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

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Post by RichShan » Wed Jul 09, 2008 11:41 am

I've been using hardware sequencers forever and i don't find any creativity problems. I really like the idea of choosing my track & sound and then hitting record. Job done...

Rock solid timing too- especially when triggering ageing arpeggiators and step sequencers

I was recently given a copy of logic to use on my iMac and while it is undoubtedly more powerful that the 20 odd thousand notes on my SY85 I just can't get into it. I found it a pain to fire off sample loops too... I'm not slaggin it off because I've used it as a standalone unit. It's just the thought of integrating all my hardware and software...

I guess I just like the fact that I really "know" my hardware. But I also understand that if I invested the time in Logic I'd be happy to use that too. I just can't really be arsed. :oops:

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Post by madtheory » Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:30 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.
Ya, that's the biggest problem for me. I've always found that I can do good stuff on the hardware sequencers I've tried, but when it comes to arranging and structuring, it's much more fluid on a computer based system.

It does take some time to set up a computer to be reliable, but I think it's worth it.

I'm currently considering an Emu Proteus 2500 for live work, it seems to cover all the bases, has great on board synthesis, lots of controls and decent computer integration. I'm hoping it would allow me to restructure music on the fly, overdub etc.

But first I'm going to experiment with Ableton. The problem for me is getting existing arrangements into it as MIDI. Audio loops are no fun!

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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:53 pm

My first sequencer was the one present in the ESQ-1.
Then I used the ASQ-10 they had at my college. It was absolutely fantastic and rock solid. I would consider buying one if I came across it, I think.
Then I got an EPS-16+ and used its sequencer to record music for years. When it temporarily stopped working (the SCSI card which had been installed in it had not been properly screwed in, causing the connection to fail [although cleaning it and screwing it in properly fixed it later]), I needed another sequencer, and fast. I bought an old version of Studio Vision Pro, and I've been using it since for all of my sequencing needs. As with anything software: I like the flexibility of programming it gives me, but I hate the hassle of having to turn on the computer, load the program, load the files, save the files, manage the files, blah blah blah.
I would gladly sacrifice some of the functionality for a standalone dedicated sequencer. I wonder if the ASQ would suit me these days.

P.S. It's amusing that I'm still using what now could be considered "vintage" software. :wink:
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Post by madtheory » Wed Jul 09, 2008 4:16 pm

Hi Automatic Gainsay. Studio Vision was always well regarded. Many people lament the passing of Opcode. From what I can see, those who used that sequencer have moved over to Logic. That's come a long way in 5 years- it's actually a tiny bit more logical than it used to be :)

Interesting what you say about the Ensoniqs. I wonder if we all have a yearning for our first sequencer?

I also have a soft spot for my first sequencer, the Casio CZ-5000. Some very interesting step programming and looping quirks on that beast. It used to do a crazy ascending loop of your tune when you muted a track assigned to a particular piano patch I made.

I don't miss my first computer based sequencer, Passport Mastertrack Pro. That was quite a limited app. They still make it, and it's much the same.

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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:26 pm

madtheory wrote:Hi Automatic Gainsay. Studio Vision was always well regarded. Many people lament the passing of Opcode. From what I can see, those who used that sequencer have moved over to Logic. That's come a long way in 5 years- it's actually a tiny bit more logical than it used to be :)
Hey, mt!
It was really weird for me going from the Ensoniq-type sequencer to the comparatively complex Studio Vision interface... but stuff like being able to graphically correct mistakes, etc. was very motivating. I often think I should move up and get more modern sequencing software (It's going to get tiresome toting around a Mac 8600 running OS 7.something!), but so far I haven't needed to.
madtheory wrote:Interesting what you say about the Ensoniqs. I wonder if we all have a yearning for our first sequencer?
A friend and I are doing a sort of goofy 80s retro thing, and I decided it should all be programmed on an ESQ (I don't have mine, but I have a friend's). It's weird how immediately its operation came back... I haven't sequenced on one since about 1991, and yet still, my hands would just do stuff before I had to think about it. Weird.
madtheory wrote:I also have a soft spot for my first sequencer, the Casio CZ-5000. Some very interesting step programming and looping quirks on that beast. It used to do a crazy ascending loop of your tune when you muted a track assigned to a particular piano patch I made..
There is always something appealing about the couple of unique things each piece of hardware seemed to do that nothing else did...
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Post by Syn303 » Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:30 pm

I love hardware sequencers for immediate hands-on control and a never ending source of improvisational sequencing and inspiration, plus you get all the flashing chase-lights that go with them too. None of that with a boring 1-dimensional software sequencer on a monitor.
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Post by blueknob » Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:51 pm

If I may add.. I started with an Atari ST, yup fine. Now use a PC but know the timing is poo, but it allows me to be technical in many ways, but not groovy. It is easy to become mesmerised by the passing colourful displays before your eyes rather than feeling the funk.

