Octatrack as MIDI sketchpad



I’m wondering if the Octatrack can pass muster as a MIDI sketchpad. For detailed, linear MIDI arrangements, I don’t think you can beat a DAW, but a sketchpad?

Simple workflow:

Fiddle about on master keyboard connected to one or more synths (master keyboard allows complex splits/layers)

Ooh, that’s nice! I say to myself. Record 4 bars of the nice into sequencer.

Repeat until bedtime.

I know the OT can record incoming MIDI notes with or w/o quantise.

Where it might fail:

Can it record a signficant amount of incoming CC data?

What will it record if I’m holding down more than 4 notes? It seems there’s a 4 note limit per step or something?

What will it do with incoming MIDI across multiple channels?



there are some limitations to the MIDI sequencing. First off, the track polyphony is indeed 4 notes, but all these 4 notes must start and stop at the same time, unfortunately. Also, while you have unquantized recording, you are always restricetd to max 16 events per pattern page, so up to 64 discreet note events per pattern max.

Any CCs entered are also placed into these 64 steps.

If you have multiple tracks sending MIDI to the same output channel, the lowest track number has priority when evaluating what gets sent out from the MIDI OUT port.

Later elektron MIDI sequencers allow more notes per track (8 note poly), and also allow the notes to overlap. These sequencers are onboard the digitakt & digitone(s).


With conditional trigs, track scaling and the arranger we have possibilities to get around the 64 step limitation.
I started to do tracks with OT, AK, Shruthi and Micromonsta some time ago (dunno…half a year ago or so). Actually I just wanted to know how much gear I needed to make tracks, but I’m still working that way.

I guess it also depends on what you want to do, but certainly there are ways to get around. :slight_smile:


You can record only with active track.
No midi overdub, replace only.
When you record a chord, there is a root note and relatives. The root note is not always what you’d want.

I bought an Mpc 1000 JJO2XL again after practicing OT midi tracks, but finally I found the sequencer / arp more interesting than the Mpc 1000’s. Sold but I bought a Mpc 500 in case if I’d want something linear, with midi overdub, poly…



I’d never ‘reject’ the OT for its MIDI sequencing abilities. I see whatever MIDI it does do as a bonus.

Was just wondering if it covered some of my existing workflow/approach.


I do believe 8 not poly applies to the tone only.


ahh, so digitakt still has 4 note poly? My bad.


Yep, Digitakt 4 notes, Digitone eight notes.