A few weeks ago I decided to kick some new life into my music workflow and bought myself Native Instruments’ Maschine. I had a lot of fun using the Roland MC-808 a few years ago, but eventually its lack of good software support and DAW integration caught up to me and it turned into a big paperweight. Turns out it was a good time to buy Maschine too, as NI just implemented VST support into the software, among a bunch of other cool new stuff.
So far I’ve been loving it. The software and hardware have both been exceptionally intuitive and well-integrated, with hardly any technical issues in the way (the one exception so far being audio routing, e.g. for sidechaining or vocoding). So my biggest problem with the MC-808 was arrangement, and I suspect this holds true with groovebox-style production in general. It’s great to just get in and start sequencing loops, but arranging those loops into an actual track always felt cumbersome or dry and boring. Maschine’s drag&drop audio (not to mention loop optimization) really bridges that gap for me.
Unfortunately Renoise, my DAW of choice, isn’t well-supported by the standalone Maschine software for drag&drop. Although I think it’s possible to integrate via Maschine’s VST through midi/program changes, that route really sounds like a workflow hindrance to me. Plus, with all the years I worked with creating loops on my XP-50 and arranging in Acid, I really got used to the multitracker layout. So I decided to give Ableton Live another shot. Live too has been extremely intuitive to learn and fun to use as an arrangement tool, and feels like the perfect complement to the ease of Maschine’s loop-based paradigm.
TL;DR: Using Maschine and Live now, though I’m always going to love Renoise =)