Modern Worship Keyboards: Laptop/Controller vs. Traditional Synth

There are so many choices these days when addressing your keyboard needs for modern worship. Shell out say $3,000 for a synth by Nord, Yamaha, or Roland. Or, use your laptop and a controller like Axiom Pro or Studio Logic. I get a lot of questions about this topic, so I thought I would give you my thinking in hopes that it will aid you in deciding your best option.

When an acoustic guitarist can spend $3,000 simply on a nice professional Taylor or Martin to lead worship with, the range in price is such that $500 might sound terrible while $5,000 terrific when you talk about wood, manufacturing, and the pickup electronics. I am here to say that you might feel less cool using a controller, but the geeky-ness of a laptop/iPad setup means for about $1,500 you can sound as good as a $3,300 workstation. If you already own a laptop, it might be less than that!

I currently have chosen to use this kind of setup. Here’s the equipment list:

  • Laptop – 13” MacBook Pro ($1,100)
  • Sounds – MainStage by Apple ($30)
  • Controller – M-Audio Axiom Pro61 ($500)
  • Bottom Line – NEW all of these equal $1,630 (I bought a used laptop).

Advantages of a laptop/controller setup:

  • Flexibility. You can download sounds, adding as you go.
  • Economics. Overall, it is a cheaper option for the same sonic quality.
  • Interface. Use of products like MainStage make your setup a breeze.
  • Upgradable. You can add software, such as Ableton Live, or others to perform with. Add a fancy interface to improve sound output.

Like a said, I said, if you own a laptop, this can be cheaper, or you can look at other options such as a larger keyboard with 88 keys. If you already own an older synth, it is likely you can re-utilize it, especially if it has a USB interface for MIDI built in. Most musicians have a Mac. So, I apologize as I am not reviewing options right now for PC laptops. (If you have this info, please share with us.)

Advantages of a traditional synth setup.

  • Portability. Anyone can use it as is, while a laptop is usually person-specific.
  • Feel. It is likely that you are going to get a better keyboard control surface.
  • Durability. Laptops are fragile! Some of these can be dropped…sort of.
  • Plug-and-play. A laptop setup needs more cables and software setup may complicate things. Synth only needs power and audio cable to work.

If you have multiple players on your team, training them to use the same keyboard might be worth the extra cast. If you are in a church-in-the-box, portability and durability rule. Frugality makes sense, except when the headaches cost more than the gear. So, pay more for what you need if the synth makes sense for you.

Obviously, it is not a clear decision that all should use traditional synths. Add the use of iPads for sound generation and the options get even more diverse. Technology in this case helps the one willing to do a bit extra work. But, not all of us are wired this way. And, not all situations make it practical to use a computer and control surface for live modern worship. I hope this helps you evaluate your situation.

Please discuss with me your thoughts about what is better for you.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

19 comments

  1. Hey Rich! You forgot a very important element of your live rig: Native Instruments:)

    1. Yes, and I did not mention other upgrades with effects and such. MainStage adds all of these easily, even if you are in 64 bit and the plugins or sounds are in 32 bit.

  2. You hinted at this in your post, but having a both/and approach even if using a more "vintage" keyboard can help provide a safety net in case the technology fails. If the keyboard controller even has a couple decent patches (pad and piano/ep), it can help save the day.

    Working out a communication plan or a standardized "always on" approach with your sound team is important to making this work, though!

    Thanks, Rich for the post. With so many great options today, sometimes this can be an overwhelming choice for many who may just be getting into softsynths and computer based patches and programming.

    1. Thanks! The "both and" approach works, but eventually we learn to trust even wireless as much as cables when it comes to audio.

  3. Hello Rich, Great Post.

    Thought I’d add my setup to the mix, since I’m way more vintage than you. But playing with 20-30 somethings has stretched me to the max and now I’ve entered the MainStage Zone. I hope this blog of yours gains more traction – I think it’s a great subject for all of us church players.

