How do you let it go?

A lot of advice suggests that you use your time wisely when making electronic music, breaking up sound design, experimentation, and songwriting. I find it hard to break these up using my Elektrons. As soon as I get an interesting sound going, I start working things into a pattern to start looking for ways to further tweak the sound. Pretty soon I have the beginnings of a track, but I’m still tweaking away, as it seems like there is something new around every corner. The pattern/kit relationship doesn’t lend well to creating patches independently of sequences, so I’m simultaneously doing sound design and songwriting at the same time, and find I end up with a lot of unfinished things because I’m always looking the next iteration of the sound and never commit.

So how do you guys approach workflow? Lots of copying and pasting of machines between kits? What else?

another user in another A4 topic said

he stats using pattern B5 then copies that to b4 b3 b2 b1 and works substractively

after wards copies b5 to b10 and works addtionally

54321 then 5678

That’s a pretty good tip!
I try out different techniques - the latest one being - creating a 4 bar par pattern with some sounds that work well, then creating a completely new pattern with the same kit, but saving the kit as a new kit, and tweaking all the individual sounds, saving, then another pattern, save kit 2 as kit 3 and do further tweaks on that, etc.
Can get interesting when put into the OT. :slight_smile:

Very good idea.

I’m as motivated by sounds as anything, and oftentimes I’ll build on a sound’s inspiration, until I (hopefully) have the basis of a new track. That occasionally stands a chance of me singling out one or two newer additions and then getting rid of the original stuff, and turning the track into something entirely different from where it started. Usually it’s for the better, but it takes way more time than I’d like.

EDIT - I guess that’s pretty much what the OP said. The big trick is to finish things as presentable tracks.

Just lately I’ve been running MD patterns into an Eventide processor, really wacked delay+pitch stuff, then sampling/chopping/warping the result in the OT, and building on that. A few days ago, I had this percussive techno nightmare thing going on. I’ve since ditched all but three very small elements, brought in keyboard parts, and it’s now a smooth-jazz/house thing, a million miles from where it began. It’ll become a favorite piece, but that can be a needlessly time-consuming way to be productive.

I don’t have a good recording process down.

I just start with simple inspiration, build it up, then tear it down, all for naught.

What I end up with may not be even remotely similar to what I started with…I guess the OT is called a “groove box” for a reason. :slight_smile:

I have tried a couple times to bounce all the tracks/sounds individually down to samples so I could come back one day and record it out.

The thing is if you hit some groove with a bunch of diff parameters on the OT, it may be difficult to get that back…you would have to sample that and save.

The suppose since I do it all for my own pleasure it doesn’t matter at the moment.

This is part of the two-edged sword that is Elektron. It’s just so damn joyous and enlightening to explore for its own sake that hours can go by in a flash. So because my ultimate goal is trackwriting and performance, on those days I am just chilling I take notes as I discover. Whenever I sense a track is coming, though, I consciously put on my discipline hat and concentrate on composition.

I also invariably go through lots of iterations of sounds (not to mention melodies and rhythms) just as you do, so whenever I hear something interesting that doesn’t fit what I’m currently hearing in my head, I immediately save the kit and pattern and move on with those sounds that are working for the track. That keeps me focused, and it also gives me lots of other material I can come back to on days when I need a creative boost.

Occurred to me as I was writing: This is one reason I never, ever willingly delete any patterns or kits. I save them to computer and never overwrite snapshots. I have a ridiculous number of patterns I may never go further with, but I also have a library of sketches that document all the technique I’ve learned but can’t keep in my head :wink:

Yeh this is one of the aspects of synthesis and loop based composition that can be a time sink if you arent careful, also if you start overproducing your music enough, the tedium will drain all the inspiration out and that makes it even more difficult to finish it as a complete track

when working in pattern or loop based compositions, i usually try to come up with a “master” loop at first, like a chorus or hook section, maybe a verse portion… then once ive got it pretty tight i find a way to build up to it, as a beginning - almost always using some of the same elements in the intro, usually tweaked in some way… in pattern based compositions you can just copy the master loop a few times and subtract a bunch of stuff or change it up a bit to make it flow together

once ive got the intro leading up to the master section fairly complete, that will generally give me an idea of where i want it to go after that, in terms of breakdowns or buildups or variations or whatever, so i will flesh it out to the ending… then after the whole thing comes more into focus it gives me further ideas of how to refine each of the sections in more detail

