Tips for a satisfying experience learning the Analog Rytm AR

Hey 'nauts. Been spending a lot of time here reading and learning. What a great community!

I have an AR mk2 waiting under the bed for my birthday next month and I’m obsessively reading and watching YouTube videos while I anticipate the Great Unboxing. In the meantime I’d love some tips on what order to approach things to make my learning experience smooth and enjoyable. Genres I want to work in are melodic-ish techno / house, krautrock inspired slower stuff and possibly some big textured ambient stuff. My goal is more to make warm, hypnotic, organic sounding music that comes from the heart, rather than aim for a specific genre.

Long, self-indulgent background info below - feel free to ignore and just answer the question! :grinning:

I’ve been dabbling with electronic music production since around the year 2000. For a few years I was all software - I used FL Studio and a bit of Reason and a load of VSTs. I got overwhelmed by self doubt and the enormity of the possibilities with software, plus not wanting to sit in front of a screen after a day at work doing the same, and I fell out of love with making music.

Around 2012/13 I bought a Korg Monotron Duo on a whim and it completely blew my mind, opening up a whole new world for me. It was so immediate and satisfying and the analog sound just filled me up! When the first Volcas were released I’d already pre-ordered the Keys and I got the Beats soon after. I was super productive with these in a way I’d never been before and I churned out tune after tune of very lo-fi but (for me) immensely satisfying stuff (some examples here - recordings are very poor and all have drop outs etc… :man_facepalming:t3::grinning: Stream Spuddha music | Listen to songs, albums, playlists for free on SoundCloud). The workflow of the two Volcas was perfect for me. I could record live into the sequencers then tighten it up and add parameter locks, then do lots of live tweaking as I recorded it into Audacity via my audio interface to create simple, evolving sounds.

I got frustrated eventually with the lo-fi quality and the obvious limitations and since then I’ve been on a quest to recreate that immediately joyful analog sound, with a comparably engaging workflow but a more “grown up” sound and a lot more flexibility. On a fairly limited budget I’ve slowly traded up, trying things out for drums and synth sounds.

I tried a MD UW for a year or two but it was always too cold for me. SP-303 was too free form. Streichfett and Rocket (with Keystep Pro) were both too limited and “digital”. Mopho Keys sounded great but I hated the sequencer.

Two years ago I got an AK, used and I’ve been slowly developing my knowledge and skills with it. As with many other folks, I find I can get some amazing sounds from it but I don’t always have the patience or time to get there. Still we’re working on our relationship together!

The biggest limitations for me are my confidence and how busy my life is. I can probably do a maximum of 30 mins per day of noodling with my music stuff, maybe 60-90 mins once a week and some days none at all. I find my self doubt often plays out in a lack of patience. If I can’t make stuff sound good I find it hard to stay with it for much longer.

So what are your tips for getting to know the AR Mk2? How can I learn it thoroughly and deeply while still getting satisfaction on the way? What have you found most rewarding on your journey together and what would you say to yourself when you first got it with the wisdom you have now?

Thank you for your patience with this epic question!

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I’m sorry for going slightly off topic. Why is it under the bed and not open and in your lap :slight_smile:

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:joy: Will power!!! And maybe some sort of mental quirk… Got to wait for the birthday!

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Dont forget…Its actually a powerful sampler!!!..the magic for me is resampling good sounding one shots, single cycles and even loops. Playing them back through the sample engine with the analog engine blended in was my ah ha moment…any sample sounds so glorious through the filter…

Don’t get to hung up on the analog engines and embrace the sampling capabilities would be my number 1…

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Instead of learning something in adavance I would start creating / collecting kits to play with. The technical part is easy if you are already an Elektron user. Muscle memory will automatically kick in and 60-70% will be no problem if you are used to the latest machines.

So start creating Kits is my advice!

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Get to know each analog machine and what it sounds like so you know which one to reach for when you think of a particular sound. I’d recommend checking out this video of Cenk and Ess going through the new machines they introduced in 1.30. It gives you a good overview of a lot of the sonic space of the analog engines and also shows some creative techniques (e.g. playing chords by pinging the filters with the impulse engine). Good luck and have fun :slight_smile:

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This is so cute :smiley:

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I have taken a slightly different approach with mine (had it since Feb). I’ve made loops and rhythms that made me feel groovy, and along the way edited sounds to fit the vibe+groove I was going for. I didn’t pre-plan it much (“why not make tiny electro/Kraftwerk”, “have a go at banging techno”, “make two FM-ish noises and see where the groove goes after that”). I’m not (yet) thinking in kits, more in rhythms + tracks. Sometimes a loop will develop to a whole tune. Sometimes I play with Scenes and Performances, and again, sometimes that turns into “a track”. I’m a bit random with it.

I’m not saying this is the best way. It’s probably NOT. I’m skipping features and learning the box in an ad-hoc, as-i-need-it or as-I-feel-like-it way. I have plenty of background, but I’m not trying too hard to meet any musical goals for the next couple of years, so I can afford to “play”.

Elektron boxes look deceptively simple, but do A LOT. Be patient, enjoy the journey. If you’re creating bangers quickly, that’s a bonus (as I see it).