    I have the extreme fortune and blessing to be able to play with awesome musicians much better than me at Calvary Church in Pacific Palisades, CA. We have a great sound system, subs in the wall, arrays from the ceiling, most of us on in-ear monitors. Plus with our digital Yamaha mixer, we can control in-ear mixes from on-stage with Yamaha’s MC7L Stagemix app.

    We’re fortunate to have a donated Hammond RT3 (above the B3) that I have the awesome privilege of playing. I was a blues player for years in Kansas City clubs, so I am home again! I found and donated a mint Leslie 122XB that I play that through, double-miked into DI and the board – but the 122 is SO loud on stage, who knows if it even comes through the house?

    I put my Yamaha s90 ES on top of the Hammond angled down a bit with blocks. This is the part where I have chosen to keep using the workstation because 1. The s90 ES has great piano action and great piano built in. It’s a monster in size and weight, though – goes past the hammond sides. I love that keyboard. I was using an iPad with Yamaha’s great SET LIST app to set all my patches for the week and control from there. I still use some of the custom performance patches that I’ve created because they’re sometimes as good as anything else I can get.

    Also, I keep the ES around just in case there’s that technology breakdown Jason mentions. I can easily do any kind of set with that guy alone, with many layered and 3/4 part splits doing everything I need. I also still bring the iPad to every Sunday (8:30 and 10:30 services) just in case MainStage gets cranky.

    I now have a 2012 MacBook Pro 15" 2.6 i7 quad core with 8gb (I work at an Apple store as a trainer, so my discount upgrades me!) that I’m using with MainStage 3. I have to tell you, being a vintage guy (started playing in bands in ’68), this was a tough nut to crack. It’s taken me quite a while to get up to speed with MainStage. My fellow young guy trainers who are Logic pros have been essential to me, though.

    I also sprung for the most awesome sound synth ever – Omnisphere. Wow! I’m now using most of my voices from Omnisphere. You can stack voices easily and modify (yes! finally learned to work with filters and such) them, combine them and save them as custom patches. What’s best about Omnisphere is the LIVE mode. I can set up up to 8 voices for one patch, turn them on individually or combine them any way I want on the fly. There are too many things to say about Omnisphere so you’ll just have to check it out.

    One really helpful thing about MainStage and Omnisphere is that Peter James, Keyboardist of Hillsong United, has made some of his MainStage concerts available for download. What a Godsend! In fact, the whole Hillsong site is amazing.

    http://hillsongcollected.com/creative/keyboard-soundspatchestemplates

    One of the things that needs updating in Omnisphere in MainStage, is that I haven’t been able to view the Omnisphere window while in Performance Mode, which I need to monitor whats on in LIVE mode.

    ** And watch out – if your MOD wheel on your controller happens to get moved up, it will affect Omnisphere sounds!!! If the MOD wheel is turned up, it doesn’t affect the voices coming directly from the controller unless you move it, and then it will jump, but if you’re allowing Omnisphere to use the MOD wheel, be certain that whatever the position it’s in when you choose a patch, that’s the sound you’re going to get. Really messed me up last Sunday until halfway through the service I noticed it. My in-ears were going crazy and the sound guy couldn’t figure what was messed up with the sound.

    So now the next to last piece in my puzzle – I did not want to be using the trackpad on my Mac to change patches, open Omnisphere windows, etc. and it’s not the easiest or best thing to set up your workstation controllers to operate MainStage and Omnisphere. So I bought the little Korg NANOKONTROL2. For $60 I now am able to set up all the patch change, tap tempo buttons and such on the NanoKontrol. Faders are set for channel strips, and the whole bank of eight buttons at the bottom of it are for turning on and off patches in LIVE mode in Omnisphere. What a lifesaver! Beware that the #1 RECORD buttons at the bottom of the sliders is set to a specific control on the s90 ES (might be different for other keys) but with the handy NanoKontrol editor, you can assign #63 instead of #64. This little guy is great and I’m still setting stuff up on it – like for any B3 patches I want to use when I’m out playing with only my ES and my little 120 Leslie I converted to a mini 147 FrankenLeslie (a story – but I can lift the guy into my SUV by myself!), I can use the sliders as drawbars.

