Production Tools – Elektron Octatrack

This is the video that first sparked my obsession with the Octatrack. I had seen in an interview with Alessandro Cortini where he discussed using it when touring with Nine Inch Nails. I was intrigued, as an Ableton Live nut myself, that he relied exclusively on hardware instruments for his duties on tour. He is the “keyboard player” but what he does goes beyond that. Of course, the rest of the band use controllers and software as well as hardware, but not him.


I loved how free and creative the workflow seemed to be in this video, and I also loved that it wasn’t immediately obvious what was going on. I watched some more videos on the device (links below) and then checked the price. Ouch. Eventually a bargain MK2 came on sale nearly 18 months later and I finally could purchase, and I’m not disappointed. It uses “scenes” to capture destination values for over 30 sample and effect parameters, you can choose how many, and you can have 16 scenes x 4 per performance. And the best part – you can have one scene (set of parameter values) on the left side of the crossfader, a different scene on the right, and morph between them. Insane results possible. The sequencer also allows locking parameters for a single step to create rhythmic automation difficult to do quickly on any DAW. Not a laptop in sight.

Looking forward to gigging with it but for now it is in the studio mangling samples for Barry Power, Joe Kiernan, Fiona Maria, and Tinned Fruit.

So far I have used it to slice and rearrange drum loops and melody lines sampled in real-time and in sync from the volca bass, microkorg, and the sampler itself. I’ve also used it to jam with artists in the early stages of preproduction, adding effects and sample mangling/destruction on the fly. The Octatrack excels at this and it set a really exciting vibe at the start of the project with Joe. It really feels like an instrument, not a hardware DAW replacement. I will put up more about it soon.