OP-1 workflow for entire songs?

Having started making four bar loops on the OP-1, I wonder if there are any tutorials showing workflow for making entire songs on the OP-1?

There are a couple of youtube channels showing vids of talented guys making songs with OP-1 (e.g. Red Means Recording), but they just fast forward and skips "the boring parts" like arranging and copy pasting. Since I find those parts difficult on a machine limited to four tape tracks, those are exactly the parts that I want explained in detail, how the successful guys do this. How do you plan this? How do you organize the tracks? How do you lift and drop? Do you "bounce down" multiple channels to one to get more tracks? Etc.

Or maybe the general consensus is that while it’s possible to make complete songs with OP-1, it is better to use it for sketching ideas and then make complete songs of these seeds in your DAW?

Hey @sventh - look no further than the Battles section of the forum for other examples of full OP1 tracks.

I’ve been doing a bit of full-track-making on the OP the last few months and yeah - it’s definitely a PITA compared to a full DAW. It also leads to really different results than I get on a DAW, and the low headroom of the OP means that you have to work differently to a DAW. I’m def not the best OP user out there, but hopefully I can help out.

In terms of functionality in creating a full track, I typically do this:

- Come up with my core idea (usually a 8-16 bar loop), usually using all 4 tracks (drums, bass, two melodic parts)
- use shift+lift to copy the whole arrangement, then paste it a few times
- I always try to keep a “safe” copy further along in the tape, in case I accidentally record/drop over the top of something. I still forget to do this sometimes, which can be a little frustrating…
- I then usually will move to the second “copy” (let’s call it part B) of the core loop, and then delete the melodic tracks, leaving bass and drums. Sometimes I delete bass too
- create a variation/new melodic parts for part B
- continue on this path of change/variation, working on a few tape tracks at a time. if I get bored with the drums or feel like it needs variation I’ll delete the drums and try something else, or sometimes lift the drum track, drop it into drum sampler, chop it up and re-arrange the drums that way (to get a half-time feel or something)
- I then will practice the flow of the track, working out which mutes/solos I’ll do on what tracks, if I’ll use the M1/2 buttons for fx, and shift the loop points around to move seamlessly to different sections. Sometimes I end up playing things on the keys live as well, particularly risers, occasional one-shots, some improv melodies
- Then do a few live passes to album, until i have a take i’m happy with

I do use the resampling (ear) function to occasionally print two tracks to 1, however I always end up forgetting to turn the ear back off, which can cause accidental recording errors I’m clumsy sometimes like that.
In terms of layering, I usually leave the drum and bass parts alone, as they carry a lot of energy, and I will layer extra sounds onto my two melodic tracks, so maybe mixing a rhodes style sound with a filter swell on one track, and a sampled violin with an arp line on the other. I typically pan my melodic tracks 3/4 left and right to give the track some spread.

Hopefully that helps. It is definitely a bit of messing around to get a full track going. I will generally come up with my core idea in a few hours, then come back to it a few days later, spend a good chunk of time on it (4-6 hours) until I’m close to finished, then maybe another day to do the final piecing together and recording to album.

You can check my battle entries on my SC if you want to hear some examples, or the Battle threads are great too!

I can tell you there’s a lot of lift n’ drop orgies going on.
Usually I have the drums on track 1 and bass on track 2. I keep them free from other instrument for a long time and only do the more musical stuff on 3 and 4 (left and right) But later when I’m running out of space and feel more secure about the arrangement and sound I also overdub here and there on theses tracks.
There’s always a diffrent approach from song to song, never the same.
It helps when you already built loop A,B,C and part D and F and kind of arrange them for slighty prestructuring the song. and then …lift
Actually the best thing is to just start and take some endurance with you on the journey ; )

Thanks a lot to both of you - it helps!

Yes, I realize that there’s a lot of lift and drop. It seems difficult and time consuming though, placing different parts of the song far right on the time line - keeping track of what parts are where and also the time it takes to often step numerous bars forth and back.

@svenh: It’s worth taking a look at DJ Thomas White’s video in the OP-1 Tricks and Tips thread (fourth one down) as he does a full track walkthrough.

@5StarNomad: While this is a great tutorial, covering a lot of useful stuff for a beginner like me, it doesn’t show how to make a complete song (just an eight bar loop).

But it’s a great tutorial - thanks for the pointer!

There are a few ways to make whole songs on the OP-1, some methods can get a bit complicated and tend to take a lot of planning…I rarely ever use those methods because they kill my enthusiasm and momentum.

I like to jam, knock out a quick session, then move on and ride the next wave of inspiration. Here’s my process:
- Starting with either track 1 or 4, lay down a basic beat and loop a few bars
- move to the next empty track up or down, lay down a rhythm track or some backing pads/sweeps/chords
- lift, drop, loop a few more bars of those two recorded tracks (2x or 4x usually)
- move to the next empty track up or down, lay down a bass line with some subtle variations in every other measure
- move to the next empty track up or down (last open track), lay down another synth line or maybe some complimentary sounds/stabs/samples
- jam with that 4 track loop and record to ALBUM (or an external recorder), muting tracks selectively and using some tape tricks/fx, maybe playing a lead synth or solo bit too
- This could be the stopping point, or you could resample the album back to tape and add some more layers to taste

Admittedly, I’m not a professional musician and I make music primarily for my own listening pleasure, and as a means of relaxing after work. The process detailed above allows me to make an instrumental song quickly (under 10 minutes usually) and move on before I grow tired of the concept.
I’ve started doing these sessions on Instagram live streams, and since IG lets you save the streams now I’ve also started to post some of these uncut jams on my YouTube channel recently (if you care to see them for visual reference just search for “3sleeves”).

Sometimes I’ll record more like the old demo tape days if the mood strikes - lay down several minutes of drumming then add one instrument track at a time, jamming for the duration of the track.

Don’t know if any of this is helpful to you, just seemed like a good thread to share this.


Funny you should ask this… I have recently started mapping out how I would do a full song in the OP-1. Just as an experiment to see how to make it happen and just get through it :slight_smile:

I ended being fully anal about it… I actually created a visual and mapped out the song start and end and even mapped out where my sections would come in and out (verse, chorus, etc…). I figured it will be a 3.5 minute long song, so I kept the beginning of the tape open to store the patterns as the master, so I can create there, and then construct farther down on the tape. Still in progress, but this has been my process.(attached my song map)

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These are all great tips. The problem I’m having is when I resample back onto the tape from album. I can’t get the timing to line up. It’s like the album doesn’t start right away so there’s no way to keep the audio recorded from album on the grid. Argh!

Theoretically if you keep everything in same BPM, then it should work. In terms of lining up, that should just be a matter of cutting out the extras and lining things up to the grid, no? So if album doesn’t start exactly on cue, then just let it play and then remove the extra “buffer” from the front and line things up.

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Yes! Thank you