    You may want to buy a USB extension cable for the NanoKontrol because the one on it’s a short one.

    But because of the NanoKontrol2 and MainStage/Omnisphere, I can play MY sounds anywhere with any keyboard. That’s a beautiful thing.

    The last thing will be a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface when I can afford it, because it’s definitely NOT ideal to be using the Mac’s onboard audio out. I’ve boiled it down to the Native because I don’t really record with it, but need the audio outs – two sets are especially critical for me if I want to play outside the church and am going to play both keys and Hammond sounds. I can send the keys to one set of stereo outs going to at Roland keyboard amp, and the Hammond patches out via another set to my FrankenLeslie amp. Because you don’t want the pads and such to be going through the Leslie.

    The only next things will be to add another small keyboard controller for extra sounds, learn the seemingly very difficult technique of creating and triggering loops in MainStage, and just getting better at using it all and playing something coherent with my fingers at the same time. Because I was always a one keyboard player for so many years, jumping to playing both the Yamaha on top of the Hammond, say for piano, and playing the Hammond at the same time has been yet another stretch. Adding MainStage on a computer and the NanoKontrol has almost given me a stroke.

    Rich, I want to thank you for providing this space and I hope I haven’t hijacked your nice site. If it’s too long, I understand if you edit it or take it out.

  4. Hello Rich, Great Post.

    Thought I’d add my setup to the mix, since I’m way more vintage than you. But playing with 20-30 somethings has stretched me to the max and now I’ve entered the MainStage Zone. I hope this blog of yours gains more traction – I think it’s a great subject for all of us church players.

    I have the extreme fortune and blessing to be able to play with awesome musicians much better than me at Calvary Church in Pacific Palisades, CA. We have a great sound system, subs in the wall, arrays from the ceiling, most of us on in-ear monitors. Plus with our digital Yamaha mixer, we can control in-ear mixes from on-stage with Yamaha’s MC7L Stagemix app.

    We’re fortunate to have a donated Hammond RT3 (above the B3) that I have the awesome privilege of playing. I was a blues player for years in Kansas City clubs, so I am home again! I found and donated a mint Leslie 122XB that I play that through, double-miked into DI and the board – but the 122 is SO loud on stage, who knows if it even comes through the house?

    I put my Yamaha s90 ES on top of the Hammond angled down a bit with blocks. This is the part where I have chosen to keep using the workstation because 1. The s90 ES has great piano action and great piano built in. It’s a monster in size and weight, though – goes past the hammond sides. I love that keyboard. I was using an iPad with Yamaha’s great SET LIST app to set all my patches for the week and control from there. I still use some of the custom performance patches that I’ve created because they’re sometimes as good as anything else I can get.

    Also, I keep the ES around just in case there’s that technology breakdown Jason mentions. I can easily do any kind of set with that guy alone, with many layered and 3/4 part splits doing everything I need. I also still bring the iPad to every Sunday (8:30 and 10:30 services) just in case MainStage gets cranky.

    I now have a 2012 MacBook Pro 15" 2.6 i7 quad core with 8gb (I work at an Apple store as a trainer, so my discount upgrades me!) that I’m using with MainStage 3. I have to tell you, being a vintage guy (started playing in bands in ’68), this was a tough nut to crack. It’s taken me quite a while to get up to speed with MainStage. My fellow young guy trainers who are Logic pros have been essential to me, though.

    I also sprung for the most awesome sound synth ever – Omnisphere. Wow! I’m now using most of my voices from Omnisphere. You can stack voices easily and modify (yes! finally learned to work with filters and such) them, combine them and save them as custom patches. What’s best about Omnisphere is the LIVE mode. I can set up up to 8 voices for one patch, turn them on individually or combine them any way I want on the fly. There are too many things to say about Omnisphere so you’ll just have to check it out.

    One really helpful thing about MainStage and Omnisphere is that Peter James, Keyboardist of Hillsong United, has made some of his MainStage concerts available for download. What a Godsend! In fact, the whole Hillsong site is amazing.

    http://hillsongcollected.com/creative/keyboard-soundspatchestemplates

    One of the things that needs updating in Omnisphere in MainStage, is that I haven’t been able to view the Omnisphere window while in Performance Mode, which I need to monitor whats on in LIVE mode.

