20 Mar How to Use AmpliTube Live on Stage (A Complete Guide)
The days of playing strictly through a guitar amp on stage are fleeting. With so many options available, it’s hard to justify the cost of an expensive amp when you can use an amp simulator or VST. One of which, AmpliTube, has become very popular and is a very real option to use on stage with your laptop or iPad.
Personally, I have used AmpliTube on stage and I use it at practices in use with my laptop, an audio interface, and my guitar. I appreciate the number of different tones and effects I can get using the program and I don’t have to haul a ton of heavy, bulky, and expensive gear.
In this post, I’ll show you my setup and how you can use AmpliTube live, either on stage or at practice (using a PA or PA speaker). I’ll also show you how you can switch AmpliTube’s presets using a MIDI foot controller (specifically, I’ll be using the Ground Control Pro), how to switch presets in Presonus Studio One using automation, how to do both (switch presets on a MIDI foot controller and Amplitube at the same time), and give you a few tips for using Amplitube and a laptop live.
Finally, while I am using AmpliTube specifically for this tutorial, many other amp VSTs (like Guitar Rig, BIAS FX, etc.) can be set up the same the way.
Now let’s get to it…
Get these FREE Step-by-Step PDFs for Setting Up AmpliTube Live & Changing Presets with Automation. They’re a great quick checklist/guide to accompany this post.
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Use the links below to jump to each section:
- Setting Up AmpliTube to a PA or PA Speaker (When Using a Laptop)
- Setting Up AmpliTube to a PA or PA Speaker (When Using an iPad)
- Setting Up AmpliTube in Studio One to Change Presets with Automation
- Changing AmpliTube with a MIDI Foot Controller
- Tips for Before You Play Live
Setting up AmpliTube to play live (either at a gig or at practice) is fairly simple and straight forward. If you’re using Amplitude already, you likely already know how to use the plugin and have most, if not all, the gear you need. But, just for reference, here’s what you’ll need:
- A laptop capable of running AmpliTube
- An audio interface with at least one instrument cable input
- One to two speaker cables (I’ll get to this later)
- Optional: PA Speaker
In my case, I have an HP Folio 9470m and I’m using the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD as my audio interface. This is a great interface that gives me 4 inputs and was only about $100.
To start, hook up your interface to your laptop and plug your guitar into an available input on your audio interface:
Set the gain level on your interface so the signal is not clipping. This will be indicated by the Clip LED flashing when you’re playing your guitar.
Now, to play live you’ll need to send the signal from your audio interface to a PA speaker or PA (the process will be the same). So you’ll need a speaker cable (I’d recommend at least 15 feet to make sure you have enough to get to the PA speaker, PA, or cable snake that your practice space or the venue is using).
There are a few ways to do this. Most audio interfaces will have a headphone output. The simplest way to send your signal to the PA would be to plug straight into the headphone output like I have done below:
Then, this cable can be sent to the PA or PA Speaker. In my case, I’m using an Alto PA speaker (I like to use this speaker for practice if there is no PA and mixing board available):
I can plug straight into one of the inputs on the speaker, set the volume, and I’m ready to play.
Another way to send the signal from the audio interface (your guitar signal from AmpliTube) to a PA or PA Speaker would be to use the line outputs on the back of the interface. Most interfaces should have line outputs on the back.
You will either need two speaker cables in this case or a Y cable. If you’re going straight into a PA or PA speaker, the Y cable will be easiest to use and make the most sense since your guitar signal will be mono (you don’t need a separate left and right output just for the guitar). You would then just plug this Y cable into the outputs on the back and then run the other end into an input on the PA speaker or an open input on a PA system.
However, if you’re using an in-ear system, you can run a cable from each output on your interface into the corresponding input on your in-ear system:
Once, that’s set up, you’ll be able to hear your guitar in your in-ear monitors.
That’s all there is to it. It’s pretty simple. Now, if you want to change presets in AmpliTube, that’s where things can get a bit more tricky. Let me show you how to do that.
First, I’ll cover how you can change AmpliTube in Presonus Studio One using automation (automatically changing your presets) and then I’ll show you how to change presets using a foot controller (in my case, I’ll be using the Ground Control Pro but the process will be very similar for any other controller).
I would advise you read the section on automation (below the following section on setting up AmpliTube using an iPad) even if you’re thinking of using only a foot controller to change AmpliTube’s presets. In the section, I’ll cover setting up presets in AmpliTube and assigning them MIDI Program Changes values, which you’ll need to know how to do to use a foot controller.
