What type of gear do I need if I want to perform electronic music live?

I alreddy have a MIDI controller keyboard. What else would I need to perform live? I want perform without using laptop too much.

That’s a really open ended question because there’s just a gazillion of permutations of all kinds of gear that you can potentially use. Ultimately, you would need to just experiment and find combinations that work with the way your brain functions. More boxes might give you more flexibility, but at the cost of complexity. You only have 2 hands and only so much mental focus to keep track of what’s happening where. So it’s always a trade off. What kind of music are you doing? How much emphasis do you put on pure improvisation vs performing prepared material? What’s your budget?

Start with one bigger piece and see how much mileage you can get out of using it by itself and then start filling in the gaps slowly. For example, something like an Octatrack, which would be the brain of the whole thing because it’s a sampler, midi sequencer, fx processor, mixer and it’s very performance oriented in its design. Used MK I can be had for around $800 now. But maybe that’s way outside your budget, so then maybe look at some grooveboxes, like Electribes or something. But, really, people do all kinds of great shit with just a bunch of Volcas, so you can use just about anything and see how much you can squeeze out of it.

Creating electronic music I would agree depends on your ultimate goals. If you are like me the budget is going to be the problem. At least my efforts won’t be for live performance. My initial foray has been with an Ashton AK100 keyboard using its MIDI out port to trigger the Kore 2 player in the computer. The Realistic SSM2200 mixer is being pressed into service and the old TX81Z will be added when I get it into place. I think some planning and intuition is also needed. The Korg Volca FM was mentioned and these are around $250 in Australia depending on where you find them. I have had my eye on them for a while. In the beginning it is clearly a case of experimentation and seeing what you can coax out of the gear you can afford. Good luck.

If you want a single piece of gear that will get you there I’d have a serious look at the new Akai MPCs (the MPC Force and MPC Live).

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It’s hard to make real suggestions without knowing some background. Budget for one. Do you see yourself moving away from the computer completely? Are you someone who has the patience for planning and stop and start recording, or do you need instant gratification? What genres are you planing on playing. Some things work better for certain genres. Do you need sampling?

That being said the most important thing is going to be a good sequencer/or something with one as others have mentioned. Now if you want all the modern bells and whistles there are a lot out there. The new MC707 springs to mind, if you have the greens for it. There are of course the older MC GrooveBoxes that will do a good job Same for the Yamaha GroveBoxes. The MPC’s and the Korgs. Make sure that you can live with the work flow, you can record long enough sections for your chosen genres, it has midi in and out (most do) Check your midi keyboard has the right midi out too, it has enough tracks available, and that if it has auto quantize, you can turn it off.

There are as many answers as you have users and I guess. It depends on where are you on your journey?
Do you still have to write your tracks and have the money to invest? MPC Force, drums, samples, synths, effects and audio track all in one standalone box with a clip concept similar to Ableton Live.

Ableton Live with Push is a great compromise between laptop and dedicated standalone hardware.

Elektron I Octatrack is for some the end-all Live sampler and mangler but it will require money and a well thought-out plan.

Good luck and report back on your choices


The only hardware synth I have right now are Korg Volca keys. I was planning to use a MIDI controller to control it but not many MIDI controllers have MIDI ports. I’m also planning to get a sequencer and my choices are the Akai MPD232 or the Aturia beatstep. I might get the beatstep becauz it’s cheaper. I don’t think I’ll get a loop pedal becauz I don’t want to rely on loops too much.

Why don’t many MIDI controllers have MIDI out ports?

Not completely, just not used too much

Had the Beatstep. Thought it was shite to be honest. Couldn’t get it set up with my computer, just wouldn’t play how it was supposed to. So, I ended up getting a GrooveBox. No need to sit at the computer. Can sit with it on my lap with my headphones on and make tunes. Don’t know about that Akai, but for between the price of those 2 if you’re buying new, you. could get either of these.
sample based 8 tracks I think.

2 synth tracks 8 drum tracks.

No usb, but you can midi to usb IIRC.

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Probably because they are intended mostly to control computer software not other hardware

If you want to perform live, keep the setup small, portable. You don’t want to drag alot of stuff because you not only have to carry it around, but also connect it all, and the less stuff, the less problems. It might seem easy to hook up a drumcomputer, a few synth modules, a mixer and fx for instance, but to get the audio, midi, power, clocks etc right in poor lit conditions, maybe under stress, can be quite challenging.

There are some really cool controllers out there nowadays. MPE controllers such as LinnStrument and Seaboard (see Fav synths and VIs for playing with MPE instruments), which are cool for live shows if you have some practice and talent playing, but there are also simple XY controllers out there and similar stuff that could be cool for live shows imho, such as:

  • Source Audio Hot Hand
  • mi.mu gloves
  • KMI QuNeo

Also, maybe consider some interesting pedals such as KMI SoftStep or a drum pad like the KMI BopPad.

I think OP has bounced, but in case not…

If you at least gave us an idea of what kind of music that might help a lot.

I’ve got a new drumpad controller and it has 3mm MIDI ports. Do 3mm MIDI ports work as sync ports as well? I want to sync the drum pad to my synth by connecting the sync out to the drumpad MIDI in. The synth I’m using has a sequencer and I want to make the drums on my DAW to follow the clock.

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