How does your keyboard sound?  Is it starting to smell a little old and moldy?  If your church is in need of an update or a new keyboard rig, let me give you some exciting news and a recommendation.  In reading interview after interview with the pros who play keyboard live … the most popular recommendation that I have come across lately is to use Mainstage 2, but the problem used to be that you had to buy the entire apple logic suite at hundreds of dollars to get it …. how does $29 sound?  Yeeha!

So, here is what you need:

1) mac computer: $599-$999-…
Just about any mac will do.  The newer and faster the better.  You can get a macbook air for $999 that would work fabulously, as well as make a great office desktop workstation too!  If you are really trying to go inexpensive, get a mac mini, which starts at $599 and find a keyboard and mouse and screen lying around somewhere from an old computer and you’ll be just fine!

2)  midi controller keyboard – $99 and up
You can get a m-audio controller  keyboard for $99. I would personally recommend you go one more step up for $199 and get some more faders and knobs and buttons: oxygen.  I’m not personally a fan of weighted keys, but you can get that too…

3) Mainstage 2 App – $29

There you have it.  That’s all you need.  And I would dare put this keyboard rig for as low as $800 up against anything else you think you can find for anywhere near that amount of money … and if in a few years it starts sounding a little funky … just buy yourself some new software … mainstage 3 will probably be available for a similar price!

And then you’ll want to think about investing some time in learning about how to get the most out of your rig.  Most people spend too much on equipment, and not enough on training to get the best out of their gear.

4) Training – $39

My top recommendation:

So there you go … wizard away my church keyboardists!!!!!

watch this french guy demo some of the sounds…

Just to compare, there’s  great galery of 20 top software synths with reviews here:

And the king of them all, from the people I talk to is Spectra Sonic’s Omnisphere, but at $500 you would hope it would be!


My good friend Jon Vlach just pointed out to me that there are some free downloads of the mainstage and omnisphere patches used by Hillsong here:  



11 Responses to Fresh Keyboard Sounds with Mainstage now $29!

  1. Sarah Howell says:

    I love Mainstage!!! An added pro is that with a little snooping around, it’s easy to adjust the patches yourself, so no matter how long you’ve used it, you can easily freshen the ‘sound’ with a couple of clicks– no second purchase necessary!!
    Hooray for technology 🙂

    • jchollar says:

      Is mainstage what you’ve been using lately? That’s awesome! I hope you can come to our worship workshop on February 4th to trade tips and secrets with my keyboard players and the amazing Eric Popowicz! This guy is amazing and lives here locally. Don’t miss out, Sarah! Thanks so much for being the very first to comment. 🙂

      • Sarah Howell says:

        Hey Jason! I couldn’t make it out the last workshop 🙁 But I hope to join you guys for the next one! My sister and I use Mainstage and Logic in our studio for recording purposes, and we LOVE IT. And now we have just recently started to use it at River of Life. So exciting, as it is SUPERIOR to the old 1990s Alesis rig we have used for the past eon. 🙂

        • jchollar says:

          Yep, we love it too. I’d love to have you come in with your rig and trade tips and “secrets” with our crew. We may have found some presets and buttons that may be helpful to you and vice versa. Come on by anytime… and definitely for the next one on April 28th.

  2. Scott Anderson says:

    Main stage is great for live work. I’m running it on a mac mini inside a keyboard controller and running remote desktop on an iPad and it works GREAT. No laptop sitting out.

    • jchollar says:

      Do you have patches that you use most commonly live? Are they standard out of the box, or have you modified them quite a bit? Would you be willing to share?

    • J.B. Schilleci says:

      Hi, Can you tell me more about your rig? I’m thinking about buying a MacBook Pro and MainStage 2,but I never liked the idea of a laptop sitting out either. My “dream” was that I wished the new iPad was all that I would need playing live and I would place it above my main keyboard (we can talk later about what controller/keyboard is best). But since MS2 doesn’t work/won’t run if all one has is the iPad, that “dream” was fleeting!
      It’s ironic that today I was thinking about getting a Mac Mini (if the i5 processor would be enough to run MS2, if not, I’d get the i7 model) vs a 13″ i7 MacBook Pro and trying to find a Flat Panel Monitor that would be small enough to place above the aforementioned main keyboard. I also planned on getting a wireless keyboard and mouse to make it easy to navigate when playing live.
      Will your rig do 100% of what I’m describing above?

      • jchollar says:

        It sounds like you need to talk to Scott Anderson and Jon Brulotte from Cascade Community Church in Monroe, WA.

        You can see pictures of his custom rig on this page (just scroll down a little ways):
        What he has is a mac mini built into the case of his keyboard controller and then uses a $5 VNC app on his ipad to just control the mini remotely during the live shows. He pulls out a wireless keyboard and mouse and monitor to set up all his sounds and then just uses the ipad during the live shows as his controller. He likes omnisphere and uses it quite a bit too. Anyhow, that’s my top recommendation… 🙂 If you need more details contact Scott or Jon.
        We don’t have the money for omnisphere or an ipad … so we are just using a 6 year old macbook and a $100 controller. I would love a newer mac and an ipad, but we’re just not there yet. 🙂

  3. […] a large weighted 8 key Yamaha I believe, and an M-audio Axiom running mainstage, of course ($29 now! see my other article)  The drummer, Jeff, played really nice and simply and tastefully and energetically on his real […]

  4. -PhoEniX- says:

    Please, is there anything similar for Windows? Anything equally cheap?

  5. If you’re not in a rush, watch for Woot to have m-audio deals on controllers:

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