28 thoughts on “Elektron Octatrack Workflow

  1. I have owned a Machinedrum and Monomachine for over 5 years, and just picked up the Analog Keys and Rytm a few months ago….

    Tedium is correct… at least for the first year or so for me. Elektron devices have huge potential and can sound very unique and diverse… but you really need to wrap your head around “the Elektron way” to get it. Not the most intuitive machines compared to what else is out there. Even simple things like selecting sounds and saving your work requires different processes than you might be used to. They also have some annoying limitations when it comes to actually using their machines to create full songs (as opposed to just 4 bar loops and wanking). DAMN, they can be frustrating at times. That micro screen on the AK is especially annoying.

    That said, I’m picking up an Octatrack to use alongside my other gear (just picked up a voyager XL!!!!!!) because once you get it, they really are lots of fun. Elektron stuff always makes me think differently about being creative, and often leads to happy accidents or motifs I wouldn’t have created otherwise. They kind of force you to deliberate everything you do when you use them. They also work really well together as a self-contained hardware option. I can’t think of anything else in hardware that stands up to Maschine or Ableton so well.

    1. an old Kurzweill K2000 Keyboard with the sampling expansion has more sound sculpting capabilities and a more intuitive workflow than the Octatrack. As goku wrote you have to wrap your head around “the Elektron way”, the fact is that usually their way is not the one giving the player the ability to wonder along their own creative path. Yes, happy accidents are frequently found in electronic music making, but there must be taste and abilities somewhere. The best result I had from owning an octatrack was that it made me go me back to some of my old machines… like the K2000

  2. The AK was easy to get my head around. It didn’t come automatically, but it really only took a few hours till I was comfortable on it.
    The OT on the other hand…. I’ve had mine less than two weeks, and about half the time using it is me scratching my head and cussing. I love it already, but can tell it’s still going to be while till it really clicks.
    Getting there though….

  3. Huh… I don’t think there was anything tedious about that! Did you hear the massive variety possible in a few key/knob strokes after the initial setup was done? That was <12 mins folks!!

    Or… how is this any less tedious than adding another channel in Ableton, searching for an instrument/clip, applying time stretching, slicing in the sampler etc… etc… erm… all with a mouse?

    It's true, these boxes aren't for everyone, but tedious is not a word I would use to describe them. Quite the opposite, they are fast, incredibly flexible and responsive.

      1. Haha, so yes, operator error is the cause of your woes, not the machine itself?

        Sorry mate, no offence, just teasing a bit, I know the OT is not easy at first and does require a significant investment, but honestly, once you’ve got past the initial confusion it’s a never ending story of giving and love!

        I’m 8? months in and still discovering new (to me) features. I’m aware of at least a dozen advanced techniques that are on my list to try; Other folks I talk to say they feel the same way after years; I can’t think of any other box that gives so much in return for your efforts 🙂

  4. I love my octa, one of my pieces of gear i would never get tired of discovering. It would be the last piece of gear i would get rid of if i have to. It can do so much and for the price is a great value. Clicking a mouse is tedious, hardware is fun.

  5. The one thing I love about Cenk is his ability to absolutely shred a set with any Elektron box. Which is also the one thing I can’t stand about every video he has ever done showcasing the Octatrack. SLOW DOWN man! This is supposed to be a training video! By the time he gets to the last two minutes it all becomes a blur to me.

    1. Yeah, know what you’re saying, you’re right! But you can pause video and rewind it* to play the bit you missed again… I did this with a small section yesterday and learned a thing or two – nice to have personal tuition with an endlessly patient Cenk who repeated the same stuff over and over again until I got it 🙂

      Personally I’d rather have this than some painfully long drawn-out coverage of every single step required.

      *At least that was relatively easy until YouTube started chunking their videos, and reloading every single time you jump to another section, on a slow internet connection it’s painful – grrr! So, now the video needs to be ripped first so you can play it in a decent video player. There are plenty of little utilities to help you do this 🙂

  6. Come on novation…setup a laptop just to tell the midi controller what to do. Maybe time to make something capable of standalone operation.

