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Whether you have a Mac or a PC, whether you run Windows or OS X, your machine could go down before, or during a show. Remember, top of the line doesn't guarantee that it won't have a kernel error, pinwheel of death, or blue screen of death during your show. Here are a few ideas for backups in case your Dell, MacBook Pro or Toughbook leaves you high and dry. First, you can keep around a backup laptop. Owning a second laptop that is imaged with everything you need for your live show is one way to go. If one laptop goes down, throw another one up, and get the first one looked at later. Just make sure that you test the backup laptop before the show.
You may even try rotating both laptops during band practices to catch any potential problems. Second, keep either a CD or an iPod with all of your backing tracks available in case worse comes to worse. Remember, we're creating one of these to level balance though. Level balancing is where you play all of the tracks back to back and raise the volumes or lower the volumes of each track until they're all about the same level. You don't want one song sounding louder than the other, unless there's a good reason for it. Also, try running a practice with the CD or iPod prior to the show.
Don't take any chances. It's your career, after all. Option three, you can also keep some backing tracks in your phone, because you know you'll have that with you. However, if you have to use your phone, remember to put it in airplane mode, prior to going onstage or during practice. You don't want your mom calling you during your guitar solo and destroying your groove. Option four, hardware synthesizers, keep in mind, if your computer goes down or is non-functional before the show, your software instruments go away as well. I always make a practice of keeping at least one regular synthesizer that generates its own sounds, incorporated into my library.
That way if I have to use a backup CD or an iPod, I'm not standing up there pretending to play. It's not fun. Also, if you're worried about the computer completely dying during the performance, have your CD, iPod or iPhone queued and ready to go with either a dedicated sound guy that you know to queue it and to hit Play, or just have a portable CD or MP3 player onstage with you connected where you can queue it yourself if the worst happens. Above all, remember, hardware is always dying, so don't let it stress you out and don't take it personal.
However, if you don't prepare for the worst, you've really only got yourself to blame.
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