In a charming set of schematic doodles, self-described hip-hop producer deejers has assembled an exquisitely-researched compendium of live laptop rigs from top music acts. In the lineup: Flying Lotus, Skrillex, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Daft Punk – a reasonable sampling of artists playing big shows live on the US circuit. And, oh, yes, deadmau5, who despite claiming that everyone just presses play, has put together a fairly impressive controller setup with monome, Maschine, Lemur, and Pioneer EFX-1000. (Just one of those four controllers could let you assemble a track from scratch, let alone all four.)

It’s really worth your time to read the whole article. And deejers has a great blog full of beginner-friendly advice on everything from what the heck MIDI is for to choosing the right studio monitors:
How the biggest electronic acts play their music live [buttons & knobs blog]

He’s done such a good job that I guess I should try to add something. I do notice some trends:
Apple MacBook Pro in every one of these sets.
Ableton Live, ditto. (Sometimes Traktor is added for DJ sets.)
Drum pads (and still a lot of them M-Audio Trigger Fingers)
Continuous fader control, possibly augmented by encoders, in each setup – sometimes also via touch controllers, but always with some physical faders.

I’m also surprised by the number of people using the monome.

The MacBook phenomenon could easily be a subject of another article, but I think Apple’s predictability – in OS setup, in components, and in repairs – is invaluable in a big gig.

And Ableton Live has achieved ubiquity in what most people consider live electronic sets of this kind. Where you may see more variation are in other contexts – think bands, or think smaller acts and individuals who roll their own solutions.

But given the earlier deadmau5 debate, it is interesting just how much control each of these artists has. Whether that’s there for show, whether it’s there to legitimately give them dynamic playing abilities, or just to break their own monotony, well, that you have to watch them live to judge. But the options are there, for the dead…mice (mi53?) of the world, and for you. You can press whatever you like.

Questions for our readers:

1. Seen any live rigs that particularly struck you? (Live shows, yes, but any live rigs that you found an interesting solution to playing?)

2. Any artists whose rigs (down to the individual Max or Pd patch) you’d like us to investigate?

Side note: what a pleasure to cover a new blog – I remember the old days when this happened more often. If you have one, keep sending them in. I’m terrible about responding to email, but some tips are greatly appreciated!