Evolving pattern; Arp tricks & design; Arpeggiator; Learning from Cenk

This note is not for the advanced users but for beginners who wonder how one can create an arpeggiator pattern that does not sound monotonous. The two examples are shown here for the Digitone but since the principles here are based on Elektron’s sequencer, the ideas apply to other Elektron machines as well.

We experience the sound of waves reaching the beach as pleasant. One reason for this is the fact that there is a repetitive pattern, which however is never quite the same. The repetiveness of waves has a calming effect. The same is true for our life - we like to know what is happening and what is called tradition is this reassuring thing, knowing what is to happen. However, if the waves would be exactly the same every time, we would perceive the sound as monotonous and boring, just like our lives or and task would be too repetitive, monotonous and boring, if it is exactly the same every time. What we like in music, and life, is “irregular regularity”, that is, there is a pattern but there is also variation. This discussion here is about achieving a repeating pattern that does not sound repetitive or monotonous.

I purchased the Digitone because of Simon’s passion that came across in the videos. Apart from learning the Operator synth in Ableton Live a few years back, I am a beginner when it comes to making music with the Digitone. To help myself, I purchased Cenk’s “The Digitone Experience” project (https://dataline.bandcamp.com/album/the-digitone-experience).

Although I purchased his project to learn about sound design, there is always lots more to learn from Cenk. What I like to share here with you are just two arps on two tracks of “Ercaneby”. As I said above, nothing special for Elektron experts but for everyone else a reminder of the power of the Elektron sequencer. I very much like the Digitone’s sounds and I found noodling with the arpeggiator and sequencer very satisfying.

I can recommend buying Cenk’s project but the use of the arp demonstrated here works even with the default sound and is pretty much independent of the Elektron synth used.

Example 1

The first example uses track 4 and has a pattern of 16 steps (upper right screen shot). Despite of the short pattern, the result of this exercise is something that does not feel repetitive at all.

There is only one note trig on step 1 with the trig conditions shown in the lower right screen shot. Rather than just using the information from the screen shots to create the pattern directly, let us create the pattern step by step from scratch.

We start with a clear pattern: Go to the pattern menu and clear the whole pattern. Since the arp settings are stored with the sound, it makes sense to first choose a sound (e.g. using some bell or plucky sound or using the Arp filter in the sound menu). For the purpose of this exercise, the default sound would however do as well.

Next, we go into the scale menu (Func+Page). With the pattern cleared, the length of the pattern is already 16 steps and the Length Per Track Mode is chosen. By default M.LEN = INF, that is, the track will loop infinitely. To reproduce the screenshots, we set MLEN to 128, so that after 128 steps the pattern will restart for all tracks.

In order to recognise the arp pattern more easily, we choose a slow tempo (e.g. 62, or 89 BPM as in the screenshot).

Let us now set a note trig on step one of page one: Press and hold the button for the first step. In the trig menu, choose a note value but leave the LEN and COND parameters untouched for a moment. What we hear is a single note plays now every sixteen steps. If we now choose for the trig condition 1:3, the note is played every 3x16 steps: The pattern plays once before the trig condition is true and plays then 3 times before the count is reset. For 1:6, we have thus 6x16=96 steps before the trig is executed again. This is why the note length in the (lower right) screenshot is set to 96. Whether a sound is heard for the whole duration, depends on the amp envelop. For the default sound, we would indeed hear a permanent sound, re triggered every 96 steps. Setting the trig menu as shown in the screenshot and using the default sound, we here a monotonous sound and after every 6x16=96 steps a click for the retrigger.

Next, we go into the arpeggiator menu. By default the arpeggiator is off, Speed = 1/1 and the range to 1 and the note length is 1/256=0.063. If we the the mode to True, we hear a sequence of the same notes. With the speed set to 1/16 we hear a note every single step. Increasing the range, we hear the same note over several octaves. (Note that it may take a moment before you hear this if you were in the middle of the process in which the conditional still applies).

Next, we use the arrow key to go to the third arpeggiator step and select an offset of +3. For the fourth step, we use the down arrow to deactivate the arpeggiator step. The same for the 7th step. For the eights step, we choose and offset of -5. The arp length is set to 10 steps.

So, here we are, listening to a pattern that sounds similar in its repetition but it also is varied and therefore not boring! Adding a bit of delay and reverb can make even the default sound bearable and of course one can then start shaping the sound to your taste - the actual fun part of the whole exercise.

