Anyone using the Octatrack for free-running, unquantized experimental looping?

(Tried searching but couldn’t find a specific thread about this.)
I was thinking about how much I miss loopers sometimes (had a few in the past) for experimental improvisation, and thought about the OT and how I haven’t played around with this application in mind. I’ve used it a lot for quantized loops, slicing, etc…
I can’t remember, for example, if there is a way start-stop recording a loop and have that buffer immediately play (sort of how most basic loopers work), then move to the next track and do the same, etc.
Had this thought after Philip Jeck’s passing (I actually didn’t know of his music until now).


I play in a small band (just me and a mate)
In which I use primarily Lyra, with octatrack alongside it. I dont use the sequencer, instead I have free running loops to use as background textures.

I also use PU machines to grab bits of Lyra, the delay one of the thru machines is set to inf feedback so I can grab weird timed delay loops, and I have some track recorder set up for manual sampling so I can grab something, then trigger it manually on a flex machine track.

Great fun, very meditative. Always yields good results, but the key is keeping it sparse. Not too much going on at one time. Lyra is the main sound, with OT sampling tricks being support.

To answer your question, pick up machines are basic loopers.


I run bass and guitar loops from infinity looper into thru tracks with gated trigs I suppose. Breaks up nicely. I don’t sync them, like how it drifts.


Interesting timing of this thread as I have just started this. Will report back.


I am using the OT mostly in the same way as @Microtribe ; I might use the sequencer to effect the incoming signal in a rhythmic way, for a moment, not premeditated or arranged.

Also playing samples (from a prepared or unprepared or live recorded sample chain).

I love this machine for this (and other possibilities)!

BTW: the limitations and possible quirks are features, helping us letting perfection go … :blush:


Sometimes, but due to lack of polyphony per track it’s not sadly really suited for it. But it can be fun, just not as immediate as you would hope.

I know I can save template projects but I feel like Elektron could have a really easy “OS update” publicity run if they added some preset scene configs that can be loaded up for various tasks. Free-running looping being an example. Find a few setups like that, add to a menu then release to much hype.


yep! most of my last EP was made up of a combination of sync’d and free-running loops on the OT

tbh it got pretty frustrating using only the PUMs for this task, so I got in the habit of converting each PUM into a flex machine as I went along (after recording each loop). that way you can mess with the loop more freely. It’s also satisfying having two flex machines playing the same loop, but altering the rate of one or both by tiny amounts so they drift in and out of phase.


love this idea. It’d do a lot to help shift the notion of it being a complex, convoluted/esoteric machine if template projects offered up example approaches such as this one. Speaking as someone who gets and loves the OT - I know it’s more my problem than the machine’s but forever designing systems on it and rarely making music. Anyway, this might be a topic of it’s own.

Excited to try some of the example approaches!

would you mind sharing that EP here?

F**k … he was one of my heroes - absolutely phenomenal experience watching him live and one of those inspirational performers whose music i adore … un-quantized drifting or phasing music can move me in more ‘special’ ways than rigid metronomic stuff … just don’t call it ambient

With regards to the topic, it was just about the first thing i tried when i got the octatrack - it was doable to run flex loops by manually triggering recording and playback using teh buttons (or midi) and i extended this to reichian type phasing with fractionally different length buffers capturing the same source

all good fun, but the issue was that the OT isn’t facilitating that way of working beyond it being a bit clunky - it would be fascinating to find an inspiring device which is explicitly tailored to free abstract collages - there’s of course many ways to achieve those ends, but something which facilitated that by design could be interesting; the OT can get you some way there … really must dig back into that - as i recall it (it was many moons ago) i only got satisfactory UX when i set up little midi ‘macros’ to handle the ‘seamless’ transitions from recording to playing - especially when using multiple buffers

I think this was the first exposure i had to jeck … (what a line up!)

Sonic Boom - The Art of Sound
Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre, London
27 April - 18 June, 2000
Curated by David Toop, Sonic Boom takes 1990s post-techno, post-rave, post-ambient sound art out of a...

gosh … sad news to stumble upon here …


“all this complaining”? I love the OT but I’m not going to pretend it’s without its flaws and limitations. I’m merely offering a workaround to one of the many limitations I found when looping with Pickup Machines

why don’t I use something else? well… I do. each looper has its own strengths, weaknesses, and character, and I end up making different sounds with the OT vs Infinity Looper vs Volante. that’s all part of the fun. (I don’t like playing music with computers or iPads, just a personal preference.)

specifically with PUMs, using the crossfader to briefly drop the volume of the loop and the gain of the Overdub parameter makes for really fun dropouts in the loops and instant replacements of fragments of loops. I can’t replicate that with any of my other hardware loopers so far and it’s one of my favorite features.


not at all! : )

“Flourishing” and “Anything You Fancy” probably revolve the most heavily around experimental asynchronous loops iirc

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could you elaborate on this?

sure! I think I used some incorrect terminology back there anyways, but I’m in front of my OT now so here goes:

-on the SRC page of a Pickup Machine, set OP to “DUB” (I think this is the default)
-assign Scene B to drop the Gain on this page to -INF
-assign Scene B to drop the VOL in AMP page to -64

Now while you’re recording a loop on this track, as long as you have the xfader all the way to Scene A (default empty scene in this example) the loop records as normal, layering sounds on what is already in the loop. Once you have sounds in the loop, while recording try throwing the xfader all the way to Scene B for a second. Whatever you are adding to the loop at this point will be recorded as normal, but anything that was on the loop during that brief second will disappear and be replaced.

Sorry if that was a clunky explanation. Keep in mind the VOL to -64 part is optional, that just makes it so you hear what the dropout will sound like as you are overdubbing, which is how I like to work with my loops (otherwise the dropout won’t be audible until the loop comes back around.)

Also with this method, you can be more subtle and move the xfader anywhere between A and B, so the previous loop layers don’t drop out completely but just fade away as you add new layers.


That time I pretended to be Okkyung Lee, but with a viola and Octatrack instead of prepared cello. Starts with unquantized looping

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I really :heart: this idea and want to try it. I wonder though, do you have a specific trick for avoiding the “P1 DUB ABORTED” message? I know this is discussed elsewhere on the forum but if you are having success with your technique, I imagine you might have some wisdom w/r/t this.

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the dreaded “P1 DUB ABORTED” message…

I doubt I have any tips that haven’t been discussed elsewhere, but off the top of my head:

  • OT must be master clock
  • don’t change the pitch of the PUM loop (always convert to Flex first when changing pitch)
  • watch your memory usage (turn on Dynamic Recorders in Proj>Control>Memory menu)
  • try Plays Free mode in track settings
  • watch for changes in tempo (this one drives me crazy with pickup machines… if recording multiple loops, the newest PUM can change the project tempo automatically depending on new loop length and other settings)

the weird tempo change thing is another reason why I convert PUMs to Flex Machines whenever possible


Forgot to reply on this - lovely EP! I’ll make sure to follow any future releases.
Thanks for sharing :slight_smile:

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just wanted to add to this thread as i have been loving this side of the octatrack recently also.

does anyone use any external controllers for trggering recording and/or manipulating playback?

still trying to figure out a practical approach for this - especially with the ‘hold’ parameter… which, combined with the technique @olives describes above, gets some really fun results imo

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