Mainstage 3 is an Apple software, designed specifically for the live musician looking to add studio-quality sounds and features to their live performances. For me, it’s best the best $29.99 I’ve spent in a long time and has become the central part of my new keyboard rig. It delivers and easy-to-use layout designer with up to 35 GBs of really fantastic sounds, loops, and effects. The samples and patches rival some single-use plugins that cost hundreds of dollars (just check out the Rhodes, Vintage B3, or even the guitar amp modelers).
This tutorial will overview Mainstage 3’s basic terminology. And, while I found most of the workflow to be intuitive, I realize that intuitive is a very relative word. Hopefully this short breakdown will assist in understanding how the program thinks and get you up and running quickly.
This section is where you control the look and labeling of your screen. Add keyboards, knobs, buttons, meters, and parameter text to your heart’s content. You can work with formatting options, grouping objects, and layering with each element you add.
The Edit section is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. Here, you set up your Concert by mapping buttons and faders to control your desired elements, set up your patches with either single sounds or layers, and add effects to fine-tune the production. Everything here is “Live,” so hit buttons on you’re keyboard or play a rhythm on the guitar and it will produce sound.
This view takes the visuals you’ve tweaked in Layout and the sounds you’ve developed in Edit and gives you a complete full-screen experience, perfect for life playing. You navigate through the Perform space using any input device you have: mouse, keyboard, or MIDI controller(s).
The Concert is the highest level of MainStage. Think of it as your entire file or project. Anything you set up here is the default for everything you do underneath it. Set up default tempos, standardize effects tracks, and set your master MIDI controller assignments.
A Set is a group of patches. Often, we think of a Set as a list of songs, but I’d encourage you to think of it simply as a grouping in MainStage. It allows you to establish a subset of controls for a specific group of sounds. For using MainStage in worship music, I generally create a Set for each song in the worship list.
A patch traditionally refers to a single sound generated by the device. In MainStage, while this concept is true, it is much more expansive than just a single sound. A Patch in MainStage is a grouping of channel strips and effects, so you can layer multiple sounds and a handful of effects into a single Patch. It’s almost like having your own GarageBand or Logic project for every Patch.
I trust that this short overview has been very helpful to lay the foundation for your work in MainStage. The next tutorial will cover the basics of working in Layout mode, where we’ll customize what we want to see in our live performances.