Since friday night, I’ve gotten a bunch of questions about the live setup that I posted a picture of. So today I figured I’d briefly talk through it and give you a sense of how I’m using Live when I’m playing guitar.

Essentially, the setup is based around using Live as an effects box and looper. I use this setup in a variety of situations from studio work, to backing up singer/songwriters live, to improvising atmospheric downtempo with John Von Seggern and Matt Piper as I did this weekend.

Before it gets into the computer, the guitar signal runs through:

  • a Diamond compressor pedal (to control peaks and increase sustain)
  • a Box Of Rock overdrive pedal by zvex (cuz I still like hardware overdrive better. also, it’s very different to have the overdrive happen before the volume pedal, rather than after it.)
  • an Ernie Ball volume pedal (for swells and driving the effects to create synth-like textures)

The signal then goes into the Instrument input on a Native Instruments Audio Kontrol, and down a USB cable into Ableton Live. Live is setup like this:


The first track contains my main effect rack which includes lots of delay & grain based effects, mostly built using Live devices, but there’s also Scrubby by dfx in there. There’s more here than I have time to go into today, but if there’s enough interest I can also clean up this template and post it for download…

The second two tracks are set up to record loops from the live gutar signal that’s coming through track one (“Guitar FX”). This setup allows me to record different loops with radically different effects on the guitar. Make sure to take a good look at the Audio From/Audio To menus in the tracks if you’re not sure how this works.

I’ll often tweak the effects quite a bit while I play and record long loops into the loop tracks.  Then, I’ll often use additional effects on my loop tracks to create movement (such as with an LFO driven effect like the Auto FIlter), or to create rhythmic effects (such as by using the Auto Pan device as a gater).  Occasionally, I’ll also go into the Clip View and change the transposition setting of a loop.

The MIDI controller setup is as follows:

  • a Novation Launchpad for recording/triggering/stopping clips in the loop tracks.
  • an Evolution X-Session for controlling effect parameters in the Guitar FX track (great small controller, no longer made)
  • a Korg NanoKontrol for controlling track volumes, effects sends and whatever other odds and ends I feel like mapping that day

The NanoKontrol is optional – if space is tight, I can run the whole thing off of the X-Session.  Sometimes, I use more Loop tracks – If I’m playing solo for example. Finally, there are also a couple of return tracks handling additional delay and reverb duties.

Experiment with this concept and see what you think. I know this tip is light on the details of the effects, but really that’s secondary to the basic design and routing of this setup. I’m going to move away from covering live performance this week and return to other details of this setup another day.