How To Use The Teenage Engineering OP-1 Synthesizer

Teenage Engineering has updated their series of videos that cover how to use the OP-1 Synthesizer.

We’ve embedded the playlist above. The series covers:

  • A basic overview of how to use the OP-1
  • The OP-1 synth mode
  • OP-1 Drum mode
  • OP-1 Tape mode
  • The OP-1 Mixer
  • Using the Endless Sequencer on the OP-1
  • How to use the Finger sequencer on the OP-1

You can find out more about the TE OP-1 synthesizer at the TE site.

73 thoughts on “How To Use The Teenage Engineering OP-1 Synthesizer

  1. Yeah, seriously if I had a spare $850 this would NOT be on my list, nor would I advise anybody wanting to get into music to spend $850 on it either.

    1. This synth has great promise, but this is the absolute WORST video to put up for an introduction. Maybe show us what it can do?

  2. This thing always reminds me of that cat playing a synthesizer.

    It’s neat I guess, not something I would use much.

    1. I kinda get that we shouldn’t really judge this as a “synth” but even if you look at it as a sketchpad-type thing, I think an iPad would be far more versatile, and less expensive as well.

      1. exactly! an iPad and a dozen or more sub $5 apps will give you far more in depth programming and versatility. And you’ll have an expandable system for less money.

      2. You must’ve just bought your 1st iPad. Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad and my apps, but the iPad I bought a year and a half ago is nearly obsolete now. That doesn’t sound so inexpensive of a purchase to me. An iPad will always be part of my setup, but the OP-1 should not be overlooked. It’s unique, hardware, designed as a labor of love, and I don’t see the prices coming down really. I see it as a novel piece of art in addition to a great little synth. Even an OP-1 iPad app couldn’t replace the Feel and experience of the real thing. I can say that for a lot of hardware synths.

  3. I really enjoy the sounds of it’s synths and the tape feature was some really unique and pleasant sounding effects. Definitely a treat to have in a studio or living room, you can’t put a price on inspiration.

  4. One of my favorite synths. Way more than a sketch pad, always inspirational and instantly gratifying. There isn’t a demo on YouTube that begins to scratch the surface of what this synth/sampler/recorder/arranger can do.

    1. Why isn’t there a demo on youtube that even begins to scratch the surface of the OP-1, that’s probably part of the problem right there, is fact indicative of anything like does it mean it’s too good for a good video or what?


      1. There must be over 1000 videos of the OP-1 on Youtube. Seriously did you even tried to look for them before you posted that?

      2. There is no problem. I’m suggesting that while there are many YouTube demos, most of them do not explore the synthesis or creative editing possibilities of the OP-1. This of course is not an issue limited to the OP-1, the same could be said about the Monomachine and various other synths.

        1. I would tend to agree that there must be a reason that a lot of the Youtube videos on the OP-1 are less than impressive. While the workflow looks great the end result, not so great. By contrast, while seeking an alternative portable solution, one of the first videos I came across was a demo. of a Qunexus keyboard being used with an Ipad. It wasn’t even one of the newest or most advanced apps. yet it sounded amazingly a lot better than all of the OP-1 videos I have watched. I am not saying that as a “hater”. I have owned the OP-1. I actually have purchased it twice. Each time however I found that I was using it mainly as a controller for my Ipad apps. I decided to check again to see if it had been enhanced with new features, engines, etc. The updates seem to have been few and far between. By contrast the Ipad app. scene has exploded and the amount of professional quality apps. available is staggering.

  5. Always hater comments when it comes to the op-1. There are so many great songs that have made professional release with this as a featured synth on it. Many other “real synths” cannot say the same. Ymmv as always.

      1. Depeche Mode, NIN, and Ryuichi Sakamoto have all used OP-1 in a professional context. I imagine they may be slightly more professional than some of the haters here, but maybe I’m mistaken.

  6. the use of the word “hater’ Is obsolete. There are more reasons to dislike a product than solely for the sake of being labelled a “hater” I dislike this toy and and I admire a great many other innovative products. I am not a hater. I simply don’t like the OP-1 philosophy. I don’t hate it.

    1. ‘I simply don’t like the OP-1 philosophy’

      Calling it a toy and dismissing it based on its ‘philosophy’ indicates that you don’t have any idea what it can do.

    2. Definition of a hater. Isn’t it? 😉 You don’t like it’s “philosophy” . We don’t need to know really. There’s nothing constructive about that.

