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Teenage Engineering OP-Z - How to Sequence Music, Visuals & Lights
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Teenage Engineering OP-Z - How to Sequence Music, Visuals & Lights

OP-Z is the latest electronic instrument from Swedish design company Teenage Engineering. It’s labelled as a ‘multimedia sequencer’ due to its ability to sequence synthesisers, audio samples, motion graphics and DMX lighting. Essentially you can create a whole audio / visual performance using this one pocket sized device!

In this OP-Z video, we aim to demonstrate how quickly you can assemble these elements to create a performance. It follows the process step-by-step, with annotations to guide you through what's happening. Due to depth and complexity of the OP-Z’s features, we didn't have time to explain each part in detail. For this reason we have written this blog post to explain some basic principles, and to help you better understand what's going on!

Index Buttons


The first part of the video shows the project tempo being set. You’ll notice the left hand pressing holding the tempo button top side of the OP-Z. There are at total 4 menu buttons along this edge which are essential to navigating the OP-Z. By pressing + holding any of the index buttons, you change the function of all buttons on the OP-Z to access the following menus:

  • Project - navigates projects, patterns and song chains
  • Mixer - access to mutes, mute groups, mix buss and master compressor & master volume
  • Tempo - set tempo, adjust swing and switch on metronome 
  • Screen - controls the iOS app (battery indicator when not connected.)

It’s important to note that the OP-Z uses a lot of button combinations to access more features. Remembering these combinations may seem overwhelming at first, but they are actually managed in a very intuitive way.


Tracks


As the video progresses, we see the sequence build track by track. There are 16 tracks in total, each with an independent sequencer. Tracks 1-8  are ‘Audio Tracks’ of which there are 4 drum parts and 4 synth parts. Tracks 9-16 are used to control FX, key changes, lighting and motion graphics / photomatic. Tracks are selected by holding the 'Track Button' and selecting a track. This button combination is shown at each stage of the walkthrough. Here is the full list of tracks on the OP-Z:

1. Kick2. Snare3. Perc4. Sample
5. Bass6. Lead7. Arp8. Chord
9. FX 110. FX 211. Tape12. Master
13. Performance14. Module*15. Lights16. Motion

*Track 14 is not featured in this video, as it is used to control OP-Z expansion modules (coming soon.) As with all tracks on the OP-Z, it can also be used to control external MIDI devices.


Dials


The Colour Dials can be linked to numerous parameters on the OP-Z. By default they link to track controls, and an LED next to each dial helps you to visualise its position. Pressing ‘Shift’ cycles through parameter pages, shown by the LED’s colour & state. Throughout the video, we have labelled the parameters above the each of the dials to help you see what they’re controlling at each point.


Step Keys, Value Keys & Component Keys

There are 3 key groups make up the majority of the buttons of the OP-Z. 

‘Step Keys’ are the uppermost row of buttons. You use them to add / remove notes & set note lengths of steps in the sequence. When pressed in combination with the track button, they are used to select tracks as previously mentioned.

The row below labelled '1' to '0' are ‘Value Keys’. They are used to represent numerical data such as tempo, sample packs and projects.

The 3rd row are 'Component Keys' which are used to insert ‘Step Components’. These are modifiers which add variations & rules to the steps in your sequence. You can mainly see them being used on rhythmic elements in the video. As there are 14 different step components to choose from, we will cover their operation in a later video.

The Value and Component key rows combine to create a 2 octave mini keyboard. The ‘+’ and ‘-’ keys on the left move the octave range of the keyboard up and down respectively.


Recording


The OP-Z gives you a options when recording a sequence. The Punch-in recording method is used alot in the video to quickly input parts. This is where you hold the record button and play notes on the keyboard. When you let go of the record button, the OP-Z stops recording.

‘Record Lock’ can also be used to free up both hands for inputting notes.Pressing Play + Record locks the OP-Z into record mode. It only stops recording when you press Record, Play or Stop.

The OP-Z doesn't automatically quantise your recording, which has it's advantages and disadvantages. Notes are quantised can per track by holding the Track button and turning the yellow dial. This allows for a variable level of quantisation as opposed to locking each note tightly to a grid.

There are also recording options for when the OP-Z is stopped. Pressing Record + Play will record arm the OP-Z, then as soon as you input the first note or press play the sequencer starts running. You can also record notes step by step without playing the OP-Z. While stopped, hold record and press notes to add them to the sequence in order.


Visual & DMX Sequencing

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The last 2 tracks add the multimedia dimension to the OP-Z.

The Light Track controls DMX for lighting fixtures. Currently this requires a USB-C hub & a USB to DMX converter to provide output to fixtures. You also have to configure the OP-Z system files to address your fixtures correctly. This is a more complicated subject and will covered in more detail in another video. For now, you can see how the button and dial movements can be recorded to create lighting sequences.

The Motion Track is used to control 'Photomatic' & 'Motion' on OP-Z iOS app. Photomatic sequences live and pre-loaded images., and Motion utilises the graphics engine 'Unity' to create and control 3D objects.

The keys and colour dials correspond to visual fx & scene changes on each program. Just like the other tracks, you can record these actions to the sequence. 

The OP-Z connects to the app via bluetooth which is activated by a button on the underside of the unit.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more videos on the OP-Z and other TE products.

Also, check out our round up of some of our favourite reviews, tutorials and performances by other YouTubers here.

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This new blog is presented by the team at Sound Technology Ltd, a leading distributor of musical instruments and pro audio equipment in the UK and ROI.