Mastering your Gear vs Gear Mastery

Read this headline in a book on beatmaking by Amir Said that I’m currently reading.

He says that with modern gear, the point is not to make use of ALL features so that you can say “I use all features” (=Gear Mastery) but rather to identify and master those features & techniques that allow you to translate your creative vision and that vibe with your workflow, creative process and sound. (= Mastering your Gear)

So it made me think, what are some of your most used features on your Elektron gear and what are your bread & butter techniques that are integral to your creative process?

EDIT: Or alternatively, which features on your devices do you NOT use?

Features / Techniques for any Elektron device go.

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And just to make the start on the fly:

DT:
I use the sample reverse playback & sample tuning function a lot to mangle my samples. Then I use the overdrive and bit crusher and of course delay and reverb to shape the textures of a sample.

I tend to sample sounds into my DT, reverse them and pitch them down. Then I’ll add reverb & delay to measure. I will then resample that and often change the direction of playback of the resampled sample again. Makes for interesting sounding textures & happy accidents.

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OT: I use the sequencer barely at all, instead record loops and parts of a song live that I then layer to create the song. I do sometimes however use random trigs and the LFO to randomize a feedback loop played back in the backround of a song.

Also use the OT as a performance mixer, using the effects and the cross fader to create the song from external audio or pre-recorded long samples. I’ve been meaning to incorporate live sample mangling with flex machines, but I’ve yet to delve into that fully.

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I would argue this has always been the case and isn’t something that just popped up in recent years. Going back to the '90s, seldom do I use layers in patches on the K2000. Difficult to believe, I know, but true. On the Octatrack, I don’t use Parts. Apparently I’m a simpleton because this feature has yet to solve a problem for me. Scenes on the other hand. I love Scenes and I love the process of sculpting epic psychedelic transitions with them. I also really like the compressor in the OT. I’ve said it countless times but it is hands down the best I’ve heard in any sampler.

The key, I think, is to use the gear in a way that you can instinctively produce music with the device. Whether or not you’re using 100% of the features on every track is entirely irrelevant if you’re bored and the music is a drag.

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I’m not even totally sure what parts are, hah. And the beauty is that I’ve never felt held back due to having a somewhat superficial knowledge of OT features, I’ve just incorporated it into my workflow using just the features I need. I’m actually kind of using it less now than a year ago, but it’s still integral to making music for me.

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Nice!

OT:

Because I play mainly live and improvised, I have T7 setup as a “Catch all” looper track, where I can record 4 bars of whatever is playing in time. The crossfader will be setup so that Scene B minimizes the volume on all tracks but Track 7. I will also have a one-shot rec trig on Trg 1 of Bar 1 on Track 7. The recorder is set to record the Main Out and QRec to a max length of 64 steps.

Whenever I want to transition into something new, I’ll arm the reg trig on Track 7, loop gets recorded in time, then I swipe the crossfader over to Scene B…now my loop is playing back seamlessly which makes it possible for me to switch to an empty pattern, copy the previous pattern over, make variations and then switch back into those (via crossfader) without playback or flow of music ever stopping.

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I might have to steal this system, sounds really cool.

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100%! It’s an amazing swiss army knife and maybe you just don’t need the wine opener.

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I like that also! Stating which features you DON’T use! I agree on the parts thing. I’m trying to work out which problems that could solve for me and I’m beginning to see possible use cases, but thus far it’s a feature I’ve completely ignored in my bread & butter applications of the OT.

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Great question! I didn’t utilise any of my performance macros on my Elektron gear when I made my last (live performance) album… why?.. because I was using the Roland MX-1 and I was busy with that. I don’t think I could’ve due to lack of hands.

I am now making use of the RYTM’s performance macros and have boxed up the MX-1. I do miss it’s eq/filters but I’m having fun with one less box. I can perform more subtle changes but the final output sounds different. The eq/filter section on the MX-1 definitely helped accentuate the final sound before getting printed but it’s definitely not essential in my book. These machines sound so good!

Now, I am getting deeper with my RYTM and I know that my next productions are going to and do sound just as good.

So yeah, right now, the scenes and performance macros are helping me achieve the sound that is in my head more so than what my last set up could offer me.

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I can play all the notes of the scale on my guitar’s low e string so i removed all the others…

Really, if you don’t know how to use parts of your gear it’s like living in a house with rooms you never visit.

You can’t say you’ve mastered the gear, only certain areas, which may not even be difficult to use. You can’t call a composer a master who can only compose for tuba… Well, maybe he’s the tuba master, but no pianist is going to be calling that dude a master composer when he isn’t likely to play the pieces.

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For OT, we did this:

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Sorry, to me this differentiation smells like a bad excuse for not putting in the hours to explore a device inside out, but still call that in some way “mastery”.

Don’t get me wrong: that’s absolutely okay, but it has nothing to do with “mastering your gear”.

