Our Guide to Sampling with the Teenage Engineering OP-Z
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Our Guide to Sampling with the Teenage Engineering OP-Z

The OP-Z has already established itself as a powerful little sequencer with plenty of built in sounds, FX and expandable connectivity for external devices. However, one feature has seemingly been missing from this all-in-one music machine. Its older sibling, the OP-1, has been capable of it for a while - the ability to sample audio. 

Now with a new firmware update 1.2.5, Teenage Engineering has added sampling capabilities to the OP-Z's ever growing list of features. In this Musician’s Blog Guide, we’ll be exploring how it all works.

Video: OP-Z - Sampling Sounds & Tutorial 

Here's a taster of what's possible with OP-Z sampling. In this video, we've used the built-in mic to capture samples and make music from them.

Until recently, it’s only been possible to import sample packs to the OP-Z from a computer. These sample packs had to come from the OP-1, or be created in the free OP-1 Drum Utility available from xferrecords.com. These methods work well enough, but it’s not as quite straightforward as pointing the OP-Z at a sound source and hitting record. Now you can do exactly that, as inspiration strikes! Once captured, it’s also possible to edit recordings, integrate them into your patterns and process them with the OP-Z’s built in FX.

Creating a User Sample Pack

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The 8 instrument tracks on the OP-Z are assigned to percussive sample kits & melodic instruments. When you press & hold the Track button, the value keys display slot locations for synth engines or sample packs (aka Plugs.) You’ll notice that some of the value keys are lit - they contain a plug. The unlit value keys are empty slots, which you can now use to make your own sample packs. Here’s how to create a sample pack:

  1. Select a track (1-8) by holding the Track button and pressing one of the first 8 step sequence buttons.

  2. Hold the track button again, and then press & hold an empty slot (unlit value key) until the loading animation completes.

  3. Your user sample pack is now ready to use. You’ll notice a placeholder sample is automatically assigned to the blank patch. 

Entering Sampler Mode

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Now that you have created a user sample pack, it’s time to fill it with samples! The OP-Z update has included a new mode of operation, dedicated to the capture and editing of samples. To enter sampler mode:

  1. Select an empty User Sample Pack

  2. Hold the stop button and press record.

  3. You should now be in sample mode. To test this, press the Track button and you should hear a reference tone at 440Hz (A)

Unlike most of the other OP-Z global menus which are operated in a momentary fashion, Sampler mode is latching. This is probably so that you can keep both hands free for editing! Here’s a list of controls in Sampler Mode:

  • Stop + Rec = Enter Sampler Mode

  • Stop = Exit Sampler Mode

  • Play = Preview Input (Be careful of volume as this can cause feedback)

  • Shift + Step Buttons = Set input gain

  • Track Button = Toggle test tone (440Hz)

  • Track Button + Green Dial = Adjust test tone volume

  • Rec = Hold to Record from input source and release to stop

Recording external sources

You can sample to the OP-Z using 4 methods:

  1. Built-in mic - The OP-Z has a microphone built in, located near the volume knob. This is a quick method of capturing sound. Make sure you turn the volume down or wear headphones when recording to avoid feedback issues that can occur.

Image: mic pic

  1. Headset Mic - You also can record audio from a headset microphone. These usually use a TRRS connector (3 rings instead of the usual 2.) When plugged in and in sample mode, you can press the button on your headset to switch from the built-in mic.

Image: headset pic

  1. Line in - You can also use a TRRS adapter to connect a line in source to the OP-Z. When in sample mode, pressing shift & screen switches the input source manually. This allows you to sample external audio sources.

Image: trrs line in

  1. USB - This is where it gets really interesting. The firmware update has also added an audio interface to the OP-Z, which allows for 2 channels in & out via USB. The OP-Z interface is compatible with Computers or iOS devices. When plugged in via USB, select "OP-Z" as the output source and record the streamed audio (iOS requires a lightning adapter.)

Sample Modes

The way sampling works on the OP-Z is very similar to the OP-1. There are two different sampler modes depending on which track you're sampling with:

  • Drum Sampling - Capture up to 12 seconds of audio and slice it up between each of the keys on the keyboard. This is great for building percussive kits and slicing up drum breaks. You can adjust the gain, pitch and playback direction of each slice, as well as it’s start / end points. Sampler behaviour is tied to the tracks you use, so drum sampling method is tied to tracks 1-4.

  • Melodic Sampling - In this mode you can sample up to 6 seconds of audio and then the whole sample is then stretched across the keyboard. It’s set up so you can play your sound melodically with the keyboard. This sample mode applies to tracks 5-8.

It’s important that you choose your sampler type first, depending on how you want to process the captured audio.

Editing your Samples

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Once you’ve captured your sounds, you can manipulate them to your heart’s content. This is where the OP-Z companion app comes in useful. The new visuals for sample mode assist you with editing your samples. You can also edit samples without it, but then you will need to rely on your ears which is more challenging but not impossible. Here’s a list of controls for editing for both sampler types:

Drum Sampler Controls

  • Green Dial = Sample Start

  • Blue Dial = Sample End

  • Yellow Dial = Sample Pitch

  • Red Dial = Sample Gain

  • Press Shift to access the 2nd Menu

  • Yellow Dial 2 = Sample Direction - Normal or Reverse

  • Red Dial 2 = Sample Playmode - Gate, Trigger or Loop

  • + / - = Sample pitch in semitones

  • Shift + Keyboard = Copy active sample to selected note

Melodic Sampler Controls

  • Green Dial = Sample Start

  • Blue Dial = Sample End

  • Yellow Dial = Sample Pitch

  • Red Dial = Sample Gain

  • Press Shift to access the 2nd Menu

  • Green Dial = Loop in point

  • Blue Dial = Loop out point

  • Yellow Dial = Sample direction - Normal or Reversed

  • +/- = Sample pitch in semitones

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