    ** And watch out – if your MOD wheel on your controller happens to get moved up, it will affect Omnisphere sounds!!! If the MOD wheel is turned up, it doesn’t affect the voices coming directly from the controller unless you move it, and then it will jump, but if you’re allowing Omnisphere to use the MOD wheel, be certain that whatever the position it’s in when you choose a patch, that’s the sound you’re going to get. Really messed me up last Sunday until halfway through the service I noticed it. My in-ears were going crazy and the sound guy couldn’t figure what was messed up with the sound.

    So now the next to last piece in my puzzle – I did not want to be using the trackpad on my Mac to change patches, open Omnisphere windows, etc. and it’s not the easiest or best thing to set up your workstation controllers to operate MainStage and Omnisphere. So I bought the little Korg NANOKONTROL2. For $60 I now am able to set up all the patch change, tap tempo buttons and such on the NanoKontrol. Faders are set for channel strips, and the whole bank of eight buttons at the bottom of it are for turning on and off patches in LIVE mode in Omnisphere. What a lifesaver! Beware that the #1 RECORD buttons at the bottom of the sliders is set to a specific control on the s90 ES (might be different for other keys) but with the handy NanoKontrol editor, you can assign #63 instead of #64. This little guy is great and I’m still setting stuff up on it – like for any B3 patches I want to use when I’m out playing with only my ES and my little 120 Leslie I converted to a mini 147 FrankenLeslie (a story – but I can lift the guy into my SUV by myself!), I can use the sliders as drawbars.

    You may want to buy a USB extension cable for the NanoKontrol because the one on it’s a short one.

    But because of the NanoKontrol2 and MainStage/Omnisphere, I can play MY sounds anywhere with any keyboard. That’s a beautiful thing.

    The last thing will be a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface when I can afford it, because it’s definitely NOT ideal to be using the Mac’s onboard audio out. I’ve boiled it down to the Native because I don’t really record with it, but need the audio outs – two sets are especially critical for me if I want to play outside the church and am going to play both keys and Hammond sounds. I can send the keys to one set of stereo outs going to at Roland keyboard amp, and the Hammond patches out via another set to my FrankenLeslie amp. Because you don’t want the pads and such to be going through the Leslie.

    The only next things will be to add another small keyboard controller for extra sounds, learn the seemingly very difficult technique of creating and triggering loops in MainStage, and just getting better at using it all and playing something coherent with my fingers at the same time. Because I was always a one keyboard player for so many years, jumping to playing both the Yamaha on top of the Hammond, say for piano, and playing the Hammond at the same time has been yet another stretch. Adding MainStage on a computer and the NanoKontrol has almost given me a stroke.

    Rich, I want to thank you for providing this space and I hope I haven’t hijacked your nice site. If it’s too long, I understand if you edit it or take it out.

  5. Hello Rich, Great Post.

    Thought I’d add my setup to the mix, since I’m way more vintage than you. But playing with 20-30 somethings has stretched me to the max and now I’ve entered the MainStage Zone. I hope this blog of yours gains more traction – I think it’s a great subject for all of us church players.

    I have the extreme fortune and blessing to be able to play with awesome musicians much better than me at Calvary Church in Pacific Palisades, CA. We have a great sound system, subs in the wall, arrays from the ceiling, most of us on in-ear monitors. Plus with our digital Yamaha mixer, we can control in-ear mixes from on-stage with Yamaha’s MC7L Stagemix app.

    We’re fortunate to have a donated Hammond RT3 (above the B3) that I have the awesome privilege of playing. I was a blues player for years in Kansas City clubs, so I am home again! I found and donated a mint Leslie 122XB that I play that through, double-miked into DI and the board – but the 122 is SO loud on stage, who knows if it even comes through the house?

