Jamming with laptops

lg.jpgThis is a small article about connecting multiple laptops and using them as performance instruments with Ableton Live. The example was taken from a session where ideas were tested live. The basic concept is to work in sync. This means that each laptop has to be equipped with a suitable MIDI interface (lucky, most external audio interfaces today have a MIDI connection). One of the laptops needs to be master (set the appropriate MIDI port to output control in Live settings) and the others need to have tempo set to EXT. When playing, this will mean that one laptop will start and stop all the others, so take this in consideration when choosing the master. This also means that you will work with Live running the entire session (apart from appropriate breaks to attend to other needs…) This means that in due time your bar counter will start to work up towards hundreds of bars, but that¨s nothing to worry about – as we in this example will be working in the session view all the time!

To trigger instruments, a MIDI keyboard or pads will be needed of course. I also use a BCR2000 controller to adjust levels and in a quick and simple manner arm different tracks for recording and punch in/out. Note that quantize and other edit functions can be set to appropriate buttons for the rhytmically challenged 🙂 The BCR2000 in MackieHUI mode is in my meaning a most simple yet powerful setup, but your mileage may vary.

The rest is up to you. Start laying down a guide groove. Add and replace bits as you move forward with the beat. Improvise something over top, and record it when you strike gold. Add some guitar or vocal bits. When things start to get crowded, move to a new blank row and start over. Reuse same of the ideas, or start fresh. Doing this, will give you a number of grooves and ideas (every row in the session view) that you can explore later when in the production stage.

Have fun. Replenish your fluids. This is brainstorming and performance – not production, so leave the critical ears for later.


  1. I’ve been wanting to do this with a friend, kind of to mimmic what Anchorsong does in a live performance.
    My friend plays the bass guitar and I have several midi gear, including the korg pad, BCR2000 m-audio 02 and CME UF8. I also have a a audiophile firewire card but the thing doesnt work with my laptop to begin with :/
    Other then that what I’m looking for is how to actually setup the BCR or any other gear in that same way to arm and punch in/on tracks, in order to get that hardware MPC-like sequencer control. How do you do this?

  2. I will post some details regarding this in an upcoming post. The basic idea is to use two freeware applications: huskervu and midiyoke to set up an emulation of the Mackie functionality with the BCR.

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