      It’s a sampler, you can make tracks with it. The user interface/experience is different than an iPad that’ll be worth it to some people and not to others. But a holistic user experience makes a difference for some people more than a few hundred dollars.

      You might as well comment that you could code your own version of anything for free. Or build it in Reaktor or Max or Supercollider. Right?

      I don’t own one, btw.

    3. Cevin Key just toured across the US with Skinny Puppy and had an OP-1 on stage with him every night. That dude owns just about every synth known to man including EMS Synthis, Arp 2600 and a Jupiter 8. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for the armchair anonymous naysayers on the internet who’ve never even touched one.

  7. I own an OP-1 that I bought 2nd hand on eBay (so I didn’t pay the full price for it). In my opinion it is hands-down the best truly portable mobile music production system out there. I think the only possible serious contender would be some combination of an iPad (KORG gadgets :o) and a QuNexus keyboard – but then you’d be carrying (and charging) two devices. I routinely pack the OP-1 into my luggage when going on holiday and it’s great fun to play with on a flight or in a hotel room whilst the rest of the family are still sleeping.

    There are something like 6 different synths on the OP-1, and aside from the sampler, they’re all pretty innovative. Among them there’s a physically modelled string synth. You can easily produce really interesting sounds from this teeny box. The synths can also be combined with a number of interesting effects – which include a filter (not sure that should be an FX).

    The whole product has been very creatively put together and the UI is great fun and uses the 4-colour scheme consistently throughout.

    However it is NOT completely straightforward to use. There are many shift-plus-button type tricks to get it to do something essential – for example scrolling the tape player 1 bar at a time etc. And I still haven’t figured out how to use the latest pattern & drum sequencers. Ultimately the iPad’s touch-screen interface wins out massively here although the OP-1’s UI & OLED display have been very carefully designed.

    And it’s clearly limited, the tape effects in particular become completely gimmicky once you’ve used them a few times. However Teenage Engineering have put out a high-quality software update about once per year, always introducing new & worthwhile features.

    Finally no review would be fair without mentioning that it’s a beautiful & really high-quality piece of hardware, mine is still completely unscratched despite 2 years+ of travelling and mechanically it feels rock solid.

  8. I can see the limitations with the OP1 as I sent a beta version early in it’s development, and I can also see the potential. Most of which has been realised in terms of its OS.

    More importantly, the story of the founders is inspiring, mortgaging their houses and committing every quid they had to forge a new company and develop a new product.

    Look up their story on Youtube and you will be inspired if for no other reason than their passion to create and do something productive. And that is always inspiring.

  9. Wow, is it really that expensive?
    Seriously, even half that price would still be steep.
    No idea why people would choose this over an iPad.

    1. How do people come to the conclusion that something is too expensive without using it? Also, it’s made in Sweden, not mass produced in China, that’s going to influence the price.

    2. I own an OP-1 (and an IPAD). The OP-1 is an instrument (you don’t have to like it, but it is, as is monomachine, analogfour access virus and V-Synth…). The iPAD is a computer, just like my PC so you may as well have the hardware Vs software argument. If 800 USD is too expensive for ‘you’ then don’t buy it- for many people it isn’t a great deal of money for a synth and the FREE software updates just keep making the op-1 BETTER AND BETTER….

  10. iPad vs OP-1

    That is, of course, a crucial question.

    As a thought experiment, let’s say the current OP-1 costs $49. Imagine how the opinion of the would shift. They wouldn’t be able to make them fast enough. Every musician and school kid would own one.

    As another thought experiment, let’s say that Teenage Engineering releases an OP-1 emulation app for iPad– everything the same (except of course- no knobs, i/o, etc.) and sold it for $49. I doubt it would sell very well (because of the high price). Weird, huh?

    It’s hard to suss out why there is such a vitriolic response to the OP-1 from some people. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it is a toy (you say that like it is a bad thing). Yes, it has its limits.

    I, for one, applaud good design, and this is good design. Hopefully, it will be successful enough to evolve and perhaps come down in price, and correct some minor flaws in design.

