just some notes.

A new music making machine

July 05, 2021

Just a small note on what I’ve been up to lately. A few weeks ago I bought the Elektron Model: Cycles. It’s an FM based groovebox. That means that it allows you to craft sounds using FM synthesis and record them using the internal sequencer. In other words, I can now make music without a computer.

Of course I could already do that. I have guitars and also a small electric piano. The beauty of the Model: Cycles though, is its sequencer. If you know your way around a DAW (FL Studio, Logic, Ableton, etc.), you’re probably somewhat familiar with step sequencing. You can trigger a sound on each of the beats (steps) of a bar and make it into a loop.

The loops you can then arrange into a song. That final part, arranging the loops into a song is something that the Model: Cycles cannot do. But the “creating loops via step sequencing” it can do extremely well. And because it’s done via pressing buttons, instead of via clicking things on a monitor, it also feels much more musical.

Step sequencing is often a bit mechanical, because it is rigid. Naturally you can play around with the timings by shifting notes forward or backward, but the entire process of doing so on a DAW inherently feels like programming because you’re staring at a screen and you are using your mouse and keyboard.

Freeing yourself from the screen and its peripherals is amazing. It feels more musical. I can’t promise you it will make you or your music more musical, but I’m convinced it will make it easier to produce that feeling.

The Model: Cycles is not unique in offering DAW-less step sequencing. But what makes it such a nice machine is that it’s not only relatively cheap, but also offers a lot of cool sounds to play around with, including the capability to transform those sounds using various effects. So it’s also a great instrument that can help you add a specific sound to your music.

I’ll be sharing some music I made with the Model: Cycles soon, but I need to arrange the loops into something more whole. And that’s truly the only downside of the groovebox. It makes you groove, but it doesn’t let you arrange. I still need to go back to the computer for that.