Performing Electronic Music Live  book cover
1st Edition

Performing Electronic Music Live

ISBN 9780367340735
Published December 29, 2021 by Focal Press
304 Pages 29 Color & 84 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Performing Electronic Music Live lays out conceptual approaches, tools, and techniques for electronic music performance, from DJing, DAWs, MIDI controllers, traditional instruments, live sound design, hardware setups, custom software and hardware, to live visuals, venue acoustics, and live show promotion. Through case studies and contrasting tutorials by successful artists, Kirsten Hermes explores the many different ways in which you can create memorable experiences on stage. Featuring interviews with highly accomplished musicians and practitioners, readers can also expand on their knowledge with hands-on video tutorials for each chapter via the companion website,

Performing Electronic Music Live is an essential, all-encompassing resource for professionals, students of music production courses, and researchers in the field of creative-focused performance technology.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – General Advice

1. The concept

2. Confidence and preparation

2.1 Effective rehearsal

2.2 Dealing with stage fright

2.3 Stepping into the performance persona

2.4 Using feedback and being prepared for rejection

3. Quality of the production

4. Factors that determine the setup choice

4.1 The music – genre and composition

4.2 The act – personality, motivation and skills

4.3 Band members and skills

4.4 The performance situation

4.4.1 The audience

4.4.2 The venue and playback system

4.4.3 Risk

4.4.4 Budget

4.4.5 Need for portability

Tutorial and takeaway points

5. References

Chapter 2 – DAWs and Controllers

1. Non-linearity of time

2. Overview of performance DAWs

2.1 Ableton Live

2.2 Bitwig

2.3 Maschine

2.4 Logic Pro X

2.5 Motu Digital Performer

2.6 FL studio

2.7 Standalone hardware DAW equivalents

3. Plugging in hardware

3.1 Live arrangement

3.2 One-shots and finger drumming

3.3 Performing on software instruments

3.4 Controlling audio effects

3.5 Other external hardware

4. Prepared musical material and live recording

5. Collaboration

6. Randomness and generative approaches

7. Customising the performance interface

8. Performing live in more studio-oriented DAWs

9. Working with visuals

10. Recording the show


From a complex studio production to an intuitive live set

Looping clips


Follow actions

Live effects

Live keys and vocals


11. Takeaway points



Interview with Robert Henke

Chapter 3 – MIDI and CV Performance Controllers


2. The MIDI protocol

2.1 MIDI messages in the MIDI 1 protocol

2.2 MIDI 2.0

3. Types of performance controllers

3.1 Buttons

3.2 Continuous signals: knobs, faders, sliders

3.3 Controllers that resemble traditional musical instruments.

3.4 Modular controllers

3.5 Motion-controlled performance hardware

3.6 Turning non-musical hardware into MIDI controllers

3.7 MIDI Polyphonic Expression

3.8 Sequencers

3.9 Clock signals and MIDI routing


4. Takeaway points


Chapter 4 – DJing and Turntablism

1. A short history of DJing

2. Types of DJ in the present day

2.1 Touring artist-DJs

2.2 Resident DJs

2.3 Mobile event DJs

2.4 Radio DJs

2.5 Online DJ-producers

3. DJ techniques

3.1 Mixing techniques and turntablism

3.2 Virtuoso turntablism

3.3 Effects and audio processing

3.4 Programming

4. DJ tools available today

4.1 DJ software and hardware controllers

4.2 CDJs

4.3 Going retro: using Vinyl for DJing

4.4 Headphones, monitors and microphones

4.5 Streaming tracks from online platforms

Tutorial: three DJ setups presented by Dan Murray


DJ skills and techniques

Beatmatching on vinyl

Getting creative on CDJs

Working with a hybrid setup

Performance styles

5. Takeaway points


Interview with Alex M.O.R.P.H

Chapter 5 - Incorporating Acoustic Instruments and Vocals

1. Traditional instruments in electronic music

2. Fusion genres