    1. I wouldn’t call it a toy, even if you don’t mean it negatively, and any creative tool worth having has its limits. It’s syd thesis capabilities alone make far beyond a toy. You’ve got a sampler, multiple forms of synthesis, a drum machine, effects and a bounceable four track recorder. If people can’t envision how to make tracks with all those tools in a very easy to use, convenient, portable format, then the problem isn’t the OP-1. You can do quite a bit that would take you considerably longer in DAW or in an IPad. Most of the people who diss it have never used it. It’s the same people who’ll say “why would you buy an Octatrack? I can do all of that with Ableton and some VSTs.” Basically, they’re probably all producing trance or dubstep or some such thing, which makes their opinion invalid.

    1. Nothing worse than the anti OP-1 people, especially considering that most of them have never used the instrument.

      I was an anti OP-1 person, for a couple of years.

      Then I got one.

      Best, most inspiring instrument I’ve ever owned, from a list that includes most of the major classics from Arp, Moog and Roland.

    2. I didn’t like mine at first, but it grew on me over time and my opinion changed:

      It’s underpriced: for 8 synths, a drum machine, a sampler, multitrack recorder with efx, and a sequencer in a hardware (not touch screen) package? Plus it’s portable. Unique on the market and not in the least bit a toy (unless you are one who lets appearances fool you). Better than an iPad (though it plays nice with them in my experience) and more inspiring than any DAW.

      Then again,, the OP-1 is fun, which is anathema to some people. But it’s a bargain at its price. It’s worth so much more. Ask most people who have one if it was worth the price.

      1. Its not MORE inspiring than any DAW, but its a good candidate to plug into one for multiple orgasms. Nothing beats a DAW cross-feeding a little hardware as part of its octo-arms to hand you pretty much Everything. Observing what people like or HATE is almost as entertaining as the gear itself.

  11. I would not use an OP-1 as a purely personal musical instrument choice, but I give it respect for genuine usefulness and market longevity. I love workstations and this is a tough one. I can understand not warming up to its form, but its so powerful, to trash it is laughable. Its solidity belies its toy-like appearance and besides, even a Korg Kross streets at about $999. So what’s the beef with a workstation that does more while costing a bit less? Its okay to argue over form, but not to trash something out of hand. The OP-1 team has *earned* better than that.

  12. After my initial comment (first on top) got down-voted so much, I made it my business to watch all of the company videos for the unit. After doing so, it’s even more apparent that I’d rather have an iPad any day of the week. Sorry, but it sounds like a SEGA Genesis / MegaDrive. Nice interface, but the sound isn’t for me, especially at $850.

    1. It doesn’t have to sound like a Sega Genesis, just like a Monomachine doesn’t have to sound cold and brittle. None of their demos really shows its true potential. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to buy anything based on any manufacturers demos, it’s either specs or trying something hands on that sells me.

      1. I keep hearing “None of their demos really shows its true potential.” When ALL of the videos don’t do it for me, that’s enough for me. Why wouldn’t ANY of the videos show what it can do? To me, it seems lacking. To each their own.

          1. Call me what you like. I’ve made a living making music since I was 18. That’s 26 years. Easy to make ridiculous comments when you’re hiding behind a fake name. And what relics are you referring to? I also own tons of modern gear. You’re sad.

    2. I too take issue with the hiding of comments when they are in no way to be construed as slanderous and the amount of agreement with the comments is of a significant percentage.

    3. Ok – first of all, I am not saying that this album is the best ever or anything. However, I do think it’s a good representation of how good the OP-1 can sound. I did about 80% of it on the OP-1 on the bus to and from work.

      Most of the tracks are entirely done on the OP-1, with some Slim Phatty on 1 track, and some Microkorg on a few.

      You can listen for free, and make your decision.

  13. For folks who think an iPad is a better value then an OP-1. The OP-1 and the iPad 2 were released in the same year.
    OP-1 new = $849
    iPad 2 new = at least $499

    Second hand value today.

    OP-1 = $749 = 88% of original value
    iPad 2 = $250 = 50% of original value

    I’ll bet you 5 years from now the OP-1 is still worth $749 2nd hand and that iPad 2 is worth $50. So that tablet seems like a much better way to throw money out the window, and still has a much much less productive workflow.

  14. This is all well and good, but you’re missing something amazing here!

    An iPad for $50 – this _IS_ amazing!!!!

    I’m being a little cheeky and copying this over from the Discchord website comments but it is perfect for this discussion:

    “My poor iPad *1* – I’d better throw it away now – after all – it can only still run ….

