Why The Octatrack Is The Weirdest Electronic Musical Instrument Around


It’s a Sampler, but not like any other Sampler

The Octatrack, manufactured by the renowned Swedish company Elektron, stands out as a truly unique electronic musical instrument. At its core, it is a sampler, but it goes far beyond what traditional samplers offer. With its powerful features and intuitive interface, the Octatrack allows musicians to turn samples into mind-bending sonic landscapes.

One of the standout features of the Octatrack is its ability to manipulate samples in real-time. Unlike traditional samplers that simply play back recorded sounds, the Octatrack offers a range of dynamic control options. It allows you to slice, dice, stretch, reverse, pitch-shift, and loop your samples on the fly. This level of flexibility gives you the freedom to create intricate textures and experiment with new sonic possibilities.

In addition to its powerful sampling capabilities, the Octatrack also includes a range of built-in effects. These effects, such as reverb, delay, and filter, can be applied to individual samples or to the entire mix. This enables you to sculpt your sounds with precision and add depth to your compositions. It’s like having a virtual studio at your fingertips.

Another aspect that sets the Octatrack apart from other samplers is its unique sequencing capabilities. It features an advanced step sequencer that allows you to create intricate and evolving rhythms. You can program and automate parameters like pitch, modulation, and filter settings, which adds a layer of complexity and creativity to your compositions.

Additionally, the Octatrack offers extensive MIDI and CV connectivity, making it easy to integrate with other hardware devices. You can synchronize it with your other gear, such as synthesizers, drum machines, and modular setups, to create a cohesive and dynamic performance setup.

Overall, the Octatrack redefines what it means to be a sampler. Its combination of sample manipulation, powerful effects, advanced sequencing, and seamless integration with other gear makes it a must-have instrument for musicians looking to push the boundaries of electronic music.

It’s a Sequencer, but with a Twist

While the Octatrack is primarily recognized as a sampler, it also boasts a powerful sequencer that sets it apart from other electronic musical instruments. The sequencer in the Octatrack is not just a linear pattern generator; it’s a dynamic and versatile tool that allows for complex and evolving compositions.

At its core, the Octatrack’s sequencer follows a pattern-based approach. You can create and chain patterns together to build entire songs or performances. Each pattern consists of multiple tracks, where you can assign different sounds or samples and program their specific sequences.

But what truly makes the Octatrack’s sequencer special is its ability to manipulate time and create mesmerizing variations. It introduces the concept of time-stretching, allowing you to alter the length and tempo of individual patterns or even specific steps within a pattern. This feature opens up a world of possibilities for creating intricate rhythms and evolving textures.

Furthermore, the Octatrack’s sequencer also incorporates a powerful parameter-locking system. This means that you can assign different parameter settings (such as filter cutoff, resonance, or sample start time) to specific steps within a pattern. As the sequence progresses, these parameters change dynamically, adding movement, modulation, and sonic richness to your compositions.

Another unique feature of the Octatrack’s sequencer is its ability to handle audio and MIDI tracks simultaneously. This allows for seamless integration of external MIDI instruments with the internal sample-based tracks. You can control and sequence both audio and MIDI in sync, creating a cohesive and harmonious blend of sounds.

Additionally, the Octatrack’s sequencer includes advanced performance-oriented features like conditional triggers and trig conditions. These features give you the ability to introduce probability-based sequencing, where certain events or actions only occur randomly or under specific conditions. This adds an element of surprise and unpredictability to your performances, injecting life and character into your music.

It’s a Performer’s Dream (or Nightmare)

When it comes to live performance, the Octatrack can be both a dream and a nightmare. Its vast array of features and capabilities make it an incredibly versatile instrument on stage, but mastering its intricacies and workflow can also be a daunting challenge.

On the positive side, the Octatrack offers a wealth of performance-oriented features that make it a performer’s dream. Its intuitive interface allows for seamless navigation and quick access to essential functions. With its responsive buttons and well-designed layout, you can easily trigger samples, manipulate parameters, and create dynamic changes on the fly.

