Hardware fun vs. DAW productivity


Same story for me, I went from ITB to hardware but then doubt several time about this move … I changed hard to soft and soft to hybrid with clocked machines to hard again …

But 6 month ago I started the guitar again and I felt free again ! Why ? Cause Ableton can’t replace the feeling that I have with the guitar, there is no story about sync or midi or recalling or overguitarbridge : just hit record and play, if I miss I retry. And suddently everything took its place. The instrument is used to compose, search idea, the daw to arrange and finish the track.

Why this is not possible with machine ? I think the main reason is Ableton or other DAW with VST are playing in the same territories than hardware machines or synthesizer. There is like a collapsing world between ITB and OTB possibilities and my mind can’t manage that.

Based on this experience, I will treat all my hardware exactly as a guitar, just play a lot with it and when I have an interesting idea : record in a DAW, arrange and finish it.


I see it as a blessing and a curse:

Blessing - you can freely mix and match between boxes stuff that wasn’t intended to go together. Huge creative and inspiring stuff to be found often, or just a bunch of mismatched noise possible too. :wink:

Curse - Remembering all the patterns, mixer settings, fx settings and so on when wanting to revisit the project, but also can be good not to get it exactly as you had it before, it might sound better!


Though I agree mostly with this sentiment, I would also advise not to pigeonhole your sound into a specific genre / category. Some of the best music has been produced by ignoring those rigid definitions of what certain music should sound like.


Agreed completely. The strict adherence to genre and the rules within those genres kinda bums me out. If everyone thought that way, there’d be no Autechre, DJ Shadow, Nicolas Jaar, etc.


Be a purple cow


Finished The War of Art last night. Reading the other one today. Thanks again.


On the rhythm composing side of things, I’ve been experiencing creative rehabilitation and growth by breaking things down measure by measure (wow, I’m reading music again!), building up to one bar patterns, and then chains of patterns. The graphical display on the TR-707 has been a bit of a revelation to me. With that particular instrument I’m not focusing on sound design during the programming stage. This frees me up to get microscopic with the beats and then get freaky with the sounds later on.


Thanks. Glad you’ve got them. I know they will help unlock your creative potential.


I agree. My point, for my music, is it’s all over the place with no real focus. I feel like this makes my music sound like garbage. If I focused it a little more on a specific genre, it wouldn’t be so spastic.

For example. This started as a techno idea and devolved in progressive house trance whatever…:man_facepalming:


I find the happy accidents I get from gear, and then if I want to get precise, or more planned, I record it into my DAW. I’ve been involved in electronic music for many years and I’ve come to the realization that all these things are tools to express your creative self. Your creative self + tools= Expression and possible communication of your experience.


This track sounds dope to me! It’s your sound. Doesn’t have to be techno or progressive house trance, it is music for sure though. I know this. I like where it went towards the end so I would say it evolved more than devolved. Somebody else may think different, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


One other thought about this - I find it can be helpful to identify what part of a process I’m in when I’m working. Just because I’m not in the writing process at that moment doesn’t mean I’m being unproductive.

For instance - composers who are primarily instrumentalists spend a considerable amount of time practicing. Is this time productive, even though they aren’t actively composing? Of course it is - in fact it’s absolutely necessary. A friend of mine who is a banjo player spends hours just playing, often without any specific goal in mind. Clearly she’s trying to get better at the banjo but she’s also creating the conditions where song ideas can easily flow. The more closely related she is to her instrument the greater dialogue they can have.

When I’m patching a synthesizer or programming a drum machine it can be the same thing - I’m entering into a conversation with these machines. The more often I spend time playing them the easier it is for me to call on them for a piece of music.


This is good man. Isn’t this basically what techhouse is all about?

Man that really is good. I’m fighting a cold right now but when I get up from my nap’im Gonna start a tech house session in ableton


Thanks @v00d00ppl and @Cepheid

I really appreciate it. I’m shooting for something DJs will play and I’ve noticed a lot of the tracks I like, are pretty genre specific and somewhat simple - simple as in, not overly busy.

I want to be able to jam stuff out that DJs will want to play, and can play. What that means for my production is setting limits and staying in a box (to a certain degree). 9 times out 10, I go off the rails and lose focus.

I just want to be satisfied with the music I make - and have some control of the outcome. Rather than the outcome controlling me

But I appreciate the props. It’s fun to make beats for sure!


So this thread incited me to try to create a track with my whole setup and jam the arrangement instead of recording everything to ableton. I started to record the individual tracks, but somehow it lost its vibe and sound. Maybe this was imagination but it sounded bigger directly out of the boxes.

Jamming arrangements is pretty hard. It’s simple on one or two machines with muting/unmuting but on 5 boxes it’s hard for me. Everything takes too long :slight_smile: Have to try to control everyhting from the OT arranger.
Anyway, here’s my first try with my complete setup, if anyone is interested :)…

Edit: And it always feels strange to refrain from using certain plugins. I‘m always questioning if it can sound as good directly from the hardware. But it‘s much more fun to do it all from the boxes


If you just started doing it of course if feels odd, probably need a lot of practice.
I’ve been using the same 3 boxes in the same configuration for about 3 years with the built in limitations and some self imposed ones.
The point of doing this is to create muscle memory, and rehearse over and over while coming to a better understanding of my rig.
When I finally ditched my laptop I longed for some of my favorite plugins too. However going cold turkey just had me diving into what these boxes are capable of and carving my own way about them.
For example, lots of Neighbor tracks and carefully crafted Scenes can fill the void, and open new doors.
Trying to incorporate the computer these days feels extra clunky and not worth the payoff.
I’m only using the computer to track my stereo outs.
Been running the OB beta and it works great for multi tracking.
I may try recording some tracks that way, but again, I’m not sure the payoff is worth the extra effort.



yes I have to practice more. As I said I can handle one or two boxes quite well, but I’m sure with practice there is more possible. That also suggests to stay with a particular setup for a longer period.
I have to find a way to create submixes that make sense. It would be great to have at least kick, bass, rest of the drums, and synth lines separated. But I’m using the OT as my mixer, so OB is not an option. Have to check studio mode, never did. :slight_smile:


In the last 20 years I have been 100% hardware, hybrid, 100% ITB and recently back to hybrid. I use Ableton and Push 2 to control all of my hardware and then get loops and ideas up and running. As soon as something sounds good, I record it straight into Ableton. All my hardware is old (101, 106, DX100 etc) so I can’t save anything. From there I mix, add fx and edit in Ableton. This method makes me work really quickly and I don’t ponder everything like I did before.


That’s pretty nice track and for the most part I think it benefits from having a more spacious evolving arrangement - my problem with ITB is that I can’t easily do stuff like this as I end up cramming in too much stuff so I’m experimenting with more OTB arranging to try to achieve stuff like this for more variety in what I’m doing.

Having listened to the whole thing, I’d be erring on saying it’s pretty spot on. Could perhaps be compressed by a minute or so as it gets a little repetitive by the 7 minute mark or even just an alternate melody on a pattern you could switch up by swapping to somewhere in the arrangement. But that’s being really picky, it’s a decent track.


Thanks! I think the transitions take far too long. Usually I would shorten them. But with only a stereo file, it still would be possible to cut some parts out.
What I’m missing is side chain and parallel compression. I never really explored the OT compressor a lot.