I was looking at these two videos where Tracya plays for almost an hour using just two (maybe three? Waldorf?) instruments.
Let’s start saying that I am a newcomer to this world…but I am very impressed that this guy is able to play so long. How does it work?
Does he spend hours and hours of pattern programming before the live? It doesn’t seem so, because he continue to mangle the knobs and keys…it is like he is playing the OT like a real music instrument.
Do you know if there are tutorials that explain the setup, how one can achieve to play an hour long jam (without being boring). Is that possibile with a Digitakt?
I like the minimalist idea of having just a couple of instrument, but what I really like it that he actually plays those instrument…I mean I would probably able to just press “Play”
Definitely. Takes lots of preparation. Then you can tinker with it as you like. Can’t think of anything more problematic as doing a live show without lots of work upfront.
Really nice live sets there!
Yeah of course! More fun of course with an Octatrack since you can play better with scenes (also possible with a hack with the Digitakt …but not so smooth with the fader)
Don’t even need to watch the video to know that the set is prepared, at least in a skeletal form. Wouldn’t get to play on Hör, or really any venue/online space, if you just showed up with an init pattern and a couple pieces of gear.
I used to have to do semi-improv live sets (albeit with mostly construction objects and heavy max patching) for a university course and even in the low stake field of playing in front of ~5-10 people I would always have something practiced and a couple themes I wanted to hit musically before I thought my set was performance-ready. It really just comes down to time in front of your instrument[s] and the accumulated knowledge of what you want to do with your short time with a crowd (even if it is just your pet or even just yourself!)
From my own experience as a performer and a DJ, if everything was perfectly prepared ahead of time I wouldn’t have a fun and engaging performing music. The nice thing about playing electronics is that you can let the machines do the technical work for you (i.e. having all the raw notes and transitions baked in) and you can then augment the performance with the parameters available to you. IMO any elektron device is at its strongest in this use case, as the bigger machines have performance macros/a crossfader you can map the most emotionally interesting modulation to and the smaller machines are simple enough that moving between parameters quickly is fairly logical and intentionally spaced for live performance, making it effortless to play around while your written music plays in the background.
If you are new to this world, don’t expect to start getting bookings 1 week after you get a Digitakt (even if the “booking” in question is just the aforementioned dog-audience performance). It takes a while to write enough songs that you feel confident in performing, and takes just as long to find a logical pattern between said songs that let you feel like one long engaging jam.
Thank you @splenda
So the basic idea is to have a bunch of patterns (considering the DT, I don’t have an OT (yet)) and pass from one to another while changing some parameters to make them more interesting.
Probably there’s two kind of pattern let say normal patterns and transition patterns.
But are these patterns need to have something in common to play well in sequence? Passing from one pattern to another should be a pleasing transition, so probably two subsequent patterns need to have some similarities.
Generally speaking, you probably do want a musical link from pattern to pattern. But:
- silence is musical too so you could end one track before going on to the next. Musicians have used this method for centuries.
- pattern changing on the Digitakt is also kit changing: you’ll need to experiment to find out how well that works and how to use it musically (I have an AR which transitions fine when the kits are the same but can be awkward with effects jumps and such when you transition from kit to kit). Planning and practice are essential for this.
- one of the reasons people like the Octatrack is the live sampling lets them “transition trick” - sample a loop from one device, play it back, maybe effected, set up the first device for the next track (whilst the effected first track still plays) then transition to the new track. Having any two groovebox-like devices allows for smudging between tracks in some way (like DJing)
Write pattern, copy to next, change something repeat.
Then go back to the begining and fiddle with your patterns.
Can be done with any groovebox type machine.
1 hour set totally possible, 2 hours totally possible. Etc. Just depends how many patterns you can be bothered to write.
Ok, so this is gonna be a bit of self promoting, but in this live set what I did in order to have smooth transitions is prepare a transition pattern where I would include some parts of the ending pattern, and some parts of the incoming one.
That way by setting the volumes of the parts from the incoming pattern to 0, you can slowly bring them in while fading the others out. When you’re done, fade the kick out, play a bit with the new element without drums, change pattern, the new kick comes in (because its volume is up in the new pattern) and you’re good to go!
When you get a second box, you get a bit more freedom because you can then change patterns separatly which allows you to build your transitions on the fly. Check out this live by Fasme, you can clearly hear the drums drop, then a new drum pattern launch, while the melody stays the same, it’s a bit rough but it works!
