Here is the minimal equipment setup you need as a one man band to have a good performance
- A laptop with DAW software for backing tracks
- An midi controller (controller)
- A speaker and amp combo that is portable (or PA)
- A looper pedal for easy effect control
- Your instruments including your preferred mic
The total cost for the above set up will be around $1,500 to $2000, depending on the kind of quality you want.
One Man Band Equipment Setup
Set up wise, it can be easy or difficult, depending on how complex you want your mixing to be. The following set up assumes you have access to the venue’s PA system. If it is your own PA, then it might not apply.
- Decide on the number of outputs you want. Do you want a separate output for each instrument or you are ok with a mixed output that contains everything? The latter is definitely much much easier to do compared to the former.
- 🎙 If you decided on a single mix output. The most simple way to get the output will be through your laptop’s headphone jack, straight to the PA system.
- 🎚 If you want multiple outputs, I suggest getting an audio interface. With this gear, you can control which output goes to which channel on your PA system. It makes the set up easier than if you try to link the output directly to the channels via your laptop.
- 🔌 FOH and side. Assuming you use the simple model in (2), the next step is to decide on which part of the mix goes to the front of the houses and which part goes to the side speakers. Usually, the backing tracks will be set up as a mono click. You then panned this hard to the left. Set up a similar mono click but panned it right. Your main mix will then be channeled to the front of the house.
Below is a recommendation list for each of the items listed above
Best DAW software for one man band
I assume that you already have a laptop. As for DAW software, the best option for solo band is either the Cubase if you are on a budget or Ableton if you have money to spare.
Between the 2, I prefer Ableton for live performance for the following reasons
- Plenty of options for sound design
- Video editing is simple
- Live performance is great with no hiccups.
Best Looper Pedal for One Man Band
The looper pedal is one of the most important accessory for a one man band. I recommend the RC-30 pedal. It is a great looper pedal with lots of options. The learning curve might be steeper than the basic version but it is worth the time.
- Plenty of options: If you like to make your own jams and effects, this pedal has it in spades. The only pedal I can think of which has more effects is the Vox vdl 1.
- Able to save loop effects. You can then transfer the effects to your computer for further editing and mixing.
- Stereo channel
- Long playing life. You can save up to 3 hours of loops in the RC-30. That will last you the whole evening of playing.
- Customizable phases: The RC-30 offers 99 phases so you are free to allocate the 3 hours.
- 4 inputs: These 4 are recorder 1/4″ jacks , the AUX 1/8″ jack, an an XLR input a USB to PC connection.
- Changing tempo is a breeze. A temp button is available for you to speed up or slow down the tempo without changing the pitch. For moo controls, this is a great feature.
- Easy to mix and record: You basically tap the left side to record, another time to end (where it will start looping) and a third time to record on top of this loop. You have the freedom to do this as many times as you want, giving you a powerful way to create new songs and music.
- Takes standard AA batteries
- Pricey: Its prices ranges from USD250 to USD300, depending on where you are buying from
- Steep learning curve if you are new to loop pedals. Best way to learn is through Youtube as its default manual is too hard to get through.
- Too many finger buttons: Some complaint about having too many hand controls despite this being a pedal. My thinking is the company is catering to home use cases where your hands are free.
- Effects can be improved. While they are available, many sound too gimmicky to me. Not as good as those from Vox vdl 1.
Best PA for One Man Band
In the event that your performing venue does not provide a good PA system, then you will need one on your own.
For good value, I recommend the Mackie QCS K10.2
The QCS K10.2 has the following pros.
- Multiple inputs: dedicated inputs for both vocal and instrument
- Beautiful form factor: Has an apple like sleek design relative to other PA systems in the market
- Portable: One of the biggest benefit of the K10.2 is that it is thin. Traditional PA system with multiple speakers are a pain in the butt to move
- Useful bag accessory: Although not free, the K10.2 has an accessory bag that makes it easy to carry around (See image below). It also makes your set up much quicker. Unfortunately, the bag is not padded so you still need to be careful and not bump the system around. Price is also not cheap.
- Audio quality: Sound is clear and loud esp at the highs. In contrast, many similar sized PA system sound harsher.
- Not much to dislike but the bag should really be part of the purchase instead of a separate one
Being a one man band is not easy. This is especially so if you want to go beyond a simple guitar and vocal combo. Once different instruments or backing tracks are in the picture, the set up becomes more demanding.
What I have recommended here is a simple set up. If you are a beginner, it is a good system to start with. Over time, you will evolve but until then, keep it simple is my advice.