Preparing for a live set / DAW to hardware.

Hi all.

After my DAW, no DAW, bits of DAW journey I’ve arrived at using a DAW to create tracks alongside a Digitakt. With some live sets coming up (which I’d forgotten about given Covid etc) I’m thinking of ways to get the stems onto hardware so I can play the set live.

But this got me thinking. I don’t want a laptop on stage because - honesty I don’t know but I don’t want it. And also I don’t just want to output the stems and loop them whilst playing with levels.

So maybe I need to recreate the tracks for live use on hardware.

This got me thinking (hang on in there this is evolving as I type) that as I am only interested in live music, why use a DAW?

Cost and capability I think are the answers.

So my question is how do the DAW users work live?

I’m hoping my question will evolve as this thread does.


For me my live music and DAW music are just 2 seperare world’s. I like making music in a DAW and have control of every little detail. For live music I can’t use anything prerecorded because it just doesn’t feel honest to me. So live sets i base on a lot of live looping and modular. I do use a laptop live as it just so handy for complex live looping setups and with the audio interface being a mixer and a brunch of high quality FX.

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Same here. Live sets usually are born working directly with the hardware. DAW tracks are born in Live and are finished there. In a few occasions I’ve created loops and samples in the DAW and then further developed them on the Octatrack, but that is more the exception. The idea of just playing back loops during a live performance isn’t too exciting to me personally and that is what I would end up doing if I would try to replicate something I have made in Live, using the Octatrack.
Something that I did a few times, and which is an interesting approach is to do things the other way around. Start with the Octatrack and an assortment of additional instruments. Create a track (either for a live gig, or pretending it’s one) then record the whole thing – ideally multi-track – and then further refine things in the DAW.

To me DAWs really excell at fine-tuning. For the things where you want to zoom in a bit. They are great to edit things and to do the mixing and mastering. While I don’t have a big issue with creating tracks start-to-finish in the box, I do notice that things come out quite differently when I do the initial creative part outside away from the computer screen. Lately I’m appreciating this quality more and am experimenting a lot with finding a workflow that will use the computer only in the final stages.


I have been torn for a little while about the studio / live dichotomy…

On one side I see the risk of boring people with my live tweaking (who has never been utterly underwhelmed when listening to improvs that felt incredible when playing ?) and on the other I see the risk of boring myself with too few to do and build with live. So I try to balance the two, like everybody I guess…

Can I ask you why ?

“Honest” seems to call to a clear and constructed idea about what live music should be.

I hear a lot of stuffs going along those lines (hey!), but I don’t think I really get why. When I think about it I see the extreme cases as really clear and everything in the middle feels a lot less obvious. For instance, is playing live modular with a patch already laid out a problem ? Is using samples of a musical instruments a problem ? Phrases of said instrument ?

It makes me think about the “playing an instrument VS composing” debate…
I have to say that to me electronic music gives the opportunity to let people play music “by themselves” if they want, and in this case what you play is the entirety of the music that the public will listen to, it makes me feel like my “responsibility” is to them, to present them something that is not “me playing” but rather “music being presented”.
I still want to be able to steer it, let it take me somewhere rehearsals never made me explore, etc, but there is no way I’ll make good complexe music on the spot thinking about so many aspects of it (well it already is a struggle having taken away a few parameters…). I guess it depends on what it is you want to play with live, what said music is about, but it always feels like that line between “just push play and wave your arms” and “live coding event” must be challenged, thought about, etc.
Personally I choose to “pre compose” concrete music (missing some effects, leaving parts unachieved in terms of intensity, etc) that I bounce on 4 track cassette, that I later use as a guideline with a synth, pedals, loopers, and a red of all that and two mixers for feedback of everything. It makes for a wild beast if I want to but if I want to land on my feet I have my tape with “already written time” on it.
In the end what I play live has a “fixed” part on the tape, an other “fixed” part that is my rehearsed playing of this weird system, and this part changes every time, even though it always “plays its part”. chaos and order fighting ! That is what my music is about, so that is what the system I built is about too.

