Putting together live set on Octatrack


I’m getting around to putting together my first live set on the Ocatrack, a show for about an hour’s worth of material. It’s gonna take me awhile, but I feel I finally have enough recorded music that I’d like to bring to the clubs around here.

I plan to perform only on the Octatrack and I’m going to build it all in one project. You can’t talk me out of this, so don’t try.

Now, with about an hour’s worth of material, spread out over about twelve songs, for me four sets with seven tracks each (I use tr8 as master) won’t be enough. This is fine, plocks for sample switching and other will get me around this.

However, I wonder - is there a better way to do this? Of course there is. Great. Can you please advise?

For those of you who perform only with the Octatrack - what’s your structure?


Last week’s discussion:


Thanks. Reading this, I’m thinking I’m sticking to what I’m doing. Seems a lot easier.

Its hard to use the OT by itself, it just begs for 8 mono synths.
So even if you have one…well

For me, it depends. When I’m writing music, the desk is littered with gear (or used to be) and the Octatrack is somewhere in the middle, recording it all in shots, loops, sequences and so on.
But once it’s all in there, all else goes away and there’s only the Octatrack to put it together into a song or a set of songs.
I appreciate the beauty of that single instrument, filled with all your ideas, like a library of all that you’ve done. Now, to put this together into something coherent … but for that, you only need the Octatrack.
And if you’re not into recording your own stuff, just using samples already out there, then what else do you really need?
So I’m basically creating four sets, each of them strong enough to get by on their own, each of them flexible enough so that there’s nothing I can’t solve with plocks when the track changes shape.
If the music’s solid, that’s enough for me.

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You’ll be fine I’m sure, if you’ve got the material the rest is easy, fwiw and I’m sure you know this or will as you start to rehearse the sets

start a stopwatch and keep your eye on it so you know how long you’ve been twisting that particular track :slight_smile: it’s very easy to get carried away I’ve found in the past performing live with machines, I’ve not done it solely with the OT yet but that would be my fear for sure as it’s so easy to get lost in it while enjoying yourself.


Haha, thanks :slight_smile: there’s always that, when you find something cool and warp it, you’re thinking “This is so awesome, how can anyone ever get enough of this?” And there goes half an hour when the crowd eventually just walks away and does something else, cause you’re stuck in a loop. A pretty awesome loop, though :slight_smile:


Exactly hahaaaa :slight_smile:

iPhone stopwatch, bright, visible, helpful :wink:

Be nice to get a video or soundcloud of your show Andrea , good luck

Yep, thanks :slight_smile:
I was actually planning on posting cuts from the set as I work on it, to get feedback from your guys. I figure it’s gonna take me awhile to put it all together, and wait until it’s all done would be a shame to miss an opportunity to get feedback from you more experienced lot.
So in the meantime, I’ll just post separate tracks that are part of the show.
So there’ll be something coming soon. Looking forward to your thoughts on it.

I’m doing the same thing you do, but with the analog rytm… I’ve almost got 30 minutes now. But its difficult sometimes. I wanted an octatrack for this but couldn’t find a second hand, so I just started of with my rytm. Different approach, but so much fun! The only thing I dont have is the common effects for a live set. But I’ll eventually will get there with my rytm (with a little help of a KP3 I think) So I now promised myself to finish this live set on the rytm and have fun on stage then I will look if I want the octatrack (maybe for some live vocal looping) or not…

Yep, thanks :slight_smile:
I was actually planning on posting cuts from the set as I work on it, to get feedback from your guys. I figure it’s gonna take me awhile to put it all together, and wait until it’s all done would be a shame to miss an opportunity to get feedback from you more experienced lot.
So in the meantime, I’ll just post separate tracks that are part of the show.
So there’ll be something coming soon. Looking forward to your thoughts on it. [/quote]
Cool, let’s hear it when ya ready :slight_smile:

good for you, glad you’re getting out of the house. happy to offer my pair o’ pennies …

…but i’m not sure i understand :wink:

Yes, I chose between the Rytm and the Octatrack before I decided. The Octatrack isn’t obviously better, I just picked it because I warp the samples so much. But I still think the Rytm has a nicer sound, warm and smooth and more coherent.

…but i’m not sure i understand :wink:
I might’ve phrased that wrong.
I bring only the Octatrack on stage. Track 1-7 are used for samples. I use Track 8’s master fx feature, for compression and EQ.
Well, all right. I bring myself too. So there’s me and the Octa.
And I’ll be naked too.


facepalm, i shoulda gotten that … clearly i’ve spent too much time looking at aira gear lately. :dizzy_face:

now that you realize you’ve got lots of parts (and therefore scenes), the one thing i’d recommend is: come up with a fairly predictable layout for where you put things across all your parts. by ‘things’ i mean types of sounds (kick drum always on t1), scenes (xfade to sc9 always filters the bass freqs), etc. keep it reasonably consistent without being rigid or using everything (t6-7 are wildcard sounds, leave sc14-16 empty for now, etc.). this will mean less thinking onstage and therefore more gray matter available for jamming and audience engagement. the more of that you have, the more relaxed you’ll be and the more fluid the performance will feel to the listener.

doing so will also help you further down the line when it comes time to expand the set. right now you’ve got a particular show in mind. as you learn and/or get inspired, you’ll want a way to add new ideas without completely remodeling your house, as it were.

i’d also recommend that you

…know your audience. :wink:


I would also leave a “perfect”/self-sufficient pattern in pattern 16 for instance, to first conclude successfully the tension you brought, and secondly give you the time to come back to Earth for a minute and check the crowd.

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All very solid advise, I much appreciate it - I really do - and will take it to heart, except for the audience bit, they’ll enjoy my choice of costume or be damned.

