Hello! So ever since buying a Digitakt last year I’ve gotten really hooked on Elektron stuff and at this point haven’t opened Ableton in months. My setup has morphed into:
I’m using the Octatrack as a mixer essentially, but I’m realizing that I’m really struggling to organize my workflow. I’m really enjoying working DAWless and I’d like to keep it that way (except for final mixing/arranging of recordings later on) but the problem I’m having is that for any song I’m working on, the constituent elements live in so many different places… I really love the Elektron sequencing and have been sequencing the DN/Rytm in the devices themselves, but if I want to work on a song it seems to require basically loading a project on 3 different devices and setting my saved patch on the Peak. This feels incredibly cumbersome and I’m suspecting that I’m just not doing things optimally. I like the idea of getting a dedicated sequencer like the Hapax or Oxi or something and just letting that sequence all the other stuff, but then it seems like I’d be missing out on the nice immediacy of the sequencers on the Elektron boxes. And I guess, even besides the sequencing itself, I’d still have to call up the projects on the individual boxes.
I’d love to know, for other folks working with a bunch of devices like this – how do you organize your “projects”? Do you store multiple work-in-process songs in one Project on your Elektron devices so you don’t have to constantly load new Projects?
I love love love the hands-on approach of all these devices, but I do feel like there’s enough friction in my setup that I’m dwelling on ideas that I’ve already started rather than following new ideas because of how many buttons I have to go through to get to a clean slate.
On every Elektron devices, I have the same Project name. I’m using Program Change to make the Elektron devices follow each other. My other Synths or FX Patches are stored on my Digitakt or Digitone MIDI Tracks (no need to remember them).
Multiple in progress songs on one project.
Some people stick to only a couple of devices at a time to keep things simple. You don’t always have to use everything at once
For mulit box spaning projects, give them the same/similar names, maybe even write to the same slot
Use a pattern to recall (program change) the patch used in peak for each song/section, then you won’t have to mess with that part
Set up and save some project templates to start from rename and save separately later, that way you don’t have to do everything thing from scratch when starting something new
i sequence my Digitone’s four tracks independently via Pyramid, never touch the Digitone’s sequencer. but it’s just one synth in my overall rig so i don’t need it to do anything more than respond to incoming MIDI notes. all the drums, samples, and analog bits are handled by other gear, run from the Pyramid per project
Once I get something I like, I record the loop into Ableton. That frees up the box to then do something else, and if I need to go back to the original to tweak it, I can.
The value in hardware for me is in composition, and coming up with ideas. I don’t need to power up and sync a bunch of devices just to have them repeat a loop while I work on a new part with another machine.
Plus I’ve never lost work in Ableton, and I always lose stuff on the Octatrack
Not saying you should embrace the daw. But having it ready as a tool for recording is very handy.
I went through the same trouble as you seem to go through with a bunch of elektron boxes. Loved them all, but whenever I tried to have multiple boxes work together, it was more troubleshooting and checking the correct settings, especially when switching between different projects. It felt like doing chores instead of writing music. I’m not saying it’s impossible, there’s lots of people who manage to keep it all together, but my advice would go in a similar direction as what @Mistercharlie wrote. I would build the main skeleton of a song on one instrument and then add everything else on top in the daw.
I work many songs in one project. Eg an entire album is one project.
OT DN and TR 8S are my sequencers, so they all have projects named identically, and receive programme changes from OT.
I use one song per bank.
Any synths that have patch memories, i just use yhe track title to name the patch. Then I never get lost. I have a bunch of synths with no patch memory, for that I either finish the track pronto so I ca use the synth for other stuff, or take a photo of the patch, or sample it.
All synth sequences are saved on the octatrack as pattern data. Its all very simple.
Midi is hooked up permanently, audio permanently to a mixer. When the track is finished I record a live stereo mix from the mixer.
Haven’t used the laptop running ableton in years.
The quest to find the perfect workflow is a lifelong struggle haha…
I’ve gone through phases: starting out doing everything on a single mpc back in the early 2000’s, getting lost in the possibilities of my DAW later on, and then, when I had some money to spend, getting too much hardware to streamline into a single setup.