    I put my Yamaha s90 ES on top of the Hammond angled down a bit with blocks. This is the part where I have chosen to keep using the workstation because 1. The s90 ES has great piano action and great piano built in. It’s a monster in size and weight, though – goes past the hammond sides. I love that keyboard. I was using an iPad with Yamaha’s great SET LIST app to set all my patches for the week and control from there. I still use some of the custom performance patches that I’ve created because they’re sometimes as good as anything else I can get.

    Also, I keep the ES around just in case there’s that technology breakdown Jason mentions. I can easily do any kind of set with that guy alone, with many layered and 3/4 part splits doing everything I need. I also still bring the iPad to every Sunday (8:30 and 10:30 services) just in case MainStage gets cranky.

    I now have a 2012 MacBook Pro 15" 2.6 i7 quad core with 8gb (I work at an Apple store as a trainer, so my discount upgrades me!) that I’m using with MainStage 3. I have to tell you, being a vintage guy (started playing in bands in ’68), this was a tough nut to crack. It’s taken me quite a while to get up to speed with MainStage. My fellow young guy trainers who are Logic pros have been essential to me, though.

    I also sprung for the most awesome sound synth ever – Omnisphere. Wow! I’m now using most of my voices from Omnisphere. You can stack voices easily and modify (yes! finally learned to work with filters and such) them, combine them and save them as custom patches. What’s best about Omnisphere is the LIVE mode. I can set up up to 8 voices for one patch, turn them on individually or combine them any way I want on the fly. There are too many things to say about Omnisphere so you’ll just have to check it out.

    One really helpful thing about MainStage and Omnisphere is that Peter James, Keyboardist of Hillsong United, has made some of his MainStage concerts available for download. What a Godsend! In fact, the whole Hillsong site is amazing.

    http://hillsongcollected.com/creative/keyboard-soundspatchestemplates

    One of the things that needs updating in Omnisphere in MainStage, is that I haven’t been able to view the Omnisphere window while in Performance Mode, which I need to monitor whats on in LIVE mode.

    ** And watch out – if your MOD wheel on your controller happens to get moved up, it will affect Omnisphere sounds!!! If the MOD wheel is turned up, it doesn’t affect the voices coming directly from the controller unless you move it, and then it will jump, but if you’re allowing Omnisphere to use the MOD wheel, be certain that whatever the position it’s in when you choose a patch, that’s the sound you’re going to get. Really messed me up last Sunday until halfway through the service I noticed it. My in-ears were going crazy and the sound guy couldn’t figure what was messed up with the sound.

    So now the next to last piece in my puzzle – I did not want to be using the trackpad on my Mac to change patches, open Omnisphere windows, etc. and it’s not the easiest or best thing to set up your workstation controllers to operate MainStage and Omnisphere. So I bought the little Korg NANOKONTROL2. For $60 I now am able to set up all the patch change, tap tempo buttons and such on the NanoKontrol. Faders are set for channel strips, and the whole bank of eight buttons at the bottom of it are for turning on and off patches in LIVE mode in Omnisphere. What a lifesaver! Beware that the #1 RECORD buttons at the bottom of the sliders is set to a specific control on the s90 ES (might be different for other keys) but with the handy NanoKontrol editor, you can assign #63 instead of #64. This little guy is great and I’m still setting stuff up on it – like for any B3 patches I want to use when I’m out playing with only my ES and my little 120 Leslie I converted to a mini 147 FrankenLeslie (a story – but I can lift the guy into my SUV by myself!), I can use the sliders as drawbars.

    You may want to buy a USB extension cable for the NanoKontrol because the one on it’s a short one.

    But because of the NanoKontrol2 and MainStage/Omnisphere, I can play MY sounds anywhere with any keyboard. That’s a beautiful thing.

    The last thing will be a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface when I can afford it, because it’s definitely NOT ideal to be using the Mac’s onboard audio out. I’ve boiled it down to the Native because I don’t really record with it, but need the audio outs – two sets are especially critical for me if I want to play outside the church and am going to play both keys and Hammond sounds. I can send the keys to one set of stereo outs going to at Roland keyboard amp, and the Hammond patches out via another set to my FrankenLeslie amp. Because you don’t want the pads and such to be going through the Leslie.