The Octatrack also provides extensive control options for live improvisation. Its crossfader, scene and part automation, and parameter locking features allow for real-time manipulation and improvisation, enabling you to shape your performances according to the energy and mood of the moment. You can create evolving textures, build tension, and craft intricate arrangements, all while maintaining a seamless and engaging live experience.

Furthermore, the Octatrack’s robust MIDI and CV connectivity make it compatible with a wide range of external controllers and gear. You can integrate it into a larger performance setup, syncing it with drum machines, synthesizers, and sequencers to create a cohesive and dynamic performance environment. It becomes the centerpiece of your live rig, providing endless creative possibilities.

On the flip side, the Octatrack can be a nightmare for performers who are unfamiliar with its workflow and complex features. Its learning curve can be steep, requiring a significant amount of time and dedication to fully grasp its intricacies. The various layers of functionality and the multitude of options may initially overwhelm newcomers, and there may be a period of frustration and trial-and-error before achieving fluency.

Additionally, the Octatrack’s performance-oriented approach means that it demands meticulous preparation and organization. Crafting and arranging samples, programming sequences, and mapping controls all require careful attention to detail. Without proper planning and practice, the potential for mistakes and technical difficulties increases, potentially disrupting performances or hindering the desired creative flow.

Ultimately, the Octatrack’s performative capabilities are a double-edged sword. While it offers an incredible level of creative control and freedom on stage, it also demands a significant investment of time and effort to fully reap its benefits. However, for those willing to take on the challenge, the Octatrack can truly become a powerful and expressive tool for live performances.

The Infamous Elektron Workflow

One of the things that sets Elektron instruments, including the Octatrack, apart from others is their unique and somewhat infamous workflow. Elektron has created a signature approach to designing their devices, often referred to as the “Elektron way.”

At its core, the Elektron workflow revolves around a pattern-based approach. The Octatrack utilizes a grid-based interface where each track represents a step in the pattern. You can think of it as a digital version of the classic step sequencer, but with a twist.

Instead of a linear, left-to-right sequencing approach, Elektron devices like the Octatrack embrace a non-linear and more flexible structure. This allows for unique pattern variations and loop arrangements, giving you the freedom to create complex compositions and immersive musical journeys.

Another key aspect of the Elektron workflow is the use of parameter locks. Parameter locks allow you to program specific settings for individual steps within a pattern. Want that snare drum to pan from left to right only on the fourth step? No problem. With parameter locks, you can create intricate and dynamic variations, adding movement and excitement to your patterns.

Furthermore, Elektron instruments are known for their performance-friendly functionality. The Octatrack offers numerous performance-oriented features, such as the crossfader and scene automation. These tools allow you to manipulate various parameters in real-time, enabling you to craft captivating live performances that constantly evolve and surprise.

However, it’s important to note that the Elektron workflow can be somewhat intimidating for newcomers. With its unconventional interface and non-linear approach, there can be a learning curve to fully understanding and harnessing the potential of the Octatrack. It may take some time to get accustomed to the various functions, shortcuts, and terminology.

Yet, many musicians find that the investment is well worth it. Once you grasp the Elektron workflow, it becomes a powerful engine for creativity. You can effortlessly create intricate arrangements, experiment with unconventional sequencing techniques, and sculpt your sound with precision.

The Elektron workflow is not for everyone, but for those who embrace it, it becomes a defining factor in their music-making process. It encourages experimentation, pushes boundaries, and unlocks a world of sonic possibilities. So, if you’re willing to dive into the Elektron way, be prepared for a unique and rewarding journey.

It’s like Playing Tetris with Sound

When you start exploring the intricacies of the Octatrack’s sequencing and sampling capabilities, you may find yourself experiencing a sensation similar to playing a game of Tetris. The Octatrack’s grid-based interface, combined with its ability to slice and manipulate samples, allows you to arrange sounds and patterns in a way that feels like playing a musical puzzle game.

Just like in Tetris, where you have to fit and arrange falling blocks to create lines and clear the screen, the Octatrack’s grid allows you to arrange samples, tracks, and patterns in a manner that creates a cohesive musical composition. Each sound or sample can be thought of as a block that you can place and manipulate within the grid.

