In this installment of guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production, Frank writes about selecting the proper gear for a flyrig. If you missed Frank’s previous post, you can read it here.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “flyrig,” basically this is the term for a very portable gear setup for the traveling musician or sound engineer, which is ideal to fly on airplanes with. It can be a reduced footprint of your normal setup that still achieves “your sound” – a sound you need ideally to perform while flying from place to place.
I had done quite a bit of research on what would give me the most bang for the buck as far as having a small footprint but giving me the exact guitar tone and amount of footswitches I prefer. This led me to the Atomic Amplifire 6. This unit had just come out as of the beginning of 2018, and once I heard its sound and editing capabilities and amount of ins and outs it comes with, it was an ideal choice. It does effects processing and really full-sounding amp/cabinet simulation, making it flexible to run direct. Or you can run it without cabinet simulation into a real amp. In my case, I chose to go direct for consistency, and also I wouldn’t need an extra DI box. I could send the DI signal via an aux output of the unit to front of house, and send the quarter inch out to myself simultaneously. If you don’t need 6 switches for effects, you could take up even less space with the Line 6 HX Stomp. It has only 3 switches, but packs mean tones.
Seeing as having either a wah or expression pedal would take up the same amount of room, I chose to bring my wah. I use the Mike Orlando Rocktron Wah because it allows me to not only set the sweep range, but, most importantly, allows me to mix the amount of wah I want in ratio to my original signal so that notes can still be heard without getting drowned out by typical wahs in certain frequency positions. If you don’t mind only using half your foot to use a wah, and without the mix options, a smaller viable option is the Dunlop Cry Baby Mini.
I wanted the guitar to be wireless, so I could move about the stage freely. So for this I use an Audio-Technica System 10 Stompbox. This is a fantastic, ideal unit for a flyrig, because it only is the size of a typical guitar pedal, can go right on your pedalboard, and transmits clean uncompromised signal with no interference. I once put this through the toughest test I could imagine, performing at a Comic-Con next to the convention center of 75,000 people with phones, gaming devices, cameras, etc., then multiple other wireless systems at the event between other guests and the symphony, and it did not get affected by any of it. So for that reason alone it will always be my go-to for guitar wireless use for the sake of reliability. on top of it’s very small footprint.
I’ve heard a lot of my friends who are professional keyboardists use a MacBook or Mac mini and run the program MainStage. While I can appreciate that, I wanted an even smaller, easier option and footprint to travel with, as I’d rather not be tied to a laptop. Instead, I opted for an iPad mini. Not only is it smaller, but there are a lot of instrument app options out there now, so there was bound to be something I could use this way. The app I ended up deciding on was Korg Module. I used to use a Korg Triton when they were new in the ’90s. And a lot of the sounds I was going for were either from that or similar. The sounds the app comes with for just $10 are already great and exactly as it sounded back in the day. When you consider that sounds only took up a few megabytes of data in the ’90s, it’s easy for that to go onto an iPad now with a 16 gigabyte or more storage capacity. An additional $10 got me the best of Triton sounds, and I was good to go. You can edit these sounds to a degree, even with custom effects, and then save them to a setlist so everything is in order for your show. You can even make notes in each instrument for what key the song is in or make a PDF for reference. Then I just ask for a compatible back-lined keyboard controller for the show, such as a Novation Launchkey or a Nektar. I use the Apple camera kit as the adapter to go from Lightning to USB, which powers the controller at the same time it gets the MIDI from it. Then you send the 1/8″ audio output cable to stereo 1/4″ and plug those into a stereo DI for front of house, and you’re all set. Of course, if you have more sophisticated patch requirements, then a laptop with a small interface would be your next step up, which you can easily fit into a backpack and put under an airline seat.
In-Ear Monitor System
In order to maintain complete control of my own instruments vs. the overall monitor mix, I set it up the following way: I use a Yamaha MG06 small mixer, which has two XLR inputs to receive a stereo front-of-house monitor send, and two more mono or stereo sets of 1/4″ inputs to plug my guitar output and keyboard DI throughput into. This setup allows me to control my own instrument levels independent of the rest of the band mix – this way I’m guaranteed to hear myself well, no matter what could go wrong with a monitor mix that mysteriously might change before or during the show. Then to make this in-ears setup wireless, the last piece of the puzzle is to send the outputs of my small mixer into my Audio-Technica M3 wireless monitor system so I can hear full-range, triple-driver clarity with the ATH-E70 in-ears.
And there you have it. Guitar, keys, and in-ear flyrig made efficiently. Just add cables, and it all fits in a carry-on bag and backpack.
In closing, I simply recommend listening to examples of all the small-sized gear out there that applies to your instrument and figure out what best represents your sound that you can travel light with – for your own flyrig!
Frank tours with his flyrig performing the best of his Command & Conquer music in Frank Klepacki & The Tiberian Sons.
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television, including Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He is an audio director, recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com or follow Frank on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
When you’re on the road, what flyrig (or portable gear) do you always have? Tell us in the comments below!