Need help to wrap my head around future workflow (Ableton user)

Dear Squarp Community

I have ordered a Hapax and need help to envision my future workflow.

I produce Melodic Techno and like quite complex tracks with lot’s of details and subtleties.
In the past I have worked with Ableton, VST’s like Repro and Diva and Midi Controllers.

I’ve become tired of producing music with the mouse and I crave getting the same immediacy out of electronic instruments as when I play Piano.

Since I have been working with the Elektron Rytm my desire to work with a hands on sequencer not only for the drums has grown, that’s why I have ordered the Hapax.

I have also a UDO Super 6 and a Moog Minitaur but I have not had much fun integrating them into my digital workflow.

Now with the Hapax on the way I wonder what workflow to aim for and also what gear to look for in the future.

The end product of my production should be a finished and polished track that means that at some point I need to go to a daw.
I also like to work with several Synths at the same time that I used to keep Midi as long as possible to keep the capacity to do changes. Still it seems weird to connect my Hapax to my VST’s and Midi Map the automations into the VST.
At the same time - even if I buy 2-3 more analog synths I need to produce audio files if I want to reuse the same synth twice in a project - > that means it will be outside of Hapax again in the Daw…

What if I feel like recording an unquantified Lead sound with more than 128 steps. Does thet go into Hapax or as a Midi to Ableton - or even just recorded as Audio?

At the moment I have a Focus Rite 18i8 Interface with a Behringer 8200 adapt expansion having 18 Inputs. Do I need to consider getting a mixer?

I feel like I need to limit myself but I am not sure what is the best strategy.

Budget is not a huge issue at the moment.

I’d really like to have a hands - direct contact with the music feeling, while still being able to produce high quality Melodic Techno.

Sorry for all this mess - orientation of possible ways I could go would be helpful!
How do I need to think about this challenge?

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That’s a lot of questions!

I would start simple.

If you like hands on, then perhaps get a mixer and stick with what you have i.e. the Rytm, Udo and Mini for now and see how you get on with Hapax controlling them.

It’s very easy to get too much hardware and then lose your flow - I’ve done that and it took me ages to figure out how it all worked, which meant I had a big drop in productivity.

For melodic techno, your existing kit sounds perfect. You could get another drum synth or maybe a digital synth for added flavour, but that’s something you may want to consider after the Hapax arrives. Hapax really changed my workflow and made me sell various piece of kit because I realised I didn’t need them anymore.

I’m terms of audio interface, if you want to track all of your separate outs then you may need more inputs if you buy more kit, or simply use a patch bay. I’ve a channel on the mixer for every single mono/stereo out from my synths, but I can also track this into my DAW via my UA interface and ADAT inputs. I don’t really have a fixed way of doing things, but with this arrangement I can mix and match my approach as desired.

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Thx Jimbo for bringing some light.

One crucial question:
With the Udo, Mini and Rytm I am stuck with a Baseline, Drums and one Synth for a Lead or a Pad.

What is the strategy to get to a finished track?

Do I record the sequenced lines from Hapax as Audio and re-use the Synths?
Or do the Synths stay occupied by Hapax and I add more Layers with VST’s?

How do most Hapax Users do it in here?

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It’s normal to have all these questions before Hapax arrives. The best thing I can advise is to get the midi definition files set up for your hardware so that Hapax can control them fully. Then mess with the many algorithms and midi effects and just jam with your kit. I guarantee that you will be producing much more than drums, bass and lead once you get the hang of the workflow that Hapax can encourage. You will find yourself breaking out of a predictable workflow because that what it did for me.

Experiment with your current set up and then ask yourself the same question after a month of using Hapax :slight_smile:

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if your goal is to finish a fully realized track in Hapax, to then record as a DAW multitrack, my experience so far suggests you’re likely to bump up against the same limitations I currently am. namely, (1) chaining Sections to compose an actual Song means you are effectively limited to 7 patterns per track, because the 8th pattern must always be available as a mute because Hapax “songs” are not actually songs in the way a DAW arranges them but just an ordering of snapshots of the given mute states for all patterns (a “Section”) so unless you want all tracks to be playing a pattern in every given section (which nobody does as a practical matter) you have to be able to set any track that isn’t playing to mute, i.e., a blank pattern. and depending how much variation you might need for a given track, the 7 patterns you do have (especially drum tracks) go really quickly.

