The Joys of Hardware Sequencers (Story/Rant/Endorsement)

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Post by chamomileshark » Fri Jul 11, 2008 9:46 pm

I still have my Roland CSQ 100 from the early 80s. Haven't used it in ages but I think I can use it as a complex envelope generator..I think.

I also have a new Wiard sequantizer which I've only just started to use.

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Post by shaft9000 » Sat Jul 12, 2008 12:03 am

hardware units are usually best for live performance stability and flat-out jamming
software is usually better for tweaking arrangements and edits ; non-realtime processes

funny thing is hardware doesn't run by itself - it needs software. and software needs hardware to become anything other than bits.
good hardware is easier to get nice sound quality from than the cheapy stuff, especially in the realm of interfaces and mixers

other than that it's just a matter of style
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Post by mute » Sat Jul 12, 2008 2:16 am

i mostly use software but i also have a decent amount of hw as well.. i agree with the last post for the most part.

i've got 2 hw sequencers.. e-mu mp-7, and a future retro mobius. i've also got a jx-3p and sync its internal sequencer with the mobius. also got a korg esx-1 and ms2000 which both have their own sequencers.

i love software, always will.. final product will come from software and i flow through it quickly. but hardware sequencers = tons of fun and they give you the ability to just sit down and jam without having the computer even turned on, which is a plus when, if like me, you're often burnt from a long day of work on a computer and dont feel like staring at one when you get home.

they're also ideal for me in a live performance setting, but the laptop will be there as well

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Post by tunedLow » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:30 am

I'd agree with that - I understand not wanting to stare at a monitor any longer than I have to. But you also seem to be on the same page as me, I'm all about hardware, but can't deny the practicality of software, so I just use them both where they work best for me.

I tried an MPC in an effort to get further away from the computer, but eventually I just found the workflow for similar tasks on the computer to be faster. I think my turning point was when I was trying to get a loop just right on the mpc, then decided just to see how I would have done it in Ableton, and in 30 seconds I had it dialed. That's when I decided I couldn't afford to keep it.

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Give me hardware any time

Post by MrLovegrove » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:22 pm

I use a computer all day in work, and the idea of staring at a screen to make music in my spare time would drive me insane.

For sequencing I use a Roland MC300 that I picked up second hand too many years ago to remember. It does everything I need and I very rarely run out of onboard memory. I saw Jon Carin using an MC50 or 500 in Pink Floyd's Delicate Sound of Thunder video, couldn't afford the 50 so went for the 300, and I've been very happy with it ever since.

Computers seem to be taking over the music world, but I still think there's a lot to be said - reliability, relative ease of use, no need to wait for long boot-ups - for hardware.

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Post by synth3tik » Thu Jul 31, 2008 8:17 pm

Recently I have been working hard to eliminate the use of my computer for everything but actual audio recording. I stare at 20-40 computer screens on a daily basis and don't want to do it when I get home. More over, I find working with software sequencers to be too predictable. I do not feel creative when using them. I am still trying to decide what I want out of a hardware sequencer. So far I seem to be leaning toward a Doepfer MAQ 16/3 and something along the lines of an Akai MPD32. I know a couple local guys that love their Roland MC-80's, but I am really not a fan of these digital sequencers as they still feel to me like I am working with a computer (which it is).

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Post by monolith » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:45 am

I just bought a csq-600, which will be my first foray into sequencing. I suppose its kind of primitive, but it seems like it will be fairly simple to use which is very appealing.
I look forward to teaming it up with the sh-2 and dr-110 for a nice little retro set up.

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Post by meatballfulton » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:18 pm

I also started on Ensoniq (SQ-80). I now use a Motif ES which is very similar to sequencing on an RS7000. While the Motif took a while to figure out once I did I was thrilled with all the extra sequencing power it gave me.

It has both pattern and song modes and you can move data freely between the two. 8)

Example 1: program a set of patterns (a Yamaha "pattern" actually is a group of 16 patterns labelled A through P). Length can be anywhere from one to 256 :shock: bars. You can play the patterns back switching between them on the fly groovebox style until you have worked out your arrangement. Once you have them arranged as you like, you chain them and convert the pattern chain to a song. You can continue to overdub and edit in song mode without affecting any of the original pattern data. Great if you're into remixes.

Example 2: record linearly in song mode (like noodling away for hundreds of bars) then convert any of that into patterns.

Example 3: start in pattern mode, convert to a song for further tweaks, convert back to patterns for further tweaks, then back to song, etc. until done.

You have all the usual editing features in both modes, quantizing, "groove templates", event (microscope in Rolandese) edits, cut and paste, data thinning and erasing, controller curves, etc. Integration of sample chopping/warping with the sequencer, editing (and saving!!!) voices inside the sequence itself and resampling it's own output makes this thing as powerful as a software DAW.
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Post by lost cause » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:34 pm

The first sequencer I used was an ASQ10 so I guess I was spoiled very early on. In my experience no software sequencers sound as tight as hardware - apart from the Atari of course. :wink:

I like to use my MSQ-700 for step programming basslines and drum tracks. Sometimes I chain tracks in the MSQ to get an idea of the arrangement, sometimes I prefer to use software to come up with the arrangement. It depends on how I feel at the time.

I don't like sync'ing the MSQ to the PC though, I'm paranoid that the timing of the MSQ will be compromised and I don't like fiddling with negative track delays in Live just to get the PC and MSQ in perfect sync.

