Answers to live performance FAQs

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When I play out in the real world, invariably there is at least one person in the audience, usually a player themselves, who notices there’s a lot going on and at some point wanders up (or, depending on the lateness of the evening, staggers up) to ask questions. These are my usual replies to the most common of them:

  • Yes, I am making all the sounds you hear.
  • No, there are no backing tracks, or “MIDIs” or any recording or looping. This frees me up to rearrange on the fly without everything coming crashing down.
  • Yes, my feet are playing the drums. Two electronic kick drum pedals and a Roland drum brain – basically a scaled-down electronic kit.
  • The bass and keyboard sounds are coming from the guitar (strangely enough, the guitar sounds too!). I play fingerstyle, with a combination of classical, latin, flamenco and fingerstyle guitar techniques:
    • My right thumb is playing the bass sounds on the lower strings.
    • My right hand fingers play the guitar synth sounds on the treble strings.
    • Guitar sound is across all six strings.
  • Vocal harmonies are from a clever device that figures out what I’m playing on the guitar and shifts my voice to follow in key.
  • No, it’s not “cheating”. I’m still singing as well as playing the bass, drum and guitar parts simultaneously. The technology is a tool to expand the sound and fill in the holes. But don’t let me stop you: feel free to go forth and find your inner Ned Ludd. Bang some sticks together while shouting – that’s about the only pure tech-free music that exists.
  • Yes, it takes a lot of patch editing: of every single sound for each and every song. …and some careful mixing.
  • Yes, I know what all the knobs and buttons do.
  • Yes, it took a long time to learn.
  • Yes, the device with all the flashing lights and cool buttons and knobs costs a lot of money. So please take your brandy and sugary carbonic acid drink and back away slowly from my rack and pedals.
  • Yes, This all means I’m very busy and can’t really chat about this stuff during performance. However, I am almost always up for tech talk during breaks and tear-down.

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