With the Octatrack, you can slice and dice your samples into smaller fragments, assigning each fragment to a different track or step in the pattern. This allows you to create intricate rhythmic patterns and complex musical structures. It’s like fitting the blocks of sound together to form a musical puzzle.

In addition to slicing and arranging samples, the Octatrack also offers a plethora of other tools that add depth and dimension to your sonic creations. Effects, parameter locks, and modulation options allow you to mold and shape your sound, just like rotating and maneuvering the falling Tetriminos in the game of Tetris.

As you experiment and explore the possibilities of the Octatrack, you’ll find yourself making decisions based on how the different blocks or sounds fit together, how they interact, and how they create a cohesive whole. It’s a process of trial and error, experimentation, and discovery, much like the iterative nature of playing a game of Tetris.

And just like in Tetris, where the challenge increases as the game progresses, the Octatrack presents its own challenges as you delve deeper into its capabilities. The complexity and depth of the instrument can be both invigorating and demanding, keeping you engaged and inspired to explore new ways of arranging and manipulating your sounds.

So, if you’re ready to embark on a musical journey that feels like playing Tetris with sound, the Octatrack awaits you. Put your creative skills to the test and discover the joy of arranging and manipulating blocks of sound to create unique and captivating compositions.

It’s a Beast with a Learning Curve

The Octatrack is often referred to as a beast, capturing the sense of awe and challenge that comes with mastering this powerful electronic musical instrument. While it offers an abundance of features and creative possibilities, it also presents a significant learning curve that can be both intimidating and rewarding.

At first glance, the Octatrack’s interface may seem complex and overwhelming. Its grid-based layout and multitude of buttons, knobs, and menus can be daunting for newcomers. Understanding the terminology, navigating the different screens, and grasping the overall workflow can take time and patience. It’s like entering a new world where you need to learn a whole new language to fully unlock the instrument’s potential.

The learning curve of the Octatrack is not just about understanding the interface; it’s also about grasping the concepts and techniques behind its various features. From sampling and sequencing to its intricate parameter locking and scene automation capabilities, there’s a wealth of functionality to explore. Each new feature adds another layer of complexity and possibilities, further enhancing the instrument’s versatility.

However, despite its initial challenges, the Octatrack rewards those who invest time and effort into understanding its intricacies. As you overcome the learning curve, you’ll begin to appreciate the depth and power of this beast of an instrument. You’ll discover new ways to manipulate samples, experiment with sequencing techniques, and create unique sonic landscapes that were previously uncharted.

But it’s not just about the technical aspects of learning the Octatrack; it’s also about developing your own creative process. The instrument invites you to explore and push your boundaries, to experiment with different sound textures, and to go beyond standard musical conventions. This creative growth and exploration can be both challenging and immensely gratifying.

Fortunately, there are communities and resources available to support you on your Octatrack journey. Online forums, tutorials, and user groups can provide valuable insights, tips, and guidance that can help you navigate the learning curve more efficiently. Connecting with fellow Octatrack enthusiasts can also inspire and motivate you, as you share experiences and learn from each other.

So, if you’re ready to tackle the beast that is the Octatrack, be prepared for a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. Embrace the learning curve, experiment fearlessly, and let the instrument lead you on a path of sonic exploration and creative fulfillment.

The Mysterious and Powerful Crossfader

One of the most intriguing and essential features of the Octatrack is its crossfader. This seemingly simple control element holds a world of potential and power, adding a layer of creativity and performance dynamics to your music.

The crossfader allows you to smoothly transition between tracks, creating seamless blends and transitions in your compositions. By adjusting the position of the crossfader, you can control the relative volume levels of different tracks, effortlessly fading in or out elements of your music. This gives you the ability to craft intricate and dynamic arrangements, enhancing the flow and energy of your performances.

But the crossfader on the Octatrack is not just about volume control – it’s also a gateway to numerous creative possibilities. With the crossfader assign feature, you can map various effects parameters to the crossfader, allowing for expressive and intuitive control over sound manipulation. You can apply these effects selectively to different parts of your composition or layer them together for complex sonic transformations.

