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Are sequencers the key for electronic music?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
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Are sequencers the key for electronic music?

I frequently read about comparisons of various synths in nitpicking fashion, however there's lot less talk about sequencers. For me sequencers are the most important thing for getting a certain sound, much more important than absolutely correct square wave shape.

Personally I find that using sequencers with a piano roll view is like staring a blank canvas or an Excel spreadsheet. It offers absolutely zero inspiration.

On the other hand I use hardware sequencers like MidiBox Seq V4, which can be extremely fast, intuitive and inspirational. In a way it's similar to JX-3p's sequencer or step sequencers but with more options. I resort to synths and drum machines own sequencers (Avalon, Evolver, TR-8s, Tänzbar etc.) or MPC-3000 or MMT-8 for less robotic feel.

Even trackers like Renoise feel more intuitive than the spreadsheet like view of a typical piano roll sequencer, however I've found that many producers actually like drawing blocks with mouse on a computer screen.

What is your way of using sequencers?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
PES
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PES's Avatar
I don’t always rely on sequencing, but most often I do, and the approach and visuals do affect inspiration. Piano rolls never were inspiring, and the worst thing is programs with those default Windows designs.

I started out with Impulse Tracker in DOS. Now I use Renoise, which looks and feels great and runs in full screen with no reminder that you’re on a general purpose OS. When I make sequences on the Analog Four the approach and feel is different, so the results are different. Hardware drum machines, pocket operators... It’s all about having different options to vary betweeen.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
I use piano roll, as most of the arrangement is done in my head before I sit down to record a song, then layer up my real instruments.

Occasional use of something like a groovebox with probability and little tricks is sometimes a nice little distraction, though I mainly buy the ones I buy of those for the parameter sequencing and synthesis options...but yeah, I love piano roll or playing the parts in via midi, I’d feel awfully sad to become too reliant on a machine or gimmicky sequencer.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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KickDrum's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffee View Post
I frequently read about comparisons of various synths in nitpicking fashion, however there's lot less talk about sequencers. For me sequencers are the most important thing for getting a certain sound, much more important than absolutely correct square wave shape.

Personally I find that using sequencers with a piano roll view is like staring a blank canvas or an Excel spreadsheet. It offers absolutely zero inspiration.

On the other hand I use hardware sequencers like MidiBox Seq V4, which can be extremely fast, intuitive and inspirational. In a way it's similar to JX-3p's sequencer or step sequencers but with more options. I resort to synths and drum machines own sequencers (Avalon, Evolver, TR-8s, Tänzbar etc.) or MPC-3000 or MMT-8 for less robotic feel.

Even trackers like Renoise feel more intuitive than the spreadsheet like view of a typical piano roll sequencer, however I've found that many producers actually like drawing blocks with mouse on a computer screen.

What is your way of using sequencers?
I rely heavily on sequencing since going mostly hardware based. My main sequencer is the AKAI mpc live and, while I use the piano grid for editing, I don’t input notes into the sequencer that way. For note input, I play the pads, pad perform mode, and an 88 key piano as midi input. I really only use the MPC Live as a sequencer and it’s incredible.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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El-Burrito's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffee View Post
Even trackers like Renoise feel more intuitive than the spreadsheet like view of a typical piano roll sequencer, however I've found that many producers actually like drawing blocks with mouse on a computer screen.

What is your way of using sequencers?
Funny how differently we see things. I have said now for 25 years that using trackers are more like using spreadsheet than making music

My first tracker was some amiga app in 1993. It suck’d. The i got Sequencer One that had proper sequencing aka piano roll and have never looked back.

I have tried to like hw sequencers, but just don’t see the point. But i have moved from piano roll to direct audio editing. Sequencing snippets of audio on audio tracks is something i do like.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El-Burrito View Post
Funny how differently we see things. I have said now for 25 years that using trackers are more like using spreadsheet than making music

My first tracker was some amiga app in 1993. It suck’d. The i got Sequencer One that had proper sequencing aka piano roll and have never looked back.

