In the late summer of 2019, I joined an oldies band for a month which is another story, but for the first time since my severe health issues in 2016, I felt as if I had regained enough of my former cognitive, physical and musical talents to re-enter the performance marketplace in my community.
The previous year, I had restored my Korg X5 by replacing the internal battery and all 25 micro switches. A new battery was also installed into my Roland D50 LA synthesizer so that it could again hold it’s patches in memory.
While these old (1995 and 1987) analog pieces of gear are great at what they do, they do not have a realistic acoustic instrument soundset to them. It became quite obvious that I needed a drastic update to my live rig.
So I set out to learn as much as could about the various ways to accomplish this. There was only a hand full of people using iOS devices for this purpose at the time. And the audio iOS apps had only just become suitably adept enough to handle the job. The easiest and most cost effective direction I chose was to use a hybrid analog / iOS system.
On my keyboard stand, I had the Korg X5 on the top tier and my Nektar Impact LX61 MIDI controller keyboard on the bottom.
I use a powered USB hub and an Apple Camera Kit to connect the the iPhone SE / 64gig together. This allowed charging and connection at the same time. An iConnectivity MIDI-to-USB interface was used to connect the 5-din MIDI ports on the Korg to the USB hub. This is only a 1 MIDI channel interface and I should have gotten a 16 channel version instead like this or better for more flexibility.
On the iOS side, I chose the KORG Module Pro app for my bread and butter sounds. I purchased the in-app purchases for some expansion sound libraries as well including:
KORG Module Performance Expansion
KORG Organ & Clav Collection
KORG KApro Dreamy Synths
KORG TRITON Best Selection
The controller application was the iMIDIPatchbay by Johannes Dörr. This was where the true magic happened. Within this app a song list could be composed that held the patch change commands for both the Korg X5 and the iOS instrument in Module Pro. It could import a PDF document that could be attached for lyrics and chords. Audio files could also be added. MIDIPatchbay uses Dropbox to store the documents in the cloud.
These songs could then be organized into set lists. With the touch of one button, the app would populate both keyboards with the correct patches for that song and bring up the chord chart with the lyrics. No more searching through printed out lists of songs and then inputting the programs manually into each of the keyboards on a dark stage. A vast improvement from the “olden days” of hunt and peck while multi-tasking with the audience.
Within the Korg Module Pro, I set set up a list of 70 instruments that covered all of my instrument needs. Basic sounds, split/layers, volume and other continuous controller data could be programmed into it. From that list I chose the appropriate instrument for that song. By using the inter-app communication midi setup, they all could talk with each other.
Now with this whole setup then connected to the desktop MacMini, even MIDI and audio recordings could be accomplished into my DAW (Reaper) to further integrate iOS sounds and performance into my compositions.
In this way, all of the basic keyboard sounds, piano, electric pianos, organ, clavinet, acoustic / electric guitars, strings, horns, woodwinds, synthesizer, mellotron, FX were triggered by the bottom Nektar keyboard and the top analog Korg X5 keyboard triggered it’s own sounds.
After all of this work, I learned how to use my iPhone as a virtual instrument in an effective manner in a live setting. I programmed analog patches for the Korg X5 using CTRLR which is a MIDI Editor made for hardware synthesizers. Plus I learned 150 songs with all of the lyrics, background vocals and chord arrangements made into PDF documents. In one month.
The next step will be to archive the oldies set list and create a new one using my own original compositions.
Hopefully all of my experimentation can be useful in some way for the way that you like to work. Enjoy.