A Peek Inside Herbie Hancock’s Live Rig

Herbie Hancock at 35th Playboy Jazz Festival

The picture above shows Herbie Hancock at the Hollywood Bowl during the 35th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival, and he is clearly digging into a song on his iconic Roland AX-Synth. What the picture doesn’t show, however, is the amazing infrastructure of technology that Herbie and his tech, Brian McCollough, have assembled for Herbie’s live show. From his use of multiple iPads to some fairly complex programming, Herbie’s live rig showcases both the creativity and necessity behind his ever-evolving live performances.

Herbie Hancock’s Use of  Software…

During live shows, there are always tasks such as loading instruments, patch changes, and live setups that can affect the flow of a live performance, which can sometimes lead to mistakes on stage. Add to that an immense catalog of music like Herbie Hancock’s, and a live show where he moves from piano, to synthesizer, to his iconic keytar and VP-770, and there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong. Instead of relying on MIDI controllers and handwritten cheat sheets during a show, McCollough and Hancock enlisted the help of Cycling 74, along with Ableton Live and it’s Max suite of custom software, to keep the show flowing.

How Herbie Uses Five iPads During His Show…

This tech-savvy team devised five iPad stations for Herbie to use on stage to control MIDI networking and patch selecting on his AX-Synth and VP-770. Everything routes through Ableton Live, which uses custom Max software developed just for Herbie, and enables him to re-arrange his set, choose his sounds, and loop on-the-fly while performing.

Hardware Solutions…

Herbie and his tech Brian are currently trying out the Integra-7 and the new BOSS RC-505 Loop Station. The Integra-7, with its thousands of sounds and multi-timbral capability, appealed to Herbie and his team because it could take over some tasks from Ableton Live. The RC-505 may also provide a solution to the challenges born from using computers to loop live on stage; a hardware-based looper would be simpler, more accurate, and more solid than looping with a computer.

What do you think of Herbie’s technology infused setup?

Herbie Hancock was recently named by the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Creative Chair for Jazz and currently serves as Chairman for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the foremost international organization devoted to the development of jazz performance and education worldwide. Hancock is also a founder of The International Committee of Artists for Peace, and his last album, The Imagine Project, featured his GRAMMY-winning take on John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”  And as Bonnaroo’s first ever Artist-In-Residence back in 2005, Herbie Hancock once again took the stage at the 2013 Bonnaroo Festival, with a festival line up that included Paul McCartney, Wilco, ZZ-Top, Tom Petty, Bjork, Wu-Tang Clan, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and countless other acclaimed acts.