NEW TO HARDWARE: How To Stay In Key?

Hey everyone,

This is my first post here, about my first hardware drum machine, and first Elektron purchase :wink:

I say this to illustrate how new I am to all this.

My background is in audio engineering and DAWs, and wanted to branch out to explore the world of hardware, so I decided to go with Elektron.

The big question I have is a conceptual one as much as it is technical:

If I wanted to make a minimal, yet full song with most traditional elements (drums, chord progression, bassline, samples, etc), how much of this can I accomplish on the RYTM, and how do I ensure I stay in the chosen key?

I realize this is mostly a drum machine that can sample, so chords and bass (anything musical) would have to be sampled or multisampled in first with the proper key label I assume?

Also I would figure Chromatic mode would be use heavily here, but not sure how I would know which pads are in key and those that are not in key.

Or, maybe I just do all the “in key” work in my daw ahead of time, label them all accordingly, and drop them into the RYTM and ignore chromatic mode completely? I’m not sure what the intention and limitations of Chromatic mode is.

Maybe I’m overthinking this here, but I don’t know what I dont know.

Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks a ton!

Learn the intervals of the minor / major scale and apply those intervals to the trig page of your sample / note (after finding the note of the sample)

For instance…

I know if I am working in the minor key I can parameter lock the “note” on the trig page as follows:

0, +2, +3, +5, +7, +9, -2, -5, … etc


No preset scales in the AR. Learn music theory and/or use your ears :slight_smile:


I personally use Ableton’s tuner to make sure each element is tuned properly.

Of course, the filter cutoff resolution is very low on Rytm, so I generally tune to those, THOUGH everything drifts quite a bit during the first 30-60min, so I’d probably let it warm up a bit before committing to tunings.

Reason I mention tunings is that Rytm gives you no note references. It’s all just +24/ -24 semi offsets of whichever note each voice is tuned to, so you have to do some planning in choosing what notes to tune to to get the most useful range for that particular voice in the arrangement.

There is no scale quantization, it’s all just diligent work to stay in key on AR.


use your ears :slightly_smiling_face: if it sounds good, it’s probably in key :upside_down_face:










I often use a tuner with the Rytm for the first pitch track I have, or later on when I want to bring in other instruments and make sure they’re in tune.

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Thanks for the responses, people!

Similar to my initial question…

In your opinion, how musical would you say the RYTM is aside from actual drums? Again, I realize this is a drum machine first.

Do most people try to push it to make as much harmonic/musical elements as possible? Or do most use it strictly for drums?

I figure sampling isn’t used for compositions more than it is used for drum sound design, because of the Octotrack

Use it for compositions! Nothing says you can’t use things outside of their intended role.

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I end up using it for compositions even when I intend to just lay down some drums. Also, I find that samples are more reliably pitch stable than the analog voices, at least for me.

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What Highways_Gothica said.

Use a small keyboard that has built-in scale lock and chord functions? Could go cheap with software too. For progressions-wise, google is your friend.


I’d say it does take a bit of diligence to wrangle harmonically complimentary results, if you’re sticking to just the analog engines, due to the drifting pitch and coarse (only semis) filter tunings. (Yes, you can use an LFO to gain resolution there, but again, pitch drifts, so prepare to fiddle with that fine tune a lot.)

I generally try to turn them on about 30 minutes before a set, and the set list isn’t something I change around a lot, as I’ve committed to tunings that correspond with where I’m guessing the pitch will be at that time elapsed.

This is of course not to say you can’t do it; it’s hands down my favorite instrument I’ve ever used and I very rarely use samples.

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I definitely do a lot of melodic stuff on Rytm. If I need it to be perfectly in tune I tend to resample or use a single cycle wave, it’s so annoying if you’ve made a chord and then the next time you power it up everything is out of tune… will be leaving it on for half an hour now as recommended in this thread!

There’s a tuning chart for the different machines !