Now, I typically use AmpliTube on my computer (either my desktop when recording or laptop when playing live and at rehearsal). But, I’m sure some of you have seen AmpliTube for the iPad (and iPhone and Android phones) and might want to use it to play live.
It merely depends on what you feel comfortable with and want to use. I like using my laptop because I’m running AmpliTube inside my DAW and using automation to change presets automatically.
I realize that this setup will be more complicated that some of will want to use and using an iPad can definitely be simple approach and it is nice to have a lighter load to bring to gigs.
So here’s how to set up AmpliTube on an iPad in order to play your guitar live.
The process is nearly the same as setting it up on a laptop or desktop but you will need a special audio interface by IK Multimedia, the iRig Pro DUO, in order to do it.
The iRig Pro DUO is a two-channel input audio interface that can be used with an iPad, iPhone, or Android phones. It can be used to record other audio sources (like vocals, piano, etc.) but, in this tutorial, we’re going to use it specifically for playing guitar with AmpliTube.
To set the unit up to run with AmpliTube, first locate the MIDI input port on the side of the iRig Pro DUO:
Then, using the provided cable, plug the cable in here and the opposite end into your iPad (there is also another cable for use with Android phones and even hooking up to a computer).
That’s pretty much all there is to hooking up the unit. It should now power on (if not, it will power on once you open up AmpliTube on your iPad).
From there, you just need to take the instrument cable coming from your guitar and plug it into one of the available inputs on the iRig Pro DUO:
Then, you’re set up to play your guitar through the unit.
You’ll likely need to set your gain level which can be done using the low-profile gain knob on the “front” of the unit. Just make sure that when you’re playing your guitar, the clip indicator (the LED directly above the knob) is not flashy/blinky red. This would indicate you are clipping. You want it to be green or yellow. So adjust this knob until slightly before you are hitting red when you are playing:
The unit should be set up like the following image at this point:
Then, just open AmpliTube on your iPad and you’re ready to play. You can plug headphones into the headphone input on the iRig Pro DUO to hear the sound coming from AmpliTube.
But, if you want to use it a live situation, you could 1) get a 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter and plug a speaker cable into the headphone input on the iRig Pro DUO and the opposite end of that cable into a mixing board or PA Speaker (just as I did in the previous section on using AmpliTube with a laptop) or 2) Plug a 1/4″ cable into each of the line outputs on the iRig Pro DUO (or use a Y cable) and do the same thing (run them into a mixing board or PA speaker).
Then, you’re set up to play AmpiTube live on stage or at rehearsal.
If you want to change channels inside AmpliTube on the iPad, IK Multimedia has a specific MIDI pedalboard just for this purpose called the iRig Blueboard. This pedalboard has four footswitches to change between different presets and connects wirelesses using Bluetooth.
One final note, there actually is an acoustic version of AmpliTube you can use to play with your acoustic guitar, called AmpliTube Acoustic. The acoustic version of AmpliTube includes acoustic specific amps and effects (like a 12-string emulator) that can make a good companion for your acoustic guitar.
The setup process would essentially be the same as I have described above. You could use the iRig Pro DUO and run the guitar output on your acoustic guitar into on of the inputs on the iRig Pro DUO. You could also mic it up and do the same thing.
An easier approach would be to use IK Multimedia’s new iRig Acoustic Stage:
This device has a clip-on microphone that attaches to the sound port of your acoustic guitar. This then runs to the receiver pack and from there, a 1/4″ instrument cable can be run to a mixing board, PA speaker, or audio interface to record or amplify the sound. I wrote a full review and provided some A/B sound tests of the unit here.
Essentially, the unit provides a much clearer sound than that of the internal piezo pickups on most acoustic guitars but gives you more flexibility (and less hassle) than having to mic up your acoustic guitar.
If you decide to use the unit with your acoustic guitar and AmpliTube Acoustic, you would then just run the output from the iRig Acoustic Stage into an input on the iRig Pro DUO to use with your iPad.
There are a few advantages to using automation to change AmpliTube’s presets. One is that you don’t have to worry about hitting a button on a foot controller in order to change a preset during a live performance. This lets you focus on just playing your guitar and ensures you don’t accidentally hit the wrong button (triggering the wrong preset).
Another advantage is that you and your band will be way tighter. Essentially, in order to use this method, you’ll need to play the song alongside a click inside a DAW (in this case, Studio One). You’ll need to play this way because you’ll have to program the changes ahead of time and playing to the click will allow you to stay in time and make sure the preset changes are triggered at the right time.
