Q: Should I Split Up a MainStage Concert?

November 5, 2017

Here’s a question from Ben S.

What is the largest MainStage concert you would recommend for someone to build, in terms of sets/patches/channel strips, relative to one’s Mac setup? I’ve been wondering about this as my band is gearing up to learn 60 songs from the 1980s to play live. I’ve been wondering if I should try to make just one concert (with backups of course!) or split them into a few.

Unfortunately, there’s no correct answer to this question because there are so many factors involved when it comes to MainStage performance.
Here’s what I can say.
First of all, you should have an appropriate computer for running MainStage. While it’s technically possible to use MacBooks and MacBook Airs for MainStage, it’s definitely not a reliable option for live performance.
Next, think about what virtual instruments you plan on using in the concert. 60 songs programmed with stock MainStage plugins will typically perform much better than third party plugins and sample libraries. If you can’t recreate a sound with MainStage’s stock instruments, consider using the handy AutoSampler plugin to sample other sound sources into EXS24 format.
Many channel strips have reverb and other audio effects built in. In most cases, you can definitely get rid of individual reverb instances, and use a global reverb for your whole concert instead. This saves a ton of CPU cycles.
For other effects like EQ, compression, etc… bypass the plugin and listen. Is the plugin even doing anything? If not, get rid of it. I can tell you there are many stock channel strips with EQs that are not equalizing anything.

A useless EQ.
So, to answer the question… if you have a MacBook Pro (or even a souped up Mac mini), you should have no problem running an optimized concert with 60 songs. A few years ago, I programmed an Off-Broadway show with hundreds of keyboard patches…and then we decided to use the Mac mini for live guitar processing via Amplitube as well. Optimizing that concert was tough, but it ended up working out.
The keyword is optimized.

  • Don’t program hundreds of patches with resource hungry plugins.
  • Don’t use individual reverb instances.
  • Don’t be afraid to use AutoSampler.
  • Don’t forget to use aliases.

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