Hardware fun vs. DAW productivity


So I’m recognized this for quite a while, but I continue doubting my move into hardware often.
My little dilemma: I have more fun making music with hardware boxes, but I’m much more productive in ableton. I have not a big setup, 3 elektrons + m32+dfam at the moment. I love them all and often create interesting stuff with it but I rarely finish anything with the hardware setup. Hundreds of patterns on the elektrons. I somehow hate working on track and then saving parts of it on multiple boxes. That’s one cool thing with a DAW. I seem to be dependent on recall.
Anyway, I finish a lot of tracks but only in ableton. I don’t know why this is. Most of my best stuff was done in ableton. I somehow have the fastest workflow with nothing but a laptop. Most of the time when I open ableton I have an almost finished track some hours later. On my elektrons I have incoherent sketches all over the place.

So I have fun with my boxes but always think, if I had spent this time in live I’d probably have a new track by now. Since making tracks is my main goal and most satisfying thing in the world I wonder if I should sacrifice most of my gear to gain productivity, since I feel guilty if I’d have all this expensive stuff here, but only using my laptop all the time.
Anyone in a similar situation?


Why do you make music? For yourself, having fun? Do you sell your music? Did you start with laptop or with hardware? I love hardware jams, and give up pc longtime ago.


I can relate. I have a room in the back of the house, full of gear, but somehow I end up being more productive on my laptop and an mpd12 midi pad, while jamming around with my two year old.

Edit : My two year old does prefer the hardware over ableton, so I will keep it…


Inside the box ----> buy gear -----> serious GAS ----> outside the box -----> doubts ------> sell some gear -------> creative crisis & more doubts -------> sell some more -----> inside the box -----> buy gear

Aren’t you in phase 5 now? :sunglasses:


Have you tried combining hardware with software & finding a way to get the best out of both? Like jamming out & playing on your hardware boxes & transferring that to Ableton? Or controlling/syncing your hardware boxes with Ableton?

For me it’s about what I enjoy most. I enjoy playing with hardware. So I use hardware. Using Ableton is faster because everything is in 1 box & just takes a few mouse clicks.

If you care most about finished tracks, maybe stick with Ableton?
Or only keep the hardware you love most & sell the rest?
I would try combining software with hardware (this is what I’m TRYING to do).


haha. Very much possible


Hardware and software hybrid is the best of both worlds.

The secret is to spilt the work up.

Starting a few tracks in the boxes, jamming and recording.

Finshing tracks later on itb, where you have the tools to edit and arrange, mix, add fx, master etc- When you’ve had time to allow the music you’ve created to sit in its own juices for a few days/weeks/months.

Make each part of the process its own thing, and then you don’t get bogged down.

IMO anyway.


yeah tried all of it. It’s all synced. I often create sketches on hardware, record every single track to ableton and finish the project there. It all works more or less, but it’s always taking a lot of time thinking about workflow, how your stuff is connected etc…

It’s not that I never finish the stuff I did on hardware, but it happens much more frequently with ableton only. But I enjoy playing with hardware more.

yes, but difficult to decide. OT stays anyway, cause I use it live. Digitone also, because it’s awesome :slight_smile:

  1. cause I have to :slight_smile: mainly fun, but also a lot of ambition, finishing tracks, albums, getting good at what I do
  2. I try it, but not very successful yet :wink:
  3. laptop


Also work on projects in small victories. If you only have 30 minutes to record and you know what to write for drums. Just write the drum parts and save your project. The melodies, bass, fx can go in later. Getting the perfect take on something you are sure of is more important than anything else when on a tight schedule. Once I am sure of my drums I usually will spend hours playing melodies on synths. If I like the take I usually keep the loop for later.


Continue to make music on your laptop, and set a goal towards an album? When hardware jamming always press record. Fun is hardware and jams are the best way to learn a flow towards a live set with hardware. Jams can be very good tracks, can be more expressive…
I’m oldskool hardware guy and record live just for fun


I feel you man. Totally agree. Sometimes I open fully complete and chiselled live sets and go wow, look what I did here. Same experience on the Elektrons, not a single finished thing. But maybe that’s their nature - they’re performative boxes and that’s where they shine. I’m sure there are people using song modes and what not and have fully finished unfolding works on Elektron gear but that’s not my experience. You have to interact with Elektron hardware to elicit what you want out of them. And that’s cool. With Ableton it’s more like making a sculpture although there are of course live elements too.

