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Keyboard Rigs: An Interview with a Touring Musician

by
Gift

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London-based musician Josh Carruthers took time out of his busy touring schedule to take us through his current keyboard rig. Josh is currently playing with a major label act based in the UK, and this summer he will use this exact rig to play at huge festivals such as Isle of Wight and Glastonbury.

Here he takes us through his equipment, how it's set up in a live environment, and some of the pros and cons of his current rig.

Touring Equipment

  • Nord Piano 2 – HA88
  • Nord Electro 2 – 73 key
  • MicroKorg Synth
  • Ultimate Support AX-48 Pro Apex two-tier column keyboard stand
  • Shure SM58 mic
  • Shure E5 in-ear monitors
  • ACS custom moulds
  • Jack lead – x4 (stereo for Nord Piano 2, and mono for the Electro 2 and MicroKorg)
  • MIDI cable – x1
  • Nord sustain pedal – x2
  • 4 socket extension lead – 5m
  • Gator cable bag
  • AA batteries - x6 (for the MicroKorg)

Choosing Equipment

Above: The Electro 2 sits about the Nord Piano 2, with the Piano 2 used as a main keyboard in this particular rig.

"I tried out lots of keyboards, but the piano sound of the Nord Piano 2 was the best all-around sound I managed to find. The main attraction was how realistic it sounded. The weighted keys are very comfortable too. The live functionality it has is very appealing, I have the ability to switch between songs really easily.

"I had the Electro 2 from a previous project, but I kept it and it still comes in very useful for this current tour. Using two keyboards means I can, for example, play piano in my left hand and, say, organ in my right hand. It also looks pretty great!

"I only really use the MicroKorg for one song at the moment. It's got a great 'saw' sound, so I use it for that. This is what the MIDI cable is for. I can essentially play the MicroKorg synth through my Electro 2 by connecting it this way. I'm usually using the Electro 2 for the organ sound, so this way I get a sound where in the chorus of a particular piece I can have the organ at the same time as the synth. It works really well.

"Prior to getting the Nord Piano 2, I had a Korg Triton LE. I'd had it for a long time, and last year it let me down during a gig. I was switching between sounds, clicked the button, and the contact went dead. I realized I wasn’t able to use that keyboard again, and to be honest the piano sounds were getting fairly dated for what was now on offer. It pushed me for an upgrade!

"Regarding the Ultimate Support AX-48 Pro, I was initially attracted by it's appearance. A really good friend had one and raved about it. It appears quite different to a traditional X-type stand. It also perhaps helps with the image of playing with a major label act too. It's a little bit 80's synth pop looking! But it's also very easy to transport, which is a major plus."

Gig Day 

"When we get to the venue we usually wait for the lighting rig to be set up; that's the first priority. After, the drum kit is the first of the instruments to get set up. Then, it's time for me to get the keyboard rig working.

"Whilst I'm setting up, the sound engineer we have on tour patches everything up and the in-house engineers usually then come around, get me powered up and sort out the DI boxes. These are provided at the venue and process my keyboard signal.

I have it set up so that the Piano 2 is in stereo, as this is my main keyboard. However, I have the Electro 2 and the MicroKorg in mono. This is more than sufficient for the gigs.

"After we've set up and tested all the equipment, we'll get on with a sound check. The sound engineers will tweak the levels out at the front of house and at the same time there will be a separate mix being adjusted for all of our in-ear monitors. Usually we start with the same settings as the previous gig, as the desk is digital.

"My personal in-ear mix usually has a lot of drums, not much bass, and hardly any guitar. My keyboards are pretty loud in my mix. As I sing backing vocals too, I have a lot of main vocals and my own mic in the mix as well. I'm usually set up right next to the bass amp anyway so I get a lot of bass on stage that way."

Above: A live session on the BBC's Live Lounge programme.

Pre-Sets

"I have the Nord Piano 2 set up on it's live mode. This gives me give presets to use and switch throughout the gig.

The transpose preset is very handy for last minute key changes to any of the pieces we are playing without causing too much of a panic.

"At the moment, on #1 I have a Rhodes sound that's been transposed down a step, along with some additional strings for other parts of the track. The transpose preset is very handy for last minute key changes to any of the pieces we are playing without causing too much of a panic.

"Then number two might be just a straight piano or keyboard sound. They're all different variations that correspond to the set list, and means that I don't have to dive into any settings on stage, even if the setlist changes last minute. I can be ready in an instant."

Problems

The MicroKorg is set up on top of a flight case, as it is only used for one song in the current setlist.

"The way I've got my main keyboard set up can be a little tricky. If the wrong button is pressed by accident, it's very easy to overwrite my settings. So if there are engineers on stage, or there is a line check happening before we come on stage, I'm always slightly concerned that someone could knock into my rig and affect the sounds I'm getting. I like to do the line check as often as possible myself because it's so easy to change a setting I might not find out until midway through a set, which would be a disaster. It hasn't happened yet but I'm always very careful.

"There was one time when we were booked on a support tour and we got given a tiny amount of space to work with on stage, we were jammed really tightly together. We didn't get a soundcheck and couldn't test if the rigs were working fully. When we were playing, one of the DI connections came lose; it was nudged I think. I was without piano for the first verse of a song - a big problem for a part of the song which had just piano and vocals! Thankfully an engineer came on stage straight away but it's what you might expect to happen if you're given no time or space."

"My set up is actually quite simple. It’s set up exactly the same in rehearsal too so I can mimic it live."


If you've got any questions for Josh, let me know in the comments below and I will do my best to get them answered for you.

Thank you to Josh for taking the time out of his schedule to take part in this interview.














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