As a musical tinkerer, I’ve not only had the patience to study and re-create some of the existing “tricks” on various musical instruments.
This has proven uniquely challenging and satisfying in my slow-growth love-affair with my Elektron OctaTrack.
If you’d like to catch up, read this post of my thoughts on the OT after 1 year.
If you’re (still) reading s, I’ll assume you’re studying the OT to buy it, or a OT-user looking
Thankfully, the quality control and annotation among YouTube tutorial-makers is quite high for those who own this quirky device, and across the last year, I’ve spent almost as much time studying and re-creating these as I tweaking on my own.
My ideas, frustrations, and work-arounds.
Below are some (text-only for now) recipes of how to set up some of my own sound-tricks on the OT.
- Note the use font to specify setting-names on certain Page names.
- recipes are text-only for now. I hope to dump these into share-able OT Project files once I get the studio computer set up.
- I plan to film, edit, and add video demos once I can get around to it.
“(octet of) One-touch dub-bus FX”:
It is becoming increasingly popular to “perform” one’s effects as much as the instrument iteself, but most of this is is tweaking the settings of an “insert” effect, which a (all of) sound goes straight through.
However, the dub-reggae popularized “dub mixing” on a mixing console; twisting knobs to send specific track sounds to a unique (“auxiliary bus”) path to into a long echo or splash reverbs, to make specific words, notes, or drum-hits seem to spin off into a layer of psychedelic fate.
For reference, hear King Tubby dub bit of voice, drum, and other channels.
Within the OTk, it is easy enough to assign the cross-fader to control the “input” (or any other) setting of a delay, so you can control if/when a sound “splashes out”, and you can assign the crossfader to control a complex mixture of different settings across different tracks, but they always sweep the same in tandem.
I wanted instead “hit” incoming sounds with various effects gestures independently, and play them all on one surface, rather than having to select different tracks and jump between the relevant FX pages.
This setup is played using the 16 trig-buttons in “Tracks” mode.
- If using OT in series with other devices, set Mixer to allow input monitoring/thru-put, but if using OT in an aux-loop, kill any input-monitoring,
- assign Thru machines to all 8 tracks
- Set TrigMode to “Tracks”.
- set Amp to have Hold=”infinite”, and Release=”0″. This makes the Thru machine only pass sound while that track’s SampleTrig button (9-16) is down.
- Set up some “wet-tail” effects to on all the FX2 slots to taste; reverbs, delays, etc. Make sure they are all set to a 100% “wet” mix, so they won’t add any “dry” to the mix.
- …leave FX1s empty for now.
- Play sounds through, and touch the SamplTrig(s) you wish. Mix and match multiple buttons to blend delay and/or reverb tails
When done right, this allows for simple and direct dub-mixing with any combination of FX. Once you get hang the hang of this one-handed playing, set up some cross-fader Scenes to use the to…
- push Delay FB toward 127 for infinite delay echoes
- push the Decay Time of a reverb
- open or close a high-pass or low-pass Filter in an FX1-slot
- twist up FX1 slot pre-delay Distortion sweet to overdrive the delay or reduce sampling rate.
In the few times I’ve set this up, I sometimes find I get bugs (on OS 1.25 H) of non-functional behavior on certain tracks when FX2 is set to Delay (even with EXACT same settings as ones that works), that are solved by manually copy-/paste-ing those pages from the track that worked. Never seem to have problems with FX2 set to Reverb (which can only exist on FX2)
“closed-loop bucket-brigade re-sample sequencing”:
After exploring all kinds of effect-chains from track 1-thru-4 and 5-thru-8, I decided I wanted an FX-closed loop. I realized the only way to get from-8-back-to-1 was to re-sample, so I pushed this idea as far as it could go, with each track sampling live inputs and another track’s unique output creating a bucket-brigade of re-sampling.
- assign each track’s Recorder Setup to have it’s SRC3 record from the previous track. 3 adds 2, 2 adds 1, 1 adds 8, creating a “round robin” of resampling.
- configure each tracks Sequencer to have a Recorder Trigger on the 1st step, and several PlayBack triggers on later. I found that clave patterns are nice.
- set each Sequence to Play free, and either play Once or Loop.
- Use the Trig Buttons 1-8 to restart, re-sample, and re-rotate incoming sound through at whatever rhythm you perform.
- Add effects upon each track to further twist the sound as it permutes.
“direct touch polySampling”:
once the OT was set up into the groove-tower, I realized I had reduced access to peer into the small, informationally-dense and touch it’s track- and context-senstive Rec buttons. Thus, I explored exactly how much I could control recording and playback using the bottom row of 16 Trig buttons (beyond the existing Trig modes.
My ideas come from experiments in “PolySampling”…trying to record hit a “chord” of record-triggers write to multiple buffers at once. This was originally inspired by the KeyGate sampling mode) on the Korg MicroSampler, which I reviewed here and hardware hacked here.