I just bought Live 10, and last night I was having a blast with the Digitakt using it to control Wavetable and various effects, sequencing from the DT. I think it’s a nice place to be. I Iove Wavetable, the new echo effect is amazing, and there are now some great drum devices combined with drum bus they sound great too.

And I think that’s part of what brought me over to Elektron initially - the sound. I really feel part of that is mitigated now, but I still want that tactile control. Nothing beats a Push and Live really, but I’ve always found Push’s unwieldy size a bit of a put off. I’ve always wanted a mini Push and currently the DT does a pretty good job of being that. But also, it’s nice to have a break from ‘mapping’, which, outside of Push, is what Ableton is all about. Elektron machines work right out of the box.

It’s probably one of my worst failings, but you’ve really got to always be running your whole jam on Record. However you do it - if you can get everything recording into Live then you’ll have the basic structure to go back over and finesse, as well as all the ‘incoherent’ parts saved on your boxes which you can later reorganise for performance / overdubbing .

Looking forward to setting up a new live set to accomodate this in the coming days. For this reason I’m such a fan of OB, it really makes an interoperable hardware / software world possible. For me it’s all about Ableton plus Elektron.


The hybrid approach is the best approach for me personally. Create patches, loops, patterns on the hardware. Then, track it into my daw, add fx and mix / arrange it. I also like chopping drum loops in my daw. With this approach I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. Hybrid for the win!


Oh man. I’m totally with you at the moment, albeit it for slightly different reasons (space is also a concern for me and I had to get a new computer anyway to be able to work from home). I’m selling off most of my hardware, two-thirds of which has already sold. The beauty of hardware is that you can often get a big chunk of your money back, particularly if you shop smart or buy used to begin with, so if you change your mind it’s pretty easy to backtrack (which I have almost never done in all of my years of gear flipping).

I also really wanted to slim down to be able to better focus on what I have. I ended up keeping my Digitakt and SE-02, both of which can or will be able to work inside a DAW, and both are machines that I really like. I also want to focus more on practicing, playing and recording guitar and bass. For that reason, I am also selling off a huge chunk of my pedal collection, which often ends up being a distraction and there was way too much overlap.

Perhaps if you slim down to just a couple of core pieces of hardware that you think you could integrate with your Ableton setup you would find it more manageable and productive. Just a thought.

(Oh, I forgot I decided to keep the PO32 and PO33, which I haven’t used enough but may be able to with less distractions and they take up almost no room. I’ll rethink that if I need to).


totally. Jamming on them can’t be beaten (regarding electronic music instruments).
There are some people here that are so good at jamming with them, that they basically make whole EPs and albums just out of jams (e.g. Dataline).
But I somehow need the DAW control. Pushing squares until I’m completely happy with the arrangement.

me too actually


Wasn’t the livid base II suppose to do that? Yes the push is big but I still use it for stepsequencing and clip launching. I use the mpd232 next to it for finger drumming though.


I finished two this year :slight_smile: But they were mostly old ableton projects. Besides two tracks that I did on the Digitakt and one that I did on the OT. And some A4 sketches I finished. That was cool. Finally something almost done completely on these boxes.

Most of the elektrons are really cool sketchpads for sure. Just finishing is hard. And saving projects on multiple boxes is annoying


I loved the in sale mode most. Launchpad pro would be ideal, since smaller and with in scale mode, but the pads are no comparison to Push 2. Not very playable


I like it too. It opened up a whole new world for me. It got me confident in playing scales now. I can’t wait to try the scales mode on the novation sl mkiii when I get it.

Because of scales mode I also am reading up more on music theory. Proof that if you love something there are no shortcuts to attaining what you really love.


100% agree! I used to crank out tracks when it was just Live and Push.

Then I started getting into hardware and it was all owner’s manuals and learning every new machine.

…Lots of cool little jams, but they are rarely captured and escape into time.

I have a ton of little snippet videos of one-handed jams (due to holding the phone in the other) in my phone, but that’s about all that survives these days.


I think they can serve each other.

Hardware jams for short videos(IG/FB) or streaming (YT/FB/Twitch,…) or live work.

Working in a DAW for closure.

It is just an immense job to do it all and time consuming.

I just wanna have fun with my boxes when I have time after family and work. A hobby.

I will take it more serious when I deserved my retirement pension :mage: