How to ditch the computer and use Octatrack for backing tracks

Elektron’s Octatrack has been around since 2010, with Digitakt about to make its launch. But it remains a bedrock of a lot of live rigs. And there’s something that’s still special about it. It’s a sampler, yes, but with eight tracks and a built-in sequencer. It’s got a deep effects section and loads of I/O. In other words, it’s a digital box that assumes a lot of the collection of functions that are the reason to lug along a laptop. It does that job of playing tracks, sequences, and effects in an improvisatory way – whether closer to live playing or DJing.

The trick is understanding how to do that. And while loading up tracks and pressing play may sound boring, that could free you up to actually experiment with effects and transitions over top rather than just the busywork of reinventing the same material. (That’s especially important if you want to play the stuff people expect from your record.)

Cuckoo continues his terrific series of video tutorial videos with a comprehensive starter’s guide to doing just that.

The first few minutes are just the basics – the backing track bit. But about nine minutes in, you start to get to the interesting stuff. That includes making the whole setup playable, using effects like beat repeat creatively, and employing the Octatrack’s unique onboard crossfader as “scene slider.”

Of course, the other advantage of automating some of this stuff is that it allows the Octatrack to be effective at the center of a rig with other gear – or even that computer, in fact.

Have a look:

If you want more, he’s got a whole series of videos on how to use the Octatrack – and some live jams of his own. It winds up being somehow better than even Elektron’s documentation – but I think it will always be important to have tutorial content from artists’ perspectives.

Great stuff – thanks!

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