Looping/loop playback independent of master clock/BPM

Hi everyone,

I am not an owner of an Octatrack, but I have serious plans to buy the updated Octatrack. I make experimental electronic music (mostly sample-based), do live signal processing (mostly voice and piano). I have also recently started producing techno. The Octatrack I plan/hope to implement in all these areas.

One crucial issue for me is this: Can the Octatrack record/playback loops independent of the master tempo. As far as I have seen on this forum, playback of tracks can be decoupled from the main tempo/clock. Does this also work with live looping? As far as I know, there is one master pickup machine and all other machines are slaved to this one in terms of length. Is there any way to turn this off?

Thank you

It is a bit difficult to answer your question because the OT can record/play samples in so many different ways. It is hard to answer precisely without understanding your exact use. I’ll give it a go. Apologies if this isn’t what you meant.

If you use Flex machines, you can record samples completely independent of tempo. Hit a button to start recording, and hit it again to stop, regardless of tempo or if the sequencer is even playing. If you want, you could then play the sample as a repeating loop for as long as you wish.

You can set recording start/stop to be quantised if you want. So you can record something that will play back in time, but of arbitrary length. For instance have recording start/stop quantised to 1 beat or 1 pattern. You can also quantise playback.

You can overdub your flex machine recordings by recording both the audio input and the output of the track itself.

Instead of hitting a button to start sampling, you can place a trigger to do so. For some weird reason there is no way to STOP recording with a trig, however. The best you can do is set record length up to 64 steps. For longer recordings you have to stop manually.

I do a bit of live looping, but I never use pickup machines, so I don’t remember the details of those. One obvious feature is, as you mention, they allow the project tempo to be set when the first loop is recorded. Another feature you can’t do with flex machines is to punch in/out and overdub in the middle of a loop. On flex machines you’d have to overdub a complete “run” of the looop.


iirc the use of pickup machines in this way (an area that i’d naturally be drawn to too) is not particularly flexible in an improvising capacity … you can have odd relative length loops configured

i.e. instead of length 8, 16 and 32 for three pm loops (easy to configure on the fly)
you can have 8,9 and 10 if you set the record length in advance … if you try to do this on the fly all mayhem ensues with tempos and stretching

You can certainly play regular loops independent of the main tempo


Thank you so much for the detailed answer!

I guess the confusion arose from my lack of accurate information on the Octatrack. What you have described here seems to be answer I was looking for. Basically, I want to loop a singer/instrumentalist and to be able to create several loops of varying lengths that are completely independent of each other. I understand that the Flex Machines are able to do this, but the Pickup Machines cannot.

I will probably not need to overdub in the middle of a loop, and even if I do, then I can set one track as a Pickup machine and use that for this, while other tracks have Flex Machines on, right?

I would always start/stop recording manually, I think.

Thank you very much for the reply!

Pickup machines would be useful in other projects that are strictly BPM based, I guess.

Is the mayhem good mayhem or bad mayhem? :smile:

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bad, as in bad bad, not good bad

pickup machines are useable and powerful, but there are a few aspects that need taming and it’s certainly not as straightforward as many loopers, but it’s also potentially far more capable if you stick with it … it’s a flexible architecture in the OT, so it needs some time to master the possibilities … pickup machines get a bad press, but when you use them within their constraints it’s certainly a lot of fun … particularly with a MIDI foot switch setup which can unlock so much


Thanks. For the live processing tasks, Flex Machines are better. For BPM based looping with polyrhythmic structures and instant overdubbing, etc, Pickup Machines are better.

My main concert was being able to work without a fixed tempo and I see that it is very much possible with the Octatrack.

Yes, sounds correct. One trick you’d might enjoy when using the OT like this is to have some tracks sample the output of other tracks so that you get a cascading set of samples “trickling down” from what you send to the audio inputs. You can get some really interesting, complex stuff going that still is the result of whatever an instrumentalist or a vocalist is doing.

These things are harder to explain than to experiment with yourself, but imagine some tracks doing your normal looping tasks, and some tracks constantly grabbing small snippets of audio from those loops and do something weird granular or pitchshifting stuff which in turn is resampled back into the original loops etc, etc. Sometimes I set up my OT like this, play an instrument and hear how a lovely background texture of sound evolves and reacts to what I am playing.

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Processes like this are exactly what I am after. Sure, they are and more are possible with Max/MSP and Co., but I’m kind of tired of computers.

Do you happen to have a recording of that somewhere on the internet?


Hmm, I had my wife video this small performance once. Not the best example around, but you’ll hopefully get the general idea of what can be done. What you are hearing are two simple patches on the Analog Four (one a metallic AM-sound, the other a strings-like pad + an “underwater”-atonal eurorack patch that comes in whenever I use the breath pipe. All the interesting textures and rhythmic stuff comes from the OT sampling and resampling those sounds.

Thanks. It’s a bit difficult to tell what’s what, but sounds impressive if all that is generated by sampling/resampling.