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OOF!!! Nice one @psychic_pizza

I would lick the plate you eat off of.

One of my OTs is set up the same way, except with a master track and it is recording T8’s master output. The scene that fades it in also fades out the send/mix levels of the Master track FX so I’m not double dipping through them.

The other OT is going into that looper/master OT to be mixed, so it is also looped. Having it always there keeps it in my mind to use it.

This need for both a catch all looper and master track informed my need for a 2nd OT, as it was limiting my available sample tracks. Heh, and now I just use two Master tracks as I like the bussing.


Otherwise, I set the OT(s) up in certain ways that help with memory and sonic vision. Compressors always before EQs and filters, and so EQs always on FX2 for consistency (even if there isn’t a compressor needed).

4 patterns per Part, in blocks. I did this starting with the A4 and AR’s kit system, before I even knew about the Bank/Part scheme on OT so it came naturally.

Whenever I automate FX via scenes, I make a tweak to the master compressor to mitigate any changes that might incur in the overall dynamics. It’s now an engrained habit.

Set up my slot list in a logical, sectioned way. Drum chains here, synth/hook chains there, and so on… This has forced me to be more intentional about what I put in there, as purging unused could really disrupt the order, and having to re-order after a purge would mess with established Parts. The result is quick access to the sample I need, and no scanning that breaks the creative flow.

FX LFO3 assignments. This is one I recently started. Whenever I choose a creative effect or filter for a track, I assign one of its parameters to LFO3. This gives me a quick place to go to find some inspiration in changing the sound. And makes a section of every track a dependable place to find effects modulation. I don’t want to have to look at the LFO assignments page to see where different things are assigned, so a consistent location on every track for some creative modulation was important to establish.

So, yea, the overall theme for OT has been making things consistent for muscle memory, organization, and undisrupted follow.

For M:S the theme has been lots of synth stab and hook loops importer with heavy filter LFO and p-locks to get new and interesting hooks out of the content I’ve put on the plus drive. All patterns set up identical, with heavy leaning on the latched FILL as a pattern variation so that, combined with the inviting knobby real-time interface and some muting, I can jam on a single pattern for an entire tune.

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I have been constantly curious about your position. Having two OT’s Vs. an OT and a RYTM. Seems like you have dabbled from your quote. I switched from 2 OT’s to an OT+RYTM for the voice count among other things. Although you probably have many answers for why this combo wouldn’t work for you, I am interested to hear you share your answers. Please divulge!

I agree with you on the terminology, it’s maybe not so much about mastering your gear as it is about mastering your creative process.

But I disagree about the excuses part. I don’t think at all that it suggests you shouldn’t put in the hours exploring your gear, I think it says you shouldn’t get lost putting in the hours exploring your gear and totally forgetting about actually making music with it - in a way, learning gear can also become a big fat excuse to never generate any output from it. Don’t get me wrong, that can be an aim in its own right (fiddeling with & exploring gear), but in this context the emphasis is firmly placed on the music making part.

A second notion here is that artists shouldn’t feel obliged to use all the features in their gear just because they are there and available. Case in point: I’m pretty good with gear (and generally with working out systems), so I pick up on features & functions of my gear quite easily. In the case of my MPC Live, that’s actually a problem. Because the thing does like 3 things I could use it for in my live setup, but because it does 9 more things + a whole bunch of other stuff I don’t use it…because I feel if I use it only for eg midi routing I’m “wasting” the device. Amir Saïd invites us in his book to keep our sight firmly on the goal of music creation and focus our efforts on developing and mastering our creative process rather than pure gear expertise.

I understand why he calls it “mastering your gear”, because in his mind your gear’s purpose is to enable you to make the music you want to make. And if you manage to hone your skills with and knowledge of your gear to a degree where you can convert your intention to music to the T, then you’ve mastered your tool (for your use case).

From a music making point of view, I don’t see the benefit in being a living manual for a specific piece of gear while being unable to translate that knowledge into the music I want to make.

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Do you play tap guitar? Slide? Harmonic tapping? How about the million different tunings you can choose from? And have you messed with fret alignment to achieve micro tuning? And do you drum on your guitar?

Cause your guitar is capable of all of that, now I’m not sure it makes you less of a guitarist if you don’t do any of that.

And would you say BB King was a master of the guitar? What about Rafael Cortez? Or Pat Martino? Neither of those guys could play the other guys’ pieces convincingly or even close to masterfully, now would you say they aren’t masters for that reason?

Some people here make electronic music, some people make hip hop, some people make generative music, some people use their gear for SFX…depending on what you do you will NOT need all the features of your gear and you may very well STILL be a master of your craft AND that particular gear within your craft.

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For me… he is appealing to those that have made a lot of hardware purchases without getting to truly understand what they have. We see this time and time again. I too got rushed by hardware accumulation. Although it bears as an attractive article for those that dive in headfirst to hardware. If his statements were true you wouldn’t have had this response.

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