Hardware - How Much HorsePower Is Enough?


I am about to upgrade my computer and I’m torn as to which route to go. Money is no objection, but I also don’t want to intentionally pour money down the drain. I currently run my setup on a 2012 i7 2.9 gHz MacBook Pro with 16bg memory and while it has served me well, it doesn’t have nearly enough power to handle the tasks I envision. Here is a demanding situation that the rig will need to be able to handle simultaneously:

Max MSP (maps MIDI orchestrations to single notes to make complex rhythm chops possible with one hand and orchestrated string/horn sections possible with monophonic playing)
LH Rhythm Chops (Typically Korg M1 and IK Hammond B3)
Organ Pedal String Section (32 instances of SWAM strings)
RH Horn Section (8 Kontakt/Swam Instruments)
2nd Board (Diva, Arturia V, Splits, etc)
Ableton Running Backing Tracks and Triggering DMX (Lightkey)
VideoDj software powering reactive visuals on multiple multiple displays
Amp Modeling/FX for 2 guitars and a bass
Processing/Mixing for a Full Band w/ 6 vocalists
Video Streaming/Recording a Several Hour Gig

Currently, my Mac gives out when I attempt 1/10th of this workload (both CPU/memory). I want a machine that would give me space to grow and last me a decade. Am I a sucker for considering a fully spec’ed MacBook Pro? A 14" MacBook Pro with 10 Cores CPU, 32 Core GPU and 64 GB of memory costs $3700. I love the Mac ecosystem, but I’m not against change. Can I build a rack mount PC that can compete with this? Do I need the extra GPU power for VideoDJing and extra displays? Also, is 64 GB overkill?

As always, thanks for all of your ideas.


Hi @samsonandersson ,

your requirerements are very HUGE.
You should think abot using multiple Instances of GP.
This way you can use multiple CPU-cores.

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I think he will need multiple machines

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How is your routing in GP?
Do you load all plugin instances in 1 rackspace?

Hello @pianopaul,

I utilize more than one instance of GigPerformer. Currently, I put the string/horn sections and rhythm keys in the global rackspace of my main board, and then have a seperate instance for my 2nd board (w/ vox in the global rackspace). When I integrate my other guitarists/bassists, I plan on giving them each their own instance (with vox in the global rackspace) and then we will have our engineer control all of our instances with an OSC iPad.

With my current 2012 MacBook, I can have Max and GP control a 4-piece horn section, my LH rhythm chops, and all the various synths/keys splits on two boards and have the system be decently solid (about 3 failures in/100+ shows). I haven’t attempted integrating my organ pedal string section yet, but I can’t wait to bring it to life.

So do you bypass plugins not needed ?

I spent a year trying to utilize a two machine system, but it inevitably brought more points of failure. In the past, I had my MacBook using Max and Kontakt , while I had a second 2012 Mac mini doing some more heavy lifting. I sent midi data over a network and accessed my Mac mini through Screen Sharing over Ethernet. It was an exciting project and it gave me more horsepower, but things would go wrong. One gig the screen share just wouldn’t connect. One time the midi connection broke inexplicably. Another time the sample rates got jumbled. Long story short is that I flew the white flag and simplified my show. I would love it if I could accomplish what I wanted on a single machine.

Yeah, I have bypass buttons installed in my backspaces to cut down on extra CPU. I typically run out of memory before my CPU can’t keep up

Why not use separate rackspaces with predicitive load enabled?

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Sorry I should have been more specific. I put patches that I use in all of my songs in the global rackspace (I play in a reggae band, so the Organ bubble and the horn section are in the global rackspace always ready to go), and then build seperate rackspaces for my more specific needs.

Understand, but 32 instances of SWAM ?

I haven’t attempted it yet. It’s not remotely possible with my current setup (I get pops after 4 instances). But Hans Zimmer-style chordal orchestration would be an awesome tool if I could build a machine that can handle these loads.

Yes but he’s not doing that in real-time.


It hasn’t been done before which is why it is so exciting. One of the main limitations we keyboardists have when playing strings is the size of our hand. When a keyboardist holds a chord with one hand, his/her voicing is limited to 6 notes and the approximate range of an octave (give or take a few notes if you’re Art Tatum or Rachmaninoff). When an orchestra holds a chord, they can play as many notes as there are members in the orchestra with a range of over 7 octaves! Programming these chords are simple with my Max MSP patch (usually mapped to the tonic of each chord) and with harmonically simple music (Reggae, Pop, Movie Scores) the only thing keeping live orchestration from being a reality is computing power

Sure it has - people use MIDI/OSC/Audio over ethernet to link multiple machines together. The Vienna Ensemble app is a great commercial example of this but there are lots of others. As for an orchestra, they’re not actually playing that many different notes — groups of them (e.g. 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas) are playing exactly the same notes - the richness comes (partially) from the very slight tone and frequency differences.

By the way, you might not be aware but the OSC support in Gig Performer was originally designed to allow its plugins and widgets to be controlled directly from MaxMSP over OSC (I still use GP and MaxMSP together for several bands though I’m slowly moving away from it as GPScript has improved)

So you could run GP on multiple machines on a local LAN and send OSC messages to them from Max to do some very cool stuff.

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Sorry, you misunderstand me. I didn’t mean that no keyboardists use MIDI/OSC/Audio over ethernet, I meant that I have never seen a keyboardist play a Cm9 Chord that consists of:

4 Bass Patches on C2
4 Bass Patches on C3
4 Cello Patches on G3
4 Cello Patches on Eb5
4 Viola Patches on Bb5
4 Viola Patches on G6
4 Violin Patches on Bb6
4 Violin Patches on D7

Obviously orchestrations and harmony will vary, but you get the idea. The many different instances of SWAM contribute to the very slight tone and frequency differences you mentioned earlier. This chord can be mapped to a single “C” on an organ pedalboard. While holding this C pedal, your LH can cover rhythmic key chops (in Reggae, you can play the classic organ/piano bubble triggered by rocking back and forth on an octave on the tonic of the key) and that still leaves a right hand to play a more traditional lead. With this system you have a MASSIVE sound/palette that would take several octopuses to play without MAX MSP.

I do not now how complex you play, but would be resampling an option?

This is a good idea and definitely solves computing issues, but I found it didn’t work for me. When I first started down this road, I started with samples. The problem is that they take soooo long to make, organize (I used to sample different chords in different inversions and organize them by instrument), and then once you’ve finally mapped them all, the drummer decides he doesn’t like your piano patch anymore :neutral_face: Plus, I enjoy the flexibility of realtime sound/orchestration adjustments.

Then you should think about your drummer :wink:


Haha sometimes I want to throw him off the Brooklyn Bridge, but he’s a damn good bandleader and has the best Timbale roll since Carlton Barrett. I suppose I’ll have to keep hacking my way through this project and harass poor souls like you and @dhj for advice! Thanks as always for the time and insight, gentleman.

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