I wish Live had a midi clock delay feature like Logic on the PC does.
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Re: The Joys of Hardware Sequencers (Story/Rant/Endorsement)

Post by bealtown » Tue Feb 01, 2011 8:25 am

My intuition runs to hardware as well, coming from a guitarist's background I like twiddling knobs and pulling strings... I also got a Rolan MC300 in order to sequence my Moog Little Phatty Stage II. Trouble is, I can't find a basic owner's manual online. Just the more advanced MC-500MkII_OM.pdf, which is utterly confusing to me.
I am at the VERY BEGINNING STAGE of MIDI usage, still trying to get the machines to communicate.
Can anyone walk me through steps to initiate a pattern in real-time, the MC triggering the LP?
Right now, playing in real time with a sequencer is much more interesting than composing a reproduceable 'song'.

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Re: The Joys of Hardware Sequencers (Story/Rant/Endorsement)

Post by qube » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:52 am

For live noodling/jamming I prefer hardware as it's more hands on, but for actual composing and recording I much prefer software.

MIDI sync, sys-ex, floppies, midi channels, lag, polyphony, expense etc for me got in the way as I found myself fiddling more often than writing anything, and I still needed a computer to record the actual notation. Plus with the actual physical size of the equipment meant I couldn't just leave it set up, it was 20 minutes of plugging it all in and moving it into position. PITA if I wanted to take them for a rehearsal/gig too.

With Logic and my SL-61 I've a single interface for everything, it automatically remembers everything I've done so there's no need to worry about any of the MIDI stuff, it's all synced automatically, plus as I've a reasonably powerful Mac I can chuck any amount of plugins at it without it ever breaking a sweat.

The only limitations for me are for when I'm using something like the Arturia Modular V, I think it sounds great but when using the step sequencer I want to be able to tweak the controls as easy as I could with a real one but because there are so many I can't map them all to my controller in one go so it's just not quite as real-time as I'd like, maybe if I bought a rack of controllers but then I'd have the space issue.

Another problem is a lack of boundaries, Logic comes with a ton of instruments which are mostly very good and usable, I got a bit giddy and bought a lot of soft synths, Arturia V, Komplete, Omnisphere, Albino etc, plus all the free ones I stumble across, so it can be hard to maintain focus, there's that many sounds I feel that I'm not really digging into each plugin sufficiently to find what it can do, or if I discover a really great sound I then can't remember which plugins I used to create it.

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Re: The Joys of Hardware Sequencers (Story/Rant/Endorsement)

Post by meatballfulton » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:59 pm

bealtown wrote:Trouble is, I can't find a basic owner's manual online
MRC-300 manual.

Do you have the OS floppy?

qube wrote:when using the step sequencer I want to be able to tweak the controls as easy as I could with a real one but because there are so many I can't map them all to my controller in one go
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Re: The Joys of Hardware Sequencers (Story/Rant/Endorsement)

Post by GameChanger » Tue Feb 01, 2011 2:38 pm

I'm glad you guys brought this up. Even when I meet folks with awesome analog gear, they look at me funny when I say I dont use a computer/software to sequence or record. My MPC 60 will always be the one piece of gear I will never get rid of. 4 Midi Outs / 2 In, Rock Solid Roger Linn Swing Sequencing, 12 bit drum/samples, Effects In/Out Mixer Screen, 8 individual outs, and super easy to use. I really dont need anything else to make music.

Software is cool, but its just not my thing. Like others said, im on computers 50+ hours a week, music needs to be separate to me. I honestly think Id be much less productive if I used software, prob end up IMin people, goin on ebay. haha My attention span needs to be devoted to music, and the MPC makes that a reality. if anyone here hasn't tried an MPC (any of them) I'd really suggest it for the sequencing and MIDI capabilties alone. Them having a sampler is just a very nice added bonus.

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Post by balma » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:56 pm

wvcttr wrote:Hardware sequencers are great for fiddling with a few patterns, but I don't find them easy to create entire songs. You gotta plan it all out. And I don't like planning... also consider that some of my hardware sequencers are better suited for live manipulation (notron, maq 16/3) and others are a joy to program simple patterns but, a pain to do more complex stuff (202, 303, 606, 888). No MPCs or Yamaha all-in-one boxes for me... too much menu diving.

The are several hardware sequencers where creating a whole complex and hyper detailed song is quite easy.

I have never used a computer to compose music, or to input a single note. I have being called as a moron, idiot, limitating myself on a very stupid way, etc.

But I just do not need them for anything! And I don't miss them, enough for me the great possibilities you have with several intuitive sequencers interacting with tone generators. IMO they are more capable than any computer, and more self empowering when used properly.

I have used only hardware sequencers. In my opinion, the HARDWARE SEQUENCER is the most important member of a hardware setup, it is the brain and the tone generators the body and sensorial organs. It stores information, and gives orders, it assignates tasks, define priorities. The hardware sequencer is the head and mind of all the midi setup. So, knowing its possibilities and obtaining the best of them, is fundamental for a quality performance.

My sequences are three EMU command stations.

With them, I have 6 MIDI outputs, 96 simultaneous tracks, 384 polyphony, 900,000 notes, 3072 patterns, 48 track triggers, and 48 assignable knob controllers.

But those are only numbers. I'm barely scratching the surface of the creativity possibilities I have. I barely discern how much new stuff can come out from this creative concept.
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Post by glassofwater » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:16 pm

lost cause wrote:I wish Live had a midi clock delay feature like Logic on the PC does.

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