you can work around this somewhat by consolidating pattern changes into longer single patterns but that bumps up against the second issue in building full tracks in Song mode: (2) Sections always start (and thus trigger each Pattern in that section) on beat one of measure one. so that if you ever need to bring a pattern in after 1:1 now you have to start inserting blank measures in that pattern to line it up with where you want it to start playing in the given section. this is even before you get into situations where patterns longer than a given section can also be set to run “Free” over intervening section changes.

all of which is to say, If you’re coming from a linear DAW workflow and expecting Hapax arranging to work as straightforward, you’re likely to be disappointed. composing individual patterns is ridiculously easy and with many excellent tools/FX to get instantly creative. assembling those building blocks into a full-length track (for me) is still nowhere near as intuitive or seamless

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Now I am even more excited :))

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So @chrisroland, if putting the song together in the Hapax is not an option how do you do it?
Do you programm all of your sequences + automation, record to audio and put it together in DAW?

not saying it’s not an option (I work 100% DAWless so I really don’t have a choice). just that compared to simply placing individual patterns on a linear grid, setting the length you want them to run, and pressing play when you’ve finished arranging them, “Song” mode on Hapax isn’t quite as straightforward as that. a lot of different moving parts to keep track of mentally to get to the same place. and compared to Pyramid (64 tracks/32 patterns per track) the 16/8 (really 7 though) limitation is not inconsequential

(I’m loath to switch horses midstream but given how much external sequencing my MPC can already do, if they port over disk streaming from the Force, I’d have to seriously consider just doing it all from that workflow since right now loading up a new MPC project while Hapax continues to run is the main benefit of its dual project structure for live shows)

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I use a hybrid setup…

Dawless/Hardware:
my synths/octatrack/modular/hapax can all work standalone to ‘some degree’.
(having a multi-timbral synth , like my Virus, is an important part of this for me)

but I keep it simple… I use this to record ‘patterns’ , that could be midi patterns on the Hapax, or audio on the Octatrack.
all midi is routed via a mioXM, audio I just mix in eurorack or octatrack. ( * )

its focus is to be simple… capture ideas, and let me play without the Mac turned on.

when I need more, I move to stage two :slight_smile:

Daw/Mac:
hardware is connected to my computer via an audio interface (18 in/out) and also the mioXM (for midi)
I then use Ableton and Push 2 ( ** ).
I use this when I want more… be that different synths, mixing or when I want to arrange.

as above, I often use record patterns in hardware, so I then ‘perform’ these into Live’s Arranger, in the same way as the Ableton Clip → Arranger workflow works.

but hell, sometimes, I just use the Push 2 and record clips directly into Live … and forget hardware sequencing.

the lesson I learnt the hardware was not to chase ‘ideals’ esp an ideal daw-less setup.
it does not exist, I just got more gear, and spent a lot of time re-configuring… when often it’d be easier to do in a computer… but I was avoiding just to be ‘daw-less’.
now I don’t care, I do whatever is simpler…

I feel like its the best of both worlds…
hardware only, when I just want to play, but using the daw when I want/need more.

but its very personal…
I really like to experiment with different ideas, both hardware and software.
so chasing a fixed setup never worked well… as it would always need reconfiguring, and that can be pretty painful in hardware.

but for others, if you use the same synths/drums for every track…
Im sure you could set it up once, and you are then done.


( * ) or sometimes I just turn on my Mac, and use ableton live as a simple mixer (my default template)

( ** ) Push 2 is a must for me, as its in my hardware setup, so makes Ableton ‘instrument like’.
I so also have an electra one which is great for midi mapping both hardware and software.

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Tbh the simplest workflow I’ve found is just using a DAW with a workstation style controller like the Push 2 or Maschine. You get your hands on hardware experience with the controller and then you don’t have to mess around with recording anything. And stuff like midi jitter and latency is basically a non-issue.

Hardware makes everything more complicated especially when coming from a DAW. And seeing as most modern synths have midi over USB it’s extremely easy to sequence them with just a push controller.

That said, Hapax is a lot of fun to use in its own way. I don’t write full songs on it I use it to make loops which I then arrange further in Ableton. I haven’t found a single piece of hardware that did arranging anywhere near as well as a DAW, the Deluge is the closest but it has its downsides as well.

But yeah, defining a strict workflow just doesn’t work for me. I tend to use whatever I feel like using in the moment and it’s far more freeing though I admit it may not be as productive.

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But for those of us working 100% DAW-less, less fun to discover they’ve invested fully in a sequencer that functions best as a looper and not an actual song arranger

I haven’t got as far as arrangements yet on Hapax, but I can grasp what you have talked about with arrangement limitations. Hopefully they will enhance this in future updates.

