Laptop Live Music Performance Essentials

There's a few essentials it pays to add to your live music setup when you perform with a laptop. Matt Vanacoro reveals his top 5.  

Taking your ‘show on the road’ comes with its own set of challenges and complications. Whether you are a keyboard player, guitarist, vocalist, or DJ, there are so many ways your computer can enhance your live act. Here are 5 essential items to pack in that laptop bag if you are just getting started with taking your rig on the road.

1 - A Reliable Audio Interface

Focusrite audio interface

Taking your home studio audio interface in and out of a rack will put unnecessarywear and tear on it. Even if you don’t have a rack mounted unit, disconnecting all of your mics, keyboards, speakers, and more can be a real hassle. It’s best to have a dedicated interface for live performance that is time-tested and Ask.Audio approved! You likely don’t need as many inputs and outputs as your home recording interface, so think about scaling back to only what you really need to pull off a good live show.

2 - Emergency Cables

Audio cables

When I see a musician bringing *only* the exact amount of cables they need to a live show I recoil in horror. It’s so easy to toss an extra USB-C cable in that bag to make sure you have one in case one goes wonky. I also always carry around an extra 1/8” to 1/4” stereo cable in case my audio interface craps out. Even when laptops drop the headphone jack, USB-C to 1/8” adapters are inexpensive and easy to simply ‘leave attached to the 1/4” cable and forget about’.

3 - UPS Power Supply


Get that image of a hulking 100-pound power station out of your head. UPS battery backup systems don’t have to be that large anymore. There are many great power strips that have backup power supplies built right into them! This works great for the occasional blip that might happen if someone trips over a power cord. Your audio interface / midi controller keeps right on humming. If you’re going to be bringing a power strip anyway, you might as well get one that has a battery built in.

4 - Headphones For Sound Check


Nothing annoys your fellow musicians more than incessant noodling during sound check. If you want to be able to continue to tweak, rearrange, or otherwise work on your sounds up on the stage, bring a set of headphones for monitoring. Be sure to tell the sound guy out front to mute you while you work!

5 - Physical MIDI Controller Knobs/Buttons

Novation Launch Controler MKII

If you’re playing on the road and utilizing backline, you never know what kind of keyboard/controller someone is going to drop on you. There are a number of dedicated small banks of buttons, knobs, and faders that you can purchase to map to important functions like ‘next patch’ or ‘tap tempo’ and the like. My setup in Gig Performer and in MainStage *always* includes a MIDI mapping to my ‘Palette Gear’ device that plugs in via USB. Two big honking buttons for ‘next sound’ and ‘previous sound’ as well as a dial for master volume come with me no matter what keyboard is being provided.

Learn to produce your own music and sounds: AskAudio | macProVideo

Matt Vanacoro is one of New York's premier musicans. Matt has collaborated as a keyboardist in studio and on stage with artists such as Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Mark Wood (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Mark Rivera (Billy Joel Band), Aaron Carter, Amy Regan, Jay Azzolina, Marcus Ratzenboeck (Tantric), KeKe Palmer, C-Note, Jordan Knig... Read More


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