How an Elektron song mode would enable us as musicians

Ok, so here’s an argument for song mode on Elektron instruments that I don’t hear all that often, and I think it deserves its own thread.

I’ve been deep into the combination of Syntakt and Digitakt lately, and every five minutes I curse the gods for not having granted us song mode on these devices.

A skilled musician is their own song mode, by use of hands and fingers. Watching an artist perform fluently on an Elektron device is as impressive as its educational and enjoyable.
It’s also always the same.
There’s versions of the same, in level of skill, speed and just the song itself. But it is the same. Opening and closing of filters. Amplitude tweaks. Reverb fading in and out. Ctrl + all on the pitch. Fill on - fill off. And so on.

A song mode on Elektron devices isn’t about automating these features, to make the less nimble able to store a compositional version of the above. It’s about exploring new depths of combinations with patterns and tracks, loops and one shots, progressions and structure, that has nothing to do with dexterity or muscle memory. It’s about triggering and stimulating other parts of our song writing brain, by providing tools that allow exploration to other places which you couldn’t before.

It’s about providing tools that go beyond what a pattern can do even at its most extreme, about what happens when you look at your batch of loops as something more coherent that move seamlessly between each other, about the larger motions that span across 16, 32, 128 or I don’t know how many bars. It’s not recorded automation or 128 steps instead of 64.

It’s never been so apparent to me as now, when I use all kinds of voodoo tricks to break the mould of the Elektron pattern structure by using the Digitakt and the Syntakt together, to build a more beat-oriented version of my sound, which is based to a large extent on the combination of free running loops, one shot events and drum patterns but most importantly their transition back and forth in relation to each other.

It’s all there, except for the part that lets me sit down and string it all together. In that aspect, the Elektron sequencer only works against me, not with me.

I totally respect and admire anyone who’s quick, able and skilled to work the Elektrons as a live-performance interpretation of song writing. And I enjoy their work. But it’s all starting to sound the same. And the lack of a song mode as considered as the rest of Elektron’s sequencer, is at least part of the reason.

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The already had such a great song mode in the OT. It’s a pity, that everything that came after was a bad or no version of the OT arranger.

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probably just want to keep it that way as an argument to buy the OT

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I bet there are at least 12 threads about the missing song modes on electron devices.
Those boxes are what they are.
Beatboxes.

Sounds harsh, but: get over it.

BTW: I think missing kits on newer devices is much more meh, but yeah, i got over it too, kinda :smile:

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Another cool trick with song mode is to offer some Mute groups.

But OT Arranger had its weakness as well, mainly the way you would switch from Song mode to manual.

Anyway, I believe the subject you are putting on the table, dear @circuitghost, is less about Song Mode per se, than “how to perform with several running sequencers”, isn’t it?

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if we never had discussed things these boxes are missing, we would have missed out a lot of great updates I guess

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I’m not sure I understand the new perspective you’re bringing to the table here? I read it as: the Elektrons need song mode because every five minutes, I’m frustrated with its limitation in that department. Did I miss your point?

It seems clear to me that Elektron thinks of these machines as live instruments, albeit unusually programmatic ones. It’s a bit like a live, physical version of the old tracker software, except it only has the phrases/patterns, not the arranger/structure. And the idea seems to be that this is part of the fun: the “song” is always open ended, you can take it to lots of different directions and there are no real rules. Just like some probably want in that moment of live performance.

What’s interesting is that all the really good artists performing on the Elektrons seem to have adopted a very rigid method of arranging their patterns and rehearsing in such a way that their hands become the song mode substitution. That really takes a LOT of practice and is definitely not for everyone. But I think they do so because they love the art of perfecting a performance and they love what their Elektron instruments bring to the table. Maybe many of them actually perform live IRL too, not just on YouTube? Meaning, they love the art of perfecting a performance just like a sax player loves it. Recording and tweaking an automation curve of exactly how to blow into the sax just wouldn’t be as exciting to them.

I think an argument could be made that some sort of song/arrangement/automation mode would make these instruments much more accessible to those people like myself who, on the one hand, loved the playful nature of in-the-moment jams on the DT/DN, but, just like you, felt a bit of frustration every five minutes because you couldn’t just “record” that perfect performance stunt you just did on it. I wanted to move on to the next part of the song once I nailed one part - not rehearse that perfect part a hundred times and get tired of it. Because I’m not a live artist, I’m a “studio producer” (really, I’m just an amateur of course, but you get the point).

Although I really admire those who are able to remember all the different parts and movements of a song and a part of me looks up to them and would love to become as good as they are, I just ended up feeling stressed about it. So in the end, that’s exactly why I sold my DT+DN. They are amazingly fun if you accept that they’re instruments. But if you are looking for a studio production unit where you don’t rely as much on your performance as an instrument player, they are simply not the ideal tools.

I can totally see why many skilled artists feel this is what makes Elektron special to them. Not every instrument needs to be accessible in the way I’m imagining that a song mode would make a Digitakt accessible. You can learn how to play a harp or a piano. One of them is arguably more accessible than the other, yet no one will go and complain about the unaccessible design of the harp. In the end, I accepted the lack of ctrl+all, despite absolutely loving it, and got myself an MPC instead.

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might be true, but yeah, we won’t get song mode on those digi sized boxes, no matter how much mimimi. it wasn’t on the table!

