Hardware fun vs. DAW productivity


I went from ITB > 100% hardware > Hybrid.

I found ITB productive but I felt like I was missing some tools from some hardware gear, mainly tactile things such as knobs/faders for filters and volume control. Another problem was the CPU issues for me, going fully ITB can be a chore if your computer is average so I would end up wasting some creative time by having to Bouce tracks just to save CPU load.

100% Hardware was something I got into because I got bored of my workflow, went on youtube and discovered things such as Op-1, Elektron, MPC …etc (bunch of cool gear). This gave me the fuzzy feelings and I made up my mind to try doing the 100% hardware. In my opinion while it is fun and it felt nice to have all instruments right in front of me, I realized that I had more fun completing tracks.

Now I have a hybrid setup and I feel its the best for me. It gives me the best of both worlds to the point where using a VST in a DAW felt like another hardware instrument with the added benefit of being able to record loops or arrange full tracks in either session view or a traditional linear view.

Id say hardware is indeed fun but sometimes we want more than to just have fun. In my opinion being satisfied of your work is more fulfilling than a fun time.

You should keep all your hardware as well as your daw and try to work a setup that works best for you, switch it around too, it doesnt have to be the same setup forever. You dont have to put all your eggs in one basket.



I am trying to pertain to this.

Perfect advice.


Letting someone elses experience written in a book set how you should percieve your musical approach…? :frowning:

I dont give a fuck what some guy trying to sell a book says…i do it for my reasons

Dude praying on people that want a quick fix.
Plug away at it. Find your own way.


Thanks for the book recommendation. I just ordered this. I’m at that point where I’m ready to take the jams further


I find the absolute best thing for my productivity is a deadline. It doesn’t really matter what my process is (it differs project to project) - if I don’t have a hard deadline then I just won’t get it done. I make my living (such as it is) as a theatre director/creator working within a small ensemble of other artists. I also do a lot of sound design/composing for these productions and have also started doing composition for other directors/choreographers. All of these projects have super hard deadlines - you can’t push back opening night once the press release is out (well, you can but it looks bad).

I find this same approach works for me with my strictly musical endeavors as well. I wanted to put together a live set so I booked a show and told them I would do an hour long set. With strictly recorded music it’s harder to make this kind of deadline (at least without a label breathing down your neck) but it is possible. One producer I know set up a bi-weekly listening party where different producers bring new tracks for feedback etc. You don’t HAVE to bring new material to attend, but you feel guilty if you don’t so it pushes you to finish things.

Ultimately - I believe that responsibility (whether it’s social or professional) is what actually creates the conditions for productivity - not a particular workflow. But I also agree that it is insane to try to write and record electronic music in 2018 without involving a computer in the process at some point (even as just a multitrack recorder).


Just an idea imagine you are working with a engineer/mixer in your studio rather than yourself. You have to imagine that you have wear two hats. One as musician and the other as the engineer you are going to hand off too.


Good topic. Combine the 2. Ableton’s session view enables long jams. Don’t sync with midi. Just beat match them and then adjust in the daw.

No need to be exclusive. The 2 combined is a lot of fun.


to echo what many have said here, I think the best of both worlds can be had if you always multitrack record your hardware jams, release yourself from any expectation of finishing tracks OTB (and having acceptable recall of them from the patterns stored across your multiple sequencers), and save the arrangement editing mentality for later. the trouble is when you want to involve MIDI or FX from your DAW in the process – that’s when you get into the rat’s nest of ITB-OTB clock sync.

it’s taken me a couple years to let go of holding myself to a standard of finishing tracks within my pattern memory-equipped synths and sequencers because they’re hypothetically capable of storing a fully composed live set without relying on playback of stems. (that said, drum machines feel like the one most important element to preserve data from composition over to live performance.). but it happens to be the case that these tools are best for getting fresh ideas off the ground and for improvising live with finished material, and one should always use the right tool for the job.

one other angle of this is that there’s a lot of fun in going OTB -> ITB -> OTB with your tracks. start on hardware, finish your arrangements of the captured audio ITB, and then start fucking around with the stems in your OT or digitakt. it’s good performance practice and you might end up with something far more inspired than if you stopped with the DAW.

Solution for ITB-OTB clock sync and latency in Ableton

I don’t even bother trying to sync my hardware to my daw anymore. I just set the bpms to match itb / otb and then track my audio into the daw. Nudge audio into the appropriate areas. Tracking is nice for me because I have to essentially commit to those tracks. No endless tweaking of the patches, no readjusting notation, just roll with it. Only downside is if something sounds crap, you have to re-record that track. You learn fast to record quality sounds / phrases the first time


Yes it is :smile:


I wouldn’t bother with hardware if playing live weren’t important to me, or if I was satisfied with performing live with a laptop (which I have done many times but never been happy with).