    Arctic Keys
    NLog Pro
    Cube Synth
    Acrtic ProSynth
    JamUp Pro
    iFretless Bass
    MIDI Designer
    AUFX:Space, Dub, etc.
    Master FX
    Symphony Pro
    etc. etc.

    OK – not the latest of each necessarily, and higher polyphony might on occasion cause a dropout or two – BUT – a lot will still run *just fine* – even a 3-slot-filled Audiobus – recording into Cubasis.

    But – it’s “old” in iPad “dog-years”. Useless… Might as well use it as a kitchen chopping board right now! 😀

    Or not 😉

    Yeah – we all get pushed into this cycle don’t we… My poor iPad 3’s too. What *will* become of them. – more useless tech. Oh no!”

  15. My one gripe about the synth is the construction of the kyboard. I don’t understand how it could be possible for anyone to use a polyphony over at least 3 or 4 when the OP-1 is in synth mode. The keyboard looks like the QuNexus, and that keyboard is a nightmare just to play a four note chord with one hand. Other than that, the synth itself looks amazing!

    1. Take a look at any of the OP-1 videos by DJ Thomas White or Cuckoo (Cuckoo Music). They usually offer both inspiration and instruction. Plus I think they are great artists in their own right.

  16. Regarding the “toy” debate:
    I wouldn’t spend a penny for a tool that doesn’t tease me to PLAY with it.

    So EVERY synth or music gear is kind of a toy (or at least: should be).

  17. Op1 is the best toy you would ever want by your side…, musically speaking … If you were in a car , bar, war, it can and would satisfy you’re soul. It is more than just a toy ,it is a all in one / built 2 last instrument that you could sell to the devil to get you’re soul back. I truly love mine and broke my back to get it and don’t regret it. If you want to be a flower with unlimited bloom this would be the the best honey a bee could get its hands on! Think…. Great Grandmothers Recipe type stuff

  18. Well……blimey. OK….just wanted to post a couple of observations. I am getting on in years (52 – how did that happen?) and have been working as a writer of music, player of music, lecturer in music, and whilst I do not intend that to sound like some kind of badge of honour I feel I have been round the block a good few times, and hopefully can add to the conversation in a reasonably informed way. I am one of millions who earn their crust by following their passion and who have worked bloody hard to get to that happy state of affairs. I’m not famous, I’m no leading light in anything, just happy and appreciative to be part of the musical community and to make a living out of what I love.

    This is the first time I have ever posted on a thread, so bear with me if I waffle but understand that my thoughts are respectful of everyones opinion.

    Kit is so subjective, and after time you begin to find those keepers – the stuff that you love to work with and that gives you the creative stimulus (and hopefully a workflow that you can get to grips with quickly), the sounds that inspire and do the job whether to a brief or for sheer enjoyment. Both impact on each other, and so they should.

    I am delighted with my set-up – Mac, Logic, some brilliant software instruments and effects (Spectrasonics being a good example), UA, and some hardware such as the DSI Pro 2, Moog, Arturia (seriously – how do they do what they do for such low cost?), various guitars, outboard stuff, and so on. Each and every one has been considered and tested before purchasing and it is rare indeed that I return anything. Each of them, whether software, hardware, analogue, digital, made of wood, plastic, metal, has been a challenge and an effort to get to grips with to do it justice. We all have our likes and dislikes and this is something that we learn over time, shifting away from labels and logos and being influenced by what others can do with an instrument. One of the greatest examples of this was a session I did for a singer – I recorded her using my go-to mic for vocals (Neumann in case you were wondering – ooh get me etc.) – but she wasn’t happy. She loved the recording quality and production, but wasn’t satisfied with her vocal performance even though I spent ages coaxing what, in my opinion, was the best she could do. Response? “Have you got a mic that makes me sound like Nina Simone?”. I shit you not. My immediate cynical response was to say “have you got a guitar that makes me play like Jimmy Page?”. I didn’t say it as I am a nice bloke and instead gave her gentle encouragement and some free re-takes that helped her understand her limitations as a vocalist, and to appreciate what she could do and to work with that. Happy, and more self aware bunny at the end of the day.