This gets you in the ball park quickly if you don’t have access to a tuner and also shows what machines are pretty impossible to tune properly (it shows which are sharp/flat at what pitches)

I keep meaning to print this out to have at my studio…

This is the DVCO for the bass

Hefty hefty sub


Yo! First of all welcome and second of all… COOL NAME!!!

@IronCobra the RYTM is very capable. Thanks to the amount of voicing and the ability to play samples you will easily be able to accomplish your goal. I’d go as far as to say it will probably take you further than you need it to, leaving you pleasantly surprised.

Let’s lay it out;

I’m assuming you’re making some sort of pop-esque track (what artists do you like an aspire to?) and need a traditional sort of kit. 4x4 with open hats on the off beat. You can make the most out of plocks. Say you use the BT as a kick as some do or like me currently, use it as a sample playback for a kick. Plock the sample slot to a snare drum on 5 and 13. That’s 1 voice, 2 sounds. Hats (samples) on MT and HT giving the classic choke effect for the open and close. I’d advise some other sort of drum hit that you want to include on the LT. 4 voices and the backbone of your beat. you can plock the toms by attenuating to the desired volume when you want them to hit.

Chord Progression
Use samples for this. Have the chord take up one voice, say the CH on the top row. You can choose the step on the sequencer and away you go! Pattern 1 for the intro… Pattern 2 for the Verse… Pattern 3 chorus… and so on. Switching between patterns can be done by hand but it sounds like you already have the sea in your head so use song mode and it will play for you leaving your hands free to tweak!

For BD on the bottom row I always have my bassline. The DUO VCO is big, fat, and heavy. Dial in the correct note by using the number system Elektron decided to use.

The rest of the voices are yours to use and abuse however you see fit!

For my first album, I used only the analog engines and some personal samples I created. I used everything on pretty much the voice it was meant to be on. I love the clap sound, the bass drum sounds great. I love the

Additionally, I also wanted my album to play like a mix from a tape pack in my teenage years so I had each song roll into the other. The result was very pleasing to me. I did this by making about 4 kits per song and having each song for each bank. The last kit on the bank was for pattern 13, 14, 15, 16 and was a mix between the kit from the current song and the next song.
At the end of it all I learned how to use Song Mode and let the set play. I ran each voice separately into its own effect and its own track in my mixer (MX1) freeing up my hands to twiddle away as my tunes played.

So yeah, I used the RYTM as the only sound source for a whole set totalling 30minutes.
I made a live video recording, printed it to cassette, ran the stereo file into Logic for the digital version. My whole ethos is to stay away from the computer and even though I could record each separate channel into my DAW I do not want to mix down any further.

Here’s the video and he is the release


Being out of key just sounds more, vintage :speak_no_evil:


Wow man, gotta say I’m very impressed by your response and video here! Subbed to your channel. That a Gundam you got over there?

Yes you’re correct, I’m very much into classic dance style stuff :wink:

When you say “plock”, I assume you just mean trigger

Two specific questions to dig further into what you wrote here:

1. Is there is a straightforward way to make chord progressions with a chord sample that I’ve imported? I assume you would assign the sample to a single voice. Would that chord then be stretched out with chromatic mode? Or, would you have to manually plan and create all the chords you want ahead of time (in the same key of the song), then import them? If that’s the case, maybe I’d have assign one chord to each voice/pad, then play them out how I wanted and re-sample that down into one track? Lol

I may be overthinking this piece more than anything when it comes to the rytm, because I’ve never attempted to make a full song with chord progressions and basslines etc all out of the box on a single piece of hardware.

2. What is the intended high view workflow to create a decent length song for most people? Does it basically look like what you’ve described, where it’s essentially mapping out how many patterns you want to use, and deciding how long you want to them loop before transitioning into other patterns? Is that what the Chain function is for?

If you are doing chromatic things on the AR, strongly suggest you put one of these on your lap - battery powered, 5 pin MIDI DIN. It only emits MIDI channel 1 so you need to use channel 1 as the “active” channel in channel settings, but can’t be beat for the price.