The track that saved me from selling my Digitakt


#1

I first got sucked into the world of Elektron with my Octatrack mkII. It’s still the centerpiece of my home studio - I use it as a MIDI hub, master compressor, sampler for vocal stems and effects, you name it. For a while I was also using it for beats - mainly breakbeats, as it’s so easy and fun to quickly create slice grids, randomize stuff and glitch it out etc.

However, 8 audio tracks isn’t a lot, and as I do use the master track for compression, it was getting challenging to do both beats and all my other samples without quickly running out of tracks.

So I picked up a Digitakt. For the first 2-3 months I had it, even though I think it’s a quality box, I had a very difficult time integrating it into my workflow. There was the pattern change bug that forced me to use it as the master MIDI clock instead of the OT. Mono sampling also sounded more obvious when played next to the OT’s stereo sampler.

But most of all, my issue with the DT (still actually) was how difficult it was to audition new drum sounds on it. Unless something has changed recently, you can’t preview samples without first loading them into the project, and with only 128 slots, trying to put together an 8-part drum kit was a super hassle. the DT also sucks for breakbeats compared to the OT since there is no time-stretching, which means a lot of sample prep in advance and no flexibility on BPM once you’ve imported your samples.

As of a month ago my DT was back in the box and listed for sale on Reverb. But today it’s playing the drums on my latest track (posted below). So what changed my mind?

Sample chains.

I use sample chains sometimes on the OT, and use the awesome Octachainer app to make them when needed. But it had never occurred to me to use them on the DT until I saw a youtube clip of someone walking through their workflow with them.

Light bulb went off. I now exclusively use 8-sample chains for my DT beats. It allows me a lot more flexibility in auditioning drum sounds without burning through the slots, and makes the import- then-delete-stuff-I-don’t-like workflow much less painful.

How many of you guys use sample chains on the DT? Oh and here’s that new track :wink:

Kit:

Octatrack mkII
Digitakt
Analog Four mkII
Dreadbox Nyx (w/Boss Digital Delay pedal)
Moog Minitaur
Boss Space Echo


#2

You have always been able to preview samples from the +drive without loading them to a project. Func+yes has been that command.


#3

What he said. Preview is not available only in RAM mode (please fix this, Elektron). I have not used samplechains but after this suggestin, I will give a try.


#4

You can do that with sounds, sure, but I was not aware of the ability to do that with samples. Don’t recall seeing that in the manual and the UI sure doesn’t help make that clear. I’ll give it a try tonight.

Still, I’m now a big fan of sample chains for drums, as I like to breeze through a lot of options for snares, kicks etc and don’t want to burn through all those slots.


#5

Oh and also, this tool is essential for determining start point to browse through sounds in your chain (DT and AR apparently both have the same start time range). Thanks to whomever made this. This + Octachainer is what made this workflow possible / easy for me…

http://bl.ocks.org/NickDimmock/raw/3e8dd44a8e777129d332/


#6

digitakt sample chains are fine if theyre equal sized samples (painful if theyre not) … octatrack advantage is they dont need to be … and theyre stereo.

advantage of sample chains though , which ive been doing tonight , i got a nice 808 chain and i wanted a vocodered 808 , so i only have to process 1 file and theyre all consistant and use same chain file to setup the sample on octatrack.

same would work if you just swap in the sample on DT too.


#7

Agreed on all counts. If I’m using breakbeats I put them in the OT, since you usually want to preserve any stereo sound / reverb etc.

For now I’m really using DT exclusively for individual dry drum hits, and using reverb/delay to add some stereo. It’s not perfect but makes up for a lot of that limitation.

Octachainer has an option for making spots in the chain equal length, which I use.

If Elektron ever made a “hexatrack” with 16 audio tracks I’d buy one in a heartbeat and sell the DT…


#8

You can do it with samples. Had my dt for a year always have been able to audition samples from the +drive with func+yes.


#9

From the manual


#10

The idea of sample chains is intriguing but I always end up not bothering with it since my samples are already all one-shots. I’m finishing up a live set I’ve been working on - 16 tracks (I treat each row as a ‘song’, so 2 per bank 8 patterns max per track) and I’ve used maybe 40 slots. If I found myself running out of sample slots a lot I’d consider sample chains more. Using sounds it would be cool to have my favorite kits only take up a few slots, but that’s a bit of work to set up :slight_smile: and then if you bump start/end/loop times your sounds get wacky, and you can’t LFO start/end of samples without great care. like the concept. I just try and really think “hmm do I need this RS sample” if I already have 2-3 rim shots in RAM, using pitch/filter/envelope and FX that’s usually enough to craft different tonalities.

What has really taken me to another level w/ DT is integrating it with Ableton…I set up 8 instrument tracks in ableton and control them in realtime from DT. Pretty excellent stuff. Gives me a lot more flexibility, as I’m not wasting sample tracks on DT for melodic and harmonic content, just beats. Before a gig I sample all my synths into Ableton and trigger them from the DT, that way I can leave the expensive hardware at home! Plus I get polyphony and stereo playback of synths. The “Program Change” delay issue isn’t a factor because I don’t actually use clips in Ableton, DT does all the sequencing.


#11

One important tip for working with sample Chains is not to make them as long as you would for say the OT. There’s no zoom on the dt when in the src page adjusting start and end point, so working with longer chains is a little difficult.

I tend to run out of project ram before sample slots.


#12

Yea, the no ZOOM thing is a buzzkill!


#13

Is your approach similar to what Fenixsong does here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZteFkDButQ
and how long are your synth samples?


#14

Same do it all the time when I was running and swapping but it would freeze after going trough too many then I just did func yes same way octatrack does it


#15

Me too what burns the ram so fast?


#16

Yeah I stopped using sample chains for the AR almost as quickly as I startes using them. Just killed RAM.


#17

Nice track! :slight_smile:


#18

It’s actually quite different from that approach. I don’t bother using the Ableton sequencer in this arrangement, as getting the DT to be a good slave is an arduous task and I have music to make :wink: in a nutshell, I use Ableton as one big virtual instrument, with up to 8 instruments (usually Sampler or Simpler) available for control from the DT MIDI channels. Using Racks and the Chain Selector and Macros (which map quite easily to the DT’s encoders) it’s very flexible and quite powerful. My synth samples can be up to 20 seconds long if it’s an 8-bar progression. Stereo playback is very important to me, as a few of my synths are stereo, and certainly most of my hardware FX. A much lusher sound than can be achieved sampling into DT, and frees up all 8 DT audio tracks for what it does best, drums. Not to mention being able to use excellent FX in the DAW. Once the backend is set up, on stage the mac is off to the side - everything can be controlled from DT.


#19

You’re doing the lords work, as they say. For once I’d like to see an honest thread title like:

“The manual that saved me from selling the latest new thing I’m still learning how to use”


#20

Very cool! You just gave me ideas for things to try. Thank you @man909 !!