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Integrating a Laptop into your production.

One of newest instruments to hit the performance the laptop. When used correctly, the computer is the most vertical and powerful instrument on the field, capable of producing sounds, samples, and processing your entire ensemble.

Here are the basics to getting a laptop out there and working properly.


1) The Laptop- At the end of the day, there is no question. If you want a computer powerful enough to handle all of your needs, get a Mac. Macs are better optimized to handle audio, and a lot of products are made to be seamlessly integrated with them. They also elusively run the best Audio Workstation for our activity, Mainstage. Here are a couple things to note when looking at purchasing a laptop:

  • RAM- Ram is the form of memory your computer uses to access data quickly. Often computers with little RAM quickly get bogged down by CPU intensive programs like Mainstage. I recommend 16 gigs of RAM for optimized performance.

*Depending on the age of the laptop, we offer RAM upgrade services, allowing you to upgrade your current computer instead of buying a whole new one.

  • Memory- Laptops come with various sized hard drives inside them. While the size of your memory isn't typically a deal-breaker, it is necessary to have a computer that can hold all of the data you need it to, and still have some room left over. As a note, sound libraries can take up many gigs of data, quickly filling up your computer. Simply move those large files to an external hard drive and have it plugged in.

2) Audio Interface- The audio interface is what converts sound from digital information to analog sound. It is a necessary buffer between your laptop and your mixer and many single/ duel channel interfaces can be bought for around 100 dollars. To operate, plug in a usb from your computer to the interface, and connect the output of the interface to your mixer using TRS or XLR cables. Often times it in necessary to check/change your output settings in Mainstage or another Audio Workstation if you are not hearing sound once fully connected. The path to do this in Mainstage is /Mainstage/Preferences/Audio/Output Settings.

3) Mainstage- As mentioned above, Mainstage is the absolute best program for performance ensembles. The program allows you to create a show (aka project) for yourself featuring as many scenes as you like. Each scene houses the sounds you want for that particular point in the show. Mainstage also comes with a whole host of instruments and a fantastic built in sampler. Combine all that with intuitive features like Key Mapping, Layer Editing, and an easy to use interface, and you've got a powerful instrument you (and your performer) can use with ease.

4) Midi controller- A midi controller is an instrument that transmits data to your computer and tells it how to trigger sound. These can take the form of keyboards, push samplers, wind instruments, and many more. Typically these instruments connect to your laptop via USB. In the same way you may have to check your audio output settings with your interface, these instruments represent your audio input and may have to be set manually.

With these 4 things, and a couple of chords, you are set up to fully integrate a Laptop into your ensemble. For questions, personalized help, and electronic design contact us from the Performance Audio Solutions website.

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