3. Live instruments and vocals that are not on the record

4. Instruments that are on the record but not on stage

5. Microphones and DI boxes

6. Effects and sound manipulation

6.1 Vocal effects processing

6.2 Vocoders and talk boxes

6.3 Effects for other instruments

Tutorial – generated live vocal harmonies, violin and synth

7. Takeaway points


Interview with Matt Robertson

Chapter 6 – Live Synthesis and Sound Design

1. Synthesis technology

1.1 Synthesis techniques

1.1.1 Additive synthesis

1.1.2 Subtractive synthesis

1.1.3 FM synthesis

1.1.4 Waveshaping synthesis

1.1.5 Sampling

1.1.6 Granular synthesis

1.1.7 Wavetable synthesis

1.1.8 Physical modelling synthesis

1.2 Controls typically found on commercial synthesizers

1.2.1 Oscillators

1.2.2 Amplifier

1.2.3 Amplitude envelope

1.2.4 Filters

1.2.5 Modulation

1.2.6 Clock

1.2.7 Effects, sequencing and arpeggiators

1.2.8 Playback controls

2. A rich history of artists shaping their sound through synthesis

2.1 Retro-leaning synths used by current artists

3. A brief history of sampling

4. Using synths and samplers on stage

4.1 Playing live on hardware synthesizers and samplers

4.1.1 Choosing hardware synths

4.1.2 Working with pre-programmed sequences

4.1.3 Modular synthesizers on stage

4.2 Performing live with software synthesizers


5. Takeaway points


Chapter 7 – Performing without a Laptop

1. Building blocks of a laptop-free setup

1.1 Sound sources

1.2 Control signal generators

1.2.1 Clock signal generators

1.3 Control signal routing tools

1.4 Sound processors and effects

1.5 Mixers

2. All-in-one hardware tools

3. Cabling and connections

Tutorial: a modular synthesizer setup (Matt Gooderson)

Modular Systems

Components of the Hardware Setup



Sound Sources

Utility Modules



Sample and Hold


Audio Modifiers

Composition and Performance

4. Takeaway points


Chapter 8 – Programming Custom Performance Tools

1. Getting started with programming

1.1 What is a program?

1.2 What programming language should you learn?

2. Inspiring artist examples

2.1 Complete playback solutions

2.2 Effects plug-ins and software instruments

2.3 Expanding the functionality of hardware

2.4 Automatic performance tools

2.5 Letting the outside environment control the sound

Tutorial: introducing BBC R&D’s Audio Orchestrator, featuring Jon Francombe and Stephen Davismoon

How does Audio Orchestrator work?

The Sequences page

The Controls page

The Audio page

The Appearance page

The Export page

3. Patch It: modular music programming environments

3.1 Max/MSP

3.2 Pure Data

3.3 Other node-based programming environments

3.4 Node-based programming in action

3.4.1 Effects processing

3.4.2 Generative music

3.4.3 Sampling and sequencing

3.4.4 Working with external hardware

3.4.5 Theatre shows

Tutorial: generative music in Max / MSP, featuring Francesc Moya Serra

First steps and audio output

Metronome and timing

Sound triggering with the select object

Using MIDI notes to perform on a VST synth

Random pitches in a subpatch

Adding further complexity

Random note velocities and durations

Modulating synthesis parameters

Fitting the random note pitches to a musical scale


The performance GUI

4. Live coding: making EDM with algorithms

Tutorial: an introduction to SuperCollider, featuring Eli Fieldsteel

The interface

Getting started

Oscillator UGens

Cross-fading between sounds

Working with pre-recorded audio samples

What else is possible in SuperCollider?

5. Takeaway Points


Interview with Holly Herndon

Chapter 9 – Building Custom Hardware Tools

1. New instruments built from scratch

2. The human body as musical instrument

3. Adding functionality to existing instruments

4. Performing music on toys and household items

5. How can you get started?

Tutorial: Optical Theremin inside a Game Boy Shell with Rainbow Trash (Dominique Pelletier)

What you will need



Testing connections

Soldering connections

Closing up the case

Other things you can do...