Example 2

The second example uses Track 2 and the pattern is 32 steps long, using page 1 and 2 of the sequencer. On page 1:4, the are trigs on step 1 and 2 and on page 2.4 there is one trig on step 16. The note trig on step 2 is time shifted to the left, to effectively overlap with the trig on step 1. The trig on step 16 of page 2:4 time shifted forward, so that there are basically three different ‘pattern’ starting on Step 1 of Page 1.

As an exercise, one can continue from Example 1 and first change the pattern length to two pages. The trig on the first step, with the conditional 1:3, plays 3x16 steps and then rests for 3x16 steps. This is where the trig on the second step comes in.

In the first example, variations were mostly driven by offsets in the arpeggiator’s steps, like small mutations in a sequence.In the second example, the variations occur for several steps, as if we have two in one pattern.

Speaking of arp tricks, I would also recommend looking the following trick discussed by Jacob Penca (aka void), which is also based on a trick by Cenk: https://www.elektronauts.com/t/arp-pattern-transition-trick/1102

Not quite the same but related to what we discussed here, the question is how one can play a pattern with 16 steps and yet have pattern of notes playing for up to 16 bars (!).

In an default empty pattern with length 16, you place a trig on step one and choose in the trig menu LEN=INF. Turning the arp on and choosing SPD=96 (equalling 16 steps per note). Choose RNG=1 and a 6 step long arp pattern with the second, fourth and sixth step skipped and the third and fifth step being offset by +4 and +2.

With the arp speed set to 96, the arp pattern advances one step every 16 sequencer steps. All that is missing now for this trig is to put a trig mute on that first step. The pattern is thus played by muting and unmuting but otherwise the arp plays indefinitely. A use for this is for transitions: By unmuting the trig you start the arp. You can then switch from one pattern to another with the arp continuing, until the new pattern is unmuted.

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Cool stuff! There goes my Saturday :grinning:

Great post! Thanks for this! Still coming to grips with the Elektron experience, wrapping my head around kits and patterns, and how to make it all work for a songwriting project…

Step by step tutorials like this, along with the hands-on hours required, go a long way in making Elektron gear more focused and less happenstance. Thanks again!

Thanks for this post, I’m going to try this out today!

Great post. I saved this as a pdf.

I wish elektron would bring out such in-depth tutorials! In fact I just asked elektron a few days ago if they could do something like this at their HQ!

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Quick question about the arpeggiator in the Digitone, is it possible to press several notes (on the box or an external midi keyboard) and have the Digitone arpeggiate said notes?

I’m 95% sure that’s possible.

I’d like to see the ARP in the VST some day, you could automate it with Ableton or something.

Unless im blind and cant see the ARP MENU option in the VST.

Hi -

I’m just exploring this now - 3rd trick - (I know this post is ancient) - but dumb question coming up:

How do you put a ‘trig mute’ on the digitone!

2nd dumb question (more confirmation) - for the speed of the arp, there are only fractions (i.e 1/1, 1/2 etc.) so if I set the speed to 1/96 it’s way to quick…seems to work as described with an arp speed of 1/1. This is correct, right!?

Thanks all,

Bill

Hold FUNC and press a Trig. The Trig will turn to Yellow. This way, the Note on that Trig won’t play. If you want to hear it again, press the Trig without holding FUNC and it will come back to Red.

Thanks Tchu - so that’s what I thought (sorta): trigless trig!

And by ‘muting’ the pattern, he means muting the ‘track’ (in Digitone terminology).

I think some of the issue is that pattern/track/trigmute/trackmute gets a bit muddled in the instructions (which otherwise are excellent).

Cheers,

Bill

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Dumb questions no 3:

I became interested in trick 3 to use as a transition trick.

So following the instructions (and muting/unmuting as Tchu indicated), I’m able to get the arp to play indefinitely. Then switching to another pattern (say from Pattern 1 to Pattern 2), the arp in P1 does indeed keep playing but…

It doesn’t stop, even when there is a trig on step 1 (which is what I was using to trigger the arp in P1).

The only way to stop the arp from P1 is to turn on the arp in P2 which isn’t exactly smooth (and thus defeating the point).

Has anyone else had success with this trick and if so, am I missing something really obvious?

Cheers!

Bill