Tips for arranging music with the tape?

I've had my op1 for ages now but still haven't found a good workflow for arranging music with the tape. I always get stuck making loops and the only way I really make music at the moment with it is by going back an forth between loops on the tape, bouncing it to album. This is good and all but it's a bit limiting.

I find it really frustrating to try arrange the music on the tape because of how little fine control you have in terms of moving takes around and cutting them up on beat (between beat markers) and stuff like that. Also never worked with a DAW at all so in general I'm new to arrange music anyway. Would appreciate both suggestions on how to approach continuous arrangement of music with the tape as well as creative tips about how to arrange electronic music in general, being new to it, like how to make the transition between one section of music to another that has another synth or melody on top of the one that came before so that it doesn't sound sudden, but any tips appreciated. 

I'd really like to be able to not have to bounce to album at all, or just bounce the tape directly to the album with maybe some master effects and what not added. 



  • I struggle staying inside OP and finishing tracks. People do it and do it well. But for me throwing the 4 op tracks in to Daw is well worth the hassle. Things always develop a lot after that. And fast too.. Obvs this is no good to you if you don't use a Daw tho.. Even things that feel kind of finished inside op, they always turn in to something better after I get them in to a computer (or octatrack) to finish them up. Working entirely inside Op1 to do what I do would be a mathematical/planning nightmare ;)
  • The best way to start is not to begin with a loop on the tape, maybe a loop with the sequencers...
    I always program a drumbeat in finger sequencer and then livetweak it to the tape for 1,5 or three minutes with a lot of combinations, breaks etc.
    Then - play an instrument onto tape with the drums im the background, you can always replace the drumbeat or just use as what it is.
    Okay sometimes Iwork in loops later. But its very important to get off the loop by extending at least one tapetrack.
    Later, after developping some good tracks and takes the arrangement begins and, depending on what you've already done, there will be a lot of copying and pasting and counting - mathematics like @Callofthevoid says ; )
  • Well, the main problem with making music on OP-1, is that it wont replace DAW in any way. When I was looking into feedbacks about OP-1 at times when I wanted to buy one, I found comment about it, when person referred to OP-1 as a "Musical sketchpad". While OP-1 can allow you to make music, if you aim towards quality of sound and\or arrangement, you wont be able to do it without a daw. One main exception is probably Steeezo, who has like 5 OP1s, and I believe that gives him lots and lots of flexibility. When you can dedicate 1 device's 4 tracks only for drum beat, for example, it gives a lot of freedom to work on them. 
    One good experience which I suggeste - make a track on OP-1, drop it into DAW and see what you can with it. It will teach you one main thing
    You will know, what you need to take into account, when recording on OP-1, you will learn when you should expect to fix things in DAW, and when you need to plan your track even before recording session.
    For example, I was using spring and delay a lot on OP-1s synths, but now I know, that I can do it in DAW, so it allows me to use other effects, to create more expressive sound and add delay\reverb later on. I found my Korg Mini-KP2 effector to useful for this, because I can at least assume, how recording might sound, when I add effects later. 
    While you can manage to make fully finished tracks on OP-1, using lots of tricks and workarounds, but it would only consume time, which you could've spent on DAW + starting to work on next track, as DAW speeds things up quite a bit. 
  • Thanks everyone, all good tips. I think I'm going to have to pucker up and learn ableton even though it's sooooo much effort and I'm kind of lazy haha. I'm sure it's worth it. But I'll experiment with other things too. Maybe garage band is all you really need to arrange things from the op1? That would make things quick and tidy, with ableton I'd want to add too many things to it once it's done. But I'll try work with a DAW and see what happens. 
  • edited March 2017
    Thanks everyone, all good tips. I think I'm going to have to pucker up and learn ableton even though it's sooooo much effort and I'm kind of lazy haha. I'm sure it's worth it. But I'll experiment with other things too. Maybe garage band is all you really need to arrange things from the op1? That would make things quick and tidy, with ableton I'd want to add too many things to it once it's done. But I'll try work with a DAW and see what happens. 
    If you just need to use a DAW for the arrangement, and you're afraid of being overwhelmed by its potential, Ableton might be overkill indeed. Garage Band, or Reaper, or Audacity, are some very valid tools for the task.
  • edited March 2017
    I don't think you necessarily have to rush into DAWs quite yet. A lot of the ideas behind arranging will be the same on a DAW or the op-1. Where a daw outshines the op-1 is the ability to 'fix' the sound and make it really professional. If you feel an aversion to DAWs, I'd stick with the op1 while working on transitions and breakdowns and bridges etc. Get into DAWs when you want to get even trickier.