    The only next things will be to add another small keyboard controller for extra sounds, learn the seemingly very difficult technique of creating and triggering loops in MainStage, and just getting better at using it all and playing something coherent with my fingers at the same time. Because I was always a one keyboard player for so many years, jumping to playing both the Yamaha on top of the Hammond, say for piano, and playing the Hammond at the same time has been yet another stretch. Adding MainStage on a computer and the NanoKontrol has almost given me a stroke.

    Rich, I want to thank you for providing this space and I hope I haven’t hijacked your nice site. If it’s too long, I understand if you edit it or take it out.

  6. Hello Rich, Great Post.

    Thought I’d add my setup to the mix, since I’m way more vintage than you. But playing with 20-30 somethings has stretched me to the max and now I’ve entered the MainStage Zone. I hope this blog of yours gains more traction – I think it’s a great subject for all of us church players.

    I have the extreme fortune and blessing to be able to play with awesome musicians much better than me at Calvary Church in Pacific Palisades, CA. We have a great sound system, subs in the wall, arrays from the ceiling, most of us on in-ear monitors. Plus with our digital Yamaha mixer, we can control in-ear mixes from on-stage with Yamaha’s MC7L Stagemix app.

    We’re fortunate to have a donated Hammond RT3 (above the B3) that I have the awesome privilege of playing. I was a blues player for years in Kansas City clubs, so I am home again! I found and donated a mint Leslie 122XB that I play that through, double-miked into DI and the board – but the 122 is SO loud on stage, who knows if it even comes through the house?

    I put my Yamaha s90 ES on top of the Hammond angled down a bit with blocks. This is the part where I have chosen to keep using the workstation because 1. The s90 ES has great piano action and great piano built in. It’s a monster in size and weight, though – goes past the hammond sides. I love that keyboard. I was using an iPad with Yamaha’s great SET LIST app to set all my patches for the week and control from there. I still use some of the custom performance patches that I’ve created because they’re sometimes as good as anything else I can get.

    Also, I keep the ES around just in case there’s that technology breakdown Jason mentions. I can easily do any kind of set with that guy alone, with many layered and 3/4 part splits doing everything I need. I also still bring the iPad to every Sunday (8:30 and 10:30 services) just in case MainStage gets cranky.

    I now have a 2012 MacBook Pro 15" 2.6 i7 quad core with 8gb (I work at an Apple store as a trainer, so my discount upgrades me!) that I’m using with MainStage 3. I have to tell you, being a vintage guy (started playing in bands in ’68), this was a tough nut to crack. It’s taken me quite a while to get up to speed with MainStage. My fellow young guy trainers who are Logic pros have been essential to me, though.

    I also sprung for the most awesome sound synth ever – Omnisphere. Wow! I’m now using most of my voices from Omnisphere. You can stack voices easily and modify (yes! finally learned to work with filters and such) them, combine them and save them as custom patches. What’s best about Omnisphere is the LIVE mode. I can set up up to 8 voices for one patch, turn them on individually or combine them any way I want on the fly. There are too many things to say about Omnisphere so you’ll just have to check it out.

    One really helpful thing about MainStage and Omnisphere is that Peter James, Keyboardist of Hillsong United, has made some of his MainStage concerts available for download. What a Godsend! In fact, the whole Hillsong site is amazing.

    http://hillsongcollected.com/creative/keyboard-soundspatchestemplates

    One of the things that needs updating in Omnisphere in MainStage, is that I haven’t been able to view the Omnisphere window while in Performance Mode, which I need to monitor whats on in LIVE mode.

    ** And watch out – if your MOD wheel on your controller happens to get moved up, it will affect Omnisphere sounds!!! If the MOD wheel is turned up, it doesn’t affect the voices coming directly from the controller unless you move it, and then it will jump, but if you’re allowing Omnisphere to use the MOD wheel, be certain that whatever the position it’s in when you choose a patch, that’s the sound you’re going to get. Really messed me up last Sunday until halfway through the service I noticed it. My in-ears were going crazy and the sound guy couldn’t figure what was messed up with the sound.

