Logic Studio apps Mainstage 2. Basic help needed after reading manual.


I'm certain this has been asked but I just can't start. My frustration is unbearable. I've seen the NIN/Trent Reznor solution so I know mainstage can do a lot for us..

YES, I've read the manual but it's using what I think of as proprietary terminology without a basic explanation so I'm not getting a foothold on the concept. I'm a bit old basically. 

I understand the different 'levels' (sort of) but the terminology is throwing me.  I can only presume 

are really 
keyboard sound 

but why would we want a concert wide tempo???, 24 songs with the same tempo -seriously?.

Plus nothing in the preset templates is remotely right for us it seems. How would anyone know though?

Frustration aside, and I'm not expecting anyone to troubleshoot this for me but I'd  appreciate any help I could get. Maybe explaining some fundamental misunderstanding or point us in the right direction.(I haven't got any money for a training DVD)

We are a mainly electronic act performing on a VERY tight budget. 

Our setup is 3 keyboard players and a lead singer.

Each keys player has a MacBook pro with a controller and a separate hardware synth.

 1 keyboard player plays a guitar on some songs.

We use backings which are 
 mixed down to a stereo WAV or AVI video file. Played using VLC

Works fine but has limitations.

We want to have timecode and midi on stage and also reduce the hardware we take with us due to costs that promotors won't meet.

We want to do several things

1.) Connect two controller keyboards to each mac and use competely VST synths/samplers. Then we could do away with a hardware synth or three.

2) Have a separate volume set for each song backing. At the moment we are changing volume manually song by song.

3) Have 'Mainstage' output midi time code from the backings (somehow) to a lighting rig and/or send patch changes to effects units. I saw the playback plug in detect tempo from a backing track.

4) Have 'Mainstage' to play video files in some songs instead of stereo WAV

5) have Vocals and Guitar to go through mainstage for different effects on each channel and from there to the front desk (separate outputs I know)

6) long shot, we'd like to trigger samples using a clip launcher like the Akai APC, mainly for visual effect.

Like I say, any help would be much appreciated.
I should clarify, we would only run mainstage on 1 laptop. The other two would be using their current setup. BUT, if we COULD connect the other 2 keyboards to the 'Mainstage' mac (only using exs24 and a few samples) we could have the entire gig in 1 mac, which we would prefer. It is a modern 1 year old MBP so should handle this easily.
I know you say you can't afford a DVD, but if you can scrape together $15, you can get a digital download (no DVD) of Doug Zangar's great Mainstage tutorial. It sounds like just what you need. But it's only on sale at this price until the end of the month. You can find out more about it here:

Thanks for that.

The issue is this time of year I just can't afford anything at all. I'm sure I can work out how to do it all I just need a starting point
First off, if you have 3 people $5 each to buy a tutorial that could benefit you in such a major way seems a little misguided, doesn't it?

Now that that is said, some answers and things that can help:

1) Mainstage uses Audio Unit plug-ins, NOT VST plug-ins. Important thing to know right out of the box.

2) To do the volume change thing, use a gain plug-in in the first insert of each track and change the levels there for each concert patch. This way, you change patches you change everything: sounds, levels, FX, tempo, etc.

3) I'm pretty sure Logic could take a recorded time code out (a smpte code) as audio to trigger your lighting rig as an audio feed from MS.

4) Don't think MS does the video out, but you could use another app to do this and use MS as the time code source using the built in midi network in the Audio Midi setup.

5) Easy, as long as you setup your MS patches, and switch between each one for each song.

6) As for sample triggers, just use EXS24, with each trigger sample uses 1 note. That is very easy to do in Logic using the "Make exs instrument" function.

I'm not sure what you mean by help, I doubt anyone is going to setup a complete MS concert for you without charging you more than the $15 you don't want to pay for the tutorial that will help teach you to do it yourself...
To clarify answer 3: record the smpte code you need in Logic, then take that and use it in MS as a live audio track with each patch to trigger your external lighting rig, if it has the ability to slave to code and trigger events to time code.
Thanks for the reply George.

1. VST thing, yes I know, years of cubase have me stuck in theis but yes AU.
2. What do you mean gain plugin at 'concert patch' ... The way we work is we have exs24 instruments set up on each keyboard for each song.... At what level do I put these patches , the set or patch level. Or even what are patches? Exs24 instruments? .. My god it's so confusing. Surely we can have a playback plugin for each song and set the volume on each one... The keyboard levels vary per song... No one has a generic piano.. Just sampled instruments (like emu 2 sample presets)
3) We wouldn't use SMPTE to drive lighting. For acts of this size we all
use a midi to DMX converter and control lights using midi note and pressure/velocity data.
4. midi network? Would this take timing info from a stereo backing
5. Not sure how to do that but it's pretty much how we want to change keyboard patches. Eg.. Change song, backing changes, patches Au or exs24 patch/splits change for all 4 keyboards, vocal
Effect, guitar effects... All changing at the same time. No exs24 instrument is used in two songs.

The reluctance to buy that $15 download is it doesn't look like it covers any if this. Maybe it does but all this channel strip, patch wrc terminology is confusing in the extreme. I mean, do you get a different mixer with each or does it add a new channel for each song for each instrument and memorise mutes etc. the basic logic doesn't seem obvious.
OK, here we go:

A concert is a set of layouts (or patches), one for each song. As you progress through the concert, you send a patch change to Mainstage, it changes layouts, each contains tracks for your keyboards, sounds, exs instruments.


Mainstage doesn't do midi data playback as far as I know. It will play audio back, like backing tracks. Hence the suggestion to use smpte for triggering your lighting. If you have to use midi, then I would recommend using Logic.

