Why use a computer with Gig Performer rather than hardware

Why use a computer with Gig Performer rather than hardware

This article is focused on keyboard players and discusses why it is better to use a computer with Gig Performer rather than hardware when performing live.

Our community has a large number of great musicians including many serious touring keyboard players and we asked some of them to imagine that they had a friend who was a gigging keyboardist and who relied only on hardware-based setups and how would they encourage that friend to move to a computer-based setup running Gig Performer. What tricks would they show that friend and what advantages would they highlight over hardware setups for their live performances.

Note: you may also want to check the blog article: Guitar Rigs – computer-based vs hardware-based that discusses various myths and benefits of computer-based guitar setups and “allows sound to be the king!”.

Let’s get started!

1. Computing power and resources

Needless to say, computers are clearly the winner in this battle. For example, the Nord Stage 3 (around US$ 4,700 at the time of writing) is proud of its maximum 480 MB of sample storage and 2 GB of memory dedicated to the Piano section. Compare that though to modern laptops that can have terabytes of storage space for samples and 32 or 64GB general purpose RAM, most of which is available for your plugins.

Gig Performer 4 running on a laptop

2. Emulation and sound quality

One reason keyboardists players choose a computer-based system is for the ability to use high-quality emulations of the instruments that they want to emulate. For example, if a song was recorded using a Sequential Pro 5, one can pick a quality Pro 5 emulation plugin rather than picking the an average or low quality “Pro 5-ish” patch on a hardware synth. The same applies to other well-known instruments like the Jupiter 8, Juno, Minimoog, Mellotron, Rhodes, Wurlitzer and of course the Hammond B3 organ.

Add to this the fact that Gig Performer allows you to layer the above in many different ways.

See a practical example in this YouTube video where David Jameson explains how to create and play the introduction to Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who.

David Jameson and Arturia Arp 2600 emulation VST plugin

3. Storage space and portability

A combination of a laptop, a controller keyboard (or two) and an audio interface will weigh much less than the same number of synthesizers/workstations (never mind tonewheel organs and Leslie cabinets or the 200lb Yamaha CS-80).

Hardware keyboard setup vs computer with Gig Performer live performance software

Consider the space needed on stage (and in your car). Imagine you have to use a Hammond B3 with Leslie and many other keyboards as did Keith Emerson, Geoff Downes or Rick Wakeman (speaking of which, we have a great Backstage with Gig Performer episode that features the keyboardist of a Yes cover band).

With a computer based system you only need a MIDI keyboard controller, computer, and audio interface.

Note that you can travel even with no keyboard at all and use whatever MIDI keyboard is available at your venue. Using our Rig Manager, you can easily reconfigure Gig Performer to use different MIDI keyboards and control surfaces and still have exactly the same sounds and functionality on your gig.

4. All sounds and instruments are at hand

There are thousands of VST instruments and effects that you can program and layer any way you like. Sounds can be set up to be available immediately when you press a button on your MIDI controller (read this blog article to learn more).

All sounds and VST instruments inside Gig Performer

5. Flexibility

A computer combined with Gig Performer provides you with tremendous flexibility. Think of any plugin routing, sound control, MIDI processing or any possible use case and build it with Gig Performer.

Local rackspace and Global rackspace of The Wavos band - Gig Performer

Read this blog article to learn why Gig Performer is the ultimate live performance software that allows musicians the most powerful MIDI processing and creating very sophisticated live setups.

You can create complex keyboard and velocity splits, control multiple sounds, manage plugin parameters, crossfade sounds, apply various effects to your sounds and many, many more.

No hardware setup can compete with this.

Note: Gig Performer is not limited to be a full software solution, it is the control center of your rig and allows you to create various hybrid solutions. Your actual setup may depend on various variables, e.g. for certain events perhaps you have real Wurlitzer or a Rhodes and have full control of the whole audio chain and effects using Gig Performer; for other events you can have a gig file that contains plugins for these instruments to replace them.

6. Complete live performance command center

A computer with Gig Performer can also be your complete command center. It allows you to:

  • Control your hardware devices and applications (learn more),
  • Control lights, video beams, etc. (see example),
  • Record your performance (learn more),
  • Keep everything in tempo (for example, using Ableton Link),
  • Manage lyrics and lead sheets that automatically scroll when you play the desired song part,
  • … and many many more.