I’ve found out I’m most productive and inspired when I use a single hardware device (for me the ARmk2) as the brain and place to save everything, and some other devices to make sounds to sample into that main device.
I’d suggest you try the same thing for a while, and the octa seems like the perfect device for that. Just make drums on the AR, synths on the DN and peak, and then record everything into the OT for adding fx, manipulation, and saving. That way, your entire projects lives within the OT, and the other machines become recordable instruments in that setup. I understand you can’t go back and redo little details like you can if you save everything independently, but this might just be the limitation that you need.
2 more things:
-I think the DN might be the machine where things get complicated, because you already have 2 very capable sequencers, and a very capable polysynth (peak) before the DN comes into play. You can use the OT to sequence the peak, which gives you more or less the same workflow. Maybe put the DN aside for a while and see if you really miss it.
-I use a project to save a single beat/song, unlike some others mentioned above. Both work I guess.
I use three devices max, otherwise I get lost. (DN Keys, XD, OT and/or DB-01)
Most of the time only one or two devices, with the DN as the brain. I route device 2 through the DN, so I can record 5 tracks in Overbridge.
The devices all have designated midi channels, so switching and setup is a breaze. Trying to connect all my gear at once got me to do a lot of headscratching in the past. Just a simple midi out to 1 device and routing the audio back into the DN always works for me.
For me it opend up with the mpc, i do a drum loop or synth riff , sample it to mpc, and i can arrange it how i want, or make a keygroup of a sound. I did run into the everything has to be connected blackhole in the past, now i just pull out the mpc plus one box, sample and continue. I also set 15 min time limit, on how much i can perfect the loop, before i have to do the next one. This way i can keep things moving instead of wiggel knobs here and there, and get lost. If i had to many moving elements, i started to compensate (level, modulation etc(, and then the loop got boring, so its better for me to move fast.
In the mpc i set up one midi track for an external synth, which i play over my recorded snips. That midi track has the programe change baked in.
Same could be done with abelton, but mapping a controller to record loops.
Use OT via midi to sequence everything?
I have just finally settled on what will probably be a permanent setup for a while. Digitone, Digitakt, Syntakt, Micromonsta2, and iPad running AUM/FX/Looper/MIDI routing.
I use the Digitone to sequence my melodies and the Micromonsta2 (which does mostly pads and bass). It also sends transport and BPM. The Digitakt is purely for drums and any small samples I may need. The Syntakt does drums, fx, and synths. Since the Elektron boxes have a busted program change problem with different track times and lengths, I use the iPad with a Mozaic script that lets me send PC messages to all 3 boxes at the same time so they stay in sync that way.
AUM on the iPad also allows me to do some basic MIDI filtering so that I can have control all 16 tracks on the ST/DN without messing with any of the other synths. I may introduce a Blokas MIDIHub to get better filtering.
I make sure all the projects have the same names and the patterns are all lined up. Each bank is a song, each project holds 8 songs. I set mine up as projects that I can play live with the same rig, so having them all together makes it easier to do that. I really wish we had 16 banks like the OT, though. Ugh.
Similar to what Mistercharlie wrote, but slightly different. I use the machines for composing, but once I got everything doing stuff I like, I record into the bluebox a bunch of variations and stuff. Then I bring the recordings into the computer. The only thing I keep a project of besides the bluebox is the DT, which I then record separate outs from via overbridge into the computer. Simple, frictionless, fun. I then arrange and edit, mix, finish, etc. on the daw.
Similar to many of the people here, some of the things I like / do:
- Never more then two Elektrons. Two already comes with the admin of naming projects, keeping two eyes on Kits and Parts, etc.
- Add knob per function synths that you have to play live and can’t save sequences or patches on. For performing live, or to sample into Rytm/OT.
- Sequence said external synths over midi from Rytm or OT. Less machines to save things on.
My biggest issue is with the last point, since I use my Rytm more essentially/often than OT, but it’s midi sequencer is very limited.
Take away the sequencer from the 3 Elektrons you have will give you a better understanding of where the fun lies. Removing 3 sequencers into just one seems more fun and less of a chore as well.