How does Ben Böhmer play live? For Ben, playing live is a method to re-arrange and recreate his music. He uses a combination of digital and analog setup to control all the little elements of his tracks – giving him the ability to make in the moment changes and create something special for the night.
In his insightful video above, featured on Production Music Live, you get deep insight into Ben Böhmer's live setup, with thorough explanations and examples of his process.
"I don't know how to play DJ sets, I never learned that. I want to play my own music and let the music speak!"
Who is Ben Böhmer?
Ben Böhmer is an excellent producer and DJ from Göttingen in Germany who has taken the deep and progressive house world by storm since his first hit single “Promise You.” Since then, he’s signed on labels like Anjunadeep, playing worldwide at events like Distortion Festival, Habitat Festival, Anjunadeep Open Air, and Tomorrowland Festival. He’s also headlined events spanning countries like Italy, Spain, India, Greece, and Cyprus.
His hypnotizing melodies, deep sound design, and heavy basses continue to wow listeners across the globe. And with a massive performance for Ben Böhmer at the Cercle Festival 2020 coming up, just a few weeks from writing this article, we’re thrilled to have Ben Böhmer join PML to share his secrets.
He’s also opened his Ableton Project Files with us for the first time – sharing and explaining his whole process.
Ben Böhmer’s Live Setup Explained
If you love Anjunadeep style progressive house music – and particularly the sound of Ben Böhmer, watch the video and read on to discover the secrets of how Ben Böhmer plays live.
1. Ableton Live
“I love to use Ableton as it’s an intuitive way to prepare live sets.”
Ben’s go-to DAW is Ableton Live, both for music production and for playing live, as it gives him the complete freedom and advanced customizability to get his desired sound. It also gives him the ability to do complex MIDI control mapping to control synths and hardware effects. When playing live, he works mainly in the Ableton Session View to launch his clips and scenes.
Each channel has all elements of his tracks, including kick, bass, and pads. He then sorts the sounds into scenes, which are the different parts of every track in his live set, like the intro, drops, and outro. This setup gives him the ability to go through all aspects of his music, step by step to form the full tracks, and go through his live sets.
He has loaded the Diva synth into Ableton, giving him the power to play it on his MIDI controller during his sets. Ben also has a group to make transitions and one for drum samples. Effects-wise, he uses both track effects and send effects, which he controls on his Xonek2.
Get your hands on his Liveset Default Ableton Project used in the video (https://bit.ly/3bwmsex).
2. Allen & Heath Xone K2
"I don’t go crazy on effects. In Ableton I use audio effects (EQ, Filter), send effects (Reverb & Delays), and a sum compression, EQ and limiter on the master channel."
Because Ben doesn’t want to control his live set with the mouse, he uses midi controllers to play the clips and scenes from Ableton. With three Allen & Heath Xone K2 controllers linked together, he has a total of 12 channels that he can control his session view with.
He has chosen the Xone K2 MIDI controller because of the long faders and excellent knobs that are not endless – meaning the knobs stops at 100% so he can see the exact amount of effect applied. The controllers are also fully mapped, which, according to Ben, is an annoying and slightly chaotic process but is stable and works excellent when it's finished.
Going from left to right, Ben has mapped his kick drum, bassline, claps hi-hats, vocals, Diva (VST synth in Ableton), transition, grooves, and master across his Xone K2.
How To Map Your MIDI controller
When you open the MIDI control area, you can assign a Live parameter to a physical control on your MIDI controller. Start by clicking the fader you want to map to your MIDI pad, and then click or move the button or slider on your controller.
After that comes the slightly annoying part – mapping out your entire live set. But when done, you have complete control over all your sounds and can add effects like reverbs and delays instantly.
3. Korg minilogue xd
"Although this little synth can also produce analog synthesis, I only use it as a MIDI controller when playing live. For me it has the perfect set of knobs and faders to control my most used VST plugin that I use in almost every song - the u-he DIVA. During a live show I play existing melodies, improvise to existing material or send melodies via MIDI. This is probably the instrument that comes closest to what most people think of playing live music."
Ben Böhmer uses a Korg minilogue xd in his live setup – but not for its analog synthesis. He uses the hardware synth to map out his favorite VST Diva, which he uses for almost every electronic sound in his production. Ultimately, he uses his Korg minilogue as a MIDI controller.
Ben says that yes, there are many cheaper MIDI controllers than a complete analog synthesizer, but what he likes about the Korg minilogue is that it accurately represents his favorite VST.
With the two being very similar, he can map out Diva’s functionalities on all the designated knobs and faders on his minilogue. For instance, he will always know what the cutoff knob does on his minilogue because he mapped it to Diva's cutoff.
4. Eventide Space Pedal
"This pedal lets me control one of the best sounding reverbs wherever I need it. That way I can trigger and control many different parameters at the same time."
For hardware live effects, Ben uses an analog effect pedal with reverb, delay, harmonizer, and other different effects. According to Ben, the harmonizer gives glimmering overtones to sounds, but the reverb is where the Eventide Space Pedal shines.
The upside to using an analog effect pedal to a digital one is that you save CPU power on your computer. This can be critical when playing live, to avoid lag spikes and crashes.
5. Akai Midimix
Last but not least, Ben Böhmer uses the Akai Midimix loop machine for his percussion and drum loops. His loops are continually playing in the background throughout his live sets. So if he wants to include a powerful snare roll for a transition or his signature hi-hat loop, he just increases the drum track volume.
Now you know the secrets to Ben Böhmer's Cercle live set (and all his other live sets too.)
Learn How To Make Music Like Ben Böhmer
Don’t miss the sizzling new Ben Böhmer Style Melodic Deep Sound Pack, featuring all you need to know to get your Anjunadeep sound.
With five complete Ableton Project files created with Ben, you can see exactly how each Ben Böhmer style track is made. You get access to all effect chains, MIDI notes, and presets to create your deep melodic house track.
Other than the five full project files, you also get:
✓ Ben Böhmer Sample Pack including 150+ Loops and One Shots.
✓ Ben Böhmer’s Original Default Ableton Project for playing live – with all tracks and effects set up and ready to use.
… plus three exclusive bonus video sessions with Ben Böhmer.
Ben Böhmer Vol. 2 - New Production Pack
Click here to learn how to make music like Ben Böhmer today.
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.