The importance of finding your core gear

I read a post recently about advice someone got from an engineer or music teacher or friend stressing how important it is to find your main piece of kit, whether it be an instrument or a workflow or a device, and then mix and match other things along with that.

I’ve been ignoring all the evidence that Model:Cycles is that centerpiece for me, and how useful having one is. It does just enough of everything I really need. Drums, chromatics, FX, modern Elektron sequencing, even (limited) MIDI out. Just enough tracks to make usable backing tracks or even finished songs. It’s not perfect - if it had even Drumbrute’s pads, or polyphony, I wouldn’t need my PadKontrol or maybe even my Nord Lead 3 or DX7 (on loan from friend :slight_smile: ) Overbridge might have been nice too.

Could Elektron’s next groovebox take a leaf from Cycles? I’d bet my money on it…

I don’t start all projects on it (though I have several that are all or mostly M:C), but it finds its way onto the majority of tracks, it’s just always there and I am getting to know all its secrets. This thing is way, way more versatile than it gets credit for. You can bypass much of its default character (if you want) by leveraging the LFO. For instance Tone, can make excellent kicks, snares, claps, and toms. And the Metal machine is ridiculous. It can make shakers, sword clangs, 808 hat, 909 hat, ride cymbal, high-passed chromatics… Once you understand how all the machines utilize the operators and hidden features of the sound engine, you come to see that it is essentially a general-purpose FM synth, lacking only direct control over the envelopes and algorithms. And once you understand how various typical electronic music sounds are constructed, you can coax it to very close to almost anything.

There are some things it will never be able to do and so you supplement. But for my bread-and-butter, it can step outside its plastic home and sound almost analog.

I love it.


I agree.

I really should stop selling mine all the time.


The Models are a lot of fun. So simple and easy to learn yet complex with what they let you do. I enjoy them. Wish they would release a VA version next, or maybe a dedicated drum machine.


This road leads to Syntakt pre-orders, proceed with caution.

“Finding your core gear” is a really nice concept. I think for me it’s my modular + Rytm, if I have those two I feel very comfortable and able to just make stuff.

But a lot of the things you’re saying that are specific to the Model:Cycles are interesting and probably belong on some M:C threads, since it has such a reputation for having a limited sound palette. You make a good case against that stereotype, hope other potential M:C users get to read this.


Ever the contrarian, I ask: What does one do once they have found their core gear? What’s the next step? Why is this important self-knowledge?

Aside: my core

I think I get the core concept (pardon the pun). I would love Octatrack to be my core, but I’m still struggling through the phase where I don’t know enough and am not quick enough with what I do know to actually enjoy it. The AR tho’, is pure joy and it’s probably my core. I get further, faster with that than anything else I own, and feel happier with the results.

1 Like

To put it briefly, it simplifies things.

To take a common instance, when I need a certain kind of sound, or common pattern or some kind of transition in a track I’m recording, I can just reach for it because I know how to use it the best.

When I want a beat but want to be able to program chromatics quickly into it, no thinking required. I already know that I like the sounds it makes. (If I had a Digitone it would have taken a similar role.)

When trying out performance techniques and ideas, again, it’s like reflex. It’s just the central piece.

From there you have a reference point on what other gear you want/need, and if you need anything else at all.


Make tunes. Bask in the glory of your self actualization.

See above

Cruicial step to escaping the enternal cycle of GAS


Food for thought. Thanks @Roger and @Microtribe.


AR makes a really good core if you’re into samples. Sounds like you have two heavyweights fighting it out.

OT is like Ableton as an Elektron groovebox.

AR is like a really nice interface for a Digitakt plus bonus analog drums.

If you like and know AR the best then it is your core.

OT + AR seem a bit overlapping to me. Figuring out what to use and when would be a puzzle. These boxes are all designed to be able to make full tracks by themselves.

If OT does provide anything valuable, it could be as a sidekick to the AR, providing extra voices, or mixing / processing of audio input from the AR.

A two-device setup could make a good core.

EDIT: Just make sure that if you decide on that, that you commit to it and keep em together!


Basically it’s gonna be a less restrictive Digitone (or VA w/ basic FM) with sampling and some kind of performance-friendly features. I’m so sure of it.

1 Like

It’s important so you don’t waste any future time and money on synths you don’t click with.

Yeah I agree. Bass Station II for me.


Yo the artist makes the art. You are the core

It’s nice to have a piece of gear you know really well, but they all make sound and music. Choose to spend time learning how you work


i think it’s worth pushing back on this. musical instruments, just like any tool, aid the person with skills in whatever they create. i am not saying a nice piece of gear can make up for a lack of skill or creativity. certain people connect and feel inspired by certain gear, there’s no removing it from the equation.


Yep. Cant make music with no instrument.


I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of OT as my centerpiece. The ability to time stretch loops, record, chop, remix, or just glue everything together is valuable. I put a lot of miles on the MC707 as the core piece as well, but it doesn’t quite sound as good in bringing it all together.

I really think it’s about finding a core workflow and then identifying gear that lets you work that way. I make more headway when I’m not trying to swim against the current.


The core.

Of course, the same is true if you invert it.

I’m suggesting that you will have greater success by considering your own skills as the core of what you are capable of instead of searching for a tool that will “let you be you”.

Having a bond with an instrument is great, and it will help YOU create things more easily or of a higher quality than your self alone.

If you don’t know how to use your brain to create harmony, momentum, etc. however, you will be at a loss.

I spent a lot of time trying to find an instrument that would let me express myself. Especially with samples and environmental sounds.

I found through this search that multiple instruments can do this, and I enjoy working with them for different reasons.
They didn’t make my music better.
The things I learned while making the music, or getting frustrated by some shortfall were what helped me.

Learning that I was motivated to study different instruments but not different theories changed my approach recently.
I was spending a great time researching instruments and what I could do with them.
Which is fun, I adore it (to a point), and want to design my own instrument someday.
However it was often an excuse to not sit down and do the slightly round about technique that my current gear was capable of.

In summary I want to highlight that technology changes, artists use lots of mediums and the art you make ultimately has to do with you.

I see a lot of these threads on elektronauts, and I want to provide this opinion because I would’ve liked to learn it earlier.


Couple things to point out -

I’m not saying having a “core” device is a prerequisite for being productive in making music. I think however that this anchoring will be very good for me, having never had a stable one before, and perhaps lead me eventually to the stage that you’re at, where my skills are at the point that the gear matters less. I think it’s important to realize this as a matter of stability not for the purpose of clinging to a piece of gear that one thinks is somehow “the ultimate”, but a stable ground on which to hone ones’ musical (and gear) skills, something that I think is done much less efficiently when one has not done this yet and has more than, say, two devices.

Secondly, I was actually thinking about this very thing you’ve brought up, how we as musicians must be more-or-less independent of our gear - that is, the music needs to be in us not the gear. That’s what enables me to recreate my lost M:C project.

I see those things as separate topics for two different stages of an electronic musician’s journey.


Same here.

I think there’s something special about it. Kind of like it’s been said a 303 emulates animal howls, but it’s harder to articulate what it is with the M:C. I’ve had long, rambling philosophical / aesthetic / spiritual discussions about the M:C. Heck, I had written up a ramble about it here just now and I had to delete it out of self-restraint.


Model Cycles to me feels like broken glass :laughing:

Very smooth and then very sharp

The smooth tones are comfy but the spikes are real