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I use a program called Anki to learn my gear, especially my octatrack. It’s basically intelligent flashcards. It’s a bit of work to get going with but once you do it’s so efficient. You can also do your cards each day in the bathroom and not waste any of that precious 30 minutes of music time on it :slight_smile:

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Pretty good idea! Can you give an example of such a flash card? Or even willing to share the deck?

Here is one that just came up in my deck for octatrack:

{{c1::[FUNC] + [TRIG]}} creates a {{c2::lock trig}}

This will show 2 different ways:

[…] creates a lock trig
[FUNC] + [TRIG] creates a […]

This is using a feature called “cloze deletion” and I highly recommend using it. I’m also using a plugin to add cards with image occlusion (blanking out part of an image so you have to guess it). I copy pictures of the menus out of the manual and blank out the parameters so I have to remember where all the knobs are visually.

I’m willing to share my deck but I think a big part of the learning is in creating the cards yourself. That said I could see some of the cards I’ve made as “standard” enough (like cards for the shortcuts) that it could save you some time to take mine. PM me and I will send it to you.

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I started by just making kits, one per pattern, and moving on to the next. Just to get a feel for each machine and the way everything works together. For starters, maybe just make a few kits that utilize the different machines available on each track. Once you’re familiar with those, spend some time using samples instead. Then combine both methods and resampling for super magic. Get to know the lfo, it can serve many different creative functions. Spend time with scenes and performance mode. Get comfortable with all of the above and you should be in good shape.
The Rytm takes some time for really good results in my experience. Making an awesome kit that’s ready to go isn’t instantaneous for me, but it’s important to remember to enjoy the process. Whatever you make at first doesn’t have to be amazing, instead I would focus on making things solely to get to know the instrument and better understand its character. And have fun! There is no right or wrong in creative ventures, so do your best to silence that internal critic, at least while you get to know the instrument.

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Wrap a thick bandage around your head. This won’t help you learn the AR, but it’ll help keep the headaches from banging your head against the wall at bay. And, in event of an open wound, you’ve already got it covered.

Good luck!

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I think this is why I’ve not gone the “kits first” approach - it takes a long time to create an “instrument” that does just enough expression to me useful in multiple tracks. This is likely also why I have yet to experience the frustration others claim at managing kits. I typically don’t re-use them. Each pattern, or each track I make has its own kit. Occasionally I start from a previous kit in the same Project, and modify it.

Again, I’m not trying to big up my method. Instead I’m “thinking out loud” or “learning in the open” about my approaches, mis-steps etc. I should probably try to make a kit I really like, and then make a few tracks with it.

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Great advice!

Also… make yourself a separate project for different “jobs”. e.g. have a “just fooling around” project and a “testing out stuff you read on Elektronauts” project and a “maybe I’ll try to make an e.p. now” project.

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I see it more like this:

Let’s look at the AR like an instrument. A drum kit for example with an embedded synth. Would you rather shoot the cow for the toms, snare etc. and then chop wood and mine the metals and do all
the engineering or do you prefer to start right away at day 1 with a tuned and assembled/engineered ready-to-go drumkit. Lots of drummers prefer the latter. :grinning:

That’s why I suggested to collect a few “6-8 matching samples”-kits to start right away for a flowin’ rytm. Then add / learn from there instead of trying to figure everything out at day 1 with synthesis etc. pp… and prepared “sample packs” you made yourself are imho better than the stock stuff or anything bought (mostly) - of course only if you know what you want.

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Bags of wisdom in this thread. Thanks for the generous sharing everyone. Interesting to hear some wildly different perspectives as well! Very aware how personal this sort of thing is but that makes me all the more curious to hear everyone’s advice. I find it very reassuring to hear things that resonate with what I’m hoping to find but equally the contrasting advice is just more ways to explore. :+1:t2:

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I definitely also recommend creating tons of kits. I also recommend making the kits so that the same type/machine are on the same pad location in each kit. Also, finger drumming and resampling is so much fun!

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Not specifically related to the AR, but in regards to having very little time to make music: I always force myself to sit down behind my sampler (AR mk2 right now) for half an hour every day, and do one of the following things:
-sample new sounds into the AR (from vinyl, youtube, synths or whatever)
-make kits
-play with sounds/filters/fx and resample them as new samples
-experiment with the AR’s possibilities
-make sequences
-make a song
-mix/finish a song

The moment I realized I didnt have to finish something every day, but I could divide the proces into these smaller steps felt very liberating. Hope it helps you too! Have fun with your AR, its my fav machine ever!

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As several people have suggested this, and because I typically don’t-re-use kits (although I do save them), I wonder if I think about the AR quite differently from some people.

Can you expand on your kit making? Do you do any of these things?

  • make a rhythms whilst making kits
  • make kits for genre
  • make kits with a theme in mind?
  • make tracks whilst making kits
  • make several kits, then later on make tracks?
  • if you “later on make tracks”, do you then tweak the kits? Do you think of them as “a new kit” or “the same kit played differently in this track?”

No right or wrong answers. I’m just asking so as to widen the conversation up further.

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