On the MS’s key-gate mode, holding and releasing each piano key triggers and sets length of that key-slot’s recording start/end, much like “hold” on the OT’s Rec buttons. However, the MS can only record to one buffer at t time, but realized that the OT could record to any combination of Recorders using Recorder-Triggers via the the sequencer.
I’ve only gotten one form of this idea to work on the OT thusly…
- set up first pattern with all Track Sequencers with their Pattern Settings to PlayFree as OneShot. Clear any playback trigs, and set up each Track to have a Recorder Trig at first step, so that pressing TrigButtons 1-8 (in Track mode) starts individual tracks recording.
- from here, you can use TrigButtons 9-16 to play back your sounds directly. Note that recording latency may cut off the initial transience of your manual recording.
- if you wish to re-sequence playback trigs w/ in a pattern, you’ll need a seperate pattern WITHOUT the Recorder Trigs (lest you write over and lose your “catch”) with the tracks Sequencer set however you like (with or without PlayFree)
whatever kind of playback patterns, P-locks, and OT-sequencer goodness you want.
- If you wish to use PickUp machines, you’ll have to assign those to a seperate Part, and either manually record to them per-track, …since the SampleTrig keys do not (yet) control PickUp machines.
- If you wish to polyRecord into PUs, use a Flex-based Part to polyRecord, and then switch to your PU-based part for overdubbing.
BEWARE that when switching between Flex and PickUp machines.
- while Flex machines recorders start on time, slave PU machine set to some LEN multiplier will start offset by that proportion, so you “seams” won’t line up
- there seems to be a bug that reverses playback of that buffer (regardless of the PU’s DIRection or the Flex’s Loop mode), which seems negated by restarting the Master sequencer.
The idea seems crude and simple, but it opens some interesting options by allowing for the single sounds captured to diverge into varied playback (from mixed machines), sequences, and FX processing.
- Single notes become chords, arpeggios, melodies or anything in between, depending on Sequencer settings, lengths, P-locks and Scene locks.
- one drum hit can spawn into seperate kick/snare/hat/whatever tracks, depending on track parameters for Plackback (Pitch and Len ) and/or Amp (Attack, Hold, Release) and FX settings for those tracks.
- capturing one pass of a melody or drum break be manually split-sliced into different Flex machines set to capture unique RecLength (from Recorder Setup) and Loop (from Playback Setup) settings, which makes for much more “hands on” chopping/remixing without having to use the sequencer to run trigs or set one-fix linear/random locks.
- Flex machines set to specific RecLenghts can have their track Playback set to unique looping DIRections (Forward, Reverse, PingPong), creating instant beat-synced loops of arbitrary beat-lengths without running sequencer or it’s Scale settings.
After my first year of getting “good” with the OT, I realized that it was falling out of focus with Elektron’s R&D and product pushes, which were increasingly focused on their OverBridge editor plugin for the analog Rytm/Analog4/AnalogKeys… and eventually for new, smaller, cheaper products.
The more I read the forums, the more I found people frustrated with its buggy state, and clamoring for pie-in-the-sky feature requests. This became increasingly convincing that the OT would remain on development-hiatus, and I’d have to keep experimenting on the OT through it’s tediously-small screen and manual editing.
A New Hope
Thankfully, I discovered OctaEdit, a cross-platform Win/Mac 3rd party editor by the lovely Rusty O’hara. This product was a show-saver, and Rusty is outstandingly helpful and knowledgeable, so I was happy to pay the $90 and become an early adopter.
I highly recommend his product(s), considering the increasing evidence that the OT seems destined not to be supported by Elektron’s OverBridge.
New Skin ?
Jus this week (end-June), Elektron has unveiled plans to release the OctaTrack mk2, with what looks to have:
- a new OLED screen,
- more durable buttons (which would hopefully prevent my need-for-surgery experience)
- additional buttons with augmented labeling for easier use
Having spend most of the last year considering that this device would never get OverBridge or stop seeing updates, I am cautiously optimistic that it might also bring renewed development on the OT firmware (hoping to keep my own) to squash some existing bugs or add some features of machines, effects, or sequencing. While I have been through a lot with my OT, I’d consider trading up if the new one has the right “new horsepower,” such as
- improved live-looping with PickUp machines, such as more options to change loop-length beyond only Multiply to double existing loop length
- new Trig Modes for additional direct control from the bottom row of the front panel.
- new machines; something in between Flex (with slicing and adjustable Start/End points) and PickUp (with overdub, replace action w/in a RAM buffer).
- probabilistic sequencing, such as were introduced on later OS’s of later boxes.
Was this intro or exercise on the Elektron OctaTrack helpful to you. Let me know in the comments below.