I have tried to like hw sequencers, but just don’t see the point. But i have moved from piano roll to direct audio editing. Sequencing snippets of audio on audio tracks is something i do like.
Trackers were actually my first route to sequencing after note paper. To me it was more of an approach to find ways to do things but after ProTracker had sampling it completely changed my way of working. I still miss that simplicity, but of course there are better ways to do things.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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The Doepfer Dark Time makes me do things I just would never do otherwise and seems to have a sound of it's own - it's amazing and I'm thinking of getting a second one. It's funny, but on the other hand looking at the Behringer 303 thread reminds me that when sequencing 303 bass lines, I always prefer to use the piano roll in Logic though. They are just different approaches to creativity to chase the muse I guess
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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If you mean the piano roll in your DAW software, then yes.

Hardware sequencers are way too limited compared to that, unless they are digital (in which case there is no point).
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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Use everything
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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Sequencers play parts in a way humans can't. Or in some cases, especially at highest speeds : Can't play.

and that's all. They can be usefull if you need that precise feeling (or lack of), razor swings, or robotic drives.

They can be mixed with live instruments, and be 'a part among others'. Or invade the whole track. Or for some electronic music types, you simply don't need/want them.

There are recipes, but the best ones are still the one you create.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Sorry to plug, but this is basically an evolution in "Tracker-like" sequencing. And I'd be stupid not to mention it, since basically I'm just trying to get the system out there.

This still runs on an Acorn Archimedes A3000 home computer, which should give you an idea how efficient and robust the operating system is.

http://www.vimeo.com/channels/1258352
http://amcs.3rdevent.net/upgrade.htm
http://amcs.3rdevent.net

(If you have issues viewing the website please try again later, we've been experiencing some heavy denial of service attacks and everything is done on a budget, no money in = no money to spend on luxury hosting)
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
My 1st sequencer was the onboard thingy in the Casio CZ-230 which was my 1st synth back in the 80s. I was not impressed.
A couple years later the high school I attended started a music composition class that used Midi software on green screen Mac IIs. This was better but dragging musical note symbols onto a virtual sheet with a mouse got tedious no matter how glorious the end result.
Then one day I became the proud owner of a Roland R8 and quickly pressed it into service as a sequencer. This inspired me to finally take the leap into dedicated hardware sequencers. Eventually they were replaced with a PC running Cubase 1.0 for Windows 3.1. I was really cooking with fire now. Even set it up with SMPTE sync from an R2R deck.
Then around the millennium the R2R deck became unnecessary because now there were some small number of audio tracks in the software. Fast forward some and now the entire studio is in the box. But the boxes were a single point of failure I could no longer tolerate. One day in complete and total rage inducing frustration from not being able to make any music for 3 months due to faulty RAM modules I placed an order for an E-mu Command Station on Ebay.
Then started the gradual reversion.....

Nowadays I've got a handful of redundant hardware sequencers of various types. I can pick one according to my mood and what workflow I think is best for the current project. No fits of rage. No single point of failure. No waiting for bootup.
I hit the switch and go.

Sometimes I miss software. But that's fading with time....
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
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Meriphew's Avatar
 

Most of the time I use sequencers as if they were a tape recorder. I just record live into them.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
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Same here, and fix a bad note here or there in an otherwise decent take.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meriphew View Post
Most of the time I use sequencers as if they were a tape recorder. I just record live into them.
+1 for that. My custom-made sequencer has a (quite advanced) tracker editor but I mostly use that as some kind of glorified event list view for micro-editing things I recorded.
For composing and recording sketches, I prefer the "monitor" editor which basically works like a tape recorder.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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I like recording as others, but also love using probability over mutes, transposition, skips etc.