This method might not be for everyone but I like it because I don’t have to worry about messing around with changing presets with the foot controller, although I do still use one just in case (which I’ll get to later). Plus, I use backing tracks for one of my projects. So this allows me and the rest of the band to play in time with the backing tracks.
Anyways, for this part of the tutorial, I’ll be using Presonus Studio One. You can likely use almost any DAW to set up automation to change presets in AmpliTube. But, Studio One is the one I’m most familiar with so I’ll be showing you how to do it with Studio One.
Check out the below video or the following instructions to set this up:
First, open up Studio One and create a new song:
You can create a song file just for your guitar sound alone or you could have a song file with the rest of the instruments in the song (say for backing tracks or to play along to a drum track). This is what I do.
In practice, I can have backing instruments (like strings and keys) playing along while I play my guitar part and other members play their own parts. If someone can’t make it to practice, I have their recorded instrument for that song loaded in, so I can unmute the tracks they’re on, and we can still have that instrument in there (especially helpful with drums).
For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m just going to go ahead and create a new song file specifically for guitar and use with AmpliTube. I’ve named this song ” AmpliTube Live on Stage” and set the sample rate to 16 bits and the resolution to 48khz.
Important: Make sure to set the tempo of the song. Don’t forget to do this. You’ll need to program the changes in time with the song before performance. If your song is not set to the right tempo and you (or other members of the band like your drummer) don’t play to the click (metronome) of the song, the preset changes will be triggered out of time.
Now, with the new song file created, let’s add an audio track for the guitar. Click the “+” button in the left upper hand corner or hit the “T” key on your keyboard. An “Add Track” box will pop up. Name the track. I’ve named it “GTR”. Then, select “Audio” under type. You can leave this track mono and select the input the guitar is feeding into on your audio interface.
Now, search for AmpliTube in the browse box and drag it onto the guitar track.
From there, you’ll need to set the MIDI Program Change value for each preset you want to use in AmpliTube. This is a little different in AmpliTube version 3 and 4, so I’ll show you both.
Read both sections even if you only have one version of the program. I cover information in each that you’ll likely want to know.
Assigning MIDI Program Changes in AmpliTube 3:
When you drag AmpliTube onto the track, the AmpliTube interface should pop up. If it doesn’t, or you happen to click out of it, you can always open it back up by clicking the AmpliTube insert on the guitar track (shown in the mix view).
Once you see the AmpliTube interface click the “MIDI” button (in the bottom right corner of the plugin). Now, we’re going to be working with Program Changes. Using Program Changes will allow you to change presets in AmpliTube.
You’ll have to assign each preset that you want to use a Program Change value ranging from 0 to 127. This means you can basically have 128 presets that be called up using automation (or a foot controller).
To set the Program Change value, click inside the box next to “Program Change” in the MIDI window. If this is your first time setting this value, this box will likely say “OFF”.
Click inside that box and drag up until you get to a number. This can be a bit difficult to set but it’s the only way to set the MIDI value for the Program Change (by clicking and dragging until you reach the desired value). You can set this to any number in that range but just make sure to remember or take note of it. Also, you don’t want to set two presets to the same value.
In this case, I just set it to “0”. Then click “OK”. The MIDI box will close. Then, save your preset.
You’ll need to do this for each preset you want to use. For this tutorial, I set one AmpliTube preset to the Program Change value of “0” and another to “1” so I’ll be able to switch between the two later.
Now, I’ll cover how to do the same thing in AmpliTube 4 before moving onto the next step…
Assigning MIDI Program Changes in AmpliTube 4:
You’ll essentially do the same thing when setting the Program Change value in AmpliTube 4. However, the interface is slightly different.
In the AmpliTube 4 interface, click the “MIDI” button in the bottom right-hand corner. Again, a box will pop up. This time, you’ll notice the layout is a bit different.
To assign a MIDI Program Change value to a preset, double click inside one of the listed fields. A drop-down menu will open up and you can select the preset you want to assign that value to. Obviously, this is much easier to set than the previous version of AmpliTube and is a huge improvement.
With the presets assigned to the values you want to use, click “OK” and you’re all set.
Setting the Automation in Studio One
Now you can set the automation for the track (this will be used to change the presets automatically). In Studio One, press the “A” key on your keyboard (or you can click the automation sign to the left of the flag sign right above the track). This will show the automation for the track.
I recorded a simple guitar riff on the track, but with the automation view on, the clip will be grayed out and a colored line will show. In the example below, the automation line is blue but it can be set to another color. Each parameter will have a different color.