6. Takeaway points


Chapter 10 – The Performance Setting

1. Common live sound technology

2. The soundcheck

3. Live sound mixing

4. Spaces

4.1 Arenas and stadiums

4.2 Large Festivals

4.3 Nightclubs

4.4 Warehouse raves

4.5 Concert halls

4.6 Outdoor theatres

4.7 Small and intimate shows

4.8 Controlled acoustic spaces

4.9 Installations

4.10 Remote settings and streaming

Tutorial: a large redundancy playback rig, featuring Steven Massey

Stems for playback

Uninterruptible power supply

Redundancy playback rig

Output routing via a split rack

The monitor mix

The live mix

5. Takeaway points


Interview with Laura Escudé

Chapter 11 – Stage Design and Visual Parameters

1. Tools for creating visual interest

1.1 Moving visuals

1.2 Lighting

1.3 Dancing and acting

1.4 Fashion

1.5 Stage design

2. What determines the choice of visual stage parameters?

2.1 Artist identity

2.2 Visual parameters that convey a narrative

2.3 Creating an abstract connection between what is seen and heard

2.4 Amplifying performance parameters


3. Takeaway points


Chapter 12 – Planning and Promotion

1. Music branding principles

1.1 Artist identity

1.2 Target audience

2. Creating marketing materials

2.1 Visual materials

2.2 Biography

2.3 Press release

2.4 Website

2.4.1 A clear representation of the artist image

2.4.2 Layout and content

2.4.3 Search engine optimization

2.5 Social media

2.6 Hardcopy marketing materials

3. Networking and gig opportunities

Tutorial: music industry Dos and Don’ts presented by Woody van Eyden

Where am I now?

Where do I want to be?

What do I need to do to get there?

Who can help me?

What should I do in terms of networking?

4. Takeaway points


Chapter 13 – Conclusion

1 What do electronic musicians do on stage?

2 What constitutes a great electronic music performance?

3 How do I choose the concept for my show?

3.1 A compelling Performance persona

3.2 Virtuosic skills

3.3 Technical know-how

3.4 A compelling performance setting

3.5 Liveness

3.6 Core values

3.7 Visual interest

4 What does my audience expect?

5 I am quite shy but I would like to perform live. What can I do?

6 I cannot play any instruments or sing. Can I still perform live?

7 Should I be a solo artist or form a band?

8 What kind of tools do I need to perform electronic music live?

9 There are so many different options. What is the right setup for me?

10 Who creates electronic performance equipment?

11 Where can I try out and buy performance equipment?

12 I produce music in a DAW. How can I turn this into a live show?

13 Should my live show sound like my record?

14 What does "live" mean? Should every sound be created in the moment, or are backing tracks acceptable?

15 Is it bad to mime and pretend that I am doing something on stage when I am not?

16 I have never produced any music. Where do I begin?

17 How should I prepare for my show?

17.1 Practice

17.2 Sound check

17.3 Feedback

18 How can I find gig opportunities?

Thank you!

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Kirsten Hermes is an interdisciplinary researcher, book author, senior lecturer, violinist and audio-visual artist, bridging scientific and creative domains in her work. She tours internationally under the moniker Nyokeë, integrating the iconic sound of retro games consoles into high-energy electropop tracks, accompanied by her moving graphics. Together with Joe Smith, she is also in a hybrid neoclassical and electronic band called Emb:re.

Kirsten holds a PhD in sound perception from the University of Surrey (UK), which was funded by the British Engineering and Physical Sciences Council. She also holds a Masters Degree in Audio Production from the University of Westminster. Kirsten regularly publishes interdisciplinary book chapters and academic papers, combining scientific and technical knowledge with creative practice.