Song Mode Experience

Hi all,

I’ve found something a bit amusing about my workflow, and I’m curious if other people experienced it. There are a lot of calls for song mode on the Digi-devices… dozens of threads and posts about them needing the feature. The DT/DN were my only Elektron devices for a long while, and I felt the same, until I worked out my workflow for structured jams.

I have since fallen deeper into the Elektron vortex, adding the A4/Rytm/OT, and I find that I’m not using the song modes or arranger at all! When you get into performing with the devices, I found that as long as you have the devices set on matching auto-channels and mirror patterns on each device, it is waaaay more fun actively driving the machines.

I think the major piece I had to learn is that these are instruments, just like a guitar, and you learn to play them the more you practice.

I totally understand others still needing the feature, but thought I’d highlight what happened with me in case it helps someone else.

Anyone else experience this?

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I avoided the arranger for a long time at first but… I find the use of song mode, the simple automation of muting tracks and changing/chaining patterns in a logical way, lets me greatly avoid monotony and “jamming”. Automation like this can let you focus on setting up performance macros as well and use them without having to worry about switching patterns or having to mute something for effect or change.

I tend to produce something far closer to the music I enjoy listening to, like Emancipator, after I started using the arranger (I still have a long way to go). When I studied some of his tracks, things are constantly changing and always in motion. Trig conditions get close but not close enough, for me. Everyone has their own flow!

This is what I aspire to make, but live, and I don’t think I could do it without an arranger!

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I just bought rytm, currently own DT/DN.
havent received yet but song mode was one of the things I wanted because I want to be able to focus on paramter automation rather than mutes/pattern changes. The latter goes a loooong way but in terms of live performances I don’t think it adds enough to warrant the added stress of making sure to change pattern on time :smiley: (for me anyway)
Obv all the other perf stuff on rytm is more important to me and will defo be jamming like its a digi on steroids at times too. but for longer performances I plan to use song mode to keep things moving along.
One question, can you still use things like direct jump while in song mode to add extra “live/jam” element to your song?

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For long sets, I don’t think I’d use song mode!

Song mode isn’t concrete, you can jump to any point in the arrangement, alter it on the fly, mute/unmute things still… at the top there’s a sort of base camp you can jump to which is just a general pattern that you pick/mute like any other time I believe, I haven’t gotten too deep into it.

Direct jump in song mode… haven’t tried it, might have to!

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That makes sense! I’m absolutely interested in other people’s workflows, since it means a lot more to me now that I’m working out one that works well for me, so I understand context a bit more. I am certainly new on the Octatrack, and the sheer variety of functionality it provides may lead me to using the Arranger.

I am absolutely having a blast though, and that’s what led me the start this thread. What do you you typically leave to the Arranger and what do you leave out to manage yourself?

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Last night I wanted to record and I played a crappy bass line on my Novation synth while the arranger did its thing, other than that a few mutes here and there on Digitakt… When I become better with the units I plan on doing plenty of performance macros on my Rytm…

If I didn’t play the bass line, I’d be twirling knobs like a ballerina!

I don’t have the best nerves, and I will say that last night, recording and playing went more smoothly than it ever has, my heart wasn’t beating fast and everything was pretty timely… Normally I get nervous and worry about pattern switching and muting this and that then…

All in all, I find the arranger to be the equivalent of being well verse in the track. The arranger provides me a feeling of coherence and as though I’ve practiced extensively.

For some, it can take away the feeling of improvisation and performance, I completely understand everyone’s path.

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I made this change a few months ago. I think I got distracted by all of the performance features on the Rytm that song mode took a back seat!

I know people have a hard time with kits/parts, but I find them brilliant when making full songs. On the DT, making a slight change to a high hat involved going through every pattern and mirroring that change… made mixing really hard. Related to song mode discussion, since I find kits/parts enable more seamless transitions.

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That’s awesome! We definitely have a limited number of things we can juggle at once, and I will probably really, really rely on arrangements for songs where I add guitar/bass parts. It isn’t exactly easy to play guitar in a smooth way when you are fighting with pushing pattern changes. I’m glad it makes music more accessible and fun for you!

