Can octatrack eliminate arranging in DAW?


Hi. So I am currently trying to find the final piece of my puzzle. I have a DFAM, Mother 32, Digitone, and Analog keys all working nicely together. But I want a sampler, something at the centre of it all where I can bring all my sequences together into one place and arrange my tracks live. I hate the stagnant arranging mindset being sat in front of Ableton or any other DAW for that matter. I have so much fun playing with my toys when I’m ‘jamming’ for want of a better word. But then it all stops once in start multitracking etc etc inside a daw, looking at a screen and using my eyes instead of my ears to put together a feeling and the arrangement of the said individual parts…

So please can someone tell me whether the octatrack can be the mothership where the energies channeled to. If it is or can be then I can happily hit record and not look at the screen until the track has finished. Obvs mixing and mastering will be done within DAW, but I want to producing side to be as natural and organic as possible.

Sorry for the wafffle. Any help would be much appreciated!


Yes if you get used to the recording process.


Regarding arranging the OT is no replacement for a DAW. It’s simply not made for that. Of course you can do some basic arranging on the OT using it’s arranger mode.

But in the end you still looking at a screen (a very tiny screen) and you have to solve problems which are simply not there in a DAW (for example: how to blend two patterns together using parts due to the 64 step pattern limit).


Haha, yeh man I get that I’m trading one screen for another in a sense! But if I can learn all the necessary ‘movesets’ sort of speak for the octatrack then I can have everything pre set up and then hit record and arrange on the fly. I am will going back into the recording afterwards for sure to clean things up and do some editing but the essence will be there. Speaking of which, how does the octatrack ‘sit’ in a DAW? In my case Ableton. Will it all be up summed into one track. Or can it be split into the eight respective tracks on the octatrack? I gather the octatrack acts or can act as a mixer. Thanks guys, your input is greatly appreciated. Also if anyone has experience using different gear that would you recommend, please do so. The Akai MPC Live caught my eye…


If you come from a daw it could be hard. In the octatrack you don’t have a nice piano roll overview or that ‘visible’ arrangement (check video on youtube). You need to keep in mind or write down where every pattern is and how your patterns are build.
A lot can do in the octatrack arranger (I use it often) but if you need that visible thing it’s probably better to go for mpc live / x (never tried these two).


I would say no. I’ve just started getting to grips with the OT, and I love it. But I can’t really imagine it coming anywhere near the speed and options for arrangement I get with ableton.

I actually get a lot more enjoyment arranging with ableton after I spent some time getting quicker with it. Cutting, pasting, mixing within clips, resampling, it’s a joy.

Use the strengths of both I say.


OT can eliminate a DAW in my opinion. Maybe you’d miss some DAW possibilies. That’s your problem. Don’t forget people were recording music with tape recorders before. OT is far better for arranging than tape recorders! :smile:
You have to do some resampling, premixes. You can keep all the recorded files, make your song in OT, and rearrange in your DAW later if you wish.

Not perfect, quite simple, but I sequenced and recorded this in OT only. (QY100 as sound module + H4N as mic).


If you want to jam more and have a more hardware sequencing experience with live then a push is a viable option also and would link nicely with your hardware


I find the OT benefits most as a mangler and a limit(quantity) sequencer.

If you’re main goal is to eliminate the DAW arrangement, perhaps seek a machine that’s more intended to fulfill that need?

Perhaps MPC?


It does depend on the type of music you are making to some degree. If you’re making tracks which can be played as a single live jam (e.g. some kinds of techno), with perhaps some editing afterwards, then the Octa can, in my experience, help tie everything together in terms of master pattern control, mixing, effects, looping etc. in the same way you might use a DAW. For me it has somewhat “completed the puzzle” and I can now make tracks I am happy with without touching the computer, just using the OT + a few other Elektron’s and recording into a Zoom.

However, you can’t really do the kind of detailed arranging or editing you’d do in a DAW on it. For me this is a good thing, I never was productive “laying out” songs on a DAW, but for some styles of music it’s likely you want this level of editability/planning and in that case I think you’d find the OT doesn’t do what you need. Even if this is the case though, I’m sure you won’t regret purchasing an OT for its other abilities and you may find your musical style morphing to suit live jamming :slight_smile:

Worth noting that you only get a single stereo out (or I guess you could split your tracks into two stereo buses as the OT has four outs), no Overbridge, so your options for mixing “after the fact” with the OT are pretty limited.


really depends on how complex you want your arrangements to be…

if you go for mixing some loops together and play live with different parts, then a OT or MPC is simply a gamechanger, cause its quick (once you understand the gear) and direct.

if you really want to arrange and mix things i would recommend to do that in a proper DAW. The OT has great EFX and it has mixerfunctionality, but for a real mixdown a DAW is way more flexible. Also the Arranger is super for live playing, but in my opinion not useful, when you really want to write a track.
MPC has a lot of EFX, but to be honest… they sound really really bad. i love my MPC for sketching musical ideas super fast and edit samples efficiently, but when it comes to mixing ideas, the MPC sounds like a bad app on an iPAD :-))


I say it loud, it absolutely can! But with limitations. :tongue:
2 Octatracks are more comfortable. An MPC can be a really good companion.


Why dont you get an audio interface with 8 or more inputs? That way you can plug everything you have in at once and press record with every sound recorded on its own. Then you just have to mix it and maybe chop out a few bits you feel you dont need. Cheaper than an octatrack!