but one of the most important realizations ive had as an artist is to embrace imperfection in the name of the work - in some ways, a track or song is never "“finished” or “perfect”… but at a certain point you just have to give birth to the baby, you cant keep it in forever or it will turn into a petrified fetus that you have to abort

as a synthesist or electronic musician you have to build up a tolerance to the overwhelmingly vast infinity of sound design possibilities that are out there, especially these days with all the amazing tools we have available… its like being in a spaceship, you have to plot a course, chart your way, and steer towards the destination… otherwise you will just drift along aimlessly in the void of limitless potential

start with a handful of sounds and commit to them as if they are a palette, then make a painting with them… if you keep changing the available palette all the time, you just lose focus on the overall design - thats one of the reasons hardware is much better for truly inspirational work, because it has limitations that force you to work with them on their own terms

eventually the discipline of fully manifesting a piece becomes self-generating because as you work, you find new ways and things that you can explore “next time”, and so on - so you can use that “what if?” energy productively instead of getting sidetracked by it

…when I take a break from the infinite possibilities…I go back to my good ole bass guitar…next thing I know…I’m thinking…what if I feed this into the OT heheh :slight_smile:

hey all … i really love this forum!

so, regarding the original post, i couldnt let it go for the last few days … it is a prominent issue with me too!

here is my “new” angle on the situation…

if I make a track, tune, banger, experiment … i will probably get bored when I listen to it if it becomes a 9 min journey

3:20 should be sufficent.

if i manage to give it a little intro, a main part, a repetition, a vatiation, and a nice ending


after 3:20 I will probably feel

“wow, now I want more” or “pretty sweet”

if it becomes too long it will probably loose some of its magic ability to tell a story or to convey a mood, or “take” you somewhere…

less is more… —> and this one is a bitch, because possibilities are endless …

i like the process of creation more than the process of saving my work … too often i fiddle and tweak for days on a 2 bar pattern, just to overperform it, loose track, and want to create something “new” again …


i am sure there are more angles to it and different opinion, i dont claim to be right, just my 2ct

:slight_smile: love you guys

There’s some excellent ideas in this thread. I’m incorporating the idea of working subtractively and then additionally across patterns, and it does seem to work well for fleshing out the arrangement. I’m curious about how many different patterns and kits you all average within a track. Do you try to milk a single kit across a number of patterns using P-Locks, or do more of like a 1:1 or 1:2 kit/pattern relationship to keep things moving?

TrabanT-it’s funny you mention the 3:20 limitation. I try to use song mode a lot when I have a few ideas going, and try to stay around the 3 minute mark. I was having a conversation about J Dilla at a party last night, and one thing that made his tracks interesting is that he kept them short and to the point. My favorite piece of music ever is this Mouse on Mars piece:

3:22. Nothing ever quite repeats, and it just leaves you wanting more.

mouse on mars i saw live at a festival once, that might have been the " T H E " most influencial performance, artist thing I ve ever seen, and may ever experience …

3:20 ftw

Me too - saw MonM play Live around 12 years ago. Amazing performance. I think my favorite as well.

lets have Mouse on Mars as honorary members of this forum?


Schneider Tm - Zoomer also blew me the fuck away (but never saw him live)

I love Mouse on Mars!

Great advice from ‘Invisible Acropolis’ ^^^.

This is a great thread. This issue has been at the front of my mind the past few days too! I’ve been trying to force myself to actually finish a track and make a recording, rather than continue to experiment endlessly, creating half finished tracks.

I agree that the kit/pattern relationship, and the lack of being able to easily bring up preset sounds really is a stumbling block when it comes to writing tracks because it’s too tedious. I also find myself tweaking again and again when I try to get my volume levels ready for recording - all of the sudden I realize (for example) that the bass is too loud, and the lead is too thin, and so it’s back to tweaking and not recording.

It’s also a challenge to keep the patterns organized. Sometimes I have patterns that go together, but are spread out all over the pattern bank. I try to keep the patterns numerically synced between hardware machines (less confusing), so keeping all of that organized in a way that doesn’t make you go mad is really tough.

For a long time I was trying to make a new kit for every single pattern (so kit number and pattern number were same). But if you use a sound in several patterns, and then want to tweak or change that sound, you would have to either replicate the tweaks, or copy/paste the machine into all kits that use that sound. (sigh) So I gave up on that, and try to make a ‘master’ kit, and then a couple of ‘alternate’ kits for breakdowns.