    So now the next to last piece in my puzzle – I did not want to be using the trackpad on my Mac to change patches, open Omnisphere windows, etc. and it’s not the easiest or best thing to set up your workstation controllers to operate MainStage and Omnisphere. So I bought the little Korg NANOKONTROL2. For $60 I now am able to set up all the patch change, tap tempo buttons and such on the NanoKontrol. Faders are set for channel strips, and the whole bank of eight buttons at the bottom of it are for turning on and off patches in LIVE mode in Omnisphere. What a lifesaver! Beware that the #1 RECORD buttons at the bottom of the sliders is set to a specific control on the s90 ES (might be different for other keys) but with the handy NanoKontrol editor, you can assign #63 instead of #64. This little guy is great and I’m still setting stuff up on it – like for any B3 patches I want to use when I’m out playing with only my ES and my little 120 Leslie I converted to a mini 147 FrankenLeslie (a story – but I can lift the guy into my SUV by myself!), I can use the sliders as drawbars.

    You may want to buy a USB extension cable for the NanoKontrol because the one on it’s a short one.

    But because of the NanoKontrol2 and MainStage/Omnisphere, I can play MY sounds anywhere with any keyboard. That’s a beautiful thing.

    The last thing will be a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface when I can afford it, because it’s definitely NOT ideal to be using the Mac’s onboard audio out. I’ve boiled it down to the Native because I don’t really record with it, but need the audio outs – two sets are especially critical for me if I want to play outside the church and am going to play both keys and Hammond sounds. I can send the keys to one set of stereo outs going to at Roland keyboard amp, and the Hammond patches out via another set to my FrankenLeslie amp. Because you don’t want the pads and such to be going through the Leslie.

    The only next things will be to add another small keyboard controller for extra sounds, learn the seemingly very difficult technique of creating and triggering loops in MainStage, and just getting better at using it all and playing something coherent with my fingers at the same time. Because I was always a one keyboard player for so many years, jumping to playing both the Yamaha on top of the Hammond, say for piano, and playing the Hammond at the same time has been yet another stretch. Adding MainStage on a computer and the NanoKontrol has almost given me a stroke.

    Rich, I want to thank you for providing this space and I hope I haven’t hijacked your nice site. If it’s too long, I understand if you edit it or take it out.

  7. Hello Rich, Great Post.

    Thought I’d add my setup to the mix, since I’m way more vintage than you. But playing with 20-30 somethings has stretched me to the max and now I’ve entered the MainStage Zone. I hope this blog of yours gains more traction – I think it’s a great subject for all of us church players.

    I have the extreme fortune and blessing to be able to play with awesome musicians much better than me at Calvary Church in Pacific Palisades, CA. We have a great sound system, subs in the wall, arrays from the ceiling, most of us on in-ear monitors. Plus with our digital Yamaha mixer, we can control in-ear mixes from on-stage with Yamaha’s MC7L Stagemix app.

    We’re fortunate to have a donated Hammond RT3 (above the B3) that I have the awesome privilege of playing. I was a blues player for years in Kansas City clubs, so I am home again! I found and donated a mint Leslie 122XB that I play that through, double-miked into DI and the board – but the 122 is SO loud on stage, who knows if it even comes through the house?

    I put my Yamaha s90 ES on top of the Hammond angled down a bit with blocks. This is the part where I have chosen to keep using the workstation because 1. The s90 ES has great piano action and great piano built in. It’s a monster in size and weight, though – goes past the hammond sides. I love that keyboard. I was using an iPad with Yamaha’s great SET LIST app to set all my patches for the week and control from there. I still use some of the custom performance patches that I’ve created because they’re sometimes as good as anything else I can get.

    Also, I keep the ES around just in case there’s that technology breakdown Jason mentions. I can easily do any kind of set with that guy alone, with many layered and 3/4 part splits doing everything I need. I also still bring the iPad to every Sunday (8:30 and 10:30 services) just in case MainStage gets cranky.