  7. I own an Analog 4 and a Rytm and wont be buying an octatrack just because what a pain in the ass the workflow is. The pattern/sound/kit/project relationship is so unnecessarily convoluted and limited. No transfering kits between projects for example and the real frustrations of trying to create sequences longer than 64 steps. Using chains and organizing them in a text based song mode is not the easiest or most efficient way to do such a thing. If they included more of a visual arranger so I could see whats actually in a pattern its just not worth using. I love hardware but the workflow isnt streamlined or full featured enough to ditch the daw.

  8. The best elektron machine by along stretch, and boy does it. Whilst the other machines add bells and whistles to their respective peers the OT is in a field of its own.

  9. The Octatrack requires a fair amount of muscle memory and that doesn’t make it very different from any other instrument in my studio. This is why I’m disappointed by people who spend so much money on it then complain about “menu diving”. The menu’s actually don’t have the sort of depth implied by comments like that. Nothing about it resembles having to work through my phone’s settings or any sort of conventional computer menu system. Once you bring up a screen with a button press or function button + button press, you have 6 knobs to work with. Any time you are going deeper it’s often just a rapid two presses on a button. If you keep at it and practice, like you should with any instrument, then you won’t even have to think to bring up any parameter you need when you need it.

    Once you are over that hump you really can get into an incredible work flow and lose yourself in a magical blend of musicianship and production experimentation. I’m not at Dataline’s level but nothing he did there would be hard for me to do if he was shouting orders. I can quickly load a sample, adjust the track’s setting to allow slicing, no time stretch and no loop, slice the sample into 16 hits and start knobing through the individual slices in seconds just like him. I couldn’t type out the button sequence but I know it when I need it. Often sampler demonstrations are deceptive because they put a virtuoso finger drummer on the thing, a guy who could tap a full track out on a Boss 202. Elektron isn’t doing that here. Dataline is just a great artist who’s musicianship shines through Elektron’s approach. He’s not demonstrating any technical skill set unachievable through practice.

    That being said, this instrument really does speak to my own skill set. I’ve always been a mechanically minded person and would offer the same sort of “menu diving” complaints regarding making music with Ableton Live. I don’t want to say it’s more mathematical then other instruments (although the LFOs offer some real creative potential in numbers), but it does seem to tap into a sort of spatial intelligence skill set more associated with dreaming up signal paths and synthesizer patches.

  10. This was my first elektron machine, and it was indeed pretty frustrating to learn. I remember thinking about selling it at times but then realizing the true possibilities of the machine once I got to learn it properly… and so I have stuck with it, and I have gotten way better at it than I was… I use it in almost every track, but it’s so DEEP that it almost hurts itself. It’s the ultimate sound designers toy, you can mangle a sample like nothing else can….. That said, as some people have mentioned, making a whole song with it is something I have yet to master and I still find frustrating. The whole 4 bar 64 beat thing just does not quite cut it. I can make a whole song in an MPC 10 times quicker than I can on the Octatrack but the sound manipulation possibilities on the Octatrack are 10 times deeper…. and that is why my octa sits next to my mpc.

    1. One thing I found particularly helpful when breaking out of the 4 bar loop thing was realising that it’s dead easy to copy patterns and then edit them. Don’t be afraid of using loads of patterns for your song and switching between them – it’s seamless.

      Once you’ve made that little jump you’ll be laughing 🙂

      Then of course you can easily set up a few scenes and once you’ve got that, check out how banks work, if you’re still lacking for options after that then I’ll be very surprised!

  11. Bought an Octatrack a few weeks back – what a mind melt, but what an instrument!
    I can see the hugh potential with it and every now and then I have a eureka moment, a moment of clarity where the world is a better place once more… for a few hours at least 😉

  12. I’ve been sitting out my house since early morning waiting for my OT. I would say from observation that if you want to step up your game of creation in sound design, you owe it to yourself to check out the Octatrack.

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