Bringing Laptops To Life

How can computer based electronic musicians bring their music to life on the live stage? Let’s take a look!

So much of the music we listen to today has not been created in what you might call a traditional way; instead of individual musicians playing individual instruments and working together to record their compositions, the relative affordability of computers and audio editing software has given birth to a generation of talented artists that make all their music in their own homes using their own personal laptops and equipment – say hello to the bedroom producers!

For us keen gig goers, their work poses an interesting question: How can these artists turn their music, whatever the genre, into an engaging and dynamic live performance? If singers and instrumentalists are replaced by laptops, DAWs and plugins, what makes the gig worth going to?

Four Tet

For musicians, the question is a big one! How can they turn their material into an entertaining live spectacle and ensure that their fans enjoy a great night out?

In this post, we’ll have a quick look at the range of ways in which a handful of artists have risen to this challenge. It is a hurdle that everyone from DJs to bands need to leap, and for the following artists, it has not proven insurmountable.

1. The Finger Drummers

Since their arrival in the 1980s, MPCs (and their laptop friendly cousins the midi controllers) have become the go to electronic instruments for people looking to get into music production – particularly where hip hop is concerned!

The following artists have taken the playability of these electronic instruments to the limit, devoting their whole careers to the mastery of a technique known as finger drumming.

2. The Super Groups

Bands who choose to take laptops to the live arena often opt for a fusion of the old and the new. In this video Mount kimbie show us how they use a mixture of hardware instruments, equipment and midi controllable software to reconstruct their songs live.

Perhaps a more extreme example of laptops and midi controllers being used by bands in a live environment can be seen at a Mostly Robot gig. Check out this documentary style video that explains how the band does it:

3. The DJs

DJs need to be able to control and manipulate their audiences using the songs and sounds they choose to play. The best DJs are often the ones that are able to build a great atmosphere on the dancefloor by reworking their material in innovative and dynamic ways.

In this clip, Four Tet explains his live setup and shows us some of the techniques he uses to bring his songs to life.

4. The One Man Band

Some artists still prefer to do it the old fashioned way! Take BINKBEATS for example. His forensically dissected cover versions of tracks by other artists have enabled him to gain quite a following on Youtube. Check out his amazing live cover of Caribou’s ‘Bowls’…

So that wraps up this post. Have you seen any acts that manage to bring electronic music to life in more effective and engaging ways?


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