    I now have a 2012 MacBook Pro 15" 2.6 i7 quad core with 8gb (I work at an Apple store as a trainer, so my discount upgrades me!) that I’m using with MainStage 3. I have to tell you, being a vintage guy (started playing in bands in ’68), this was a tough nut to crack. It’s taken me quite a while to get up to speed with MainStage. My fellow young guy trainers who are Logic pros have been essential to me, though.

    I also sprung for the most awesome sound synth ever – Omnisphere. Wow! I’m now using most of my voices from Omnisphere. You can stack voices easily and modify (yes! finally learned to work with filters and such) them, combine them and save them as custom patches. What’s best about Omnisphere is the LIVE mode. I can set up up to 8 voices for one patch, turn them on individually or combine them any way I want on the fly. There are too many things to say about Omnisphere so you’ll just have to check it out.

    One really helpful thing about MainStage and Omnisphere is that Peter James, Keyboardist of Hillsong United, has made some of his MainStage concerts available for download. What a Godsend! In fact, the whole Hillsong site is amazing.

    http://hillsongcollected.com/creative/keyboard-soundspatchestemplates

    One of the things that needs updating in Omnisphere in MainStage, is that I haven’t been able to view the Omnisphere window while in Performance Mode, which I need to monitor whats on in LIVE mode.

    ** And watch out – if your MOD wheel on your controller happens to get moved up, it will affect Omnisphere sounds!!! If the MOD wheel is turned up, it doesn’t affect the voices coming directly from the controller unless you move it, and then it will jump, but if you’re allowing Omnisphere to use the MOD wheel, be certain that whatever the position it’s in when you choose a patch, that’s the sound you’re going to get. Really messed me up last Sunday until halfway through the service I noticed it. My in-ears were going crazy and the sound guy couldn’t figure what was messed up with the sound.

    So now the next to last piece in my puzzle – I did not want to be using the trackpad on my Mac to change patches, open Omnisphere windows, etc. and it’s not the easiest or best thing to set up your workstation controllers to operate MainStage and Omnisphere. So I bought the little Korg NANOKONTROL2. For $60 I now am able to set up all the patch change, tap tempo buttons and such on the NanoKontrol. Faders are set for channel strips, and the whole bank of eight buttons at the bottom of it are for turning on and off patches in LIVE mode in Omnisphere. What a lifesaver! Beware that the #1 RECORD buttons at the bottom of the sliders is set to a specific control on the s90 ES (might be different for other keys) but with the handy NanoKontrol editor, you can assign #63 instead of #64. This little guy is great and I’m still setting stuff up on it – like for any B3 patches I want to use when I’m out playing with only my ES and my little 120 Leslie I converted to a mini 147 FrankenLeslie (a story – but I can lift the guy into my SUV by myself!), I can use the sliders as drawbars.

    You may want to buy a USB extension cable for the NanoKontrol because the one on it’s a short one.

    But because of the NanoKontrol2 and MainStage/Omnisphere, I can play MY sounds anywhere with any keyboard. That’s a beautiful thing.

    The last thing will be a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface when I can afford it, because it’s definitely NOT ideal to be using the Mac’s onboard audio out. I’ve boiled it down to the Native because I don’t really record with it, but need the audio outs – two sets are especially critical for me if I want to play outside the church and am going to play both keys and Hammond sounds. I can send the keys to one set of stereo outs going to at Roland keyboard amp, and the Hammond patches out via another set to my FrankenLeslie amp. Because you don’t want the pads and such to be going through the Leslie.

    The only next things will be to add another small keyboard controller for extra sounds, learn the seemingly very difficult technique of creating and triggering loops in MainStage, and just getting better at using it all and playing something coherent with my fingers at the same time. Because I was always a one keyboard player for so many years, jumping to playing both the Yamaha on top of the Hammond, say for piano, and playing the Hammond at the same time has been yet another stretch. Adding MainStage on a computer and the NanoKontrol has almost given me a stroke.

    Rich, I want to thank you for providing this space and I hope I haven’t hijacked your nice site. If it’s too long, I understand if you edit it or take it out.

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