20 PM »
A lot would depend on exactly what software you intend to run. Once that's settled, it should be fairly clear what HW specs are required.

For road use you'll want at least two identical rigs if the system is going to be an essential part of your act. If it isn't (i.e. you can do what you need to do on a standalone keyboard if necessary) you can chance going out on the road with only a single rig.

In general. something either very rugged (i.e. a "field-ready" laptop or "industrial PC") or something easy to find, small and straightforward, relatively cheap, and fairly reliable (i.e. a MacMini) is probably a good way to start thinking about it.

I don't like 'real' PCs for most live venues because I tend not to trust CPUs unless they're built into a keyboard or dedicated musical device. I'm also generally not too keen on packing a lot of high-end technology for a gig unless it's part of a show big enough to hire a tech roadie or two. And it's not because I can't handle the technology myself. It's more a matter of me wanting to stay focused on what my real job should be: playing good music and spending some one-on-one time with audience members during breaks.

IMHO too much time spent having to worry about the' tools of the trade' (because they will break at the worst times) distracts  from a musician staying focused on the music and the performance. It's ok to do that in the studio if you want to. That's what studio and woodshed time is for. But when it comes to playing for an audience (especially a paying audience) there's no margin for error or stage delays. So simplify, simplify, simplify. Unless you can afford complexity.

But I'm a just bass player who can't even walk and chew gum at the same time - so what do I know. ;D
« Last Edit: August 21, 2012, 01:55:13 PM by 40hz »

superboyac

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Re: Piano gigging pc: help me build
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2012, 04:10:26 PM »
A lot would depend on exactly what software you intend to run. Once that's settled, it should be fairly clear what HW specs are required.

For road use you'll want at least two identical rigs if the system is going to be an essential part of your act. If it isn't (i.e. you can do what you need to do on a standalone keyboard if necessary) you can chance going out on the road with only a single rig.

In general. something either very rugged (i.e. a "field-ready" laptop or "industrial PC") or something easy to find, small and straightforward, relatively cheap, and fairly reliable (i.e. a MacMini) is probably a good way to start thinking about it.

I don't like 'real' PCs for most live venues because I tend not to trust CPUs unless they're built into a keyboard or dedicated musical device. I'm also generally not too keen on packing a lot of high-end technology for a gig unless it's part of a show big enough to hire a tech roadie or two. And it's not because I can't handle the technology myself. It's more a matter of me wanting to stay focused on what my real job should be: playing good music and spending some one-on-one time with audience members during breaks.

IMHO too much time spent having to worry about the' tools of the trade' (because they will break at the worst times) distracts  from a musician staying focused on the music and the performance. It's ok to do that in the studio if you want to. That's what studio and woodshed time is for. But when it comes to playing for an audience (especially a paying audience) there's no margin for error or stage delays. So simplify, simplify, simplify. Unless you can afford complexity.

But I'm a just bass player who can't even walk and chew gum at the same time - so what do I know. ;D

Agh!  As usual, words of wisdom from 40.

Well, yeah, here's the issue.  I already have a panasonic toughbook I'm using currently (or rather, I'm experimenting with, I don't trust it yet).  But it's not powerful enough to handle the new Atlantis piano module for the TruePianos software, which is a great sounding piano.  So I was going to build a new computer specifically for gigging.

Now, the Roland itself has decent sounds.  My biggest problem as a keyboard player is I usually can't hear myself play.  So if I'm cutting right to the point, I probably need monitor speakers for myself more than anything else.  i should worry about this computer setup later.  Ok.  I need to upgrade my pa audience speaker, and also purchase a set of monitors for myself.  I'll do the computer stuff later.  I have about a month.  If my setup is not good next month, I'll be stressed.

40hz

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Re: Piano gigging pc: help me build
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2012, 05:09:09 PM »
I probably need monitor speakers for myself more than anything else.

Forget wedges for monitors. Go in-ear - and watch the levels. If you're sitting down they don't need to be wireless.

(I've used the inexpensive Westone UM1s and Bose IE2s - but they may not be your cuppa tea.)