Equipment for making music with field recordings?

@TheTechnobear is the man for Organelle. :+1:

There’s info on the Critter forum, but for me it’s essentially just dropping a file into a patch folder. That’s how I use it anyway.

I’ve also looked at Octatrack. But I can’t afford it. This will be my first proper piece of hardware for making music, I’m looking to start off with a reasonably priced device.

There’s always performance-oriented sofware packages like Usine Hollyhock, which might be a little bit less of a time sink than Pd or Max, but offer similar flexibility and functionality (if you don’t want to build everything from the ground up).

I do have to admit that actually I find myself seconding what @ermina suggested above. Software/laptop is often overlooked, because we live in a time where dedicated hardware is more en vogue. While I totally feel you on the “mouse and keyboard” is not what I want to make music with, a good controller can do the trick – and we’re spoiled with choices for that – plus, when it comes to setting up things, mouse, keyboard and a big screen are often a lot more pleasant to deal with, than some tiny screen and a handful of encoders.
I think the thing with the laptop is that you need to develop a good, consistent and thoroughly thought-out way to implement your performance UIs on the controller, if you can pull that off, it’s actually best of both worlds.
The other thing is not getting caught up in the endless upgrade spiral, which is now quite common with computers…


Modular is awesome and maybe in the future I might start building my own modules. But I really just want something to bring together the instruments I currently play, along with some experimentation with granular synthesis to create new sounds. I already have the mircoGranny, I want to be able to connect it and arrange it with samples.

Recording and minipulating at the same time it’s important. But I would like to be able to record directly into the device as I don’t have an audio interface.

• i like the size and accessibility of your setup. there is a good immediacy to it so i gotta ask something like “what isn’t it doing for you?”. i like that you aren’t in a laptop or a big light up device and there’s a lot you can do with what you have.

• personally id just get another microgranny (bc i love mine and i’ve got a v1), and maybe another delay or looper but really get a bigger mixer. an aux/fx send, headphone jack, alt outputs set you up for deeper mixing, routing, feedback etc

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I feel like I’m not able to complete a track.

I’m currently recording piano and samples with my phone and the MG, so I will probably get a handheld recorder for greater range of frequencies. Triggering samples from MG there’s no velocity and since it’s monophonic I can’t immediately layer sounds. Samples are going into my loop pedal which is good for quick sketches, but I’m not able to evolve a track once it’s on there.

My setup is great for immediately creating sound track loops, but i struggle to evolve it into a complete track that feels like it’s saying something or telling a story. That’s s why I end up putting them in ableton live to arrange. But so far using keyboard and mouse as an interface has been quite uninspiring.

@nbcurrie I’ve kept an eye on open-source instruments. I’ve been considering creating the Raspberry-Pi Norns. I’m very inexperienced with programming so I will need to do more research and experiments with supercollider and Pd.

@caulymaculkin bsolutely, in the future I want to combine modluar in my setup. But right now if feel like I have made too many unfinished tracks and need to arrange samples to complete them.

@misc_frank Yeah, this sound like something I could do; combine Digitakt with modular!

@nbcurrie Unfortunately I can’t run DIN on my old mac, it looked really cool too. Coming from an acoustic instrument background If find it frustrating to fine tune details on a computer and would rather just use the everyday sounds around me, but of course that’s just me and I see the value in software but I wouldn’t prioritise it over playing an instrument.

@sarmism Cool machine but I’m really into sampling and want to be able to see the waveform to chop and edit

@ermina Yeah absolutely I want to make sounds tangible and control them with an interface, I’ve downloaded pd but was put off by it. I’ll give it another shot when I get time

@papernoise I get that. Software is built into hardware; so if i could learn to create my own software and expressively control it I would probably find what I’m looking for.

I really appreciate this feedback, as my none of friends are interested in making music and they have no idea what I’m talking about when I try to explain this.

Sorry for the long post


okay so i’ve got a follow up question: how do you expect/want to play this setup? when you say that the MG is mono and lacks velocity, do you just want a more fully featured sampler? that product is out there (i don’t know what it is, try the new Akai MPCs?)!! are you trying to play phrases, or layer longer prerecorded phrases?

yeah get a portable recorder, they are great.

another follow up: do you need to “complete a track” out of the box? or is this a goal? a problem to solve? these are kinda fluffy creative Qs but a purchase might not resolve them in the immediate term (which also relates to my Q above).

another way to think of this Q is - do you need an instrument to play back a “song” or a toolkit to explore your palette and materials?


Very good question! I’m probably not making it easy to understand.

I guess completing a track would involve arranging patterns and samples; I would like to do it in a manner that involves the least amount of staring at a screen w/ keyboard + mouse.

(Other than Maschine Mk3 and Push 2, I don’t know what else can arrange in daw without looking at a computer screen. Novation launch-key I guess?)

The thing is I can play back a song and arrange it perfectly fine in Ableton live, but I just don’t enjoy this process and It’s hard for me to immediately get down ideas in this method. I can also do sound exploration w/ Live, but I guess what I need is a controller to get ‘hands-on’ ?

Regardless of OTB or ITB, what matters to me is that I can interact with it physically (change parameters immediately). I want a device that can immediately bring together my piano, guitar and samples to get Ideas down when I have them.

e.g, I’m playing some chords on the piano, then I want to put in some drums, then layer in a melody immediately on guitar. Then evolve different patterns to create a changing song and fine tune in a daw.