For me it's like a band, that stuff allows me to use another player who thinks differently.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bsp804 View Post
+1 for that. My custom-made sequencer has a (quite advanced) tracker editor but I mostly use that as some kind of glorified event list view for micro-editing things I recorded.
For composing and recording sketches, I prefer the "monitor" editor which basically works like a tape recorder.
Kudos for doing the thing and writing an awesome bit of software!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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Sequencer = Extra Hands, to me.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
Funny, I rarely use sequencers, but I just sequenced my first track on my System-8 a few minutes ago. I played a bass-line into the S8's step-sequencer and was too lazy to enter the ties or play it in live. An interesting rhythm developed and I added a Montage drum track, a phat VirusTI lead, and I was off to the races. Always planned to do more sequencing in the future (more Alan Parsons-style sequencing than intense modular stuff), but somehow never get around to it (my BeatStep Pro is still sitting in the box).
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
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zerocrossing's Avatar
I often barely use sequencers. I’m much more into using live audio loopers like Möbius. (An Echoplex Digital Pro x16 emulation) for hardware I’ll sometimes use my Tenori-On, or pretend my iPad Pro running Patterning is a hardware sequencer. There are some amazing Reaktor sequencers as well.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meriphew View Post
Most of the time I use sequencers as if they were a tape recorder. I just record live into them.
Which do you find is the best for doing this?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
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string6theory's Avatar
Are sequencers the key for electronic music?

And here I though the key was electrons.

Playing guitar growing up, I never got the whole sequence thing. You enter notes step by step, huh? ...and quantize your playing, wha?. Did Muddy Waters, Page or Hendrix ever do that? Then I heard Moroder's work on Midnight Express (circa 1978).

I'm still in the record it live camp, but the sequencers on my analog synths have opened a whole new creative world for me. Combined with these amazing synth sonics, I find them incredibly powerful, rhythmically, melodically and more. They can be mesmerizing and hypnotic, a simple bass groove, a poly-rhythm, a funky reggae groove, a 4 on the floor dance beat, a thumping heart beat, a progressive chord progression, etc., etc.

My favorite sequencer recoding technique has been to use the two sequencers on either my Prophet 6+6 or OB 6+6 rigs together, by offsetting the Module's timing (clock) against the Keyboard's until a cool rhythmic pattern emerges, then re-syncing the clocks and recording the results (while playing the panel, or not). These can make great rhythmic beds for melodic ideas to flourish.

Perhaps sequencers are rhythmic and melodic keys for electronic music... at least historically and in practice. For me they're also experimental, exploratory, creatively inspiring and fun.

Sometimes sequencers can be frustrating as hell - because I'll want to retain the live groove I was playing and my synth step sequencers wipe that feeling out when quantizing.

I'm still learning some of the amazing things one can do with ties, rests, velocity, gates, etc. The more fine-tuning one can do to "humanize" the machine, the better for me, in general. So, even rigid rhythms can be made more interesting to these ears. But, still different than recording a live synth audio track in PT... and visa versa.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
Gear Head
 

I mostly use sequencers to create electronic music as well. I've used software to create some pretty cool tracks but I prefer using hardware, specifically the Octatrack at the moment. I think the reason I prefer playing with hardware is because I started off making music with guitars..just a guess though...One of these days, when I get a room full of hardware I'd like to try the Cirklon.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
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chaocrator's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffee View Post
What is your way of using sequencers?
having fetish for them
(well, actually just for certain kind of sequencers, like Squarp Pyramid, Yamaha RM1x, E-Mu Command Station, and similar).
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr shifty View Post
Which do you find is the best for doing this?
I used to use a Yamaha Rm1x, but have been using the sequencer on my Elektron Analog Four for the past few years. I love the Elektron workflow. I'm not saying those are the best, but they work well for me.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
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imo, to answer your thread title, yes. the reason i say that is as much as the studio became the evolution of music as an extending of how far recording music can go, the sequencer can do the same for playing music. its just a next evolution of music or sound playing one note, chord, tone, sound, etc after another. and now even knob movements or cc changes etc. you can sequence passages or movements that could never be done by hand or in realtime. i'd like to think even making something minimal thats what i'm doing and why.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
For me there are different sequencers for different results, my Oasys sequencer, genoqs octopus and analog solutions oberkorn each are more different than they are similar.

For drums via tabs the octopus is my first choice, very nice to layout all the measures. Korg sequencers are good at 16 channels of midi with flexible CC's. The oberkorn is great at sound effect type passages in sync with other instruments.