Gig Performer also has an easy to use proprietary programming language, GPScript, to extend the flexibility of Gig Performer for your own unique needs. The rule of thumb is that if any device can be controlled using MIDI or SysEx messages, Gig Performer can control it. Read this blog article to see an example for the RJM GT Mastermind pedal controller.

Many Gig Performer customers recognized the value of Gig Performer as their control center and shared their stories with us; read many different use cases with Gig Performer by FoH engineers, Live streaming musicians, Youtubers, live sound broadcasting, and other.

7. Reliability

Many people argue that hardware-based solutions are better than computer-based solutions in terms of reliability. But, are hardware solutions really “hardware” today? For example, take a look at the famous Korg Kronos series (the Korg Kronos 73-key is about $4000 as of time of writing).

Notice that it also has a CPU (an Intel Atom D510/D525 processor), a motherboard (an Intel D510MO/D525MW motherboard), RAM, SSD, a PSU and other components – it is actually a nice packaged mini computer:

Inside the Korg Kronos - Intel Atom and motherboard

NB: visit this link to see more photos.

Components of these “mini computers” can also fail or crash just like on their more powerful “siblings”. These “mini computers” must also run an operating system (e.g. the Korg Kronos runs an operating system based on the Linux kernel with RTAI extensions and software modules) that is also prone to errors and bugs and can crash.

Keyboard players from the beta group reported that they experienced an occasional undesired behavior on their hardware setups, like crashes, freezes, and glitches. The more complicated synths are – the more prone they are to various hardware and software issues.

Just like with computer-based setups, some beta members reported that they previously used a UPS with their keys on stage for years to combat stage power glitches, so why not just use a computer anyway and have more flexibility.

Also note that if you want to have a backup, it’s much easier to carry a spare laptop than a spare keyboard (and, as already mentioned above, you thanks to the Rig Manager feature can use any MIDI keyboard).

8. Price

People often argue that hardware setups are more friendly moneywise. If you look at the examples above for that same money you can have more than a decent computer, Gig Performer, a MIDI controller and a decent collection of commercial plugins.

Of course, there are many great free alternatives to these commercial plugins. Read this article to learn about top websites for free plugins.

Needless to say, in the VST world, you can stumble upon many great deals from time to time.

When we talk about the cost, note that Gig Performer provides you with multi-instance support and you can even accommodate other band members, e.g. a vocalist in a separate instance of Gig Performer on the same computer. You can control their audio chain separately and apply the desired effects.

When you buy a Gig Performer license, you have three activations. This is a courtesy for licensed users who might want to install Gig Performer on their studio machine to prepare their shows, on their laptop for a tour and then on a second laptop if they want to have a backup. Of course, use your activations any way you like.

9.  Ease of use

Are hardware setups easier to use? Not if your computer-based setup is built around Gig Performer. Gig Performer’s visual “connect with wires” approach has been praised by our users.

Virtual wires and the Wiring view in Gig Performer

For example, well-known musician Blue Weaver (the Strabs, the Bee Gees) in this interview states that Gig Performer’s “patch cord” connection system is key to assembling his new system quickly: “I come from the ‘70s, when, if you wanted to connect something in the studio, you used a patch cord,” he recalls. “I love that way of doing things, and in an analog studio, that’s exactly the way everything was connected. To be able to do that now digitally on a screen is amazing.

Gig Performer users find it simple and easy to modify and follow what’s going on. This is especially important for live situations and particularly for musicians who want to focus on their music and sounds without having to be mix engineers! Learn more in this blog article.

Gig Performer allows you control various parameters of your plugins using widgets:

Beautiful panel for KeysOfThe70s synth plugin

On the other side, hardware-based setups are often complicated to navigate – especially when you use one of these “all in one” kind of solutions. And often you need a computer anyway to create the configurations. And if you need to do a quick adjustment, you’re out of luck.

10. Extras

Hey, we’re just warming up! We only scratched the surface and didn’t mention some of the other goodies that you get with your computer-based setup and Gig Performer. Let’s mention just some of these: easy side chaining, ability to create new amazing sounds using the Probabilistic Sound Designer, automation using scripting (see an example here), visual metronome, integration with phones, tablets and other applications using OSC and many more.

And finally, we have a very friendly and knowledgeable community (I sometimes wonder are there any tasks that these power users can’t solve!). Join us and share your thoughts in this thread!