It’s taken me many years to get to this stage, but I’ve finally begun to experience ALL of the desired focus points that were listed in the original post. And it’s with an older laptop running Max, connected to a Launch Control XL and an MPD218 pad controller. I feel very connected and more in touch with my hybrid instrument than any other setup. I have a simple 2x2 USB powered audio interface for if I ever feel the need to bring in audio signals from the outside.


as for arranging, one thing to try is finishing your track by “playing” the session view in Ableton with the record to arrangement feature. This lets you use whatever control surface you’d like (up to and including your computer keyboard and mouse, yes) to be the conductor, rather than the editor, of your piece of music.

If one is skittish about loops and grids, it’s easy to pick some random bar lengths for your loops to force things to come in and out of phase or to turn the “loop when finished” and/or “wait to start playing” feature(s) off.

… Actually, this is something I should do myself soon :thinking:


If I may add more questions to this question (and I admit… it’s something I’m interested in hearing your take on also for my own music process):
What is your final goal with making music? Are you primarily interested in the act of playing and shaping your musical material in real time, or are you also interested in recording the output… i.e. have a finished track you can release/post/share as the end result?
I find that the context of playing/jamming and the context of recording/editing/finalizing constantly get in the way with each other for me… that would actually be worth a separate topic BTW.

This said, another thing you might have to consider: on the long run I don’t think you can really get away with not having a proper audio interface of some sort. Fortunately some handheld recorders can also double as – often multi-channel – audio interfaces, at least all Zoom devices do that.

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Ah yeah. It doesn’t have that yet. A waveform view is being implemented but it’ll never be as clear as a laptop.

You could build a lot of your requirements with a software it hardware modular environment. That may be the best bet.

Given your already using/familiar with Ableton, Id say a Push2 is the ‘obvious’ step, it’ll give you some hands on control that you want - and gives you some interesting options to develop into …

i kind of partially agree with this , and partly disagree…
out of the box, of course it describes a certain flow…
but its actually very programmable, at a simple level with max4live, or beyond by writing your own applications.

Ableton published a full API document for it - so Ive got the push2 working with a rPI and Organelle , and also hooking up to a eurorack modular via Bela Salt - I admit thats quite technical , but creating your own Max4Live devices is much more approachable - and you could “easily” write things that moved outside the normal ‘workflow’ and made it less linear.

I think, reality is to get what you want, your going to end up investing time and money in this, and your choice is which you do you want to spend more of :wink:

I love the push2, there’s little on the market matching its display (certainly at the price point)

but if you want a cheaper option…

look at the push 1 (used) , its actually easier to program, and gives many of the benefits.
the big disadvantage i see for you , is not being able to display waveforms nicely, which really helps editing - but your can do this by ear.
( i think push1 is very underrated for non-ableton stuff, and as the used prices are dropping becoming really attractive)

cheaper than that, there are loads of controllers, launchpad, faders - again link these up with max4live and you could create a really interesting custom environment within Ableton.

I think also it’d be useful to ‘evolve’ your approach slowly,
a push would allow you to get some benefits immediately,
then slowly start learning and customising with Max4Live in ‘baby steps’,
as you get familiar, you could then utilise than max knowledge to start looking at building an even more customised system in Max.
all still using Push and any other controllers that you decide to add along the way.


this is a 100% of my music. I also recommend the random clip launch feature.

asynchronous music is totally possible in Ableton for anyone wondering, it’s just a matter of disabling the grid all the time and setting global quantization to None


so my input on all this, after having dumped a bunch of money real quick on both of monome’s controllers:

figure out a technique first. the things you’re looking to get at can be done with ableton and any old midi controller, just not as well as some other things might do it, but it’s totally enough to figure out how you would want to use a new thing. that’s what I love about software, is that you can totally try out little prototype versions of techniques before investing in anything, especially if coding is an interest.

something that sounds like it would interest you is a setup where everything you’re using in software at the moment is mapped to a controller. I’m working with something like that for the monome grid, but you can do it with anything really, it’s more about what you want to map and how you do that compositionally, and different controllers will work for different people.

I’m also probably gonna add that if you do go down this path something like max for live is going to unlock the process way more. it can turn ableton or just your laptop really into anything you want it to be, but there’s some learning curve there. but that’s what music is all about. coding in it’s nature isn’t exactly intuitive, but it’s really rewarding and you can make stuff that works just for you and that can be powerful. highly recommend a max for live + controller workflow !


i’m going to join the chorus here that says stick with ableton. i don’t think the hardware you have (and what is available) is going to be as immediate and responsive and flexible as ableton if you are looking to sample, manipulate and essential compose in real time. if you are already using ableton this is just another point on that side of the chart.

others have recommended hardware in this thread and i’m going to give the floor to them as I’m not an ableton user and don’t have experience with current interfaces.

get a decent audio interface and get a mic.


That’s awesome! I have a Push 1 and got tired of trying to play with sysex messages so that is really great to hear!

What happened to the field recordings?

Oh and on topic: I would focus on what processes you want to do and just pick some tools that seems to do those things. Then the rest is learning and experimenting. Then after a year have a look if it still makes sense :slight_smile:


From the inventor of the ER-301: