Elektron has just released MAJOR updates to the Digitakt and Digitone. Of course they are free 😃.
Get yourselves ready for some serious OS upgrade fun for the Digitakt, Digitone, and Digitone Keys. Time to get elbow deep in a host of cracking features that will make each device even more powerful and your music-making experience even sweeter.
Class Compliant USB Audio has come to the Digi machines. Connect your Digitakt or Digitone to a compatible phone, tablet, or computer, and easily capture the audio recording from your unit on the fly. And this is just scratching the surface of what is possible. Hook up to all kinds of apps to add extra control in any number of ways: more effects, more LFOs, more freedom.
Step Recording mode
A new sequencing mode is available on the Digitakt and Digitones – Step Recording. This feature lets you input chords and notes into the sequencer step by step. Or use jump mode to skip to the next predetermined spot in the sequence via the Length parameter, making it even easier to control your melodies and build them a step at a time.
Adjust Trig Probability on the Digitakt and Digitones to introduce a little controlled randomness to proceedings. Chance really is a fine thing.
Stay a step ahead of the pattern with Trig Preview on the Digitakt and the Digitones. You can now preview individual trigs whenever you want, without having to wait for the track to catch up.
New Play Modes for Digitone
The Digitone Keys and Digitone now have four different Play Modes to choose from: Switch between Poly, Poly with mono LFOs, Mono, and Mono Legato and gain deeper control of envelopes and LFOs, and increased playability.
Increased sample skills for Digitakt
You can now use Parameter Randomization on the Digitakt to shuffle sample slots. And keep your sample list or sound pool better organized across all Digi machines with easier removal of unused sounds. Purging power, leveled up.
Lots more improvements & fixes
For a full list of improvements and bug fixes, check the release notes.
Note: When installing an OS please set your device to USB-MIDI mode.
Download the Updates
Pro Tip: Read the release notes within the downloads as there is a WHOLE lot more changes in the updates that aren’t listed in the summary above.
Here is a 1 minute video of my Sunday coffee in bed session with Elektron Digitone new 1.30 OS.
I started off this session thinking I was going to learn all the 20+ new features that Elektron added in the recent 1.30 update (see my earlier blog post).
I printed out the release notes and started going through the features. Then I ended up spending the entire session on a new STEP RECORDING mode called Jump which is documented on p. 33 of the updated Manual.
Jump mode allows you to the use the LEN parameter to automatically advance the sequencer when notes are received. This includes entering single notes or chords from an external MIDI controller. In this session I was using a Novation Launchkey MINI MK3 which has become my go to portable keyboard. You can also use the arrow keys to move through steps which allows you to skip steps which are now rests.
More on Jump Mode
I have to say Jump is super useful and fun feature. It’s also a bit nostalgic for me as it’s similar to the step sequencer in my first synth the Poly-800 – woo hoo! Nice work Elektron! And thanks for always bringing new value to our machines.
I guess it’s going to take quite a few more sessions to get through the new features which I’m sure will inspire many new patterns and songs.
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If you missed my live stream a few weeks back here is an unedited YouTube live replay of my solo multimedia concert. The performance is a combination of live arrangement and live playing that features original electronic music with real-time visuals.
16:50 “Light Runner” live performance of song from a forthcoming album
22:34 End Program with audio excerpt from the song “They Walk Among Us” from album Reboot
As you can see some of these tracks will be released in the future. Follow or subscribe on my Bandcamp site to get notified of an album or single release.
All the music and sound is from Elektron Analog Four MKI, Octatrack MKII, and Digitone. The machines are not synced. I mostly play directly from the machines, but also play notes on the Analog Four via the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 keyboard and on the Digitone via the Launchpad Pro MK3 grid. I also use the Launchkey Mini MK3 along with a Logidy UM3 pedal to control Resolume Arena 7 in real-time. Visual sources are from live camera input and other various sources.
The performance got some nice mentions by synth publications.
I got an amazingly kind mention on the Synth and Software Facebook page.
Synth & Software is an online publication and social media community for electronic music enthusiasts—anyone who enjoys listening or who plays, programs, or aspires to make music with synthesizers, samplers, DAWs, audio processors, and other instruments and software…
I view this entire rig as a multimedia “instrument”. One goal in designing this “instrument” was to accommodate the following use cases while being air locked in a performance cockpit where my performance flow would not change whether I’m performing:
Music sets in-person
Music + visuals sets in person
Music + visual sets via live stream
Music + visuals sets in person simulcast via live stream
When I’m performing in person I don’t normally use headphones and don’t look at the monitor on my laptop. Instead listen I to the P.A. or monitors. I look at the screen or wall/screen/scrim where the visuals are being projected. This incorporates the performance space as part of the vibe of the performance.
My streaming equivalent of this is to us a big screen right in front of me and perform with reference monitors at near concert volumes. Performing this way is much closer to performing on stage in front of an audience which puts more positive energy into the performance.
Conceptual Overview of 2020 Rig
Performance Cockpit – The region outlined with aqua highlighter is my performance cockpit where I play, perform, control live arrangements, and visuals.
Music Machines – All sound and music is produced via the following Elektron machines:
Analog Four – Analog synth with 4 synths and effects
Octatrack – Performance sampler, mixer, looper, effects processor, live arrangement of playback when needed
Digitone – Digital FM synth with 4 synth and effects
Live Camera for Visual Synthesis – I compose the camera shots in real-time by moving a Logitech HD Webcam which is a source for my visual software Resolume
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 – Keys are used to play the Analog Four through hardware MIDI. RGB pads use custom MIDI modes to control Resolume through USB MIDI.
Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 – Velocity and pressure sensitive pads are used to play the Digitone through hardware MIDI. I have custom control modes that I can also use to control Resolume via USB MIDI.
Audio to the house / Audio interface with Loopback for Streaming – Yamaha AG06
Laptop for Visuals and Streaming – Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, Windows 10
Visual Software – Resolume Arena 7 software
Streaming Software – OBS Studio software for streaming
Streaming Endpoint – YouTube…
Using Midi Controllers to Decouple Visual Arrangements from Song Arrangement
In past incarnations of my multimedia show I controlled the arrangement and automation of visual effects for Resolume with Ableton Live “dummy clips” and automation envelopes. This meant the arrangement for visuals were implicitly locked with musical arrangement. For this new rig I wanted to decouple the visuals from the audio arrangement. This would allow me to perform the arrangement of the visuals manually making the experience more variable and unique with repeat performances.
I now control arrangement with the RBG pads on the Novation Launchkey MINI MK3.
Alternatively I can use the Logidy foot pedal for hands-free arrangement.
While I’m pretty busy playing and doing live arrangement, I can also use the Launchpad Pro MK3 with it’s custom MIDI modes and velocity sensitive fader grid feature to control parameters on Resolume.
FYI I’ve written past posts on these controllers in these categories:
My set list is made up of songs spread across each machine and I often perform an entire song using only one machine. In a few cases I will work across machines. For example, I perform the majority of my song “Disconnected” on the Octatrack and the leads from the Analog Four.
The machines are not synced and are not connected via MIDI. This allows for complete freedom to do live arrangement, change my set list on-the-fly. I might have corresponding patterns with matching tempos across machines but I select them and trigger them on-the-fly so I can play around with the pocket, tap tempo to shift or even change tempos or free-form play to add more tension.
Having no cross-machine dependency also means if a machine where to go down during a performance or have to be rebooted (which has never happened), the song and show can go on.
Fits in One Case and a Backpack
Another design goal for the rig was it had to fit into a Pelican 1510 case and backpack. This allows me to fly with the rig as well as load in to local shows with only one trip from the car.
I flew with an earlier version of this rig to Asheville, NC to perform at Mountain Skies in 2019 and manage to jam all this into a Pelican 1510.
With the addition of the new controllers I’m sure I could fit it all in the pelican with some overflow into my backpack.
Thanks for following along on this long read. If you’d like to get blog posts via email opt-in below.
Also swing by my Bandcamp page if you’d like to listen to some of my audio recordings, and my YouTube page to check out move videos.
As a long time beta user of the Overbridge beta, I was excited to learn that Elektron has released the final version which they are calling Overbridge 2.
Overbridge makes life easier for musicians. It is a free of charge software suite offering powerful tools and deep control when connecting compatible Elektron instruments to computers. And with Overbridge 2, the integration of both analog and digital instruments with computers is more effective than ever before.
Here is a 1 minute video of a new song I’m working on with the Digitone.
In this piece, I’m used the Launchpad Pro MK3 hardware sequencer to create a sequences with probability and mutation. I then recorded the MIDI output of the Launchpad Pro MK3 into Digitone via hardware MIDI connection from Launchpad.
