Record midi (performance, not steps) from external synth

Hi there,

I’ve been reading forums and watching videos on both Digitakt and Octatrack over the past month and I’ve nearly persuaded myself to spring for an Octatrack. Before I do, I just want to confirm that I’ll be able to do something that is pretty essential to me…

I assume you can do it but I haven’t seen ANY examples on youtube of somebody recording an external synth “performance” of, say, a four or eight bar phrase and having that loop back. Most everything I’ve seen has been people awkwardly step recording and using the OT as a keyboard to control an external synth (which seems entirely unintuitive to me when you have a synth with keys and recognizable chord shapes right there).

This is kind of a make-or-break functionality for me as I intend to use the Octatrack primarily as a sequencer / drum machine / mixer, at least initially, and only secondarily (later) as a sampler.

So the main things I’m asking about:

  1. Can I do it —set a metronome or drum track, set a phrase length or step number(?), record?
  2. Is it, or can it become, fairly simple to do it?
  3. Can I also record automation (knobs I’m twisting on the synth) along with OR after the performance?
  4. How much of this can be done on the fly?

Thanks to those who take the time to reply.

Welcome to th OT-forum!

  1. In octatrack you can activate the metronome.
    You have 8 midi tracks. One track can be up to 64 steps long. All tracks can have individual track length.
  2. I would say this is the easy part on the octatrack :smiley:
  3. Record CC is possible. Up to 10 CC knobs per track can be configured and all these can be recorded…live of course. You also can add cc Parameter per step later.
  4. Keep in mind that you can record up to 4 notes per step but these note have to start and end at the same time.

What does that amount to on a practical level? If the input is quantized to a forgiving enough division and you play the sequence well enough, there shouldn’t be too many problems, right? Or are there problems if you lift off the notes inaccurately? I’m just thinking of how I’d sequence something on a DAW, and I’ve never had much trouble with it misregistering what I played. Is it different or more awkward with OT?

While you can do midi live recording you must be aware that the Elektron sequencer is a step sequencer and this has some heavy implications on how it can record.

The most obvious restriction: when you record the movement of a CC (which needs to be configured previously, btw) only one value will be recorded per step. So a replay will not reproduce a continuous movement, but it jumps from step to step.

You cannot compare this to a linear sequencer like recording with a DAW which can record any number of MIDI events in the duration of a single step. A step sequencer is much more restricted.


Well, this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for me since I think I’d likely want to perform the synth controls, so to speak. But yeah, I would hope it’s relatively easy to record a chord pattern live.

Another simple example: you cannot record 3 notes shortly behind each other.

While two notes on two consecutive steps can be moved with microtiming near each other, the third note on a third step cannot be moved to be also close to the other two.

I would suggest you take a look into the manual to get a feeling how different a step sequencer with its rigid grid behaves.


I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand what you’re saying here. It’s a step sequencer with quantization, right? If I play something in 16th notes, chords (of up to four notes) or individual notes, and I record at a slow enough tempo that I can be accurate, and the input is quantized, there should be no problems, right?

It’s not really about quantization, but about a rigid grid. Even when recording without quantization the grid of a step sequencer restricts how it can record.

Within a single step there can only be one note trigger (which can trigger up to 4 notes at the same time). This trigger can be moved forward or backward with microtiming, but only within the duration of its own step.

Just a simple (and not completely correct) visualization of three steps with 3 note triggers:


The “X” are the note triggers which can be moved forward and backward within the borders/duration of its step when recording unquantized. The second line shows why there cannot be 3 note triggers near each other, but only 2 of them (due to the limitation of one note trigger per step).


I think we’re kind of talking past one another here (and I thank you, btw, for your time, and patience if I’m dense and not getting what you’re saying).

Basically, you’re saying that if your grid is in 16ths, you can’t record 32nds, right? If you try to play something faster than the grid or quantization resolution, it’s going to get bumped into its nearest step. So, there can’t even be 2 triggers near each other, let alone 3, if “near” means a unit smaller than the grid division. If that’s what you’re saying, it’s completely straightforwardly understandable to me. If you’re saying something else, and I’m still not getting it, maybe it’s beyond me.

Thanks again for trying.

That’s basically it.

This limitation is sometimes a surprise to people who are starting with Elektron having worked on DAWs or MPC sequencers previously, which is why the situation is mentioned to newcomers.

Off topic but some step sequencers do allow for continuous recording of CC data (e.g. Electribe, JD-Xi).

What I was confused by, with the other guy I was replying to on here, was what the opposite of this is. Just unquantized midi recording? Even when I sequenced with DAWs, I still gave a thought to playing a sequence fairly accurately so it would quantize neatly when I got to that.

The surprise expressed by some people comes from trying to record performances that include broken chords or other nuances that require high-resolution recording to play back accurately.

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So, with the Octatrack, I wouldn’t be able to play a C chord on the right hand while playing a C an octave below and then lift off the c chord and play a minor while still holding down the low C? This is what I’m given to understand from the above. That in itself seems pretty restrictive. Not sure whether it would amount to a big deal for me or not. Probably not. I’m curious, though.

« Proper » keyboard performances with anything more complex than homorythmic chords or monophonic melodies will not be recorded correctly.


That’s correct.

Thanks for the clarification, folks. Not sure what to think now. I’m kind of doubting this would be a big impediment; I’m not going to be sequencing classic music. Still, wish there was ONE video demonstrating sequencing this way. As far as I’ve seen - and I’ve sure been looking - not one deals with this.

Do you have to see it to believe it? I suggest that you read about Live Recording mode in the manual.

Well, I do seem to grasp things better when seeing them demonstrated. Also, I think I did read the pertinent sections of the manual, and it didn’t go into much detail about its limitations in this area.

Anyway, thanks for your help.

My main problem with that strict step recording is when the root note of a chord isn’t the lowest I played. Warps my head if I want to change a note. Should be an option.

Some notes are not recorded at all while playing chords, so I usually prefer to program chords. Ok for single notes.

I kept an MPC(500) for that reason, and for midi overdub, much better results even quantized.