Mothership definitely yes, but depending on the music, it can be very limiting compared to a DAW. Just some examples:

  • Control of polyphonic chords via midi and consisting of more than four notes needs some workaround.
  • Recording midi during a longer life jamming phase is limited by the “step-squencer” concept. There are workarounds, but it’s not straight hitting the record button only and there we go. There might be some thinking, planning, and preparation necessary in advance … :wink:

Again … it depends on the “arrangement” or “song structure” of a song/track, the “length” of tracks/pattern, and the amount of steps/notes, we need per track/pattern.

The OT sequencers are step-sequencers using 4x16 event slots per “pattern”. The pattern can be played at different time bases. We can link pattern and we can have many events per a single event slot. The more “techno” or “quantized” our style is, the better this will do. The more we play “un-quantized”, “syncopated”, or even “funky/jazzy” the more limiting it becomes.

The sequencers of the OT can do a hard quantization, but they also allow for micro-timing inside the event slots. This grants more “groove” but not more “notes” inside a pattern.

For me the OT is an excellent performance sampler with many other great functions, which include 8 additional midi step-sequencers (with midi-learn for controling other gear via CC), a stable clock for synchronisation, and it can be the heart of a set-up for many electronic genres.

But to built songs from scratch without a computer and only hitting the recording button at times to get midi recorded, be it quantized or un-quantized, be it step-sequence programming or just jamming along and recording … well … I prefer to work with the Squarp Pyramid or a MPC. It’s only about personal workflow preference.

Since you have the Digitone I would recommend to check out it’s midi capability for your recording tasks. If the four midi tracks fit to your personal workflow and you are not missing much, the OT might be the right expansion of your set-up. If not, check out the Pyramid, or MPC, or other available sequencers.


I’m far from a Octatrack expert but I’m using mine as a hub for everything, only thing I use Live for is recording.

I’ve had it with mousing around tweaking one thing at a time in a computer, connected my stuff to the Octa and using it as a mixer,arranger,fx box and I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun making music…


You can as already mentioned use the arrangement to build songs in the OT and as others have mentioned it can be a little fiddly, a note pad or spreadsheet can help here to plan things since you don’t really get an overview.

However there are a couple of other ways, the first is to forget about the arranger and just have a bunch of patterns and perform your song by building, muting, tweaking and switching patterns manually (this is how I tend to work with it) It can be very inspiring working like this and you are free from any preset structure, if you mess up just redo it, it will probably be a bit different each time, and you can comp your best bits together in the DAW after if you want to.

Another way is to use a combination of the arranger and performing it live, you can set up all the parts in your song as sections in the arranger and manually switch to them as you feel by using the infinite loop section function along with REM to easily identify each section. Since the arranger can do some fairly interesting things like scenes, offset and reps you can even build little ‘ear candy’ fills that can be handy when you want a lot to happen but don’t have enough hands.

Finally you could use any external midi sequencer that has linear recording to capture all the moves you make on the OT (pattern changes, mute states, control data etc) It takes a little setting up but offers the “best of both worlds” in that you can just jam away then if needed edit the midi data to correct any mistakes, but could become a bit too much like what you are looking to avoid.

The thing with the Octatrack as has been said time and time again is that it offers a lot of ways to work and play - more so than anything else I have ever used in 30 years aside from perhaps a DAW, but it isn’t a DAW and can do some things a DAW can’t easily do, however all this flexibility comes at the cost of fully immersing your time into both learning it and learning what you want to do with it. For example I definitely think of it as a performance instrument, which it is, but like any instrument it takes time to get where you want to be with it, but it is also much more than that.

Still, I don’t really recommend the OT because of its flexibility and lack of instant gratification but rather I recommend that people watch as many youtube videos of people using it, then make their own decisions if it is worth the investment in time any money, whilst hopefully learning a bit from the many tutorials at the same time. To me it is absolutely worth learning, I would say get a mkII if you do decide to take the plunge as the extra buttons make things a bit easier.

Octatrack is beast mode :joy:


I could arrange tracks in the OT arranger if I could program the mute states for my other Elektrons in it. That would be great, but doesn’t really work.

Since I work mainly 2 to 8 bar loops also in Ableton, I could do most things it the step sequencer format. But I’m much faster with Ableton that’s the difference and convenience


Depends totaly of you’re workflow. If are used to a certain workflow with a certain DAW and wan’t to be as close to that as possible: No, forget it, thats not gonna work on OT.

For the OT you need to open yourself for other ways of doing things and in the proces find a lot of new tricks and ideas and WTF moments (good and bad). If that’s what you like: Yes go for it!! (i find a lot more fun).


Have you considered a Mutitrack recorder and just overdub. They can edit loops as well. You can easily arrange a song. Old skool way.


Thanks for the overwhelming amount responses peeps! After years of working solely on a laptop and using software I took a couple of years break from making music now I’m back I’m onto buying hardware as I find it much more inspiring and intuitive, so maybe I’m getting a little giddy and carried away. (All my aforementioned gear has been bought within the past 3 months). I’m toying around with getting into modular, hence the Moog’s but I think my bank balance could do with a bit of regeneration. Haha! All points considering I think I will buy the octatrack regardless as I’ve been wanting a hardware sampler/performance tool. Now do I buy the mark 2 or the original? I feel like the price of a second hand mark 1 in comparison to the mark 2, for what you get paying twice as much doesn’t really reflect the upgrade. Does anyone have any experience/thoughts on this. Oh and I make dub techno and ambient music, so the arranging of my tracks are quite ‘natural’ for want of better way of describing, rather than lots of breakdowns, fills and surgical arranging of elements. Thanks again for all your inputs!