I’ve been looking for something that can work as a drum machine, sampler and external synth sequencer, and the Digitakt looks like it may be the ticket. Am I right in thinking this?
Ideally I’d have a MIDI keyboard run in to the Digitakt, which would in turn go in to two of my polyphonic rack synths. I could then create a beat, lay down a few chords for each synth, and then repeat the process using alternate melodies for a second section of the song. Finally I would then play everything back live in an arrangement of my choosing. Foregoing the keyboard and using scales is cool too, I suppose.
Hopefully I’m not off base for believing the Digitakt is capable of all this?
From what you describe the DT should work fine, I’ve been using it for similar, but without MIDI keyboard.
Two things to note:
I’m not 100% sure on the status of being able to play a MIDI keyboard into the DT, to a specific MIDI track, and having it then pass those notes onto the synth associated with that track in real time (without having to play the track back). I think it works like that, but feel like I’ve seen some people talk about issues on here with it, so you might want to look into that a bit more. If I get a chance tonight, I’ll test it and report back if nobody else comments on it.
Using scales - There are no scales on the DT, just a standard chromatic keyboard so you do need to know what notes and chords you’re programming in.
Just note that there is no “song mode” on the digitakt, so you’ll have to be at the helm flipping sequences if you want to use it live.
Thanks! And yeah, I’ve watched a few videos on how the virtual keyboard deal works. Definitely not my style, so if this thing can do melodic sequencing live from a keyboard that would make it a beast. Basically everything I’ve ever needed in a box.
Song modes: usually more trouble than they’re worth (imo), so I like switching to different sequences manually anyway. Sounds groovy.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Cenk is doing what we’re talking about in this video?
Yep And I just learned something new, did not know you could hold down a step and key in notes like that. Damn, time to get a mini MIDI keyboard…
You’d struggle programming drums with it, as there is no drum track. You’d have to use all 8 midi tracks set to the same midi channel to play 8 drums on your drum machine. I suppise you could p-lock notes on one track but then you couldn’t trigger more than one drum at a time.
Are you talking about using an external drum machine? In my scenario I would be using the Digitakt’s 8 audio tracks as an internal drum machine/sampler. Probably like 6 drum hits and then two textural/melodic samples. I would then use the MIDI tracks for sequencing my two external synths.
It sounds pretty doable, unless I’m not understanding how the Digitakt works?
This should work just fine
And just to bring this ol’ comparison up again, anyone know if the Octatrack would be able to function in a similar way regarding the keyboards? I know that you can MIDI route so that you can play your synths in to the Octatrack and record the sounds, but what about melodic sequencing with a MIDI keyboard/subsequently transitioning between different MIDI sequences?
From what I gather both machines can do this, but it may be a bit more simple and straightforward on the DT (which is the main reason I want it over the OT).
Ah yes, sorry thought you were talking about midi sequencing drums. Should be fine then but the midi sequencer is a bit limited and there is no song mode. Could work through this though
If you are used to laying down keyboard lines with a typical MIDI sequencer, the DT sequencer will take some getting used to. It is a polyphonic sequencer but is limited in that it cannot handle things like pedal tones…or any kind of polyphony that requires one line with tied notes and the other voices doing other things. You cannot have multiple different note on messages per step. It’s all or nothing with the 4 notes each track is capable of playing per step. Triplets and grace notes are a bear to get right. You often have to use 2-3 MIDI tracks to achieve what one could do with just one track on a typical MIDI sequencer. It does not pass through Sustain pedal data to your synths…the list goes on in how limited it is in this department. It is the least expressive MIDI sequencer I have ever used, aside from the one built into my Prophet 6. That said, it is plenty capable of dong interesting things. But its limitations will be a major factor in the kind of music that you end up with - especially if you are a talented keys player.
Got it. To be honest I’m not a great keyboard player, and I’m not even familiar with some of the concepts you’re talking about. I more just want to tell my mono synth what notes to play on each step, and my poly synth what chords to play on each step (it’ll mostly be ambient pads). Rinse and repeat for an alternate set of chords that I can transition to for section B of the song.
The style of music I play relies more on the monosynth doing cool rhythmic locks with drum patterns while the poly makes an ambient bed for it to lay on. I’m no Herbie Hancock, unfortunately.
You will find the digitakt midi sequencer more than adequate for what you are talking about doing.
Everything @man909 says is true, it’s both interesting and flexible in some ways and very limited in others. The things he’s describing probably won’t affect you based on what you’re saying, but there’s one kind of side-nuance that can be a little annoying, with regards to this:
The way the polyphony works is it’s still basically a single-note step sequencer, but then you can “expand out” extra notes on that same step. They aren’t truly new notes of their own, they’re like linked notes to the main trig note. You can see this in the Cenk video pretty much right after he does the keyboard input, and he switches to manually dialing in the notes per chord.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is because it works like this, if you try to LIVE PLAY chords in, it can get pretty messy and doesn’t always catch stuff properly. Probably not a huge deal for you, but just something to be aware of. It sounds like you’re going to use it almost exactly like me and will just step-record some chords/pads in and that’s easy enough (especially with a MIDI keyboard like in that video!)
My usage is similar to yours: I’m primarily percussion with the DT, but I also like to add a bass line, and sometimes other polyphonic beds. I’m running the DT to two small outboard synths (PreenFM2 & MicroMonsta).
My MIDI routing has some tricks you might use:
- My keyboard always plays on Ch. 14.
- Keyboard goes to a small MIDI processor (RaspberryPi in my case) so I can remap the keyboard to Ch. 9, 10, 11, 12 or 14.
- I’ve mapped five momentary buttons on my controller to set the mapping in the processor so switching is one press away.
- If your keyboard can easily switch between channels, then you can dispense with all the above.
- DT MIDI out goes to the MIDI processor and is merged with the keyboard
- Ch. 14 of the merged MIDI stream goes to the DT
- Ch. 9 though 12 go to the synths.
So what do I get? I can play the synths directly (good for finding the right sound, or playing longer, non-sequenced passage). When I set the keyboard to Ch. 14 (the auto channel on the DT) - I can either play one of the DT’s sample tracks chromatically (nice for some samples) - or into the MIDI tracks, set for 9 ~ 12… and both play the synths, and record the sequence (as discussed above). I often double up the tracks on the channels - which makes recording a 2nd line easy, and switching between just muting (and sometimes letting both play!).
Lastly, for MID Processor, I’m using a RaspberryPi & Pd which makes this pretty easy to set up if you’re comfortable with those. The Pi is a USB host, so both the DT & my keyboard are just plugged in via USB… very easy!
then you are good-to-go get the DT!
This is awesome! Bravo. I was just gonna send an Arturia Keystep to the MIDI in of the DT, then out the DT to two synths using a thru box, though your method definitely has perks to it (USB host, some added functionality).
Does using PD with the PI mean you always need an iPad or something hooked up?
No. I run totally “headless” when performing. The Pisound software comes with a system that lets you launch your “main” patch from the button on the Pisound. So I set that all up beforehand, when I’m in my studio, connected to my Pi via VNC (or ssh). One button press launches my patch, three presses brings up the WiFi (so my bandmate can connect via Link). Pisound SW is truly great.
You don’t need the Pisound to do this, you can just have the Pi boot up and run your patch on boot… though this takes some linux scripting chops.