If you like this article, please share it to support Gig Performer! 🙂

Own The Stage® with Gig Performer®

Nemanja Pudar


Related topics:
Gig Performer is the best companion for all your musical efforts and more
Why we created Gig Performer?

Scaling Curves

Scaling curves allow you to control the shape of the output of a widget or convert an incoming note velocity to a new velocity. Various predefined curves are available and they can be tweaked as necessary. You can also just draw your own curve as well to achieve the effect you require.


MIDI File Player Plugin

You can load up to 128 MIDI song files in a single plugin instance. Switch from one song to another, mute tracks and/or change their channel numbers. Tempo can be controlled by individual songs or you can use the global tempo and tap tempo to control the BPM interactively.


Favorites and Presets

Create a sound by placing and interconnecting your desired plugins, such as a synth, some effects and perhaps a mixer. Select them all and then save the selection as a named favorite. The favorite will subsequently show up in all plugin insert menus, making it easy for you to recreate that configuration whenever you need it again. This feature is also very powerful for creating your needed sounds on your studio computer and then transferring them to your touring laptop.


Probabilistic Sound Designer

Parameters you select in an open plugin are captured into the Probabilistic Sound Designer dialog window. When you click Randomize, you're only adjusting those selected parameters. Each entry in the PSD dialog has a curve but unlike widgets where the curve controls scaling, in the PSD the curves are used to define the probability of particular values being selected. Make sure the filter cutoff never gets too slow so as to block all sound. Perhaps adjust the max range of the VCA attack parameter so that the sound doesn't have too much delay. Constrain the octave ranges of the oscillators, perhaps ensuring that 1/3rd of the time we select 8' and 2/3rds of the time we select 4'. The possibilities are endless.


More Widgets

Numerous new widgets are included in Gig Performer - a new sustain pedal, plastic knobs, drum pads and more colored sliders. Shapes can be colored with different borders and fill colors and morphed from rectangular to circular. Your creativity is now the limit to creating fabulous front panels in Gig Performer.


MIDI Message Helper

Select MIDI devices by name. Choose the MIDI message type and adjust the appropriate parameters for the specific type



Layout management

Gig Performer supports arbitrary resizing. Layout your widgets the way you want - resize the main window and the widgets will grow or shrink as necessary to maintain the same interrelationships. No matter what size screen you have, your front panels will still be neat and usable.


Undo Support

If you move your widgets around and/or resize them, or even delete them by mistake, the Undo facility will correct your mistake. Minor moves to a widget by mistake will no longer spoil your design


Plugin Channel Count

Some plugins support a large number of outputs and they depend on the traditional channel strip to control how many ports should be available.   When you only need a stereo pair, it is convenient not to have a large horizontal block. In Gig Performer, the number of available ports  is controlled by the channel count override, which can be applied to individual plugins and will be remembered when the gigfile is reloaded or if the plugin is saved as a favorite.


Input muting and output fading

Rather than a single audio length tail, Gig Performer 4 gives you the ability to control input muting and output fading separately. Input muting controls how much time it takes for audio input to be silenced when you leave the rackspace. Output fading controls how much time will be taken for audio to fade out when you leave the rackspace.


Faster Plugin Finder

Instead of searching through menus of perhaps hundreds of plugins (you know who you are!), the Quick Plugin Finder makes it easy to find the plugin you need by simply typing partial strings. For example, as shown here, to find the Modartt Pianoteq 7 plugins, it's enough to type pia mod 7 (in any order, by the way)  to restrict the list of available plugins to those matching your query. The Quick Plugin Finder also knows about manufacturers, presets and favorites.



Touch Friendly Input

Any entry field can be changed by either dragging your mouse (or finger) up or down, or by using the large popup touchpad where you can just tap on the squares to enter a value. The large popup keypad also does validation so you can't enter an invalid value. You can also just tap the BPM field to pop up a larger view where you can quickly change tempo, tranpose, trigger Tap Tempo and enable Ableton Link, the last allowing you to synchronize Gig Performer with any other application that also supports Ableton Link.


New Tuner Display

The tuner view makes it easy for guitarists to quickly check and adjust their tuning. You can toggle into the tuner view from any other view and toggle right back as soon as you're done. All output will be silenced automatically while you're in tuning mode. You can adjust the concert reference pitch from its default of 440 Hz to suit your own needs. The tuner view fills the entire screen so you can easily see it from a distance.