2017 the first digi box (digitakt) was released. thats now a few years, right?

i don’t think that will happen anytime soon. the 2nd lfo update, and other things were really great, but i won’t put hopes into it.

if a tool does not fit, it does not fit.
end of story for me, no time for everlasting complaining in my life.

you can download manuals before buying expensive elektron boxes.
if that box does not do this or that, well…
why should i buy it then if its not there and I “NEED” it?
i honestly don’t know!

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But maybe they put one in their future machines if they recognize the demand for this feature…

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yes, could be.

but all i can think of how far away i was with my guess what could be next on elektron.
never thought about another drum thing in digi format. always thought they make pairs (a4-rytm, digitone-digitakt, model:this, model:that)… I honestly thought about a octatrack successor in kind of a way.

but it is what it is. i’m not mad that i don’t get exaaaaactly what i want. and with such complex machines nobody will.

feedback sure makes a difference.
but im not mad if not. i bought and knew what i will get.

I don’t think @circuitghost was talking about “recording performance stunts”

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Yes :slight_smile:

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No :slight_smile:

I’m fairly proficient with both the Deluge and blackbox. They have song modes. They enable song writing in ways that just take me to new and interesting places.

In Deluge, it’s about the Arranger and the way it can slice up patterns and tracks, rearrange them and change their characteristics in the Arranger specifically, that the singular pattern mode won’t allow.

And in blackbox, song mode is about the seamless and independent free running structure of each pattern across clips, and the fact that they don’t reset as you move across clips but keep running, which adds a new layer of structural tools to create transitions you just can’t, by pattern switching.

For example.

Whatever Elektron’s equivalent of that kind of beyond the pattern-approach, I’d love to see. Not because I need automation of stuff that a skilled musician can pull off, live with their hands. But because of the stuff you can’t do now, at all, the next level section of their sequencer that takes it to a level of coherence that’s simply not there now, no matter your current skill with the Elektron boxes.

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I don’t even know if what I’d want is a song mode, but simply a more unhinged sequencer. Because to me mucking about with a song mode is just as time-consuming, as doing things for real and on the fly. And even on boxes that have it - I mean, have you tried an Analog Rytm or A4 @circuitghost? The OT? Do u spend time utilising the song mode on those boxes?

To me, I want more fluid and general approaches to time. But I think Elektron have their MO set in some ways. Somewhere in their company files somewhere is a mission statement or some kind’ve company direction, and whatever that agenda is, it appears to lean right into 64 steps as the guideline for the sequencer.

Somewhere along the line, Elektron have to make decisions, that some how balance their ethos in terms of the musicians and genres they target in terms of marketing, but also from an engineering and hardware perspective, and their design language across their family of products.

I think something like a drastic alteration to the sequencer and how it works would possibly see changes to the Elektron UI and UX that would either a) usher in a whole family and next gen of boxes, or b) just be in a too hard basket for the current crop of products, confusing the clear, focused messaging they currently have.

The DAW really is the land of chocolate, and for those sweeping, long passages of noodling and expansive phrasing, you always have Overbridge and analog outs. Not everything has to happen in the box, and if you want to go the other way, well then you could simply pipe your song midi from somewhere else in the world, and just have the incoming notes triggering live while u tweak.

Everyone has their preferences though but this hybrid approach is why I dig Elektron so much I suppose. But I get it if people want everything to happen in the one box. There probably are solutions Elektron could implement.

I think the Page button may be the main culprit, moreover the 4 LED’s, and it might be time for them to go and move up to the screen, so that anything can be displayed and any step length might be used. At least that’s what I’d prefer to see, more open and free approaches to ‘patterns’ - but we’re talking pretty major structural changes here that probably have ripple effects in ways we’re not aware of.

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OK, thanks for the clarification.

Would you mind providing some workflow to work with the song modes you describe?
I mean, current Pattern chains are OKish but really barebones and can’t be saved.
In the other hand I don’t love programming the OT Arranger, it’s more like programming a tracker than composing the structure of a song, to me.

Do you have something in mind that would make this next level of composing both deep enough and fluid?

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I think the general challenge here is that we assume what a song mode on an Elektron device would be like, and then we go “But that’s not gonna work. Why would anyone want mutes / pattern chaining / this other feature?” as if there was a feature list and we’d dismiss it. Essentially, we’re creating our own argument on what it would be and then we gun it down.

But we’re not Elektron engineers or creatives. Rather than trying to assume the features of a song mode just to dismiss them in the same post, I think the recognition that an evolution of the sequencer that breaks the pattern mould and brings us into a place where we couldn’t go before, is enough. The twists and turns of a well-composed song is not a bad recognition for a potential evolution of a sequencer.

Usually, the wish for song mode is phrased as a set of features I’m sure Elektron dismissed a long time ago, for good reason. Rather than trying to solve the problem, express the actual need for it and why it’s there.

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Yep :slight_smile:

But see my post above. I think this is less about features, more about expressing the need of what this might bring, what it might resolve to a musician.

Features are easily dismissed since they won’t be for everyone. Right now, I’d like to keep to the desire part of it all.

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The A4 and Rtym eventually got MIDI sequencing so maybe it is just a case of being patient.

It’s a shame you couldn’t express your thoughts without invoking the dread phrase “song mode” and everything it triggers. I’m not sure you could necessarily have done that, but … “song mode” has definitely pressed a trigger for some which has meant they haven’t really read what you wrote.

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Ahah, but I was less talking about features than a description of your ideal/favorite workflow, coming from Deluge and Blackbox, cause I have to admit I don’t have much experience in such area…
Keeping digging this desire part, so to say.

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