More on the topic asked (sorry), to me everything is about answering “what do I want to be able to do live?”, and then finding the gear that lets that happen, with just the right amount of control.


I can relate to the feeling that simply bouncing loops/stems from a DAW and using hardware to play them back feels a bit “wrong,” but in my case I think that’s another way of saying it seems like a boring way to spend my time, both in preparation and performance.

This may or may not apply depending on what sort of music you’re making, but if you have structured pieces that you originally created in a DAW, rearranging them for hardware can be a really fun challenge. That might involve exporting some samples or stems from one platform to another, but for me at least, it’s most interesting to try to recreate the existing piece from the ground up. You’re forced to figure out what the truly important elements are, to not be precious about making the live version sound exactly the same, to see how much you can change in your new arrangement while retaining the identity of the piece; and sometimes you learn to do things on your hardware that came naturally in a DAW, but that you wouldn’t normally think to do with (say) a x0x-style step sequencer. In a word, you can learn a lot about both your gear and your music by translating rather than transferring things to a more live-friendly context.

That said – I’ve seen enough dull hardware sets and awesome laptop- or even iPod-only sets that I’ve learned never to scoff at people who literally play back fully mixed tracks from iTunes (RIP) and sing/speak/play one instrument/whatever on top, or like, dance around, whatever. Any time that feels right and frees you up to do more interesting things, do it.


What kind of music is it? And what kind of instruments do you play?

I’m in a similar situation as the other responses. I bought hardware initially because I wanted to perform live, and figured making the music on my live setup first was more conducive to “translating” to a live performance on hardware later. I had come to this conclusion after thinking a lot about how a live set would work once I finished a bunch of material in the DAW. (Too much, honestly, but thats another story)

But I have started to dip my toes back into the DAW in order to create sample fodder for my samplers. Being able to specifically make and mix certain noises in the DAW can let you fill in the gaps, not for a song but for a tool set. Hitting specific frequencies, designing unique percussion, compiling a library of clips that can be fun to cut up or granularize live.

In the DAW, you can virtually audition what you’ve made. How would this work with a 4 on the floor beat? Electro? I won’t be finishing them in the daw, nor performing them in the DAW, but it gives me an idea about what the specific sounds might need when I use them live with hardware or a midi controller or whatever.

But this presupposes a bunch of things about the style of music and abilities. I dont think backing track stems are that bad when people are playing amazing piano on top. But maybe you don’t play piano. Or maybe your ability to play piano doesn’t matter as much for your banging basement techno set.

The potentially expansive personal reflection is, what kind of performer do you want to be? How do you want to look on stage? What personally excites you? Do you want to be a finger drumming virtuoso? Jeff Mills absolutely working a 909 to death? Dubbed out selector? Precious four track tape loop ponderer? There may be certain DAW to live hardware strategies that are more important for one over the other. But the technical advice follows the more abstract idea of what you want to look like on stage and why.


For me that it doesn’t feel ‘honest’ is a very personal view on my own music. I can enjoy other live music that might play stems or maybe even whole tracks while pretending to be live.

For me I think it comes from the path i’ve walked how my music developed.
In the nineties i was making music and beats by sampling records. After a while i started collecting and playing instruments and recording sounds to use them as samles instead. That felt much better then using samples from records. LIve sets in those days were not much else as almost playing complete tracks from a computer and adding some synth fx on top.
Later I started performing with live looping wilt a multi instrument setup. I just felt really right to make all the sounds on the spot. Also that the audience can see and experiences every part of the music is important for a live performance. Here my live music and Daw music went appart. What i can do live with live looping instruments (i m not a good instrumentalist) is a very different thing then i could or would do when composing tracks in a DAW.
I did incorporate my live way of working in multitracking my ‘live’ sets in the studio and then rigoursaly editing those into tracks.

Thank you for your perspective.