I've only just started trying out the sequencers in my Ensoniq kit, and I think I like 'em! Now it's more time with the groove which I believe is what music is about. Ears not eyes.

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Post by madtheory » Wed Jul 09, 2008 10:29 pm

I used to use an ST too, running Cubase 3.0. Went to Cubase on the Mac, dropped out when SX came along and changed to Pro Tools. I can't honestly say that there has been any change in timing, although one does have to keep an eye on what the OS is doing (particularly on the PC, not so much on the Mac), and on latency in the digital audio path. But if you're on top of that, it's all good.

In fact, I can hear that the soft synths are a lot tighter than external MIDI gear! The worst offender is the Emu ESI4000 sampler, even with the Kawai Q80 that thing is sloppy- you notice it when using multiple drum loops. The guys in Plaid had a similar issue with there E4K.

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Post by gs » Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:01 am

Automatic Gainsay wrote:I bought an old version of Studio Vision Pro, and I've been using it since for all of my sequencing needs.
[................]
P.S. It's amusing that I'm still using what now could be considered "vintage" software. :wink:
I'm still using Power Tracks Pro that I got back in the 90s for all my PC-based MIDI sequencing. It cost me $25. Its MIDI flexibility and layout - which reminds one of Performer for Mac - makes something modern like Tracktion (which I use for audio multitracking) look positively stupid. They have really cut back on MIDI syncing options for low-to-mid level DAWs these days.

Old software can be a good thing. 8)
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Post by braincandy » Thu Jul 10, 2008 3:07 am

The ESQ-1 was my first sequencer, too, and it, along with the EPS, were the easiest sequencers I've used to date. They had their limitations, but I preferred their ease of use to the sequencers in the K2VXs, XPs 50/30, and Juno-G.

And, I'm getting a 3rd crack at an Ensoniq sequencer as I'm expecting a VFXsd within days. :)

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Post by gryphon » Thu Jul 10, 2008 3:54 am

i think using the evolver's sequencer to make textures/odd bassline type things is really gratifying as the first sounds to get down over some drums. even if it's just some weird atonal noisy bit that doesn't fit in the finished song, it gets some s**t going. i like it better than dropping in some lifeless loop to "jam" with.

maybe that actually would work better if you were trying to get a really specific feel, but i think the results are still more original when you let a little eight or sixteen steps run and make some stuff over the top- ableton live excels at grabbing stuff and reorganizing an extended jam into a more coherent set of usable loops. i usually just let the thing run and record audio. i respect the "keep it midi" idea too because most parts could stand to stay that flexible, but horses courses...
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Post by RichShan » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:07 am

[quoteEars not eyes.[/quote]

yes, yes!

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Post by aredj » Fri Jul 11, 2008 3:02 am

One thing that I like to do that you cant do in hardware (maybe) is freaking out on a keyboard for a few minutes while recording the midi... (I use ableton)

Going back and finding cool loops, dropping notes, etc.

(then sending that off to the hardware... :o

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Post by crystalmsc » Fri Jul 11, 2008 6:55 am

With a synth such as the Karma, I found that using the internal sequencer is where it's more fun in using the Karma Function. After recording it to a standard midi, there are a lot more to do. The sequencer it self, with the rppr is powerful and nice enough to work with.
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Post by MitchK1989 » Fri Jul 11, 2008 3:47 pm

I find myself liking logic's sequencing much moreso than the hardware sequencers I've tried (electribes, MPC, alesis fusion)... I like making individual patterns on X0X boxes, but I don't like arranging those patterns into songs outside of software... But I've managed to find software methods to replicate the pattern sequencing (mostly GURU)

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