    I learned some moves by watching this guy. He's good at doing song structure on the op-1:

    (note that the final version of his songs are mixed in ableton).
  • One way which I find easy if wanting to do more structured stuff utilising all or most of the tape, is to make a sequence and record it on a track for the duration of the tape, repeat with other sequences on other tracks until you have a bed of sound, then use the cut to subtract where you want your drops, use overdubs on the sections where you want to add - remember to lift/drop in case you mess up, and you can also cut paste add variation sequences etc. Then of course you can set a region add vocals, live playing or sound fx, ear candy etc, remember again always to lift/drop first for undo, also lift sections into drum sampler to then remix and drop back in place. Using these and other techniques you can avoid getting stuck in the loop, so to speak and no computers will be harmed in the process :)
  • edited March 2017
    I've never been bothered with only 4 tracks as I bounce. So say you start a track with kick, hats, snare, clap. That's your 4 tracks gone right there on loop 1. But you bounce all these (I prefer to album and then back to tape) loop1 to loop 2 and thus freeing up another 3 tracks and keep repeating this process as needs to. I think of the bounced track as a reference track that's only used essentially in the op-1. The beauty is you have the option of exporting all your tracks as individual stems.

    Loop 1 kick snare hat clap
    Loop 2 reference (loop 1 bounce) bass chord, percussion
    Loop 3 reference track of loop 1 & 2, lead, vocal, more hats

    The only tricky thing is making sure you got the levels right when bouncing (someone posted my walk through on this in the tips and tricks section). I exported a track to ableton the other day and was nice having everything on their own track
  • @jonesy_op nice tips. Album back to tape is something that I'm yet to do. Seeing as it is your preferred method, how do you get around the album having no sync to tape? Ie. Put a couple of loop repetitions and just time your press of play (+ record)?
  • @jonesy_op oops, NM. I just checked the tips and tricks thread and it seems to explain there. Thanks :)
  • No worries. It should all sync. Cueing the record is nifty for when wanting to record automation of effects straight away when recording and wanting to access the effects screen straight away
  • Seems a bit backwards. 

    The OP-1 makes arranging easier because it almost forces you to make measure-based tunes. In a DAW it's easier to just hit record and let the measures fly by, but then you miss out on the structure. This was a feature severely missing from the old days of recording with real tape machines (4 track) and is still mostly missing in today's DAWs (possible exception of Ableton Live).

    Additionally, the sequencers and many of the OP-1 effects are beat-based, which also focus your attention on the measures.

    In fact, the reason I got the OP-1 was to simplify arranging and to get ideas together faster.

    Once you've got four nice sounding measures, it really just comes down to "what are you hearing in your head next?" 

    The easiest way to arrange these days, I've found though, is through Sibelius or notation software. You can plot out sections of tunes well in advance instead of worrying about getting together all your instruments just to throw down a take in a DAW that may end up sounding out-of-context. 

    With OP-1, most of the stock sounds sound great together--so you can be pretty sure that a bar with some strange bass that sounds good now-- 40 measures down the road will still sound good and in context with the current instruments.

    Also keep in mind that you can always change stuff down the road. Sometimes the best arrangement is to let the drums rest for 8 bars or the bass, or something.
  • rgb6745 

    You've got some great points there that I really agree with. EXCEPT: "still mostly missing in today's DAWs". That's called "grid", and it's on every DAW in various incarnations. I teach at a music college, and almost all of my 80+ students use grid mode, markers to plot out sections, arrange per these sections etc etc. This is standard workflow in DAWs. Maybe your experience has been different, but this is what I see with pretty much everyone I work with or teach.
    (p.s. I'm not trying to pick at you because of this point, just making the counter-argument)

    The real problem with DAWs IMO that I think is covered by the OP1 in spades is option paralysis - there's so much built into all the DAWs that it becomes overwhelming. Decisions never get made, or they are never finalised. Whole compositions are still in MIDI form when the final bounce happens. Nothing is ever fully committed. Students wonder why they are maxing their CPUs out when they have 20 Sylenth plugins running at once...

    The big one that I see a lot of is people with massive sample libraries not being able to chose a good kick/snr, or too many VSTs that they never learn anything beyond presets (this goes for effects as well as synths). That's where the OP1 comes in, you HAVE to learn all the components to make it work. And there is enough built in to keep you interested (I'm still using the stock drums after 6 months!), but not so many engines/samples that it becomes stifling to creation.

    OP1 is my most valued piece of gear
  • I fully agree with @millbastard  - option paralysis killed so much of my workflow until the op-1. 

    Kinda the opposite of the 'ill gates 128's' mentality.
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