How to start?

I’ve been playing around with the OP-1 for a while now, however not made anything worthwhile. I’ve not finished anything since 1998! Here is an example of what I made in Fast Tracker 2 on the PC in 1998 - was my first ever attempt at something - - This uses a sample from Marilyn Manson’s Smells like Children album.

After spending the best part of twenty years away from the “scene”, I’ve lost all my creativity. Can someone point me in the direction of some good YouTube videos on how to create a track from scratch? I cannot seem to find anything good. I’m never sure whether to do the drums first, or hook, etc. Some guidance would be great!


Check out this video and other videos by the same guy. Some helpful stuff here to get you started.

Cuckoo’s tutorials helped me a bit as well

This is a very standard workflow :
1. Get some drum pattern
2. Track 1 : record the drum loop in Tape while messing with the sounds and/or the effects
3. Track 2 : synthesize a cool bass (Unison mode is cool for this) : record your line on Tape 2, live
4. Get some patterns for lead stuff, maybe some samples (other synths or random talking or radio or whatever) and mess the two other tracks with this.

Now you have some material on Tape ! You can start messing with loops by selecting one loop and Shift+ <> to get to the following.
Mute/unmute tracks, get some effects like CWO on top, and you’re ready to go !

Thanks for the responses guys. I was thinking more of the creative process. I never know if it is better to start with a hook, then drums. Or other way around. Also with layering, adding a bass line. I know there are no rules per say, but is there like a general checklist that you should go through when composing?

One of the coolest things about the OP-1 is that literally everyone uses it differently. What works for you could totally confuse someone else. Figure what works for you and just enjoy it =) The OP-1 will open up your creativity in ways you probably didn’t expect

One thing though… When learning how to use it, I found that controling the beast could drive me crazy.
In the opposite, experimenting could yield to very good results.

I really do like the difference from the standard pattern based architecture of DAWs. I like recording live, using the metronome, but I get stuck very quickly. I make a riff, add a drum beat, but get no further than that. Here is a rough doodle I did on OP-1, then put the tracks in Garageband, so the song is 6minutes, but isn’t. Quick and dirty. This is about as far as I ever get:

I really do like the difference from the standard pattern based architecture of DAWs. I like recording live, using the metronome, but I get stuck very quickly. I make a riff, add a drum beat, but get no further than that. Here is a rough doodle I did on OP-1, then put the tracks in Garageband, so the song is 6minutes, but isn't. Quick and dirty. This is about as far as I ever get:

I think you should then make a new drumbeat, and develop the song from there. Add a new melodic line, and make the song progress somewhere else. I often find that only using the white keys (thereby staying in the key of C major) makes things quite simple, and then you can just pitch it up and down to change to other major keys.


The OP1's blank tape can be unpleasant, and the presets can be uninspiring. Should that happen to you, put on the radio and record a phrase to tape, then loop it. Leave it to loop enough times, and your brain, hardwired to seek patterns, will start perceiving it as musical. You could, of course, mess with the sampler and synth engines - do not ever overlook the LFO, and also do have trust in all of the built-in effects. Musical patterns hide in how the effects respond to sound.

I like layering voice on top of itself. Layering anything in loop record actually. I often press Rec briefly to scatter nonsensical sounds randomly along a loop while it's playing. It ends up in random noise of course, but not if you watch out for the brief moment when it's a usable element.

In the creative process, first doing something instead of something else is rarely better or worse. No way you will know your perfect workflow from the start. It's chaos theory - similar starts, wildly different results. Yesterday I struggled for two hours before I could find seven notes to make an arpeggio with. Recorded it freeform to no metronome, transposing by feel while the arp/sequencer was running, but not at the loop points of the phrase. Trial and error, since I'm terrible with pitch/notes. It was recording at the wrong tempo since 3/4 is difficult to get out of the metronome, had to overcome that it was bothering me briefly. Ended up with loop out point between two tick marks. Uncomfortable but the trick is to not care.

Unlike in a tracker (where you program), 4 tracks is nothing on a realtime transport that pushes you to commit, but connect the OP1 to anything that can record multitrack and a brief tune eventually emerges from a multitude of compromises. Brief tunes, first within those 4 tracks - that's where I start with the OP1. Hope this helps.

Thanks for the replies guys. I think my head is still in the linear pattern based system. I’ll need to “Think Different” as some famous person once said. With that, are there anything similar to the OP-1 that is pattern based (not including the new OP-Z concept!)? I have the original pocket operators, but would like an all in one unit.


Everything from Elektron is pattern-based but you won’t get all the OP-1 can do in one very pricey box. If you can get your head around the Octatrack it is a do-it-all monster (single cycle waves for synthesis).

Volcas come to mind, all four (and 5 when FM hits) will tick off a lot of OP-1 boxes but still won’t quite hit the mark and it isn’t all in one.

There’s also things like Ableton Push and Maschine if you don’t mind being tethered to a computer.

The OP-1 is pretty much unique in all it can do as a one stop shop.

After buying and selling a ton of gear in recent years my advice to you would be to stick with the OP1 on its own, at least at first. It is soooo deep and if you can master everything it has to offer you are in a great place in terms of creating music. Buying gear cause you’re in a creative rut is dangerous…

Generally I agree 100% but it’s sounding to me like @canispeaktodave isn’t gel’ing with the OP-1’s Tape system and wants something to write patterns with.

If you really want to stick with the OP-1 then @djthomaswhite has a video on YouTube about playing a live set on the OP-1 that might help. He lays down loops on the Tape that he jams on, part muting to build layers, etc. others have similar videos.

There are also big boxes like the MPC-5000 and the MC-909 that offer synth and sampling but these are huge footprint devices that are not at all portable :wink:

I recently bought the Korg Volca set and suddenly understood what the OP-1 was about.

Here is something I just made.

I’ve often confronted this issue with the same belief I have about anything I want to learn - just do it. The feeling should be enough.

The result of how I do things has changed significantly over a decade. Music is a whole universe unto itself and I couldn’t find any happiness until I understood everything. I am beginning to understand more and more now and happiness has followed that.

Everyone is different. You have to find your own flow. Somethings that will help are watching others sharing their knowledge. FACT Magazine dedicate a wonderful slot to studio set ups on their YouTube channel. Definitely check that out. Each one is littered with golden nuggets of information!

Have you answered your own BIG questions yet? Here are some questions I would ask…
Do I want to work on the computer or with outboard gear? What’s my budget?
What type of music do you want to make?
What effects plugins make those results?
What does a compressor/limiter/gate/phaser/flanger etc do?

A huge and massive part of it also is experimentation.

  • Some people like to use a reference track and keep it close by. I’ve never used this as like experimentation too much idea but the I think the idea is a good one.
  • Another thing I heard the other day was some people go in the studio and give themselves time limits. If you were in a real situation back in the olden days you paid for a studio by the hour and it was very expensive. Today, you can do everything on a computer and that sense of committing to ideas and making a final decision has disappeared. Make a tune a week no matter how good or how bad, just do it.

…and keep comfortably confident while you remind yourself - Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Hmmmm I think that’s all I’ve got for you now… Oh and good luck! :wink: