Octatrack n00b - What do I need to know?

Hey guys,

I’ve recently picked up an Octa Mk2 and am blow away with how - frankly - cool it is! I’m an old hand at sampling (cut my teeth on the old Akai S-series way back when) but the Octatrack’s workflow still eludes me a bit.

I’ve seen a couple of threads on ambient music which is what I’m into making. Has anyone got any advice on what Octa-tips I need to know from Day One to get the most out of it? I’m looking to run my drones and washy, a-rhythmic samples as part of a live show and record wth it, too.

Think Celer, Hammock, Hotel Neon, Slow Meadow et al…

Any advice appreciated!

Merlin’s Guide and the many tutorials on YouTube.

Oh, and patience. Lots of it. Only patience tho, not despair.

Maybe load a single loop onto the CF card and work with it and only it to learn the audio side. Next, connect one MIDI device to learn the MIDI. Then record that MIDI device to learn the sampler. Then bring them all together into a equally creative, equally chaotic mess of sound.

And have fun.


Read the manual. Keyword search the forums.


As @xidnpnlss said, you have to first consider separately the different modules in OT.
Taking a part of the manual and practicing on it might be a good thing.

There is a thing about OT that made things difficult to me: the words employed for the different aspects were a bit confusing to me.
Merlin’s guide was an excellent document to make these concepts clearer to me.
IMHO some reading before and while practicing is key, you just can’t avoid it with OT.

@Olaf_Wolkenhauer made a big work to gather info about OT. Worth reading as well.


The manual.

It depends on what person you are.

I like the chaotic approach or trail and error!


The manual is very good - I’ve been through it, but it leaves a lot to be desired. I guess some trial and error will be good, too!

You might get lost without the manual … :wink:

After some fiddling around at the beginning, I would suggest to check the manual and try to memorize, what is inside the book and where to search in case you get stuck. My rule of thumb was and is, if I try to figure something out and it takes me way longer then a quarter of an hour, I open the manual and almost everytime I can carry on after some more minutes reading.

The OT is many “machines”, a mixer, a sequencer, a midi-device and more. Take it step by step and keep that manual at hand. When I understood many complaints correctly that the OT might be too complicated, most of the users seemed to be unpatient and tried to get everything into their brains asap. This does not work for the most of us. It pays well, to know our most important objective (maybe it’s the reason, why we bought this box, after all), start with exactly this, learn, and exercise it, until it works for us, and then carry on with other options later.

IMO the single machines are not making the OT complicated, it’s the pure number of having so many options :wink:

I mainly use/d the manual as a reference as opposed to tutorial:

“Ok I know this thing can sample, what page is that?” “What is this so-called “slice”, checking appendix…” “I’ve heard people talk of a j-lock, or was it g-lock…t-lock?”

1 Like

Thanks, everyone. I’ve got a pretty good handle on the basics of the thing; it’s more how I string the concepts together to make something coherent!

Like sequencing slices of a sample, adding pLocks etc etc… The different trig types are a bit of a head-f, too.

Yes indeed.
Once you know (in term of manipulations) what it means to trig a one-shot recording trig and then add trigless trigs by plocking in live recording mode, you’re on the right track.
Take your time, it will come at some point.

Main n00b trick : when using THRU machines, you have to activate the very first step to hear a sound…

1 Like

It all just sinks in eventually and sooner or later your talking in some strange coded language to a bunch of music freaks on the Internet like its normal… Haha :stuck_out_tongue:


I usually read a few pages of the manual and take some paper and write down everything I need to know (like shortcuts, concepts). I only write down what is not obvious to me. Then I go to OT and try simple things like assigning a sample to a track, set some trigger ect. If your native language isn`t english like in my case, there are some manuals in different languages for the OT1. I use the German version. The difference between the ot1 and the mk2 is very small, mk2 has a few buttons more but that’s basically it. It takes some time but it’s not impossible. Elektron machines are designed pretty logical.

You probably want fun stuff to do, but I’ll say that when I was learning the OT I had the printed manual right next to it and would constantly reference it until I knew what was going on…

Often when learning the OT I would just do “proof of concept” machine tests where I would have an idea, but then analyze and test every part of it as I was creating it on the machine to make sure I understood how everything relates and that the idea works with the machine.
Only after many “proof of concept test runs” would I be sure what is happening, and then would I begin to use the concept musically. I gained a lot of understanding the machine through this…


In OT manual, I used to stick a lot of post-its to mark where the essential concepts were described…

Lots of RTFM here! Love it :joy: It’s totally true, though.

Tonight I’ve looked at (and hopefully grasped) sampling / record trigs, and some basic pattern stuff just to get loops rolling around. I spotted that there are ‘per track’ pattern settings and a master setting, too; could be useful for some more ‘random’ sounding blips and bloops.

Question: if I wanted to have a long drone sample on a track that I could let run and then retrigger when it’s done, what’s a good way to do that? I’ve got patterns running at 70bpm at the moment with a few timed loops. Any advice on that?

Don’t worry, it’s just really hard to learn the OT without RTM, even with the forum and videos and what not…
There’s plenty of friendly helpful nauts around that answer questions…

1 Like

We have the advantage that the OT has two different methods to access samples.

  • The Flex-Machine loads a sample to the RAM and
  • the Static-Machine streams a sample from the CF-card.

There is only little difference for sound mangling between both methods and might not be important for a drone sample. Long samples, like a complete backing track, or a drone can be used best with the Static-Machine and save RAM space.

Now it depends how long the drone shall sound and when you need to restart it. This is also linked to the structure of your piece of music and your pattern. If you start your drone sample as a single-shot, it should at least last as long as it is, if it’s not retriggered earlier.

If the pattern is shorter in time then the sample, you could make use of “ONE SHOT TRIGS”, which can be “armed” and “disarmed”. If they are “armed” the will fire the trig the next time they are played by the sequencer and will automatically be disarmed hereafter. They can be “armed” again manually.

There is a detailed section about Trig Types and how to use them in the manual :wink:


The biggest thing I think I struggled with on the OT was thinking I had done something, when I hadn’t. There’s a certain ‘must remember to do x’ in place with the OT. My confusion mainly existed around recorder and playback trigs, often having them in one or the other rather than what I wanted. I sold mine, but I imagine I will probably buy one again

1 Like

I’ve noticed that; everyone’s really sound. :+1:t2:

1 Like

Thanks for that; I’d spotted the one-shot trigs but it wasn’t quite apparent how I could use them… Anothet thing to learn and to learn context for.