As it stands, like many others here, I record audio in and arrange in the DAW.
I will say that working in Reaper helps here, because it’s so focused on editing and mixing. There’s less temptation to add more virtual synth tracks etc.-- forces you to work with what you’ve recorded and make something of it.


I completely ditched being productive (I already have tons of tracks on my hdd and no will to release them). That solved the dilemma for me. That said, should I need to finish a track, it actually made me more productive (usual hardware jammin + daw editing workflow is incredibly efficient).


i would say:
DAWs are for producers, hardware is for musicians.

2 different workflows for 2 different kinds of people & ways of making music.

as for me, i did not manage to make myself productive with DAW workflow. i was constantly drowning in the countless possibilities of doing things instead of actually doing things.

hardware is much more restrictive, and suddenly, this helps.

i watched a lot of DAW tutorials on youtube and learned that one can be productive with DAW when he/she has an idea of the whole track before. (my favorite example is equalisation. every tutorial on youtube shows equalisation as the very 1st thing to do with a track. but how can one do this without the knowledge what sound it has to be?)
that’s the «producer’s» way of thinking, where «i have an idea» == «i have the plan».

when i start composing a track, i don’t hear the target result in my head and don’t know what it has to be like. i experiment. no plan. so hardware with its restrictions is more suitable for me and my chanses to get a finished track in the end.


I stopped using the Elektron sequencer a few months ago and treat them as synthesizer/drumsynth recorded straight into Live.
Best decision ever. In this way i am still Limited to the soundengines but use my DAW as a Tape Recorder/Arranger Tool. Best of both worlds. I envy though ppl. who can jam the s€#@& out of a handfull of Elektron pattern.


I think that’s a silly attitude. How about this? You wanna be “professional” or do you wanna be alive?

Neuroscience shows that, when we make an effort to be “professional” - ie surpress our emotional reality for a task at hand (this is called “Masking” in psychological terms) - our IQ drops by over 70% on average.

EDIT: nothing against you at all, I just disagree with this 60s baby boomer notion of “either you wanna enjoy or you make something of yourself, can’t have both. So suck it up and labour.” Of course, life takes effort, but living takes more than just effort.


Most of time I play dawless. Everything mixed in the OT.

Othertimes I turn on studio mode in the OT and mxing partly in combination with ableton. But limited to just some eqing and fx. No arranging in ableton. Try to keep everything intergrated as much as possible although its always a headege to decide what is best.

Basically OT is always center of work to playfully make transitions in tracks. Also i use midi controller to regulate auto channels.


I feel you 100% on this. Its just so much easier to finish a track in live with just soft synths or the built in instruments in live - but for me at least, it completely takes away the meditative aspect of the music making. I get that from interacting with the machines, for some reason. If ableton push was a much, much better physical interface for live (I think its decent, but overall lacks too many features and lots with it just doesn’t “feel” right), I’d just stick to that.

So for me, a finished track in live doesn’t necessarily give me the amount of satisfaction I get from the process of sinking into this meditative state with the hardware machines. :slight_smile:


If the fun is in the jam , but you find it to boring to transfer everything to a DAW track by track , loop by loop , you need to be able to multitrack your jam in one piece . So i sujest you get a soundcard or usb mixer with the necesarry inputs . Create your basic jam on the devices , jam for about 30 mins with the computer running . And then spend the rest of the day rearranging , adding fx , eq , etc etc … The fastest way to finish a track imo .


Fascinating topic. I think it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve and what it means to you. I saw some posts above about “amateur vs professional” and I think this point is pertinent. I think the majority of us are probably amateurs who do it for fun and not to make a living, in which case do whatever makes you happy. If jamming and never finishing many tracks gives you joy then go for it. If you need to make finished tracks to get satisfaction from the hobby then you’re probably going to save time by using a computer, at least a little bit. It’s just about practicality. Accountants don’t still use an abacus, they use specific software to speed up the job. I think it’s just about using the right tool.

I think one thing to bear in mind is that going “pro” with a hobby can milk some of the fun out of it. I started coding for fun when I was a kid in the 80s and I’ve been lucky enough to turn it into a fairly decent living as an adult. I’m not complaining by any means but I’m just saying that it’s not so much fun when my livelihood depend on it! Be careful what you wish for - if you’re doing something for the sheer pleasure of it then adding time and money pressure may not make it more fun! But, of course, your mileage may vary.


if you would ask those producers : exactly why are you EQ ing your track right at the beginning ? The majority will not come with a decent answer… they just do it because they read it online , and a thousand others are doing it too… , everybody just copies… just like “sidechain everything” was a thing , and the loudness war was a thing , etc … i think real musicians and producers are not using their precious time for this , they create original tracks first …