Click the drop-down menu in the guitar track (shown in the screenshot above). Then, click “Add/Remove”. A box will pop up:
In the right selection box, click “Inserts”>” AmpliTube”>”MIDI”>”CH 1″>”Program Change”. Once you have “Program Change” selected click “Add” then close the box.
You’ll now be able to edit the Program Change parameter and there will be a new line (and color) for this parameter:
To edit the Program Change value, you can click anywhere on this line and a point/dot will be placed there. You can then right-click this point to change the Program Change value (it will be “1” by default).
Here’s where things can get a bit confusing. MIDI Program Changes values can either range from 0-127 or 1-128 depending on the program or hardware. This is decided upon by the manufacturer.
Studio One uses 1-128 while AmpliTube uses 0-127. Which basically means, the Program Change values will be off by one. So when you make a point on the automation line and go to set the value, you’ll need to take that into consideration. If you set the Program Change value for one of your AmpliTube presets to “0”, you’ll need to use the value of “1” to call it up in Studio One. If it’s “1” in AmpliTube, it’ll be “2” in Studio One. And so on.
It’s confusing, I know. That’s just how it is, unfortunately.
Anyways, you’ll need to add two points for every preset change you want to make. The first point will set the Program Change value for the previous preset and the next point will set the value for the following preset (this is what will cause the presets to change):
With that set, the presets will change in AmpliTube once they hit that point.
When playing along to the song, I’d recommend setting up a count-in and then hitting the record button instead of the play button. This will give you a count-in into the song (for example, an eight click count-in).
Here’s a sample of it all put together:
You can also change AmpliTube with a MIDI foot controller (or any MIDI controller really). I’m going to use the Voodoo Labs Ground Control Pro for this tutorial because that’s what I have. Another popular controller people use is the Behringer FCB1010. There are also a bunch of other controllers out there that will work.
The process for setting up the controller and setting it up in Studio One will be essentially the same for any controller you use. The only difference will be the settings on the actual controller. Personally, I like the Ground Control Pro (GCP for short here on out). It takes a little while to learn but it’s a solid unit and it’s built really well. The thing is a tank.
Also, you don’t need to use AmpliTube in Studio One (or any other DAW) to use the GCP (or another MIDI foot controller) to change the presets in AmpliTube with a controller. You can use the standalone plugin. However, for the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be showing you how to set it up in Studio One.
Finally, I’ll be showing you how you can control the GCP with Studio One using automation (like I showed you above in controlling AmpliTube’s presets with automation). The advantage of this is you could use the foot controller to change AmpliTube’s presets but also set Studio One to change the presets (and the channel on your foot controller) automatically.
So with all that said, let’s get into how to set it all up…
First, you’ll need two MIDI cables. Plug one into the MIDI IN port on the GCP (or whatever foot controller you’re using). Then, plug this into the MIDI OUT port on your audio interface. Do the same thing for the other MIDI ports: the MIDI OUT on the GCP into the MIDI IN on your audio interface:
If you’re using just the standalone AmpliTube plugin, or you just want to control AmpliTube’s presets with the foot controller only, you’ll only need one MIDI cable going from the MIDI IN on your interface into the MIDI OUT on the foot controller.
Now, on the GCP, you’ll need to set the preset on the controller to a Program Change number that corresponds with the AmpliTube preset you want the controller to select. I won’t get too much into this, you’ll have to read the GCP manual for that.
Okay, now all the hardware should be set up correctly. Let’s move back over to Studio One.
You’ll have to add the GCP as an external device in Studio One. To do this, hover over “Studio One” in the top menu. A drop-down will appear. Find “options” and click it. A popup will appear. Then, select “External Devices” and click “Add”:
You’ll need to add a device for both the MIDI IN and OUT for the GCP. So for the MIDI IN on the GCP, click the “New Keyboard” option. I named this “GC IN”
Select the MIDI channel the foot controller is sending from (in this case, it’s channel “1”). Then, select to receive from the MIDI IN on your interface. Leave the “send” option set to “none”. Click “Ok” to save the device.
For the MIDI OUT on the GCP, click the “New Instrument” option. I named this “GC OUT”. Again, select the MIDI channel but this time set the “send” option to the MIDI OUT on your interface and leave the “receive” option set to “none”. Click “Ok” to add the device.
With the devices added, you’ll have to add a track for each. Add two instrument tracks to the song:
Name one “Ground Control Out” and the other “Ground Control In”. On the “Ground Control Out” track, select ” AmpliTube” as the instrument (in this case, it’s AmpliTube 4). Then, select the channel the GCP is sending from (in this case, it’s channel 1).
