The DA Guitar Rig – Live, AdrenaLinn, Lemur and more

Here is a look at my latest guitar setup. The previous system was built around a Roland GR-55 Guitar Synthesizer: a great gadget, but quite complex. So after selling it on Craigslist, as well as a few other items, I started building this new rig based on staying “in the box.” This is the plan for this never-ending work in progress.

MacBook Air, Ableton Live and AdrenaLinn Sync

Live is one freaky DAW. Part workstation, part recording studio, part performance tool, part instrument. There are so many ways to approach Live it can be a bit boggling. For the moment,  I am  using it for plug-in hosting (Native Instruments Guitar Rig, AdrenaLinn Sync), a few synths, backing tracks and the thoughtfully designed Live Looper.


The Sonuus i2M Musicport is becoming a unique variable in the system. It inputs the analog guitar sound to Ableton live while simultaneously sending MIDI notes to selected synth channels. Since the i2M MIDI is monophonic, it somewhat randomly picks a note from those currently playing. When I channel this to a bass synth, it is almost like having a drunken jazz player backing me up. This summer I hope to add the Fishman TriplePlay wireless MIDI pickup to the system.

Soft Step MIDI Foot Controller

Portability is one of the keys to this design, so I sold my battleship-sized custom Behringer Controller and replaced it with the stealth-like SoftStep from Keith McMillian Instruments. The SoftStep is the MacBook Air of foot pedals – small ( but not too small), easy to use, super powerful and expensive. But you do get what you pay for when you consider the excellent editing software and unprecidented amount of control available with the  pressure sensitive pads.

Roland CM-30 Cube Monitor

I wanted a small, low cost, light weight powered speaker for practice and personal monitoring, not a guitar amp since I am addressing all that in software. The Roland CM-30 turned out to fit my needs exactly. With several stereo inputs it acts like a mini built-in mixing console, perfect for plugging in an additional instrument or two, for example an iPhone running ThumbJam.

iPad with Lemur

Lemur is a software based MIDI control surface where you practically draw your own interface. I use it to control critical pieces of Ableton Live. It is a fun, lego-like approach to customizing the user experience of ones music technology, and it just look cooler than twiddling keys and trackpad on a laptop. Why look like your checking email while playing when you can look more like a musician straight out of Minority Report?

That’s the basic setup. More details to follow as this system comes together.

Check out Part 2 of the series – Cable Management

As president of Tracy Evans Productions, Inc. for over 18 years Tracy splits his time between being an animator, director, producer, stage magician, graphic designer, art director, programmer, editor, consultant, speaker and writer of third-person autobiographical blurbs.

10 Comments on "The DA Guitar Rig – Live, AdrenaLinn, Lemur and more"

  1. I’m still gigging with an entirely hardware rig about covertly preparing for the QuNeo to join my Softstep in Live and change it all. Straight unedited loops that need a suitcase, to live grid remixing that fits in a backpack. I look forward to keeping posted about this rig and comparing notes…

    • Tracy Evans says:

      The QuNeo ( looks like awesome gadgetry. Have you considered Lemur on iPad. It is the open canvas of control surfaces, and thus may be far more flexible (and fiddly) than the QuNeo. But the Neo’s velocity and pressure sensitivity is a big advantage over almost anything on iPad. Any QuNeo pricing and availability announcement yet.

      • Tracy, I was a supporter on the QuNeo kickstarter campaign and for me that’s what’s up. I definitely prefer the pressure sensitivity, the actual tactile interface, the LEDs instead of a screen, the remarkable flexibility of the software, and the price tag. QuNeo vs. Lemur is a non-question; we’re talking an order of magnitude difference, here. I paid $200 for it; think the market prices is $250. No word on when it’s available to everyone else.

        • Tracy Evans says:

          $250 is a good price for such an impressive unit (and sincere congrats to you for supporting the kickstart campaign!) I did not realize that any had actually shipped! It’s awesome that you have one. Care to write up a review?

          • I don’t have one yet, Tracy, but I’ll let you know when I do! It’ll be a while before I review it because I’ll want to have a workable demonstration video first…but let’s subscribe to each other’s blogs and keep in touch. 🙂

  2. Jay Bois says:

    Great post man! I have been in the process of putting together a very similar system. I thought I was alone out here. I am VERY curious about how you are setting up abelton in regaurds to effects. I bought the softstep and am trying to figure it out with reaper. I need to get my paws on Live. I just wrote a post about the Triple Play. That looks like the best guitar synth gadget to come out in years!

    • Tracy Evans says:

      Thanks Jay. My Ableton setup is ever-evolving, but I will do a post or video soon on it’s at-the-moment state. TriplePlay looks very exciting, so much so that I sold my Roland GR-55 in anticipation of its release.

  3. Jody Rael says:

    Great stuff Tracy- I play a 6 string banjo- through a solar/battery powered PA

  4. John Engle says:

    In the process of designing a new rig also. Still in the early planning/budgeting stage. Going to get a couple Egnater(probably) heads first so I can have a good tube preamp as well as a couple tube power stages so I can output after the effects loop in stereo. Can’t deal with the quality of the software amp simulators. Eventually want to get a PC, probably a laptop, to do the digital effects. Plan on using analog effects prior to the preamp like ant dist/overdrive, wah, phaser, because the analog sounds better to me on these type of effects. Will probably send a line in and out of Ableton before the preamp though in the off chance I want to use a digital filter or distortion I’ll have that flexibility. Then after the preamp back out to Ableton for digital effects. I plan to get a Voodoo Lab Ground Control and Audio Switcher to do all the amp switching and routing. While the Ground Control is pretty flexable I don’t think It’s going to be able to do everything I need it to with Ableton so I might use my Novation Launchpad to switch between effect chains. Not sure yet without having it all in front of me. Which brings me finally to my big question. How to most efficiently set up the effects in Ableton. Been thinking about this a bunch. I have a bunch/too many effects I would like to use. Probably more than is practical, but would like to have as much available as I can theoretically even if I never use it all. I imagine that instead of doing very much tweaking live, it would be more efficient to have the different presets/setups already configured in different instances of each effect so they would be ready to go at will. Don’t think that having a bunch of different sets that I would have to weed through and load potentially between songs would be very efficient. Had heard somewhere that an Audio Effect rack with multiple chains setup with different effects only uses processing power for the active chain. Did a test and this seems to not be the case. The best solution I have come up with so far is to have multiple tracks setup with a modest selection of effects on each track. Then use the Launchpad to simultaneously activate and deactivate individual tracks and activate and deactivate an Audio Effect rack which will contain all of the effects on each track which stops them from using any cpu. Then I could have the ground control setup to activate/deactivate the first effect in the chain with one footswitch, activate/deactivate the second effect on the selected track with the next footswitch and so on. Also I would likely setup another footswitch on the Ground Control for the tap tempo in Ableton. I have plenty of time because it will likely be a long time before I am able to budget in all the gear. Just trying to figure it all out and make sure it’s all practical before I go out and buy all the gear. Haven’t come across any other discussions online about using Ableton with a guitar rig so I figured I would go ahead and post my progress here to see if there were any suggestions. If nothing else you know there is someone else out there trying to work out the best way to get this all configured and I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

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