Single synth obsessions


Certainly for me, this was the case, and even more so back in the 1980s and early 1990s. Stuff was a lot more expensive then, and there was far less variety in what was available. Also, the all-in-one “workstation” was all the rage during that time, with instruments designed specifically to be capable of providing everything a musicians needed (really starting with the Korg M1, though a case could be made that the ESQ-1 could also be considered the first, though it lacked any built-in effects). I used a single synth back in the 80s because I had to. They were costly and I had to scrimp, save and hope for a secondhand deal to get any gear. I cut my teeth learning to make drum sounds on the SH-09, and creating chords by overdubbing individual notes using a sort of sound-on-sound technique with a pair of tape decks before graduating to an Alpha Juno 1 and a Tascam 4-track. So maybe my affinity for working this way is simply a way to re-live the salad days of my youth…


I’ve never heard that before, but that’s cool!

I haven’t heard of Old Yello either. Is that a group?



some great sounds in this track for sure…


No kidding! :pl:

Seriously though, you guys should check his instagram … some good stuff in there


I definitely work like this a lot. I love using 1 “box” only; not even multitracking. I think I like having a self contained “sound ecosystem” and I like being able to “fill up” a track. By which I mean, once all available voices are used the track is full (done). In my old life as a very commercial minded hip-hop producer, I would become lost in too many possibilities using NI Maschine/Komplete and Acid pro. I like the limitations of hardware much better. Some of my 1 box work:

Rytm only AND samples only. No synth engines!

OP-1 only

OP-Z only

PO-33 only


Nice stuff man! How is the rytm compared tonthe digitakt for doing samplebased hiphop? Can you easily record and trim samples or did you import them via a computer?


Single synth obsessions can be very different. On one end you have monophonic synths and on the other multitimbral poly synths. Makes a huge difference. Good multitimbral poly synths can be seen as multiple synths. But in both scenarios you only need to know one piece of gear.


This was made on the Rytm MKI, so I had to import everything from the computer. With the MKII it seems the same workflow as the digitakt. Funny you should mention it, I made this when the digitakt was first announced with the thought that I may sell the Rytm to fund it. This was an experiment to see if I could live without the synth engines and it worked. I did end up selling the Rytm. The one thing you hear a lot on this that I miss is the notch/band reject filter mode on the Rytm. Hopefully they’ll add that to the digitakt someday.


In case you don’t know it, the Mariopaint project on Irdial 1995 should appeal to you @Simon - it has single source and Nintendo!

Anthony Manning who’s on there had also made a full solo album using just a Roland R-8

Think you can hear both on

I also think of Conlon Nancarrow spending years hand cutting piano rolls for his 2 player pianos to play simultaneously. Serious focus :slight_smile:


@Simon This way of working is kind of an obsession for me too, I find that working within fixed limits is very inspiring and enjoyable, and because I choose to not use a computer I find that it prevents me from endlessly fiddling and allows me to get stuff finished.

This album was made with just my OP-1, I recorded it onto the OP-1 tape tracks then onto the album, I really like the OP-1 for self contained projects.

This one was made with just my Octatrack and a single sample which were science lab entries, all of them were jammed live onto tascam stereo recorder.

This one was made with a small Bugbrand modular system, all the sequencing was done with mixers and clock dividers as at the time there were no sequencers available in Bugbrand, all the drums were made using various techniques and no overdubbing or external equipment was used except the stereo recorder.

I made quite a few youtube jams using this system too, such as these:


I do like to work this way with Monomachine. I’m doing a live show tonight that’s just Monomachine and Octatrack, and some chunks of the live set are exclusively one or the other. I came across some patterns I had forgotten that used the BBOX-DRUMs to their fullest and I had forgotten how much one could do with those.

For the past few years, I’ve loved just taking one Elektron box (or similar device) over to my chaise lounge to tinker with as I watched TV. I’m not sure I’ll have this setup in my new place, which is even smaller than my old one. Which is to say - due to economies of space, I tend to only work with one or two pieces of gear at a time. Which is also about all my brain can handle at once also.

It was a friend, Arvo Zylo, who kindof accidentally nudged me into Elektrons. He has a lot of very noisy albums made with just the Yamaha RM1X that made me re-think the capabilities and uses of groove box type devices.


Great topic. I manage a small fb group called “Single Box Club” I encourage you to join and share your Single box music there. Will link this post there as well so people can look up the artists listed by the Op and the shared jams. My personal single box affair is with the new electribe - just because everyone is hating on them I feel challenged to try and make it sing. Here’s two recordings:

Besides that I would note Mistabishi’s work with the old and new Tribe family, Allesandro Cortini with his MC-202 only record. Just great stuff.


Those are some very charming Bugbrand jamz. I haven’t heard them in a while. I see Bugbrand almost in a separate category than eurorack modular. To get in the club (waiting list) took some amount of commitment to a ‘system’ rather than just buying/selling/trading the latest Eurorack module of the moment.


Some really interesting takes in this topic! Thanks for sharing. :smiley:

@pidgeo haha! A fellow 202 fan I hear.

Haha yeah, it’s ironic for sure. I’m honestly in some way a bit annoyed at my fondness for the 202 and other older gear, haha. Gear, it’s not a choice - it gets better? Hmm.

Also cool to hear this from the perspective of a person who mostly played in bands - I guess this sort of mindset is perhaps directly related to the sort of one-person-does-it-all-mentality of a lot of electronic musicians.


Oh and here’s some of my single synth/stuff works.

Lots of stuff

Only Monomachine

Only Octatrack

Only Analog Rytm

Only Nord Drum 2

Only Jomox Mbrane + Mbase

Only Analog Four

Only TR-606 (except for DR-110 clap)

Only Machinedrum

Only OP-1

Only OP-Z

Only Digitone

Only Digitakt

Only 0-Coast

Only Nord Modular G2

Only Yamaha FB-01

Bugbrand Synthvoice

Only OPL3


Next challenge - add the Let’s Dance vocals using the MnM voice synth.


Really loving this topic.

My obsessive personality has locked onto single device tracks, and also Elektron “pairs”, in the past.

I think that Elektron instruments have been a constant inspiration for people wishing to do more with less. The architectures of both the Machinendrum and Monomachine were a great start. Some of the Karplus Strong sounds I could get out of MD were just wonderful for melodic work, and having 15 more tracks to work gives the user confidence that the platform is capable.
MM can be wielded so many different ways. A beatbox and a few synths with some FX are all in there, or several beatboxes, or a giant synth… or…

On the surface, A4 seems the most limited for such work. But sound locks makes it just as capable, really. And Digitone’s higher polyphony takes it one step further.
The track limitations forces you toward unique paths for sound and composition, so it’s a real asset.

When I got my first OP-1, I was excited to get started on some mobile techno sketches, which I could take into my DAW and finish. But the synth engines were inspiring me so much with electro sounds that I made an entire electro album, and 10 of the 12 tracks were OP-1 by itself.

My next album had only one “single box” track, and I used the Analog Rytm for it.

These day my workflow is very different, but if I had to, OT MKII and Digitone are both capable standalone, and it is nice to have those options open because you never know when circumstances that call for just one box might arise.


Great topic @Simon ! For me three words 8-bitMods, OP-1, Rytm — ultimate simplicity and inspiration :smiling_imp:


This sounds really sweet so far. I’ve never even listened to “electro” music or have any idea what it is…But I can dig it. Didn’t know the OP-1 was capable of this kinda stuff. Multitracked or just a single stereo out?