Controlling Your Show Music

Controlling your show music can be super simple if you have a dedicated show technician to operate your sound for you. But for most of us, most of the time, we need to find a solution to operate the sound ourselves. It makes sense then to have a pre-set playlist on an MP3 player and with a remote control. More advanced features might include fade in, fade out, and skipping around the playlist to suit your needs.

Virtual Sound Man

All of my shows have music so I use this system for every show I perform. I use the Virtual Sound Man combined with an iPod that connects into my sound system. Basically it’s a remote control for the iPod.

This system can easily plug into my small sound system, large sound system, or into any mixing board I’m provided with.

Playlists:

For each of my shows I have a playlist on my iPod with the music just for that show in the correct order.

Sometimes at the event you’ll want to change the show running order for whatever reason. On the iPod you can create a custom “on-the-go” playlist in a couple of minutes to create a new playlist from songs that are on the iPod.

If you are using an iDevice to run your show music make sure you know how to use all of the features including how to reset it and create “on-the-go” play lists. If you have a problem with your music during the show you want to be able to fix it right away.

Remote Control:

For my remote control I made some modifications to make it easier to use. I glued a small jewel onto the play button, the volume up button, and the volume down button. The little jewels are for scrapbooking and you can find them at Michaels or the Dollar Store. Now without looking I can make sure that the remote is orientated the correct way so I don’t accidentally hit the wrong button AND the important buttons are now easily accessed.

For many of my shows I leave the remote control in my pocket for the entire show. Because of the modifications I am able to easily hit “play” through the side of my pants. I can also turn the music up or down by feel through the fabric. If I need to skip a track, or jump around in the playlist, I’m still able to reach into my pocket and without looking I can find the correct buttons.

During my show I like to make my music turn on automatically with a snap of the fingers in the air. To do this I added 1.5 seconds of silence to the start of each of my tracks. Using a free program like Audacity (I used Soundbooth and Audition, but those are paid) you can edit your music to insert silence to the start of the track. That way I can secretly hit the play button on the remote and I have enough time to bring my hand up in the air and snap my fingers. To the audience it looks like I just snap my fingers and the music starts on it’s own. It really is just as magical as anything else in the show. Often for kid’s shows when I do this the kids will say “How did the music start?!” and even parents after the show will ask “… Sooo….. How do you control your music??”. It’s a small touch that makes the show look professional.

For other shows I leave my remote control on my table and I’m able to casually pick it up, hit play and because of the 1.5 second delay I have enough time to put the remote control back down on the table. To the audience it’s a very small movement that goes unnoticed so you don’t distract from your performance. I’ll do this when my pockets are being used for other routines so I can’t place the remote control there.

I’ve tried clipping the remote control to my belt as well but I found that I would accidentally hit the buttons sometimes. On a couple of occasions I’ve accidentally bumped against something while the remote was in my pocket and accidentally started or stopped the track– without a professional sound man- these things are bound to happen. There are also ankle switches on the market that you can use to control your music. By touching the heels of your feet together the next song will automatically begin to play. This method works well if you are looking for a hands free type of operation, but I’ve read online that these systems automatically get triggered sometimes too.

Today’s Remote Options

Sadly the Virtual Sound Man units are no longer available. Sometimes you can find second hand units sold online but now there are much cheaper alternatives now that are almost as good.

Show Cues:

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad there’s a new app called Show Cues ($70 available from the Appstore) to control your music during your show.

Along with the App you will also need a remote control. For full features you’ll want to get the specially designed custom remote for Show Cues which is available from Conjuring Cabinet for $50. So for $120 plus the cost of an iDevice you can wireless control all of your show music.

The nice thing about this app is that its designed by a fellow magician Carl Andrews so he really understands what’s required and he actively posts on the Magic Cafe.

If you’re using Show Cues with your iPhone, make sure you put it into airplane mode first. That way your phone won’t receive any notifications (Text Messages/Phone calls). If you don’t do this, and you receive a call your ringtone will play over the sound system— not good!

DI Boxes

Using a remote control will mean that you need to have the receiver within range. At outdoor festivals the sound booths are often to the far edge of the stage or in the middle of the audience. You don’t want to risk the range of your remote control making it that far. In those cases you’ll want to connect your base station into a DI box on the stage and that way you don’t have to worry about your remote control distance.

The second advantage is that if something goes wrong with your music your system is on stage with you so you can fix it. If you have an assistant, this DI box can be to the side of the stage where you assistant can manage it for you.

For more information read Sound Systems, Microphones, iPod’s, and Speaker Stands.

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