Furthermore, the crossfader can be automated and controlled in real-time using scenes. Scenes on the Octatrack are a powerful tool that allows you to store and recall different settings across multiple parameters. By assigning the crossfader position to a scene, you can create dynamic changes and transitions during your performances with a single button press or MIDI command.

Another mysterious aspect of the crossfader is the possibility of assigning it to control panning. While traditionally associated with left-right stereo control, the Octatrack’s crossfader allows you to assign panning to various parameters, like filter cutoff or sample start time. This opens up a world of creative panning effects that can bring your sounds to life and add depth and movement to your compositions.

However, mastering the art of crossfader control requires practice and experimentation. It’s not just about moving the fader randomly – it’s about understanding the structure and dynamics of your composition, and finding the perfect moments to introduce crossfader manipulation. It’s about developing a feel for how the movement of the fader affects the overall sonic landscape and using it as an extension of your musical expression.

Whether you’re using the crossfader for subtle transitions or intricate effects manipulation, it’s clear that this seemingly unassuming control element holds a significant role in shaping the character of your music. Embrace its mystery, explore its possibilities, and let the crossfader become your trusted ally in creating captivating and immersive sonic journeys.

The Art of Digitakt Sampling on the Octatrack

If you’re familiar with Elektron’s Digitakt, you’ll be delighted to know that the Octatrack offers seamless integration and advanced sampling capabilities for this popular sibling instrument. The Octatrack takes the art of sampling to new heights, allowing you to create intricate and captivating sonic landscapes through the combination of these two powerful machines.

Sampling on the Octatrack opens up a world of creative possibilities. Whether you’re capturing field recordings, chopping up drum breaks, or manipulating synth melodies, the Octatrack provides a powerful and intuitive platform for sampling and sound sculpting. With its extensive sampling options, you can transform raw audio into unique and expressive elements for your compositions.

One of the key features that sets the Octatrack apart when it comes to sampling is its ability to slice samples into individual parts or steps. This allows you to assign different slices to different tracks or steps within a pattern, enabling you to create intricate and evolving rhythms. By manipulating the start time, length, and pitch of each slice, you can craft dynamic and complex patterns that add excitement and depth to your music.

The Octatrack also offers advanced sample manipulation options such as time stretching, pitch shifting, and reverse playback. These features open up a vast range of creative opportunities, allowing you to experiment with textures, create atmospheric effects, and transform your samples into entirely new sonic entities. You can stretch and warp time, pitch samples up or down, or even play them in reverse to add a touch of mystery and intrigue to your compositions.

Furthermore, the Octatrack excels at incorporating external gear into its sampling workflow. With its audio inputs and flexible routing options, you can sample directly from external sources such as synthesizers, drum machines, or even live instruments. This seamless integration allows you to capture and manipulate the unique characteristics of your gear, blending them with the Octatrack’s versatile internal sound palette.

However, the art of sampling on the Octatrack goes beyond just capturing and manipulating individual sound snippets. It’s about exploring the sonic potential of the sampled material and using it as a building block to create unique and expressive musical compositions. It’s about making deliberate choices in terms of what samples to use, how to slice and arrange them, and how to shape them with effects and parameter locks.

The Octatrack encourages you to think beyond traditional sampling techniques and embrace experimentation and sonic exploration. By combining the features and capabilities of the Octatrack with the vast sound palette of the Digitakt, you can create truly immersive and captivating compositions that push the boundaries of what is possible in electronic music.

So, embrace the art of Digitakt sampling on the Octatrack and let your creativity soar. Capture, manipulate, and weave together sounds in unique and innovative ways, and let the combination of these two powerful instruments unleash your musical vision.

It’s All About the Parameter Locks

When it comes to unleashing the full potential of the Octatrack, mastering the art of parameter locks is essential. Parameter locks are a powerful tool that allows you to control and automate specific parameters on a step-by-step basis, adding depth, movement, and dynamics to your compositions.

With parameter locks on the Octatrack, you can program and modulate various parameters such as filter cutoff, sample start time, panning, and more. Each individual step within a pattern can have its own unique set of parameter values, giving you precise control over the evolution and transformation of your sound.

