What Elektron gear exactly?
I’ve struggled with this quite a bit.
I knew that if I wanted to just produce music then a daw and a few controllers would achieve that goal with the minimum of fuss.
However, i started all this by playing piano and guitar. I like to play my instruments, and no matter how good software sounds, I will always gravitate to a physical instrument. There’s something about a bespoke interface for each synth that really helps me to connect with them.
This lead me to a hybrid approach, using ableton to sequence my hardware and clock my elektrons. This was fine, but I was constantly battling with midi jitter, and the annoying feeling that what was playing back was not quite the same as what I’d played in.
I then added an erm multiclock to help keep things tight. This is a great piece of kit, and helped a lot. The problem then came with recording my jams. I would need to use external instrument devices for each synth, record the jam, then play the whole thing back again to record to audio. Or, I could create a load of audio tracks alongside my midi to multitrack as I go.
It WORKED, but it was messy, and there was always the temptation to edit automation etc to within an inch of its life instead of committing and moving on.
I finally decided that I need to get my gear to play to its strengths. I now sequence my hardware with an mpc live (the midi update was massive for me), connected via a mio xl. The clock for the mpc is synced to the erm multiclock via ableton. My octatrack is synced as well, and my mio preset allows me to sequence midi from the ot if I wish. Ableton now acts as a multitrack recorder and fx unit, with my default template having all of my hardware inputs and tracks set up.
The final piece of the puzzle was picking up a softube console 1 and fader. This allows ableton to give me the effect of mixing through a nice sounding console, with dedicated controls, without needing an external mixing desk.
I can now record my jams direct to audio, and edit and arrange in the daw. I think this should be my final approach to synth based music, but who knows?
I only record into my DAW I don’t use Ableton to sequence any of my external stuff. I work in two stages. First I sequence my stuff with hardware, an Elektron Digitone sequencing two external synths and the Digitakt works on its own. Once the material is recorded I then fix the latency, chop the audio and add softsynths if needed.
The easiest way for me to fix latency is in session view. I select all the wave files on all the tracks at the same time and then zoom in on the first hit on my drum track and basically erase the silence in front of the first wave spike. Since all my waves are selected it erases all the latency to all my tracks at the same time. It takes two minutes to do. I hate dealing with latency issues so this is my quick fix.
I was so anti DAW only because of my job (IT) but know how powerful they are. Getting over my mindset I’m planning a setup with DAW just to capture hardware and acoustic instruments.
I want to use only the bare minimum and have it armed and ready to go as soon I sit down. I can’t wait to start writing again and capturing the moment is a crucial part of my process.
I use a Zoom R16 with Reaper. It’s not just an interface (and multitrack recorder), but it also functions as a DAW controller, so I can open Reaper, turn away from the screen, press record on the Zoom, and jam on my gear. I have my connections set up in such a way that I need to have Reaper open and armed to record in order to even hear ant external gear, so that helps with the instant record workflow. I don’t understand why people are so adamant about DAWless workflow when using a DAW can be so easy with the right configuration.
Hi all - thanks for the thoughts. I’ve ordered a Polyend Tracker (I got started on trackers) which is coming today so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in terms of hardware vs software process. I’m trying to “detach” from the computer a bit but I do enjoy sound design with soft synths etc so perhaps I can enjoy my time with the computer making some samples as “food” for the tracker and then go and sit somewhere else with a pair of headphones and try to make some music.
I would hope we can all agree that we’re in a great era for music technology and we’re spoiled for choice!
The balance I’ve come to after many years is to just treat the DAW as a tape machine/studio in a box. Record, edit, arrange, overdub, mix. All music making comes from outside the computer.
Only exception being any type of musique concrete/sample editing type of work. The DAW (in my opinion) is the best tool ever designed for this.
Working this way is simple and enjoyable, and far more productive than the DAWless setups I had in the past. And that DAWless feeling of just playing with the hardware and getting lost in it, is still there 100 percent. I don’t even face the computer.
I switched from using only ableton for years to working almost entirely on elektrons a couple of years back. It took a bit of getting used to, and I can understand your difficulty integrating the two worlds of hardware/software. Initially my plan was to use the OT arranger with DN/A4 slaved, but I found this didn’t work so well for me, while the arranger is powerful, I found it difficult to get perspective and make quick creative decisions with the arranger, as the visual aspect of a DAW is so ingrained in my arrangement process.
My process now shifts between using the elektrons with no DAW just running into a small mixer for my initial sketching/jamming phase of a project so I’m not staring at a screen all day, and then hooking everything up to ableton once I have a solid idea going, and jamming it out again while recording it. Only downside is re-cabling it all each time, so i think I will invest in a patchbay soon to make the process quicker.
I then edit the recording into a rough structure, and begin re-recording each section again if I feel it needs improving. I also often solo voices on the A4 or DN and record them in so I can get more control over separation in the mix, or use overbridge and split them out to seperate channels that way. Basically I treat this part of the process more like multitracking a recording with a band in a studio (I used to work as a recording engineer) and it feels less tiresome that way, and more like my usual process for recording live musicians, just with machines instead. I will sometimes throw stuff back into the OT aswell, especially after applying some nicer reverbs than the OT offers, or adding other fx in ableton that the OT can’t do.
Live I use just the 3 elektrons, a small mixer and compressor.
I would sum it up to this
I have been using Maschine for the last 6 years.
I have turned to Reaper in the end
Maschine is good as a stand alone tool for beat making, chopping etc…
Sequencing MIDI or even basic audio is a nightmare.
I have one setup that allows me to work/jam DAW or DAWLESS without any change in my setup.
I have come to the conclusion that I am far more productive music wise in this manner.