A few tips back, I mentioned that I sometimes give a really short answer to people who ask me how to set up MIDI sync with Live. It is this:
Let me explain.
There are two situations where sync is handy: in the studio and on stage. In the studio, MIDI sync is very useful for working with hardware drum machines or external synthesizers that have arpeggiators, etc.
On stage, there are many different reasons people want to use sync, but more often than not it’s simply that multiple performers are using computers as part of their setup and want automatic tempo changes and sync throughout the land.
Alas, sync’s siren song has led to many a fine crew being dashed upon the rocks.
The problem is that MIDI sync is not perfect. There are many situations where it ain’t bad, but on stage you pretty much need it to be perfect. For reasons that are outside of my areas of expertise, MIDI signals can drift – slowly becoming more out of sync.
Sometimes it fails from the outset in ways that are totally baffling: the one serious sync related train wreck i ever had on stage happened in the first five minutes of the show. It had always worked for us before, and to this day I don’t know exactly what happened. After that, we never used sync again.
So here’s the lowdown: in the studio, sync can be very handy and made to work quite well. There are still issues with drift, but they are easily handled. To reset sync on devices that have drifted apart, generally all you have to do is start and stop the sequencer. If things get wacky in other ways, you have time to suss it out.
On stage, it can also be made to work, but you need to have a strategy for dealing with it if it doesn’t. This can be tricky because a Slave computer is more or less helpless when the EXT switch is turned on.
In the next tip, we’ll take a look at performing without sync.