Worship keyboard rig updated – simplify your setup
Several years ago, I posted a video about the worship keyboard rig I had set up at church. Recently, I made several updates to the rig.
I’ve already detailed some of the reasons, like wanting a cleaner, simpler setup. But I was also driven by the need for technical improvements and greater portability.
Worship keyboard rig: the main stuff
The brain of the setup is still a Yamaha S80 keyboard. (You can’t get them anymore, but here is a similar model I recommend from personal experience. Even though I now play all sounds from Mainstage, I’m not the only one who plays it, so the internal sounds work well.
If the S80 is the brain, the heart (I’ll end the metaphors here) of the setup is a Macbook Air running Mainstage 3 and Ableton Live. I use Mainstage 3 for all my keyboard sounds and Ableton for playing backing tracks and loops.
Instead of a being on a laptop stand to the side of my keyboard, the Macbook now sits on a Pyle laptop/DJ stand. I love that I can adjust it low enough to sit just above my keyboard, making it central yet unobtrusive in the setup.
Resting on the keyboard’s display is iPad with an app that controls our church’s PreSonus digital mixer. With this app, I can control my monitor mix, which I hear in stereo through a wired monitor pack.
I control my sounds with a new piece of gear, an AKAI Professional MPK Mini. This MIDI controller does what previously required two pieces of gear. The top control section is basically an LPD8, which I used for years. I use the knobs and faders to control Mainstage. The MPK Mini’s 25 keys are set to trigger backing tracks and loops in Ableton. I previously used a separate M-Audio controller for that.
One controller in place of two also eliminates the need for a USB hub, further simplifying the setup.
I have previously shared the details on my DIY keyboard stand. It’s still working and looking great.
Worship keyboard rig: in the rack
The primary change here was to replace a PreSonus Firepod with a MOTU mk3 Ultralite. While both pieces are audio/MIDI interfaces with plenty of analog outputs (so I can send separate signals for stereo keys, stereo tracks, click, and key bass), the MOTU was an upgrade.
In addition to better sound quality and more stable performance, it also functions as a standalone mixer. I run the audio cables from my keyboard directly into the MOTU, where I can combine them with the Mainstage sounds into one stereo pair. This meant I could eliminate the separate keyboard line mixer from the rack, saving space and eliminating extra noise.
The rack also contains a Whirwind Multidirector (basically four DI boxes in one rackmount unit) and a Furman M-8×2 power conditioner/surge protector.
The more compact rack is now able to be tucked away under a riser and transported elsewhere if necessary.
One of the biggest lessons I learned through the process of updating my worship keyboard rig was this: if it doesn’t fit the my needs, I can change it. I have asked myself many times, “Why didn’t I do something about this before?”
I encourage and challenge you – what’s working or not working in your setup? Occasionally the answer requires spending significant funds, but much more often, solutions simply require creativity, thought, and a little effort.
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