I have seen a group of players use Mainstage before in a live situation (Roger Hodgson from Supertramp) where everyone had their own Mac with Mainstage, but it was setup 1 to 1. To make a setup where everyone is going through the same single rig is a bugger, and the only was Trent Reznor can do it is that he and his bandmates are highly evolved tech fiends, which I can see you are not (no offense meant).

I suggest you either hire someone who can figure this out for you, or be ready to have days of time spent figuring it out....

And yes, the $15 tutorial will at least lay things out in a way you can understand, so it is a good investment.
The strange thing is I an quite technical. It's just this has got me flummoxed.

I presumed mainstage approached the problem from a standard Object Oriented perspective, namely 1 "layout" at the concert level to reflect the physical setup and all the hardware in it.

Then for MS to manually step through songs changing patches on virtual instruments and effects (and backing WAV file in the player).

I guess a separate layout for each song isn't too far a leap from that but does seem to be a departure from a normal the way to resolve many to many relationships (many instruments, many keyboard patches, many vocals, many effects) in a virtual platform.

That DB programmer mindset aside, once I can get 1 controller keyboard plugged in and playing the right patches, to the right backing track I'll be half way there.

I'll pay the $15 for a download (in the UK) and see what it does.
Just to jump in here, no video playback and no TC output. Patch change info is possible.

A simple overview of MS:

Hardware connects to screen control, screen control connects to a channel strip element.

Concert level - can represent a gig, but really it's the top level that allows you to place and control reverb, EQ, patch changes, etc. It is subservient to set and patch settings.

Set level - this can be used for musical sets. It can be used to organize sounds (Organ, Ac. Piano, etc) It also can be used for a song. Example I have a playback plug-in at the set level, I can now change patches for different sounds during the playback of pre-recorded track. It is subservient to patch settings.

Patch - here is where you build your sound. You can have multiple channel strips with different plug-ins. You can have multiple keyboards controlling different plug-ins.

The good news/bad news about MS is it is totally customizable. And it needs to be, as no two people are likely to have the same set-up.

Based on your initial post, I'm not sure MS can do everything you're looking for by itself, but may be useful as part of the picture.

The last thought is if a computer crashes, dies, whatever and you don't have a back-up plan, well, it will be a long night. I use MS on some of my gigs, I also bring my old POD setup (I'm a guitar player) to be safe. Maybe if you run everything on that one laptop, you bering the others for backup....
Thanks. Yes I'm starting to get the picture here now.

What made me think MS has midi time code or something is that you can sync delay effects to track tempo and also the song position looping thing.

I guess the answer is to have another stereo track running alongside the backing (if it's possible), with the left a SMPTE (EBU) stripe and the right a metronome. I'm sure this is possible as I heard one guy on the UK synth band group say he ran eight stereo backings for each track, plus video... So god knows.but all this involves another sequencer and hardware and kind of defeats the purpose.

I reckon start off small. Just my keys, stereo backings, vocal effects, guitar effects.

I'm off to download the instructional files.
I'm sure this is possible as I heard one guy on the UK synth band group say he ran eight stereo backings for each track

Eight (or more) playback plug-ins are certainly possible. Ultimate number problem depends on CPU, RAM and running in 64 bit mode.

ahhh just seen what loopback is

This device is not the best. Good for things out of time, tough to get things spot on in time to a groove.

I reckon start off small. Just my keys, stereo backings, vocal effects, guitar effects.

Good idea - that alone will be a good accomplishment. The tutorial should get you through al of that.
Cheers Doug... I bought it earlier but still can't get the files. Seen my order is 'queued'.

I presume there must be a manual authorisation process.

My MBP is a late 2011 with 16 gig (yes 16) so I think it should be ok for a few backings. My friend who used MS with video did so by having an external sequencer start the playback and also trigger video playback. Not sure how reliable this is or prone to going out of time.
Not sure on groove3.com's delivery provess. Perhaps e-mail them if it takes too long for you. Hopefully they are overwhelmed with sales of the MainStage video... ;)

16 gigs is great - just make sure you're in 64 bit mode to take advantage of it all.

If you find out more about the video sync, let me know. It's possible it could work, but obviously the trigger needs to be perfect.
MainsStage the Digital Mixer

i think its best to think of MS as a Digital Mixer. you can save any setup you like just like a Digital Console and press a button and everything changes.

some differences are you can 'delete' the channels you don't use so you don't seem them when you change 'set-ups' AND while some channels are from external sources from the Mac, some are generated internally and some are MIDI as opposed to audio.

if you think of MS as a giant virtual mixer, it's a lot easier to understand imho. its what i always wanted - having so many outboard effects i wanted to combine with my guitar and my voice and audio samples. i was always trying to send on auxes and return and return on channels and send again and create complex layers - but different for each song. then getting something like a Line6 M13 allows a lot of this to happen inside, but only as a 2-channel in with 2 auxes.. MS is the ultimate digital board for performance. that's how i think of it, not as an effect unit modeling for my guitar, but as a mixer that has built in in f/x and amp models and synths, etc.
Just to update.

Still trying to get lighting synced to mainstage but the rest if it is sorted.

We have played several gigs now using mainstage and we have extended it to add delay, accepting electronic drum trigger inputs to retrigger samples, switching sounds and volumes between songs. Works fine. It is as Caleb says a digital mixer that accepts midi and audio cues.

Im going to trigger the DMX using smpte, out to s hardware midi sequencer and then to a dmx mixer. Wish me luck :)