And at last, another way that works it to just stop, let the sounds fade, move to the next pattern and start, it works damn well in this Auvrel set!
there’s a good word which is (unfortunately) not much used in electronic music world: rehearsals.
Tracya is on here - you could ask him about the sets if you like. From memory he uses the Octatrack transition trick a bit to blend the different songs. But this is something the Electron boxes are pretty unmatched at.
@big_baobab - is this you?
If I had to start playing beat shit live, I would definitely just get an Octatrack, an A4 and a mixer plus some outboard FX. Those two boxes can do anything.
This ain’t so usual in Electronic music, specially for those making techno or dance-oriented music, but I do like it. I have seen Autechre, Robert Henke, AFX ending tracks with silence, that gives the right dimension of a track on its own which could be very different from the next performed song…
Hey, first of all thanks for checking my sets!
They are indeed prepared and during the live I mostly tweak the synthesiser’s parameter, arrange the song and play with OT’s scenes.
Drums sounds comes from the MD, MicroQ takes care of pads, riffs and Bassline. Each of these sounds is going into a different input so I can individually add FX and mix them.
I set up around 5/6 pattern for each song.
The first is always used for the transition with the previous song and as an intro.
I set up the scenes so I can get different combinations of synths playing at the same time (bass + riff / bass + pads / different filters settings).
Feel free to ask me anything if you want!
Similarly apologetic for the self-promo but think this could be another helpful/practical example of a potential approach:
This is a one-hour performance, semi-improvised (I flip between calling it that and ‘prepared improv’, seemingly with the weather!) all on the Digitone. I guess the practical aspect I’d signpost is that I made a handful of patterns, but only ever for two of the Digitone’s four tracks, with the remaining two completely free for live improvisation from a pool of sounds I’d pre-selected. So, a safety net, or backbone of pre-defined knowns to build off of, rely on, but lots of space to react to this (and random nature of what’s happening with fx - another topic perhaps!).
I’ll follow this performance up, it was a helpful proof of concept for me and know I can do better. Like, I can hear the parts where I’m falling back on those patterns and scratching my head for the path forward…but that’s also a lot of the fun! Others have touched on the importance of unknowns, some risk, to create an exciting performance and I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you all for the replies, especially to @big_baobab: didn’t know you were part of this great community.
I will try to experiment with the DT even if I know that it will not be easy.
As I already said, but I like to emphasise this , I really like the idea to play these machines as they were real musical instruments, not just like a pre-programmed computer.
You could always get a basic DJ mixer, then have both of your boxes set up on the left and right side of the crossfader. Fully left is box 1, fully right is box 2, and in the middle is a blend of the two. Then, if you need time to reset something on one of the boxes, let the audience only hear the other box while you use the cue function of the DJ mixer to prepare what will be introduced, then fade it in.
Elektrons are designed around this idea.
Programme in just enough content+variation to get something going; programme in tools for creating more variation (macros, kits, sounds… I don’t know what else the DT has)… and then play. Take some of your programming/writing/composing practice and turn it into performance.
I think my best live sets have always been the ones I’ve done with few pieces of gear. It gives you the freedom to really dig in and exploit everything the gear has to offer rather than trying to juggle better a pile of gear autonomously playing patterns that need to be mixed and switched.
I always like to make way more patterns than I think I’m going to use for a set too. Time passes differently when you’re on stage, you have to read the room, you might change your mind about something, the next performer might be late to the stage so you could have to go longer than planned, etc.
I also, like someone else mentioned, like to leave a track or two per pattern unsequenced for improv purposes. I’ll setup patches for it that fit the pattern, just without sequence data.
The most fun dance floor I can remember having (the most smiling faces and the nastiest dancing) was performed with just an er1, some pedals (a couple of ring modulators and an adrenalinn), and a mackie 1202. Hard dirty funky.
I‘ve never done it but I think elektrons are better suited to perform with prepared stuff. You can do a lot with it still, but I don’t feel they are particularly well suited for creating sequences on the fly.
There are sequencers in eurorack for example that let you easily do a lot pf variations on rhythms or melodies in key with just turning some faders or knobs etc, instead of going through all steps and pages of an elektron box.
Still possible I‘m sure. some people are probably super good with creating stuff on the fly with elektrons, but they probably wouldn’t be my first choice If I wanted to do a fully improvised set in front of people.
For preparing sets, they are super versatile
Also depends on the music of course, if more melody or rhythm focused etc
Found this one today
Octatrack, Digitakt and Mod Duo X