My new mindset is to stop trying to make full on tracks for a while, and just work on creating my own sound presets so I have a huge library to draw from.

Sorry, I don’t have any good advice how to cure all this. I’m struggling with it too!

i might seems overly simple, but i think it’s mostly just a matter of giving yourself enough time.

i know there’re other people that are super methodical and that works for them, but i just end up getting bored/frustrated/distracted. seems like the people that work that way have it more planned out beforehand? i like making music and i think about small or super general things to do or try, but i don’t think up the music in my head and set about re-creating it, you know? if i didn’t let sounds inspire sequences and sequences inspire sounds…i dunno…going off track and messing with stuff is what i do and like to do and i try to commit to that because that’s when i end up with stuff im most satisfied with.

simple stuff can come together in interesting/unexpected ways, but i have to just go with it and listen. with locks i don’t really treat tracks as any one sound or force myself to work on stuff that isn’t interesting, i can always add it later.

for me a lot the composition of it is setting it up in order to arrange real time, then you try and see what happens, adjust and try again. i’ll record to audio and edit down if need be. if i edit stuff down i like to try to recreate it later as a steps + patterns + locks.

i’m pretty much all about the machinedrum, and the octatrack, both going through separate channels of a djm800 mixer, and making live mixes of my tracks, and calling them finished compositions- if they feel that way.

then make a title sequence, music video, finishing credits and put 'em on vimeo, something delightful for the future, and maybe even an enjoyable thing for the present, too.

i always make a new MD kit if ever i feel like it, and i save it somewhere over a kit that has a “free” asterisk next to it. i don’t rename the kit at all, it doesn’t matter to me; i don’t have a +drive, and so pretty much i have half the amount of kits as what there is of patterns.

every so often i go through and delete previous patterns that don’t sound cool to me any more.

sometimes, indian classical music states that certain keys or scales or ways of ascending/descending melodically are only to be played at certain times of a day. maybe some patterns only sound cool on the MD for a few months each year, and the trick is to capture them in all their glory but not overly much detail, just a few rockin’ stems, and move on, with the treasure of the past, freshness of the moment, and vision for the future.

Funny thing that THAT was the first thing I thought of when reading this thread.

I can see the “issues” regarding the Elektrons, it´s just so fun exploring/learning new and other ways of doing things. For me I´m just lucky that I mainly play guitar and got a band where we all have gotten to the point that we quite easy can just improvise and communicate thru the music itself. So thanks to that, the “songwriting”-mode are always there ready to be activated…

However, IMHO, the keyingredients for that mode (in the band improvisings) are in recognizing and finding the least amount of parts that makes an piece (verse, chorus whatever). As it often, when music really starts flowing out of nowhere, is just exactly that it all need to start off. This could i e be an drumbeat + bassline or drumbeat + guitar. Or just two guitars…

When THAT piece is found, we often starts exploring of going different ways (dynamically, notes/chords, rhythms etc) based on that. Sometimes you are “scared” and doesn´t change much, sometimes you´re really bold and totally goes off the route. That procedure then leads often to having a second piece from which you then gets back to the first piece. So you can alter and go between them. Thus two pieces are born. Then it´s often more about discerning if the first or second piece are seen as some kind of verse, chorus, whatever (they may even just become two staged verse). From there we add pieces forward and backwards, building an kind structure so we can just barely get thru from start to end.

It helps of course being more than one person involved as we seldom sees everything exactly just the same, thus different views gives certain (but finite) options as we all share the same goal (getting an finished song). Getting an finished song often demands that you don´t struggle with getting YOUR views being the right one, but in finding where you all share the same opinion (so you can just quickly move on).

Starting with - and working within - constraints exactly like described here really can lead to more creativity. Almost counterintuitively, limitations breed freedom.
I’d add: externalize your work. It is incredibly difficult to grow without some way of stepping outside of oneself and looking/listening critically, and that includes soliciting feedback from others. If one’s experimentations forever remain in the mind (or inside the elektron box of choice) it may not reach its fuller potential.

The same for me/us, or at least similar. We tried to give our music more explicit structure, but now we just improvise like a jazz combo, always looking what the others are doing and what might fit to the overall sound.

However, we don’t make tracks. It’s all geared towards live improvisations, delete pattern, press play. (still having some patterns at hand to reduce stress when you’re uncreative) Let it go, as the title says. People like it when you do that on stage, maybe because music can then react more to the atmosphere in the room/club.