My Dream Live Setup

My dream setup for live work, until the next one. I’ve been round the houses and back with options, and there’s loads of ways to do this and I thought I share this one.

The aim of the game is to have maximum creativity, minium setup hardware, cables and fuss. While still using Sonic Pi and VCV Rack. Honestly, I could probably do everything in either one but I like both of them so want to use them both. I did try getting both to run on the one Windows PC, but for various reasons it’s not robust.

So the recipe is:

  • A Raspberry Pi running Sonic Pi with the backing sequences, main percussion, loops ready for live coding and samples triggered off the virtual on-screen midi keyboard vmpk.

  • Windows 10 PC running VCV Rack with the Arturia MiniLab midi keyboard for live playing, and midi control of some of the Rack parameters. My patch for a current crop of songs has one synth voice for live playing off the keyboard; a sequencer set up to record off the keyboard on another midi channel; a Turing Machine module playing patterns on scales; a sequencer and drum machine that I can edit live on screen.

  • A little usb-powered wifi access point (the small blue box)

  • A VNC client on the W10 PC to control Sonic Pi

  • Cuckos OSII-bot running on the Windows PC that picks up OSC messages from Sonic Pi to send them to VCV Rack as MIDI notes that work to sync the clocks. This needs loopMidi on the PC too handle them. Here’s the bit of EEL script to do that

  • Audio ouput straight from the output jacks of the Pi and PC straight into an audio mixer, then to the PA. No external audio interfaces as latency is not a great concern here.


…A follow up on this. Might help somone wanting to do something similar…

I tried this at a (distanced) rehearsal yesterday and it worked well, very usable in practice.

I also tried an even sparser setup which was ‘everything on one PC’

  • Windows PC
  • Wifi access point
  • External USB soundcard, WASAPI
  • VCV Rack
  • Sonic Pi
  • Arturia Midi keyboard -> VCV Rack
  • Android phone running an OSC app -> Sonic Pi

…which I gave a really good soak test at home. But when I tried it out at the rehearsal, there were all kinds of problems. The phone/osc app refused to send any osc messages - still a mystery. I got timing glitches on the VCV Rack and at one point couldn’t get a live loop playing samples to make any sound. My guess is that the PC had recently updated itself and - you know how it goes - it then decides to do a load of stuff for a while until it settles down. Back at home, it worked no problem.

These are the practial realities of using computers for live work. When it happens I think of using actual synths instead - the kind that you turn on and they just work. But a quick look at the prices tag for such a setup, and… :smile:

I’ve explained the mystery of my phone not sending OSC. At home, my private wifi network has a gateway to the Internet, but not when I’m at the rehearsal. Although the phone is still definitely connected to the network, it won’t send OSC when there’s no Internet gateway. Might just be my phone.