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Yea kits was another thing I’ve missed on DT. I put in a feature request to copy/paste all of a pattern’s sounds rather than the trigs which would go someway to solving it but kits will be even better! :slight_smile:

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I explored the OT arranger mode for a while. But ulitmatley I found myself feeling static and removed. It felt like ableton again. I prefer the tension created by having to switch patterns manually. It keeps me present. And keeps my knob twiddling relevant.

Sitting back while arranger does everything, and twiddling knobs while I wait for the next pattern to come around just isnt for me.

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I’ve been very vocal about the lack of song mode on the DT/DN. The idea of manually changing everything, and performing with it is cool and all, but if you’re a guitarist/drummer/bassist/horn player/etc who has their hands full, then you can’t really be pushing buttons when you’re already focused on the instrument in your hands. I just always thought that Elektron should have included the song mode feature for those who did need/want it.

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I actually like the AR/AF song mode and am getting the hang of how it works.
It’s much more based on chains than the OT… it’s more of a chain chainer than an a arranger…
though I would like to see a few things added like naming chains, inf loop/loop to beginning etc

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I’ve used the song mode on the monomachine heavily on the past. Writing or at least sketching whole tracks. Being able to sequence tempo changes, pattern length, start and stop positions, transpose track together or against each other is very powerful. For live, you can also loop inside sections, pause or jump around is also useful. When the OT came along, I never gelled so much with the arranger, it didn’t seem to suit the topology so much and I never persisted with it.

I think it makes sense in certain circumstances. But not so much of you have multiple Elektron boxes as they’re so dependent on their own sequencer for a lot of their functionality, so if you’re running more than one together I think song mode becomes a little cumbersome

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Not for song mode purpose, but I had a lot of fun with midi loopback, dividing 4x1 bar patterns by 4.
4 midi tracks playing the original patterns normally sending corresponding Pchanges (1,2,3,4,for Pattern 1, etc)
Mute/unmute tracks to choose patterns on the fly, like Direct Jump on A4/A4, or play just a portion.

Clear as mud? Probably. Demo?

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I feel the jammy nature of the Elektron boxes are perfectly complementary to a songwriting workflow. Jam out riffs and patterns and progressions then start tweaking them and chaining them until a broad outline of a song starts emerging in your head. That’s where the song mode comes in handy.

At that point song mode is awesome for those of us who want to lay out something a little more complex but have bad memories. I had a Digitone for a year and while it was incredible fun sketching out new ideas… it became a burden re-chaining those ideas together every time I wanted to work on a larger piece. I literally had a notepad of pattern order I’d write down so I’d remember it.

I recently picked up the A4 MkII less than a week ago and I’ve already written a song more complex than I ever wrote on the digitone, and that’s with 4 less voices.

Not saying I wouldn’t be able to chain all these manually, anyone totally could. But I might not have conceptualized the melodies that span multiple patterns nor would I have remembered how to structure it if I were to, say, take a break from the A4 for a couple weeks.

So yeah, I love song mode. It was a huge addition to my workflow :metal:

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The arranger mode adds a remarkable amount of depth to the OT. The fact that it allows you to skip around portions of patterns (e.g. playing steps 8-13 in one scene and then 10-15 in another and back to the full pattern) allows you to add a lot of complexity you can’t get in song mode or standard playback.

Also, one of the best aspects of the arranger is that you can jump into and out of it seamlessly. It’s not an either/or but just another weapon to use. You can set up a bunch of different sequences that loop, and hop in between and out of them. So it isn’t just a thing you set up and watch play while you do nothing. It can be a very performative.

I actually think it is unfortunate Elektron seem to have abandoned the arranger and song modes of the MM/MD/OT. The pattern offset and length options make them so much more interesting then the bland song modes of A4 and Rytm.

Anyway, the arranger is worth a deep dive into finding out what it offers.

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im struggling to visualize what it is youre describing here, yet im intrigued…! could you provide a demo? have recently been dabbling with midi loopback on the DN (mainly just for the extra LFO functionality) so am keen to see what people use this method for

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I’m definitely going to have to really try out the arranger! I didn’t realize that it could be used in a performative way on the fly. That could be what really sells me on it. What I want to avoid is “dude stands on stage, presses play, and maybe twists filter cutoff knob”… we’ve all seen that and know how boring it can be, regardless of the quality of the music.

I’m also glad to hear how it has enabled better songwriting for a lot of you!