Elektron have shipped their Octatrack OS 1.30B. Sequencer trig conditions, powerful rules that determine how sequences play, are here. And they’re wicked.

Normally, the way step sequencers work is, each step triggers a note, if a note is there, or doesn’t if a note isn’t there. Sounds obvious. If you watch a clarinet player reading a music score, they look at the page, play clarinet notes where there are clarinet notes, and play rests where there are rests.

But wait: a sequence is just a set of rules. What if those rules had conditions?

Lots of step sequencers allow chance parameters. So, if you set the chance to 50%, you get effectively a coin toss each time a step is triggered – and a 50/50 likelihood you’ll get a note instead of a rest.

Octatrack’s new OS, for both the MKI and MKII hardware, keeps running with this idea. You get trigger conditions for everything.

It starts with that conventional random probability condition (called “%”).

“A:B” sets the trigger to true every ‘a’ number of pattern iterations (number of loops), and then every ‘b’ iterations. So, let’s say you want a note to trigger every few loops, but not every single loop. Set it to N:8, and it’ll only play every eighth loop.

You can toggle (or latch) a FILL mode, too – then have that FILL mode trigger variations of a pattern.

You can set rules based on neighboring tracks. (NEI)

You can trigger something only once, then never again (1ST) – for one-shots, or something that happens only the first time a pattern plays.
You can set rules that are true/false base on a previous condition on the same track, too – if…then style. (PRE)

It’s crazy stuff – a whole generative world for patterns. And it’s another way to cure the tyranny of patterns that play OVER AND OVER AGAIN IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AND MAKE YOU FEEL DUMB AND BORED. We’re not quite in live coding territory here, but the simplicity of this set of rules is nice, too. It seems a clever way to build up basic song structures on the hardware.

https://www.elektron.se/support/

  • Kudamm99

    I love my Electribe 2, but this is the kind of thing that they shoulda added to the firmware update. You’d think Korg, which has a random setting on the SQ-1, variable step length on Electribe tracks, and developed the step jump feature, might also embrace random.

  • what an awesome way to manage something like a 64 step sequence in 16 steps… rather than navigating between 4 ‘pages’… great UX enhancement for experienced folks/people with a programming mindset although probably overwhelming to a newb

    • Gunboat_Diplo

      “probably overwhelming to a newb”

      That can be said for nearly all Elektron devices, but especially the Octatrack.

    • I would not call myself a newbie on sequencing, but I disagree that this is a UX enhancement. Quite the contrary: Why should I look at a page of steps with notes shown that won’t play right now? That does not make sense at all and IMHO is quite counter-intuitive. Although it essentially yields the result that you describe: You can program an 8-bar sequence in only 4 bars.

      But then, take it to the extreme and not just program a small fill that’s supposed to play only once after 8 bars, but program two different sets of chord progressions – where one plays the first 4 bars and the other plays the second 4 bars – into the same sequence. No way, I would want to look at that mess of notes and conditional trig information on that screen.

      • Joseph Guisti

        A large part of the time, people are going to use this to play a crash cymbal every 4 bars of an otherwise one bar loop.

        This makes that super easy. Way easier than copying a pattern x 4.

      • Joseph Guisti

        The “fill”conditions are cool, too. Nothing happens to the loop until you press a button. While you’re holding down the button, it plays those alternative notes/rests you’ve designated as a fill.

        This stuff might all seem messy and not super efficient, but it actually lets you get tons of variety and human-vibez with a minimal bit of pre-planning.

  • Brent Williams

    I can’t wait to get home and load this on my OT! Conditional sequencing is a perfect marriage of right and left brain.

  • Gunboat_Diplo

    I had to send my OT in for service, but I can’t wait to load the new OS when it gets back.

  • brianmoore

    Just when I am getting the hang of non-conditional sequencing with the OT!

  • kevin

    I would be very interested in an interview with Elektron’s engineers about the development of this update. I would love to know whether it was a straight forward update, if they had significant hurdles like complex legacy software (since the OT has been around for a minute now), if there are some challenges developing for the MKI and MKII, comparison to developing for their other products. It’s been a while since the last update and I’d like to have a sense of whether the OT is going to continue to receive sporadic updates or if it’s likely to grow more now that the MKII is out.

  • Neil

    Random isn’t the same thing as generative though.

    • PaulM

      No it’s a subset of it.

  • Giorgio Martini

    Can we have this in live 10 natively?

    • Something similar has been in Live for years, called Follow Actions.

      • tladb

        Not really. Follow actions work for clips, sequences of notes, while the Octatrack is for the conditional triggering of notes.
        You could set up a Group with key ranges, down to single notes, triggered conditionally.

  • carlos corsi

    Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT, XOR, etc) comparing trigs from other tracks would be awesome addition to Elektrons sequnencers, this would increase rhythm options.

  • Hmmm, i was not aware that the Octatrack MK II still uses compact flash…. Kind of strange to use an outdated storage format and drive in a 2017 machine.

    • It’s because the OT MK2 is basically a facelift with some added buttons and a shiny, under-used and over-spec’ced OLED display. Everything else is the same as in the MK1.

  • heinrich zwahlen

    Some of this reminds me a bit of Ableton‘s follow actions.

  • heinrich zwahlen

    or also XY sequencer block in Reaktor..

  • As cool as this feature is for many use cases – half of it could be mitigated by allowing to have patterns with 8, 12 or 16 bars. How hard can that be? Akai was able to do that on their MPCs 15 years ago…