As for patterns, I usually don’t manage to squeeze the equivalent of about one track into sixteen patterns. There’s a lot of transitions and small variations going on with the trigs, where I place them and what I do with them, that I just can’t do with scenes. And I really do love how a track can feel alive when there’s small variations with its structure all the way to the end.

These transitions are important to me, so I’m basically building it in a linear fashion now. Starting from Bank A and working myself track by track through the banks until I hit the end of the last bank (don’t think I will, but in theory, that’s a possibility). Within this structure, there’s certainly a number of safe patterns where I can dwell or return to if I brain freeze, but mostly my tracks are made up of custom variations of patterns that´cycles in a fairly linear fashion, with scenes to color certain parts of them and to assist in transitions.

I’ll never be that kind of musician that can quickly tweak and manipulate sounds live and make interesting things by just improvising with real time looping, slicing and so on. But I do think I’m a fairly good composer with some sense of pacing, so I’ll take that as my strength and do something with that.

If a musician should play to its instrument’s strength rather than get stuck about what it can’t do, the same should apply to the creative force behind it. I accept my limitations by endorsing my strengths. And if those strengths are in the end only appreciated by my kids, as they’re jumping around in the kitchen while I’m rehearsing, I still feel I’ve done something right.

(and some day, I’ll tell you all about that - Cooking with the Octatrack - I usually rehearse while I’m cooking dinner for the kids, since I figure if I make dinner, keep an eye on the little ones and perform on the Octatrack at the same time, I should be fine when I go live on stage)


The real beauty and value of the Octatrack is the range of possibilities this device offers. It is arguably the most powerful of all the Elektron boxes, even without the Overbridge component.

So, there’s no single best way to perform live with it. I wouldn’t want to discourage polling others for clues, but this is no ordinary sampler.
Again, the real magic of this machine is you can invent your own paradigms. Here are only a few possibilities:

  1. Build some basic patterns and parts, setup some FX and scenes for modulating samples and FX. Move through the patterns (or build them on-the-fly) and tweak/modulate samples and FX over time in improvisational fashion.

  2. See number 1, but add record triggers for looping of instruments, voice or resampling internal sources.

  3. See number 1 (and 2) and use the midi sequencer to drive other connected machines, or simply to send program change messages to synths, to cue up sounds for live playing.

  4. Use the looping machines to create a loop based performance on-the-fly.

  5. Use the OT as a DJ deck. Use ‘plays free’ mode, switch patterns in quantized fashion on-the-fly or build a curated set with the arranger. (Get to know “trigless” trigs using the ‘plays free’ mode -very powerful).

  6. Build your base ideas in a DAW, chop up the sections into 16 or 32 bar sections. Assign samples to patterns and parts. Setup scenes to modulate filters and FX. Switch patterns on the fly, or create an epic sequence in the arranger…or both!

I’ve basically used each method except for number 3. Honestly, performances which attempt to use a basic set of patterns and build from that in improvisational fashion are boring to me from both an audience and performance perspective. But that’s not to say it can’t be done. Dataline proves this concept over and over, but 1 - it’s very challenging to keep the audience captivated, and 2 - the audience (for the most part) doesn’t understand or appreciate the level of skill needed to successfully pull it off. Personally, I’ve had much more fun and positive audience reaction when I carefully arrange my performance and implement a set of FX and scenes to modulate the sounds over time. I’m sure there will be some,… vigorous discussions about the merits of pre-planning but over time I have found the folks who pay to come see you prefer a set with a distinct beginning, middle and ending versus an on-the-fly improvisation.

Finally I would suggest you invent your own way. Hey and guess what - you could combine any of the above 5 methods. Another nod to the OT as being one of the most bad ass devices for live electronic music. Let’s not undervalue the importance of this statement - it takes time to really get to know this device and really discover what it’s potential is for YOU. I had all these false notions when I started with it ("Ableton in a box, etc.) but gladly found out it has it’s own unique personality. And btw, 2 weeks ago I performed a set resembling method number 5 and it was very well received. The other 3 artists at the gig used laptops and one of them crashed right in the middle of their set.



I’m very pleased to hear this and much appreciate your thoughts.

I’m happy to say, I do something very similar to your no5 method, with the DAW exception. I don’t use one, but build the foundation in the Octatrack, and once I get the vibe for the track going, I start putting it together into a coherent and linear structure, moving the best parts to new pattern sections.

Within this structure, there’s three or four strings of patterns where I can stay for awhile and keep the beat going, mixing it up with fx, mutes and other tricks, and then release this and keep going when I feel I can’t stretch it anymore.

It’s like a traditional song structure, where you have a section for the live version where you’ll jam with the band, and just check out the audience and see how far you can stretch it until it’s time to move on.

Since I have zero experience of playing live and am completely clueless on how to read a crowd in this context, I’m thinking what could possibly go wrong?

So I’ve almost finished a section now and found this workflow, which feels pretty good to me:

Each section is fairly linear, split up over several patterns. Some of these patterns are very specific and not a good place to get stuck in, others are more general and you can stay on those for awhile and play with scenes, if you feel the crowd’s up for it.

Given my preference for a more linear structure, each track is so different from the other that I can’t maintain a coherent principle on “Bridge at pattern06, chorus at pattern08” and so on.

So I’m making a basic set of sheet notes, which is my cue list for how the track plays. I’ve attached my notes for one such track here. From left to right, up and down, it’s the order of the patterns and certain parts of them marked with a loop to show that these patterns are not only safe but also appropriate for improvisation. When Scenes are required to make the track work, those are noted too.

So once I’ve cleaned these notes up (might look incomprehensible now, but to me, they’re not), I’ve got my structure nailed for one track and I just need to keep an eye on where I am in the set when I’m playing. Since I’m used to sheet music from my piano years, I’m thinking this will be fine.

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