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perhaps, but I think given the ‘interface limitations’ , its important to define use-cases that will work well, and also some that wont…

for me…
Hapax is great for creating patterns, thats how I use it mainly.

arranging on the Hapax, is going to be limited to some extent because its focus is around one workflow… scheduling patterns.
there is not linear song arrangement, this is where it differs from Ableton, ableton live is pattern → linear song

however, you can see this as a strength too for Hapax, it gives a different approach to song writing… so we have choice.

and, Im not sure Hapax can do much in this linear timeline area…
the display are a bit too small, even with long patterns , its easy to get lost - its just so much easier in a daw.

back to use cases:
I guess the interesting part here though, comes to performance…

what if you want/need that linear timeline?

I think currently to do this,
you’d export patterns to Ableton,
then arrange on the ableton timeline/arranger.
export these back as patterns to Hapax.

though, freely admit, its not as simple as that due to the way different parts need to interact.
but you also kind of want this if you are going to ‘perform’ it rather than just hit play !

I think, for me, what Hapax could do. is to make it easier to move midi patterns from hapax → daw, and vice versa… i.e. better daw integration.

the Pyramid was slight better in this area as it could import its midi into a daw.
however, in fairness to Squarp, DAW support was extremely variable… to the point, that in practice, it was of limited use… so I can see why they might have avoided it on the Hapax.

BUT it would be cool, perhaps even if the Hapax import/export into a own ‘neutral and open format’ , then 3rd parties could write tools for various daws.

e.g. the Akai Force supports export/import to Ableton Live, cool for Live users but what about other daws? (e.g. Bitwig) … so I love this idea, but would prefer something more ‘open’

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You make some very good points, and this has helped me to understand the bigger picture better. I guess if you want to be completely DAWless, at least for now, I’m not sure what hardware solutions are out there with both HAPAX functionality AND intricate arrangement abilities that DAW’s are better suited to achieve given the full style screen UI experience they are designed to provide.

Akai’s MPC range may be as close as you can get (ish!) - not my cup of tea though as just in the process of selling my MPC One.

HAPAX does need the midi import export flexibility though, so I’m sure Squarp will be on the case with this feature for future updates.

the thing is Hapax’s main selling point for me, to use in live settings, was the dual project architecture. to be able to load a new track while the current track is playing. so it’s no real solution to say “ah well, make seven patterns and then import them to a DAW, do your sequencing there, then export back to Hapax”. if i’d wanted to work in a DAW i could have saved myself the money and trouble of buying Hapax in the first place, or just stuck with doing basically the same thing in Pyramid but with enough patterns to actually make the workflow viable

but more philosophically i just find it frustrating that most responses i get in different forums about pointing out that songwriting is generally a linear process (or traditionally has been for many) is that somehow that changed for hardware devices the moment everybody started working in DAWs. playing something live on a sequencer to me shouldn’t be an either/or choice. i’d love the freedom to switch things up on the fly – muting patterns as needed, latching sections if i wanted to let a certain part repeat longer, etc – but still failing to see how that’s mutually exclusive with arranging them in a fixed order from the start

maybe Hapax ultimately won’t be that box for me, which would be doubly frustrating because it’s nearly perfect for composing and getting the ideas down in ways that expand my creativity beyond the limits of my (laughable) musical ability. and that would suck

Doing proper research before you buy things and buying things how they are currently and not how you hope they might be some day is important.

There’s also no real reason to avoid a DAW today. Seems like an unnecessary limitation. There is no hardware substitution for recording and being able to cut pieces of audio and move them around and see the full picture. You’re just always going to be frustrated to be honest. Otherwise find the sequencer of old that does what you think sequencers used to do.

i fully stipulate that working in a DAW may well be “easier.” it’s not how i want to work for various reasons.

i had Pyramid for months before buying Hapax so i wasn’t going into it blind. if i misunderstood what “Song” mode was intended to be, because it was labeled “Song” mode instead of “Launcher” mode or “Trigger” mode, that’s certainly on me. but Hapax really wasn’t marketed as a substitute for the Push to integrate your workflow with Ableton and interface with a DAW primarily either. it’s a standalone hardware sequencer. and i’m not the only one who’s been requesting more arranger-like features so it’s not some obscure one-off use case.

but as you say, if it’s never going to work the way i need it to work, better to know that know and come up with a Plan B instead sooner or later