Walk-through of Playing Live Techno on Three Elektron Machines for My Song “Secret Drive to Baden-Baden”

I’ve released a new techno single called “Secret Drive to Baden-Baden”. In this post I’ll offer some links to the song which you can stream for free along with some behind-the-scenes notes on one way to perform a track like this live on three Elektron machines.

Stream The Track

A techno soundtrack for a secret drive to Baden-Baden.

Do me a fav. If you are a Spotify user please take a moment to “like” the track, follow my artist page and perhaps “Add to Playlist“.

Click here to listen on your fav digital music outlet.

BTS Photos

I had the good fortune to visit Baden-Baden in 2017. For those who haven’t been to Baden-Baden it’s a real James Bond kind of town with a high-end casino and multiple spas. It also has a funicular railway that takes you up into the Black Forest where you can hike back into town. It’s pretty amazing to hike through the forest with fog drifting in an out in the same setting that was the inspiration behind Hansel and Gretel’s classic Brothers Grimm fairy-tale.

The cover for the single was taken on the drive in.

Behind-The-Scenes Video

This song was recorded live in one real-time pass with Elektron Analog Four MKII, Octatrack MKII, and Digitone. It’s a track I would have normally performed at something like our Boulder Beat Cypher – so shout out to the Beat Cypher crew.

The video below is a continuous video take from the recording session. Let’s break it down.

The Rig

In the video from Left to right we have an Elektron Analog Four MKII, Octatrack MKII, and a Digitone. Below the Analog Four MKI is a Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 with it’s MIDI out going into the Analog Four to play lead lines.

Octatrack was only used for mixing and effects. In other words no samples were used in this track. All the drums and percussion are from Analog Four MKII and Digitone.

Note that I don’t sync my Elektrons with MIDI. I use them like three “decks” in a way and not syncing this frees me up to make interesting choices during live performances. This also means I’m not doing automated pattern switching across devices. Again, this allows me to make new choices with each performance.

Play-by-Play of Elektron Juggling

Ok I’m sharing this to show you a common workflow I use for juggling all these machines in hopes it might help you with your workflow :^) I use bold text to highlight the machine that is most in play in each section.

Pro Tip: I don’t use any sort of written track notes. I simply can’t make the rapid changes I make in a piece like this across three machines as looking a piece of paper would break my flow. Instead I play the outlines of a piece many times before I record it. Each performance will also be slightly different. Practice, practice, practice and transcend those machines.

  • 00m00s – The song starts on the Analog Four. You don’t see the transport running because I’m in Performance mode and trigs are used for managing track mutes.
  • 0m09s – I unmute some tracks and start to use the keys mapped to the A4 to play the first melodic motif. Note that I’m consciously doing two things to build a little tension. 1) I’m often playing to the back of the pocket 2) I’m consciously skipping notes that I would naturally gravitate towards leaving some gaps in the melody. This is just a way to break from old habits.
  • 0m25s – I switch patterns on the A4 bringing in the kick and start to open the reverb on the OT.
  • 0m33s – I fire off the Digitone to add a 2nd kick. Remember the machines aren’t synced. In this case the tempos of the patterns in the two machines are matched. Even so, you’ll notice I’m ever so slightly off when I start the Digitone which results in a cool texture for the combined kicks so I stick with it.
  • 0m56s – I switch patterns on the Analog Four introducing a new melodic motif with the bass synth. I switch patterns on Digitone bringing a percussive “kiss” sound. The kicks patterns change a bit giving it an electro train-like vibe. I start messing with synth params on Analog Four to start taking some brightness out to leave room for the upcoming third melodic motif.
  • 1m44s – I go into the first bridge and play a melodic part with a groovy Wurlitzer piano vibe using the trigs on the Digitone which are laid out like a keyboard. I bring up the wet FX on the Octatrack.
  • 2m05s – I start to fade out the Analog Four with it’s master volume knob. and the percussion left behind is all Digitone. I faded the A4 completely out because my next move is an extreme change up for the A4. Once it’s out of the mix I switch patterns.
  • 2m12s – I start to fade the Analog Four back in with a crazy psychedelic break that kind of sounds like cuckoo clocks gone mad. Remember there are no samples in this song, just synthesis. I open up FX on OT. Switch to another crazy pattern on A4 with a bit of an organ sound alluding a bit and teeing us up to return to the Wurly motif.

Trivia… “It is thought that much of [the cuckoo clock’s] development and evolution was made in the Black Forest area” near Baden-Baden

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuckoo_clock
  • 2m58 – Back to the Digitone. I ride the master volume a few times to pump the kick to ad a volume transmission dynamic. Back to the Wurlitzer motif but this time I let the patch wring out a bit revealing a groovy shimmer FM tonality. I turn down the A4 to get ready to transition back to the core groove.
  • 3m39 – Back to the Analog Four bringing up the intensity of the core groove. Back to the opening melody.
  • 4m24s – Now I introduce counterpoint by playing the opening melody on Analog Four with keys with the bass melody from the 2nd motif.
  • 4m40s – Bass pattern jam on the Analog Four – woo hoo! I’m also improvising with FX on the Analog Four closing out the piece by freezing the reverb on the A4. Track fades out as I back off on the reverb. Double-tap stop on all machines. End transmission.

If you Found This Helpful or Inspiring or Dig the Track…

Whoa! That was a deep dive. Thanks for hanging in there. If you dig the track and/or found this walk through interesting below are some ways to show artist support.

Download The Song for Your Collection

If you’d like to buy and download this track for your collection it’s available on Bandcamp here.

Throw Some Money In The Hat

If you want to pretend it’s post-lockdown and you saw me play this song in some cool underground metro station while waiting for the last train out after dancing to techno all night you can just drop me a tip here using PayPal or a credit card.


Go Forth And Make Some Damn Techno!

Cheers and thanks for reading and listening and have a great techno weekend,

Mark

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