Small improvisation set up ideas

Looking for ideas/inspiration to build a very specific small set up (3/4 items) specifically for improvisation/jamming. Young kids/busy job/real life mean I don’t spend much time playing so want something fast to jam with.

Not bothered about it needing to produce full tracks etc-but keen to be able to sit down with a ‘blank canvas’ and play for 30 mins/an hour building something up from nothing without the need for a load of prep etc. I like the idea of starting from scratch each time as well.

Genre wise - I guess ambient/dub/techno-so would need to do some soundscape stuff and some beat making ability.

What kind of small setups would people suggest - or do you use if you do something similar.

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At the risk of sounding a bit obvious (for this forum) I reckon Digitakt+Digitone or 2x Digitakt would take you a long way. If you had 2x Digitakt you could load one with drum samples and the other with bass/chord/synth, or use the Digitone for synthesis duties. The Delay and Reverb on these boxes really are very good and the delay would keep you entertained for a long time in terms of Dub delay FX.

They also work well together as you can chain the output of one into the other so you don’t need multi-input audio interface etc, just a set of speakers or headphones. I’m also fairly certain that you can also power both from a single USB power bank (with the right power bank and cables) so you don’t even need to worry about bulky power supplies etc.

Go and see what our friend @DaveMech (among many other excellent Digitakt producers here) can do with one or two of these boxes and you’ll get an idea of what’s possible. Forgive me for not name-checking more of you, I can’t remember other individuals off the top of my head.


I’ve been playing with a microcosm and a monotribe all afternoon :eyes:


I have a small’ish case with A4 micromonsta2 and DT. Battery powered and wired up.
My use-case is exactly like yours. I pull it out when the kids are asleep and sit on the couch making dub(ish)-techno and ambient stuff.

Very nice to have a wired and battery powered setup to reduce setup time

that said, i might have gone with DT+DN for portability if i didn’t have the A4 to start with.

Sampler x 1
Synth x 1


I’d say Digitakt (for Drums) and a simple multitimbral ROMpler for everything else. korg X50, MC 101…something along those lines

I would recommend the Digitakt and a simple synth to complement it and sample from. Something like the Roland boutique sh-01a is very hands-on and compact and playable.



I’m using Norand Mono for drums and mono synths and OP-1 for poly synths, plus a looper (1010music BlackBox) to stack things when needed. Works fairly well.

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I bought a Model:Cycles for pretty much this purpose.

I have a bunch of other gear and sometimes carve myself longer slices of time for music sessions… but I wanted a quick jam/sketch box I could use on the sofa or on a train. I could use a phone or a tablet + apps but a) my iPad’s struggling these days and b) I love the physicality of knobs and buttons.

Octatrack, TR-8s and Norand Mono are a dream team.

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some of the best music i’ve heard on this site!
really sick

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I’m in the same situation as you with a family running around the house most of the day. So I like to optimize too and have been trying to find the “best” solution for live improvised electronic music creation for a number of years. To be honest, I’ve not really found the DT / DN to be all that great for improv.

I would spend half my time programming a pattern so I can then drop mutes in and out and tweak a filter. I found myself questioning the whole improv aspect of what I was trying to do.

The most important thing you want to consider is going to be your sequencer. I’ve played many of them on this search for live play. The Elektron sequencers, while great, still require quite a bit of high level programming before you’re going to have anything useful.

I can recommend the NDLR, the Vector from 512, and (if you don’t mind software) the Ableton Push. The Push might be a stretch because of software and all that but given all of the max4live devices on offer you could really build yourself a live improvisational performance template that would blow anything else out of the water.

I have examples of various live performance rigs, from eurorack to the other devices mentioned above, on my YouTube channel. Here’s my most recent, using Push 2 and a max4live application called ACDGEN. Have a look at the video description for a detail of everything that is going on. It’s all live though, no clips or prepared midi even……


Yeah DT and / or DN is the obvious.
A box like MC 101 / 707 might be suitable as well.
Or maybe - if you have a computer nearby - Maschine (e.g. MK3) could be a good choice, too. Very flexible, easy and immediate to use, fun to play, just one device and does not cost a fortune.

Great post RFJ.

… Five 12.

Add to that the Torso T1 algorithmic sequencer.

Spektro Audio also makes a hardware version of ACDGEN, that fits in your hand, with lots of control in a small package.

( ACDGEN HW thread )

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Ha thanks! I had fun making it

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I would say an acoustic instrument of your choice, and a Norns shield or laptop+daw to process and record it. Can be small and portable.

Look up what Rodrigo Constanzo is doing with a single snare drum

On a laptop, drums would be really easy, can just use a midi controller to play in and live loop. There’s a million ways to do this. You can also have all the effects your heart desires.

On Norns, drums could be done in something like cheat codes with a drum loop, then you can live sample your acoustic playing too.

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Octatrack plus a couple of Softsynths.

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Yeah, that was really good. I’d love to know more about your method.

I started with a slowed down loop of the monotribe recorded on the microcosm
I faded in a basic beat on the monotribe and matched the beats the best I could in a hurry.
The microcosm provides stutters and variation to the beat as well as ambience
riding the filter on the microcosm fx gives it even more liveliness
I try and keep it moving and not get too attached to any beat or sequence
The monotribe synth sequencer is no thinky, it quantizes the rhythm and was set to overdub the entire recording.
I played it through my OB-4 and recorded it in my living room with a zoom f1n and shotgun mic
I then put it through my mastering chain in ableton