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I have quite some problem. I played music for many years. I played guitar, bass, keyboards and even some other uncommon instruments such as Galician bagpipe, tambura, kultrum, industrial percussion (don't know how to name that, think Einstürzende Neubauten).

I played with several bands, some very known in my country. I'm a very good composer and can compose on demand on almost any style. At some point, I was deemed as one of the finest composers in my country, but I never believed that, guess they were friendly. Anyways, I'm good. And I also sing, quite decently.

Now, after this introduction, my problem: due to some reasons (mainly depression about not getting anywhere with music and the need to support my family), I did quit music in 2000. And when I say I retired, I mean to the extent to not even touch an instrument for more than 15 years.

After some years, I started composing in my head. One song when I went to work, one when I came back. Every day. For 2 years or so. But still didn't want to play an instrument.

Eventually, I decided to get back.... and I started composing 2 or 3 songs a day, demo-ing with garage band (GB for short) on my Mac. I don't even have a sound board, so I record them with the computer keyboard, and play guitar and sing on top.

Now, I'm really happy and excited now that music is back on my life. And I want to play live! Several people that found out about this even offered me places to play, so that is not an issue either.

My real issue

As I said, I record everything with GB, so my issue is technical: I can't play live with a computer that may hang (and it does!). Nowadays, my music is basically electronic, with some guitar or bass addition. I have a bass and drum player ready to join me whenever I'm ready.

Other than GB, I have a Yamaha CS1-X, an Ensoniq ASR-10, and then guitars, effect pedals, amplifiers.... but nothing that will allow me to play live all the programmed parts. Back in the days, I used to do that with the ASR-10, which is way stronger than any computer, even today. But of course, it's really limited for nowadays needs of memory.

So I was checking options, but I'm really lost. I thought of an Ableton Push, but everything I heard in their reviews sounds really weak, and not sure if I'd be able to record tracks from GB, or import their sounds into Ableton (or any other kind of controller). I thought to go with a Volca setting, but still sounds too weak and "bleepy" so to speak. Not to mention it only has MIDI in, so I can't control a keyboard.

So... how can I go with this without using a computer?

Ideally, I want to be able to play live with a bassist, a drummer, maybe a second guitar. And I want to be able to have sounds and sequences I can control in real time, or just have them play as I sing or play guitar or do percussion or whatever.

EDIT: Based on comments, I don't want an specific brand recommendation, just want to know what kind of hardware or instrument do I need to do what I want to do

  • If you're not looking for specific product recommendations, then your budget is not relevant, so I have edited that out. – Todd Wilcox Jun 26 '18 at 0:16
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You would probably do well with a "beat creation" system or "drum machine/sampler" or "sampler". There isn't really one agreed-upon name for it.

Here is Sweetwater's page for those products (called "drum machines and samplers"):

https://www.sweetwater.com/c643--Drum_Machines_and_Samplers

The top products from that page that can record and playback samples and do not require a computer are:

  • Elektron Digitone
  • Akai Professional MPC X
  • Elektron Digitakt
  • Elektron Octatrak MKII
  • Elektron Analog Rytm MKII
  • Pioneer DJ DJS-1000

Honorable mention: DSI Tempest, but it's expensive and doesn't sample, but it is a complete six-voice synth and analog drum machine so you could sequence entire songs with it, but it would be a pain.

Another route you could take is to sequence separate synths and drum machines. Some comprehensive sequencers that can help you with that include:

  • Teenage Engineering OP-1
  • Arturia Beatstep Pro
  • Maybe the Teenage Engineering OP-Z? It's not out yet.

Synthesizers that might go well with one of the above sequencers include:

  • Behringer Model D
  • Behringer Neutron
  • Moog DFAM (only CV control, so might be tricky)
  • Moog Mother 32
  • Korg Minilogue
  • Moog Minitaur
  • Novation Peak
  • Novation Bass Station

If you decide that a computer is robust enough for gigging live, then the two biggest players in that market are the NI Maschine system and Ableton Live with Push 2. Maschine is more popular with EDM folks, while Ableton Live is used by lots of rock/pop/musical theatre productions where they want to trigger prerecorded music and samples.

If you want something like Maschine or Live/Push in a box without a computer, the Elektron products are pretty much exactly that.

  • wow Todd, thank you! I took a look to several of these recommendations and I already have some idea on what to do, this is exactly the kind of advice I was looking for! Now, sorry to be a nag, but if I use the Beatstep Pro I would need a sampler as well, is that right? Or does the Beatstep work as a sampler? Or maybe using a PC with lots of RAM would do the trick (my Mac supports only 8Mb and it hangs, so it's out of the question) – Devin Jun 26 '18 at 3:57
  • @Devin The BeatStep Pro is only a sequencer - it controls other gear that might sample or synthesize sounds. You can't make or sample any sounds with the BeatStep Pro. the OP-1 can make sounds but I don't think it samples. The products in the first list can sequence and make sounds and sample, so they are more all-in-one. – Todd Wilcox Jun 26 '18 at 14:46
  • @ToddWilcox of'course the op-1 samples. you can sample off the radio, or sample from line-in. youtube.com/watch?v=LT_aX640cJo – foreyez Jun 26 '18 at 15:29
  • @foreyez Good to know. I haven't had time to research every single product available in this space. Sweetwater didn't have the OP-1 on their sampler page so I assumed they were implying it didn't sample. – Todd Wilcox Jun 26 '18 at 15:30

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