I then perform live with Digitone and use the Launchpad Pro MK3 to play notes with Note and Chord mode. Aftertouch is routed to filter and resonance.
Digitone is my favorite Elektron synth. This being the case, I was quite excited to find that Elektron developer Ess Mattisson started streaming on Twitch. According to his Elektronauts profile he is “on the Applied Design team at Elektron, where I conjure synths and push pixels”. So as you might imagine this is some great content from someone directly involved with the creation of this awesome synth.
I’ve embedded the recordings in this post, so grab some coffee or a cocktail, sit back, and enjoy his first two epic videos related to FM synthesis and Digitone.
“Let’s Learn Some FM”
In this first video which is just over an hour, he offers a free form intro to FM synthesis – after some FM jams while he wait’s for his coffee to be ready.
“Let’s Dive Into the Digitone”
This video is just over 2 hours and starts with a jam (again while waiting for coffee) followed by a free form dive into the Digitone with some deconstruction of original sounds and patterns 🎆.
Elektron’s Fascinating Interview with Father of FM Synthesis John Chowning
Elektron just posted a long, deep, and fascinating interview with John Chowning who originally discovered FM Synthesis. The interview covers a lot of ground including his thoughts on:
Explaining FM synthesis to a child
The history of his work at Standford and how they helped productize his research
Yamaha’s development of the DX7 which took over 8 years with 100s of engineers
How limitations like constraints in computing power – as in not having the power for real time computing – aided in the discovery in FM
His time studying in Paris with Nadia Boulanger
His advise for bold sound explorers
Some interesting math behind all FM
Some comments on Elektron’s new Digitone
And other topics and philosophical discussions
I recommend you take some time to read this if you even remotely interested in FM synthesis or music technology. You can read it here.
Do you think the time and environment was crucial to your discovery?
Yes I do. I’ll tell you why: Let’s say the computers I was working with had been powerful enough for me to do my experiments in real time. I’m not at all sure that I would have made the discovery! Because the condition under which I was working, on a time-share machine, a few seconds of sound might take me nearly two hours. So the time it took, perhaps specifically the time between experiments, I had to think. These were discrete times: I would generate a sample of a sound that was 20 Hz, with a modulating frequency of 20 Hz and a deviation of 100 Hz. Then I would wait. Then I would listen. Then I would increase to another. If I’d had continuous control, I think I probably would have missed it.
Elektron Digitone Overview
Digitone was announced this week for NAMM 2018. In a nutshell it’s a 4 operator FM synth plopped into a synth OS framework that is similar to the Analog Four but with the sequencer and hardware design aesthetic and build of a Digitakt. It supports multiple FM algorithms which can be automated per step in the sequencer!
4 Synth FM Synth tracks
8 voice polyphony including dynamic allocation supporting multitimbral and per step trig patch changes
Multiple FM algorithms (which can be automated with trig conditions per step)
After seeing Elektron’s Cenk talk about the Digitone in the videos above, it’s clear that Elektron’s goal was to make of FM synthesis more approachable, fun, and more performance and improv friendly.
Chowning’s take on the Digitone from the interview is:
What you’ve done (with the Digitone), from what I can tell, looks like a rich palette of possibilities. There are fine guided decisions that have to be made in FM synthesis, and this idea of letting the FM units be sound generators and then processed in normal ways that synths process sound sources seems perfectly reasonable. It eliminates the part where you have to know anything about the theory of FM.
That’s the idea, making FM real-time, hands-on and musically useful. That, I guess, was your intention when you made the discovery, too! Reading your original description makes me realize the sheer power of the method: what enormous musical potential and power of expression you can have with just eight parameters.
It seems to me that the metaphor for the instrument (Digitone) is to give the user kind of a ball of re-formable plastic that, with the FM, can be pulled and stretched in many different ways. Of all the hundreds of sub-sets of what FM can do, yours seems to be a very useful sub-set! It leaves out many of the sub-sets but lets the user intuitively explore this re-formable, shapeable ball of stuff, then put that through the normal processes of synthesis that we know and love, band-pass filters and low-pass filters and so on.
The Digitone in the smaller Digitakt form factor at a lower price point than the larger boxes seems like it’s right in the sweet spot for many artists – as evidenced by the fact that it’s already sold out on their web site.
I look forward to trying one out some day.
Thanks for reading,
Synthesist, Electronic Musician, Producer
Boulder, CO ModulateThis.com