On the “Ground Control In” track do the same thing. Then, under inputs, select “GC IN”.
To set the automation (in order to change the presets on the GCP), we’ll do essentially the same thing as we did to set the automation for the guitar track. Hit “A” on your keyboard to show the automation for each track.
On the “Ground Control Out” track, you’ll add the points just as we did in the previous section. You’ll add these where you want the presets to change (in the same place as you added the point on the guitar track automation).
You’ll only need to do this for the “Ground Control Out” track. Set this track to “read” if not already set to it. Then, arm both the tracks (by hitting the record button on the track). If you don’t see the record button, hit “A” on your keyboard to show these options instead of the track automation.
The song should now be set up to change the presets on the GCP. When you play the song at it gets to the points you made on the automation line to change the preset, the presets on the GCP will change. If you left the automation set up for the guitar track (that we did earlier on in the previous step) the preset in AmpliTube will also change.
To change the preset using the foot controller, just hit the corresponding button/switch and the preset should change.
Here’s a sample of AmpliTube’s preset and the channel on the GCP changing at the same time using automation:
Finally, I want to cover a few tips for playing live with AmpliTube (and your laptop). Playing on your laptop can be a bit stressful and scary in that there is always that off chance it could shutdown, crash, topple over, whatever.
So put your mind at ease, here are a few things to consider:
Set a Low Buffer Size on Your Audio Interface for Low Latency
Latency is basically a delay in the sound that you hear from your speakers from the moment you play your instrument. The larger the buffer size you have set on your audio interface, the longer his delay will be. Obviously, you can’t have a long delay in the sound you hear, otherwise, it will make playing guitar nearly impossible.
So, you’ll want to make sure to set a low buffer size on your audio interface’s settings. Again, I’m using the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD. In the UMC settings, I can set the buffer size. Too low of a buffer size can also cause problems like clipping and popping.
I’ve found that 256 samples work best. This will give you a low latency (to me, there is no noticeable delay) but still produce a clean, unaltered sound.
Set Your Laptop’s Power Settings
Another thing you want to make sure you do before playing live with a laptop is to set you power settings appropriately. You don’t want your laptop going to sleep or shutting off.
So find your computer’s power settings and make sure to set them so your laptop doesn’t shut down after a certain amount of time. I’m on Windows 10 and I just decided to set all of the options to “Never”. This means the laptop will never go to sleep or shut down after a specific duration.
One final note on power, even if you do have a long battery life, it’s likely best to stay plugged in when playing live as a precaution. Just make sure to bring along a surge protection outlet. Some venue’s power sources can be a bit shady and this will keep your laptop safe. You can likely use any normal power surge protector but here’s the one I use. It has a metal casing and is built to last.
Put Your Laptop Out of Harm’s Reach
It seems obvious but I think it needs to be said anyways. When playing on stage or in practice, make sure to put your laptop somewhere where it won’t get knocked over, fall, have a drink spilled on it, etc.
Find a safe place to put it where clumsy band members won’t bump into it causing your laptop to crash, or worse, break, leaving you without a way to play.
Don’t put it onto of a speaker or bass cab. These rumble and it will likely fall off.
Don’t put it on the ground where someone can spill their water or beer. Or, even step on it.
Don’t put it in someone’s walking path where they can trip over it or yank the power cord out.
Also, consider the elements. I once played a show at a festival where I used my laptop and after the show, it was burning hot. It was during the day, and I guess in the rush of the moment, I put it in a spot where the sun was beating down on it. Luckily it didn’t crash and we got through the show but it’s something I wouldn’t want to do again.
The point, just think about where you’re putting your laptop and make sure it’s in a safe place.
Have a Backup Plan
Finally, have a backup plan. Even if you’ve done everything you can to set up your laptop correctly and have it placed in a safe place on stage, there’s still the chance it could crash, shut down, go to sleep, etc.
Make sure you have a backup plan and know what to do if that happens. While you may think your computer starts up fast, it will seem like an eternity on stage trying to get it to boot after it just crashed during a performance.
Whether it’s having a backup laptop ready to go that you can just plug into should your main laptop crash, or just having an improvised song that your band can play while you reboot your computer, have a backup plan.
I know this was a lot to throw at you and some of it is a bit confusing. But, hopefully, you were able to figure some things and out and learn how to setup AmpliTube for your particular playing style. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thanks for reading!