    So what point am I trying, after three glasses of wine, to make? Sorry -feeling rather squiffy right now. I have recently become the owner of an OP 1 after a client passed it on to me. He couldn’t afford to pay me and had the unit hanging around for a while, and wondered if I would take it as payment as he just couldn’t get to grips with it and felt bad about not paying me for services rendered. I am the last person to ever hassle someone who was in financial difficulties for money if they are genuine, and he really was/is someone who had fallen on hard times. I suggested he sell it as they are not cheap and are coveted bits of kit, and he could pay what he owed and keep the rest, no matter how long it took. But no – so here I am typing this with the OP 1 sitting next to me and one relived client.

    First impressions – it is toy-like, with lots of brilliant (and funny) graphics on its lovely little OLED screen, & looks and feels like something that Lego would make, a workflow that makes sense, and built like the proverbial palace of easement constructed by bricks. So – does this old gimmer like it? Well……going back to the toy aspect, it is just that. From the moment I unpacked it from the box I have had fun. The manual is only available on-line, but it does come with a plastic overlay that tells you what the buttons do in the most basic way. So, first things first. I know the background of TE and their ethos, so I decided to follow the same and just play around. I naturally got completely lost but at the same time never felt overwhelmed. It started to make an enormous amount of sense from an intuitive perspective and its seeming limitations meant you worked with them rather than grumble about what it couldn’t do. Sampling from the radio was enormous fun, as was using the built-in mic (surprisingly good) to record whatever took my fancy. Shifting the pitch, adding fx, mucking about to see what would happen if I twisted that knob…..initially simple fun which soon turned into some serious experimentation and results which inspired me to see what else I could get out of it. There is little of the usual byzantine menu diving that comes with other units – Elektron, for example. Amazing kit, but the most complex structure you can imagine which means you spend more time trying to find your way around endless menu-diving than doing the biz. Yes I am lazy, I really am, so I genuinely appreciate you folks who have the time and the brain to do that.

    The OP 1 is not for everybody – it is what it is and does what it does, but if you start to dig a little deeper and have some fun – remember that? – you will be rewarded.

    Those who say it is the best thing since sliced bread, and those who say it should be burnt in a giant wicker badger because it is the spawn of Satan…well stop. Its another tool for creativity and if it doesn’t suit you well fine. Please stop the polarity nonsense and offer some informed feedback that offers insight rather than knee-jerk reactions. Thats just silly. As to my take on it? My 12 year old son and I spent last night exploring it, and we came up with some seriously good/freaky shit. Subjective of course, but we are already getting some tracks together. He took to it like a duck to water and he is not exactly well-versed in this stuff but found the work flow really easy. That is a good thing in my book.

    You can do the same on any bits of kit or apps these days – yes the iPad can do so much and i do use it regularly for my stuff – but don’t get judgemental about what you like and don’t like and posit it as somehow the ultimate answer. Seriously folks, lets talk about what we can do, and what we have done, with all this wonderful stuff we now have. The OP 1 is expensive, but so is a lot of things and just because you favour one over the other doesn’t mean anyone is right or wrong – its all about the music. Lets have some conversations rather than listing stuff out that proves its great or useless. Personally, I love it, and am looking forward to exploring this mad little unit, but that doesn’t dictate that its right for you or me being a poster boy. Now feeling the effects of too much wine, so bed soon, but really rather bored of the “its total crap/its the best thing that has ever been invented” discussions.

  19. Studied film scoring at Berklee in Boston back in 1970’s. Been creating music for over 40 years using various tools. I have been making music on iPhones and iPads since 2010 and love them. I also still love my “antique” vintage ESQ-1 and my newer Korg cheapie analog synths (Monotribe is still one of my favorites ever, but also love my Monotrons, and VolcaKeys), Moog Subphatty (still wish I had waited for the Sub37, though), my Moog Theremini, Moog Werkstatt, Moog Mother-32 and of course, all my acoustic instruments, including a pro shakuhachi, a BaliSteel Handpan, Indian Santoor, Brazilian Berimbau, and two acoustic pianos.

    Having said All that, I think my favorite piece of gear is my OP-1. Or at least tied with my iPad Pro 12.9″. But as a pure musical instrument, the OP-1 wins by at least a nose.

    I will admit to the skeptics out there, that when I read that Jean-Michael Jarre listed it as one of the ten top synths ever (and his boundaries for “synth”, included the Mellotron (!) and Fairlight, along with more obvious candidates, such as the VSC3 and ARP 2600), my first reaction was shock. I had just received mine, and while I was excited by the prospects, I thought “what the hell is he talking about?!?”

    Until I had played it for about 4 hours. Now I understand.

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