Experimenting with the OP-Z's Performance Mode, Tape Track, and More

Teenage Engineering's OP-Z Multimedia Synthesizer and Sequencer came out late last year. Over the last few months, I, like many players, have really started to understand what can be done with it.

While it is no doubt a great tool for composition, sound design, sequencing, and even sampling, the OP-Z is often at its best when players really experiment with the functionality. This approach brings unexpected results from even the most basic song.

In the spirit of experimentation, we've put together some video clips showcasing a few of the OP-Z's more interesting functions. We did this because, at least at first, the OP-Z can seem daunting. However, exploring the features that we showcase in these video clips should help ease novices into the OP-Z's workflow.

Multiple Sounds Per Sequence and Randomizing Step Components

People will immediately realize that one of the OP-Z's great features is that individual sequences can have up to four different sounds, or even four sounds on the same step. This functionality is great for both the synth and drum groups, but also works beyond instrument groups.

In our video clip above, we programmed a beat with four different 16-step sequences for kick, snare, hi-hat, and sample tracks. To add complexity, we added a different type of snare hit on steps 2, 4, 13, and 16. It quickly changes the song's percussive character.

Similar to Punch-In Effects (more on this feature below), Step Components allow users to add some randomization and complexity to individual steps. By activating a Step Component, users can make the OP-Z do any number of things on individual steps (or muted steps), like hit random sounds, execute filter sweeps, ramp up and down, or pulse, which is a re-trigger feature.

In our same video clip above, we play around with a few of the Step Components by adding them to snare steps 2 and 4. The Step Components we use are Multiply, Velocity, Ramp Up, Random (changes one octave every 4 steps), and C-Spark set to Random, which introduces additional randomness to steps 2 and 4.

Note: Multiple step components can be added to each step.

Punch-In Effects and Performance Mode Group Effects

The OP-Z has a functionality called Punch-In Effects, which, as the name suggests, are effects that can be punched in to individual tracks within a sequence.

In this video clip above, we play our song while adding the Punch-In Effects to the bass sequence in our synth group. The effects we use are Follow/Echo, Ramp Up, Ramp Down, and Random. The first effect adds some nice ambience to the bass sequence, while the second and third ramp the notes up and down, respectively. The fourth effect triggers the notes with random pitches.

While in the OP-Z's Performance Mode, you can use Punch-In Effects but, instead of using them for individual tracks, you can apply them to groups or all tracks at once, yielding some radical results. It's a great way to mix things up in a song, or even inspire players to take a completely different direction.

In the video above, we're adding one set of effects for the entire synth group, another set of effects for the drum group. As with Punch-In Effects, the effects are triggered on the OP-Z's piano keys. And like with Punch-In Effects, users can record, copy, and delete effects in exactly the same way that synth notes and beats are added and deleted.

For the synth group, we applied a loop to the instruments with Loop, then we triggered Long to give the sequences long notes. To introduce some variability, we then hit the Random button.

For the drum group, we triggered Random, Fill, and Short. This makes the beat sequence far more rhythmically complex and interesting. And for a few bars we applied the Pitch button, which made the beats more variable with different pitches for individual steps.

Experimenting with the Tape Track

The OP-Z also features a function called Tape Track, which essentially records sequences— approximately up to one bar—in real time to a buffer. Now, this might not sound super interesting at first, but manipulating sequences using Tape Track can result in some wonderfully wacky sequencing.

For instance, if you wanted to create a track with glitchy stutters, you can do that. In the video clip above, we applied the Tape Track to our song. First, we slowed the Tape Track's speed all the way down, while we left the Fine Tune function at its default setting.

You can see us slow the speed down before we trigger the tape glitches. The glitches are subtle at first then get more extreme toward the end of the clip—the results of which hint at a few possible new directions for the song.

Have you been exploring the OP-Z as well and come across unique workflows? Please share what you've found in the comments below.

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