Saturday, June 16, 2007

So, about that sequencer...

Ok, so I'll assume you're sitting down (as that is the position 99% of people are in when using the computer), but if you are that 1%, sit down. K, ready? ...

I don't want a sequencer.

Alright, now that the shock has hopefully worn off, I will explain. There are good reasons of course:

1) I've never really liked using a sequencer. Beginning with my first experiences with Reason (and it's pattern sequencer), then again with Reaktor and the Nord G2, I've always had, what I felt to be, poor results with the amount of time I've spent tweaking with them; in the end, I just wasn't pleased with the results I got from using a sequencer. The one exception might be the sequencer on the ARP 2600 (plug-in version; I've never had the pleasure of playing a real one). I did rather like the sound of it controlling the filter cutoff and having it start/stop on key press.

2) I don't like programming melody/lead/bass/etc lines with sequencers. While there are several small reasons for this, it all comes down to my preference to not use them for such a task. I would rather play the lick manually; I could certainly use the practice. This means I would simply be using the sequencer as a modulation source for something else (filter, PWM, etc). A bit overkill for the cost (and space used) of a sequencer. Especially when I have already have quite a few, and more complex, modulation sources. Plus, you can only do that kind of patch so many times before you get completely sick of it

3) I am more interested in controlling when an "event" occurs rather than what that event is (voltage). Yes sequencers do both of course, however, most of the features of sequencers are aimed at control of the "what" and not so much of the "when". For example, there are no modular sequencers that I found (especially for my chosen eurorack format) that have the ability to have different tempo/step divisions of sequencer's 'lines'. Take the Plan B Milton (the one I had my eyes on); it has 4 individual 'lines', however, there is no way to have one line clock at a quarter note, another at a 16th note, and another at 8th note triplets. This is probably my biggest gripe with get what I want out of one, would really require buying several.

4) The sequencer I want, the aforementioned Plan B Milton, is not available (despite info on the Plan B site saying it will be ready for sale by June 2006). This is probably the most trivial, although certainly most practical, of my reasons. The sequencer that I really want isn't even available, and there's no telling when it might be.

5) Space. This was included in part of #2, but it bears repeating. The eurorack cases are expensive and I have already filled up 2 of them. I want this system to be simple and portable since I plan to perform with it and want the most versatility in as small of a package as possible. The sequencer comes close to taking up half of one case...actually more like a 1/3 of one case...and that's space that I most definitely could use.

So, in summary:

I don't really like using sequencers, or at least, based on past experience, I don't care for them as much as most do. I also would only be using it for modulation since I do not like programming melodies with it. This reduces the amount that it would be used regularly, and it takes up a lot of space relative to other modules. Most importantly, however, it does not accomplish what I really want. As I discussed in number 3, I am really much more concerned about rhythmic placement of events (and my flexibility in this placement) than I am about what those events actually are. A sequencer would not necessarily give me this freedom since I basically get one single rhythmic pattern. Maybe if #3 did not exist, this might be a whole different situation altogether.

I do have a solution though. The Plan B model 28 Programmable Tap Clock is the exact module that I'm looking for, and is why I have been so excited about the module since it's announcement. This gives me exactly what I want; the ability to have simultaneous independent timing of events. One top of that, it even has the ability to have separate voltage control for accents and when they occur. This, combined with my current modulation sources (and VCAs), will give me that rhythmic sonic control that I'm looking for. Plus, the fact that this, combined with not getting a sequencer, will save so much space that I have room for other modules, which I passed on much earlier in my planning. I would even have space for a second model 28; I'm still contemplating that one though.

All in all, I'm very pleased with my decision. It's not like I would never get a sequencer, one day when the Milton (or some other one that take my fancy more) is released then I might, but for now, I'm not interested. :)

Begin with the comments!


Zerosum said...

Yeah I know that feeling.
It takes some getting used to, but its a refreshing way for me to work while programming and experimenting.
It took some getting used to, but im liking that second option of sound triggering.
The lifeless snappy machine triggering triggers in ways that I dont play so that cold precision is a new life, however I could do that in the DAW and pencil in notes which doesnt work out well for me, I get bored real fast....However that is how I have to do my drums, but thats a little different.

I love using a sequencer as a modulation source, thats actually been its main use for the most part, but that is changing now with the studio rearranged a bit and new gear.

I bought my Mobius before I started putting the modular together(as small as it is right now) for a few reasons.
300 bucks cash!! sweet deal!
I needed a Midi to CV, and this isnt that much more than the Kenton.
It sends V/Oct and HZ/V, a TM-3 is in my future so that makes it a must have.
So an interface to connect with ALL gear plus a sequencer makes it worth it for me.

Then there is the Binary Zone.
When/If you get a Frac rack started and get a miniwave:) check out the Binary zone-$185.
Simple 2 space pattern generator that you can use to modulate your filters and various other CV sources that has a clock in and out.
Very cool little modulation source.
Takes up very little space and can do quick little sequences.

J.w.M. said...

I agree with Zerosum-- I've had my eyes on the Mobius due not only to its sequencing abilities but also to its Midi to CV.

I see what you mean about playing the lick by hand, but I certainly think that there are times where a nice looping sequence can be excellent to accompany more complex and dynamic keyboard work.

Great blog, by the way, and congrats about your marriage.

felix said...

I'll agree with both on the Mobius, it certainly seems like the one that would have the nicest fit with the least amount of money invested. I no doubt would enjoy having it as a modulation source. The Mobius doesn't have an CV ins does it? One thing I like a lot about the Plan B Milton was it's "transposition" CV inputs for each sequencer line.

I will most likely end up with at least 1 (3U) frac rack in my system. The Binary Zone and the Miniwave are just too cool to not have in the arsenal!

@ j.w.m Thanks for the congrats and comments, it's great to have another reader aboard :D