I usually play lead synth over all that, since my delivery medium is YouTube I just think it works better that way.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
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01rsa's Avatar
If I had to choose only one sequencer it would be a piano roll type since they are the more powerful but for electronic music I prefer hardware sequencers and their different approches tend to lead to different results I like. I use pianoroll like a recorder when playing live with the advantage I can correct mistakes and add elements I'm not able to play live.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #28
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffee View Post
I frequently read about comparisons of various synths in nitpicking fashion, however there's lot less talk about sequencers.
That's because they tend to not have yearly releases, and because it's a lot more work to release one since it invariably involves programming firmware/software.

Machines like the Pyramid have big threads. The software gets updated once a while. Cirklons are unobtainium unless you want to wait for 2 years. Other interesting sequencers are more niche products or live in Eurorack.

Quote:
Even trackers like Renoise feel more intuitive than the spreadsheet like view of a typical piano roll sequencer, however I've found that many producers actually like drawing blocks with mouse on a computer screen.
I feel/hope that's more done to show what's actually happening instead of making notes appear. You can of course just play notes, but then you have to film the keyboard, and I wouldn't say that's representative. There's a reason people have even the dinky little 25-note controller keyboards, and it's not because those have drum pads and knobs.

Quote:
What is your way of using sequencers?
The very first sequencer I had was a drum machine - a Boss DR110. I plugged the output in the Juno-60's arpeggiator input, but since I didn't have the rest of the infrastructure (no tape recorder or mixer), it was an interesting experiment, and that was it.

Actual multi-track sequencing started for me with workstations. While these had graphical displays, they were "blind" - no piano roll, no graphical overview of tracks. At most you'd get a list of note events. I composed my songs by noting down where any changes occurred, so I knew what happened in which measures, and I could at least do rudimentary cut-copy-paste operations of sorts. I didn't want to play that kickdrum by hand, of course. Quantization: same story. If I needed parts tightened up, I had to know the measures before doing destructive editing (and all editing was destructive; you'd have a single undo).

When I was introduced to Cubase (the MIDI-only version on the PC, not the Atari), I loved the fact that I could finally see what I was doing. This really hasn't changed; just like you have sheet music (and the change in passages indicates what's happening), a DAW will show this as well.

Live sequencing wasn't really the thing for me. You've got a lot of things running simultaneously, and you have to know what you want to do in advance. You prepare your patterns, and that's not really how I tend to work. I play my stuff live and build my patterns, but not in realtime.

That said, a JX3P has a lovely and simple sequencer (and my OB6 has something like it as well). I also had a JSQ-60 which is also really great - polyphonic and step-based. Lots of fun to have a pattern with a non-4-to-the-floor amount of steps, over which you can then solo or play pads. That's as complex as I am willing to handle it
Old 3 weeks ago
  #29
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Are sequencers the key for electronic music?

To answer the question of the title...

Back in the late 1800's, when Nietzsche was losing his sight he bought one of the first ever typewriters. He commented that his creative output was different when he used the typewriter compared to using ink and paper.

...so in the case of electronic music. Absolutely. Most of the electronic music we know and love has come about because of the very technology used to create it, and in the case of electronic music, sequencers (in one form or another - be it hardware or software) have always been at the root of the repetitive, pattern-based sound.

I for one compose completely different music (even though I'm the same person) if I use a sequencer or a looper pedal, or a linear recorder or a musical scoring program, or pen and paper, or a piano, or Garageband on iOS, or a guitar or just in my mind.

I don't compose "electronic" music if I'm composing on a piano. Equally, I don't compose string quartets if I use a sequencer.

The medium always affects the output.

EDIT: Thus... if you want to create something that's different to what everyone else is creating in a particular genre, try composing it through a different medium.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
I didn't answer the actual question in my last post.

My 1st band was myself and a guitar player with a 4 track. At that time the key was playing in perfect time what followed the guitar parts. The key here was taking advantage of the things a guitar player has trouble with doing gracefully that is no sweat for a keyboard player. Yeah it could have been sequenced but then the guitar player's parts would have had to be set in stone. But guitar player's are not cool with that crap. So getting to the point there's times when your live playing abilities are more better than a sequencer.

But then after you sample the guitar player's playing the sequencer is the key.

So really while this question has some credibility beyond troll bait it all boils down to whether or not you're performing with other live musicians or not.

My 2 cents....
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