Everyone has seen bands who have a laptop on stage. The thing is, many fans don’t take the time to wonder why laptops are up there on stage with their favorite bands.
In the last ten years, music has made a heavy shift in keyboards and laptops. Most of your favorite bands today have laptops either on stage or side-stage. This is something that is also becoming more popular with time.
There are several reasons why bands use them on-stage and we are going to break down each reason they are used and should be used by bands.
Running Backtracks On-Stage With A Laptop
Backtracks are exactly what they sound like, audio files of the band’s songs. Now, this doesn’t mean the band isn’t playing and they are just having their laptop play their songs. It means that any part that they can’t cover can be added as a track and played by their laptop.
Some bands use tracks more than others and there has been a huge spike in the number of bands who use tracks in the last few years. Some bands will use their backtracks as their main sound output and then basically just play along with the tracks. Whereas, other bands will pick specific vocal parts or parts that can’t be played with the number of people on stage.
Bands have been running some form of backtracks since the 1970s and the laptop has basically helped mainstream this. Some bands today are very against running backtracks, but I think it is worth it for what it does to your performance.
If you are going to be running tracks, it would be wise to look at a case for touring. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, I would recommend a pelican case alternative.
If you are in a band and you are wondering if you should use a laptop to run backing tracks, I would suggest you don’t stray away from it. Every musician wants to keep the musical integrity, but at the same time, putting on the best possible show is the most important thing there is in music.
A tip when it comes to using a laptop is to use gaff tape to tape the USB cables to your laptop. This prevents your cables from being unplugged and ruining your show. Gaff tape is also really heat resistant so it doesn’t get hot fast as duct tape.
Using DMXIS For Lights
Some bands are using their laptops up on stage to run DMXIS. Running DMXIS is a cheap, yet extremely effective way to control some serious light shows. The first time I saw a band that had a crazy light show I asked what they were using and the introduced me to DMXIS.
I recently wrote about some of my favorite laptop stands for musicians. Read more here.
What Is DMXIS?
DMXIS is a software that allows you to pre-program your entire light show to be coordinated with all of your songs in your set. This makes it so you don’t have to bring a lighting engineer. If you are going to be using DMXIS live, I recommend watching youtube videos while you are programming your set in case you have any questions on programming.
Learning DMXIS is actually not too difficult, it’s just a matter of putting the time in to program your set. The good thing about this program is you can run it with your device and have it control your tracks as well as your light-show. By doing this you are killing two birds with one stone.
DMXIS is perfect for cover or wedding bands who aren’t looking to hire out a ton of crew to play shows with them. If you’re ever at a wedding or bar-show, the chances are the house band is using a laptop to run a light-show for themselves. This is 100 percent pre-programmed and it runs itself once you program it.
If you are running a light-show from your laptop, be sure to make sure you have a fan or cooling pad it because it can overheat easily. A fan gets the job done very well and can save your computer from crashing on you mid-set.
Why Do Keyboard Players Use Laptops?
Keyboard players will use laptops because they’re using MIDI controllers. They’re using controllers to control a DAW from their device.
Bands use laptops with their keyboards because by doing this, the keyboard player can basically create and sample any sound that they used on their album and use it live.
That is the main reason why MIDI controllers have been so popular for the last few years. Heavier keyboard workstations aren’t as popular because controllers allow the musician endless possibilities with light-weight and for a much cheaper price.
When I started using controllers with laptops for live performance, I was super happy because I was able to use every single sound from our record live. It is worth spending the time to learn the software and use a MIDI controller, in the long run, you will be far more versatile than a keyboard player without one.