One of the key advantages of parameter locks is the ability to introduce variation and modulation to your patterns. By assigning different parameter values to specific steps, you can create evolving textures, dynamic filter sweeps, and intricate rhythmic patterns. This adds a sense of movement and progression to your compositions, bringing them to life and capturing the attention of your audience.

Furthermore, parameter locks allow you to create intricate melodies and harmonies by modulating the pitch of individual steps. By setting different pitch values for each step, you can create melodies that evolve and twist throughout the pattern, adding complexity and interest to your music.

Using parameter locks in conjunction with the Octatrack”s conditional triggers feature opens up even more possibilities. Conditional triggers allow you to specify conditions that must be met for a parameter lock to be executed. This means you can introduce probability-based modulation, where certain parameter changes occur randomly or selectively. This adds an element of surprise and unpredictability to your compositions, injecting a unique character and groove.

Moreover, parameter locks can be used creatively in combination with the crossfader. By assigning specific parameters to the crossfader, you can control and manipulate them in real-time during your performances. This allows for expressive and intuitive control over your sound, enabling you to craft evolving textures, build tension, and create dynamic changes that captivate your audience.

However, mastering parameter locks requires patience, experimentation, and a keen ear for how different parameter values interact with each other. It’s about understanding the relationship between different parameters and how they shape your sound. With practice, you’ll gain an intuitive sense of how to use parameter locks to create emotional impact and musical depth.

Ultimately, parameter locks are a powerful tool that empowers you to sculpt your sound and bring your compositions to life. Whether you’re adding subtle variations or implementing bold and drastic transformations, the Octatrack’s parameter locks give you the creative control to shape your music exactly as you envision it.

Tips and Tricks for Octatrack Mastery

The Octatrack is a complex and powerful instrument that rewards dedicated exploration and practice. To help you on your journey towards mastering this unique machine, here are some tips and tricks to enhance your Octatrack experience:

  1. Study the Manual: The Octatrack’s manual is a valuable resource that provides detailed information about each feature and function. Take the time to read and understand it thoroughly to gain a comprehensive understanding of the instrument.
  2. Experiment with Parameter Locks: Parameter locks are a fundamental aspect of the Octatrack’s workflow. Dive deep into parameter modulation to create evolving patterns and dynamic changes by assigning different parameter values to specific steps.
  3. Utilize Scenes: Scenes allow you to store and recall different parameter settings, making it easy to switch between variations of your composition during live performances. Explore the versatility of scenes to create expressive and dynamic musical journeys.
  4. Take Advantage of Crossfader Assignments: Assigning different parameters to the crossfader gives you real-time control over their intensity and modulation. Experiment with mapping effects, panning, or filter settings to the crossfader to add dramatic transitions and movements to your music.
  5. Join Online Communities: Engage with the vibrant online Octatrack community, join forums, and participate in discussions. Share your experiences, learn from others, and discover new techniques and workflows that can inspire your own creativity.
  6. Save and Organize Samples: Developing a streamlined workflow starts with organizing your samples effectively. Create well-structured sample banks and use descriptive and intuitive names to easily locate and load your sounds during performances.
  7. Use the Cue List: The Cue List feature allows you to pre-program complex arrangements and transitions. Take advantage of this feature to create live sets or to efficiently sequence your compositions and ensure seamless transitions.
  8. Experiment with Sample Manipulation: Explore the sample manipulation capabilities of the Octatrack, such as time stretching, pitch shifting, and reverse playback. Use these tools creatively to transform samples into unique textures and explore new sonic territories.
  9. Invest in External Controllers: Consider using MIDI controllers or other external devices to enhance your Octatrack experience. Assigning essential functions to physical knobs and buttons can increase your efficiency while performing or programming.
  10. Practice, Practice, Practice: The more time you spend with the Octatrack, the more familiar and fluent you will become with its workflow and idiosyncrasies. Dedicate regular practice sessions to develop muscle memory and explore new techniques.

Remember, mastery of the Octatrack is a journey that requires time, patience, and a willingness to experiment. Stay curious, be open to new ideas, and embrace the creative possibilities that this formidable instrument offers. With time and dedication, you’ll unlock the full potential of the Octatrack and create music that truly reflects your unique artistic vision.