So far in this series, I’ve shown you the advantages of using an iOS-based live rig, as well the tech most suited to the job.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to safely transporting the gear, and how to ensure you have it to hand in a live environment when you need it.
I’ll be honest: the iPad’s amazing, but it’s still more fragile—and sometimes more expensive—than a typical piece of a guitarist’s gigging equipment. A guitar or amp might survive being knocked over, but an iPad’s less likely to.
Furthermore it’s easier to steal, and often more in demand, than a guitar. So choose a gig wisely. There’ll be a difference between performing on a raised stage or playing in a rough pub where the audience keep clattering into you.
Here are some things to think about.
Surviving the Journey
You’ve got to get the iPad, interface, and cables to and from the gig. Chucking it all into your guitar’s gig bag’s an option, and attractive if you need to travel light, but think about the level of protection offered.
As the screen’s the most vulnerable part, consider the Smart Cover from Apple; it clips magnetically to the device, and prices typically start from around £40.
I’m a great believer in rarely relying on a single solution. My iPad’s fitted with a Belkin Snap Case. It’s a thick covering for the back, costing less than £10. It then goes into a Belkin Pleated Sleeve, a padded, double-zipped pouch for under £15. Both items have easily survived several years of daily usage.
In terms of transporting to and from gigs, I use a shoulder bag; this carries the iPad, interface, plus a wealth of cabling. I’ve opted for this as it’s hands free (like I haven’t got enough to carry at a gig), and occupies little space in the car (an important consideration).
It’s also easier to keep it with me, alleviating concerns regarding theft. Alternatively, an aluminium flight case could be bought from a retailer, such as Maplin, for as little as £25. These usually contain foam, which could be sculpted to your devices accordingly.
Mounting Options for a Device
Unless you’ve a friendly/cheap guitar tech to hand, chances are you’re going to have to operate the iPad during the gig. This means having it within reach. There are several options available to you.
If the gig’s small, you could place the iPad in a stand atop a speaker cabinet or table. For this, there’s the iKlip Studio from IK Multimedia, available for under £30. It takes your device either in portrait or landscape, has a place for attaching one of their iRig interfaces, and folds away almost flat—save for the lip on which the device sits.
Whilst they’re very useful—I own one—I’d only recommend it for home use, or small gigs where there’s no possibility of the audience getting anywhere near it. The potential for damage is too great. Fine for an intimate, seated singer-songwriter type of gig, but little else.
There’s the age-old route of the small folding music stand. They’re designed to be extremely portable, and are REALLY cheap—often less than £10. There’s nothing, however, to stop any sideways movement of the device.
Furthermore, their portability means that they’re flimsy—you only need the main wing nut to fail, and the iPad will be sailing backwards very quickly.
If the music stand appeals, but robustness concerns you, the opposite end of the spectrum is the lectern-style stand. These usually comprise folding feet and telescopic tubes more typically associated with speaker cabinet stands.
A large lipped top provides plenty of support and surface area, giving you somewhere to safely put both your device and interface. Many are also perforated, so you shouldn’t worry about the device overheating. Price-wise, you can spend little or lots, but £20 will get you the type of orchestral music stands you see in schools.
Whilst sturdier, their big disadvantage is portability, or lack thereof. The feet and the tubing are collapsable, but the actual top isn’t, so what you gain in surface area costs you in terms of having to cart it around.
As I already use a microphone stand, I prefer a cradle that attaches to it. This means that there’s little extra to bring, it’s very portable, occupies no additional floor space, plus associated cabling can run down the mic stand.
There are many from which to choose, and they don’t have to be expensive; indeed, some are under £15. However, you get what you pay for, and I’d rather not trust the well-being of an expensive device by going for the cheapest one available.
My choice is the iPad stand from König & Meyer (also known as K&M). The cradle’s far thicker than many of its competitors, plus the fixings are reassuringly industrial. Choose from one that screws directly onto the thread of a mic stand—although you can’t now attach a mic—or one that mounts on an arm that clamps lower down the stand.
The cradle itself can orient either landscape or portrait, and can also be angled back, so exact positioning is achievable. I prefer waist height. The interface can fix to the arm. I use Velcro. Best of all, such choice and sturdiness only costs £20 to £30.
Using iOS live is a different proposition to home usage, so think about the following:
- Choose your gig appropriately
- How the device will be transported
- How the device will be protected
- Balance portability with robustness
- Consider the footprint a stand will occupy
- A desktop stand’s only appropriate for quiet, intimate gigs
- A folding stand’s cheap and portable, but flimsy
- Lectern stands are robust, but bulky
- A cradle and clamp is a compact, safe, portable solution
In the next tutorial, I’ll cover output connections and cabling, plus best choices of amplification.