Octatrack vs learning piano

Hello all,
I am having a hard time deciding between learning and making music on an octatrack vs learning piano so I can get better at playing synth music live. sometimes I want to make heavy beat driven music (octatrack) but other times I want to play beautiful melodies and beautiful sounds on piano or synths. This is a hobby so I really only have time to learn one as they both take serious dedication. Some day I could do both but that’s years away.
Piano = instant play, good for my brain, good to learn music in general
Octatrack = make tracks, experiment, able to play with tracks I create any time and remix live. Beat driven music and experimental that I wouldn’t find on other instruments.
Anyone one else have a similar dilemma to this? What did you do and what was your experience with your decision?


Piano has been around forever and many of the skills are transferrable to other instruments. Octatrack has been around for what- ten, twenty years? and the skills are transferrable to elektron and some other sequencers. I feel like you could get a pretty good grip on the Octatrack in a month of intentional study. After that month, get going on those piano lessons and as you learn those scales, plug it into the OT.

I guess it depends- do you already own one or the other? Is this question ‘should I buy an Octatrack or play on the piano I already have?’ Is money an issue?

With unlimited funds my answer ‘both’. Another answer, or if money is a consideration is ‘follow your heart’.


Learn piano


^ to get to the point where you are writing and playing beautiful melodies for one hand, that also doesn’t take very long. Most electronic musicians that make those beautiful melodies learned as they went and might never have touched a piano keyboard in the process.


There is no one OR the other. Both!


Piano is a lot harder than Octatrack. You can get to grips with the OT in a few months, where piano will take you months to even play a relatively simple tune well.


Yeah, learn both. You do have time. Make the time. Maybe you’ll learn both slower than if you learned one, but you clearly want both, so learn both. Start with the piano.


Its not really about which one to purchase but more which one to invest my time in as I feel they will both need dedication. Also, I feel they would both take me down different paths musically. But that’s also part of my problem is ii love all different types of music and I can’t always decide what I want to concentrate on. some days I feel I want to make melodies that would make people cry, other days I want to make crazy twisted beats that you could head bang too haha.
Also, I feel I could be making tracks I enjoy a lot sooner by sequencing on the octatrack. Piano will take years before I can play the ideas I have. But that said, piano or keys in general are an instrument with instant gratification so I feel I would “enjoy the journey” more than the destination.
Would love to hear if anyone else experienced similar internal struggles especial when it comes to making music with electronic instruments or synths.

Just echoing what others have said , you can do both actually . I’ve been doing something similar , and you can eat your cake and have it too in this case .
Start with piano , depending on your music theory background , get a basic understanding piano and then go to the ot for a bit get some basics there and go back . I feel you can alternate your focus and still do well


Octatrack can be so many things that I don’t think you should think of it as something you should master. It will find a place in your setup and perform many roles really well, but you can’t really do everything at once. So do you need a utility box, a swiss army knife that’s a sampler, midi controller, audio mangler and a performance mixer?

Piano skills will help you with making music in general, both playing but also theory. Still, you cant really so much with just piano (unless that’s what you’re going for, I suspect not) so you’d need to make your songs in a DAW or an Octatrack despite piano skills.

So yeah, both? (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ

You shouldn’t probably intellectualize the choice too much. Just do what you feel like. You’re supposed to be having fun


I’ve experienced years and years of paralysis around music creation. The whole question of ‘do I have the right stuff, do I have the right knowledge, am I inspired?’ (that last one was the worst).

It’s when I actually start making the music with enjoyment in mind, not worrying about if what I’m doing is good, not worrying if it is worth ‘releasing’, that’s when the joy happens for me.

Nobody can grant you permission to start but yourself. Depending on your resolve and other circumstances, it’s futile to plan it out anyway.


Yes, this statement right here is what I need to remind my self more often.


On my side I had to do the same similar choice around 15 years ago. It was hard for me because I had high hope.

I had few groovebox, a propellehead reason daw, few midi controller and a mpc. But was not able to make good piano melody, so I bought a electronic piano with good keys which sat near me for years, playing it one time every few month. It was difficult for me to sat on the piano, feel like working when I was doing that. But in parallel I use my oldest 49 key midi on my daw and enjoy playing it doing 32 bar loop.

Result, 15 years latter, I can play today piano without feeling too bad, it’s only improvisation on 3,4 different scale.
It won’t be the first part of the song, but definitely can be the second part.
But If I decide to take my OT, MPC or any other Elektron, I’m able to make a melody track and play piano in parallel. And most importantly I have fun when I do that. Always complicated to put everything on and say ok now play, but after few minutes I’m happy.

So let the time do the job.
Of course if you don’t play you won’t acquire skills. But getting higher skill with some pressure is not the way to go. You won’t enjoy it, and it will be harder and harder.

I would suggest, learn the OT first and for fun, and try to understand everything you will need only what you need, not more, so let’s say 20% of the OT.
And when you are comfortable with that you can record piano on the OT chop some part of the sample and doing some headband stuff with cool melody inside :slight_smile:

Take an old midi keyboard, plug it to a daw and play a tune with some random beat in the background with play in loop. Make mistake, feel your brain going away and let your feeling fly away.


Learn piano, and don’t pidgeon hole it.

Learn to make crazy beats on the piano.

Honestly I agree with everyone saying do both.
Your interests will feed each other.

Ha there are two wolves inside you
Feed them both, howl at the moon.


Oh, and straight away buy a mic and whatever else you need to feed piano into the OT (pre, mixer, pedal widget, etc). Learn a scale, or a couple of chords, and sample them for beats. Even just a single stab will make you feel like you’re living the dream of harmonious, multi-instrument creation.

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Hi Drizzt

I think either one would be the right choice. The instrument you choose to learn first will be just the first step on a journey that can last as long as you want. Along the way, you’ll see and hear other things that will expand your interests and aspirations. You’ll meet people, and each of them will have a different effect on you and your music-making, some good, some bad…
The important thing is to get started!
You’ll find new opportunities as you go (and, unfortunately, you may have temporary setbacks too), and, at some point, you’ll start feeling drawn toward a particular path.
If you know or meet people who are doing music for fun (at any level, even rank amateurs), try to get together and improvise with your instruments. It’s lots of fun (well, if you and the other person are cool people, anyway), and it’s really great practice, in terms of performing with your instrument, but even more importantly, in terms of training your ears to know what you don’t like about what you’re playing and what to do about it, in real time… Super fun. Edited to add: Collaborating with other people is also a great way to have access to sounds/instruments/skills that you don’t currently have. This sort of depends on meeting the right people, but life has a way of making things happen… in my experience, anyway.
So, yeah, just get going, either one is a great choice and will work out for you, or if not, then you can switch your focus and try something else to see if that works better for you.
Bon voyage and welcome to the club!

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Learning piano will give you foundational music theory knowledge and neural / motor skills for life.


Definitely both!

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Such great responses on this, thank you everyone. Anyone else go through this dilemma?


If only you could combine the two