Keyboard Sequencers to Use as main sequencer

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Keyboard Sequencers to Use as main sequencer

Postby Cook » Wed Mar 22, 2017 1:49 am

Eh title. Not expensive as s**t, the ASR-10 is out of my range atm. Looking for any type of keyboard that has a sequencer on it to use as a "brain" for any rack s**t I might wanna use or such.

Thanks homies

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Re: Keyboard Sequencers to Use as main sequencer

Postby Ashe37 » Wed Mar 22, 2017 2:03 am

Triton LEs go for a little cheaper, or many the TR (from Korg), Roland XP-series (XP-50 in particular).
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Re: Keyboard Sequencers to Use as main sequencer

Postby abruzzi » Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:34 am

What sequencer you like is very personal, but I like the Kurzweil sequencer, and it's available on all the K series from the K2000 to the K2600. If you can't afford an ASR, you probably can't afford a 2500 or 2600, but K2000s can frequently be found for $200-$300 or so. Great synth too.
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Re: Keyboard Sequencers to Use as main sequencer

Postby meatballfulton » Wed Mar 22, 2017 1:42 pm

The good news is that workstation sequencers became sophistciated very quickly. While the ESQ-1 sequencer (1986) is limited in editing features it's still quite usable today and pretty much any workstation made in the last 20 years will do the job. You should research them carefully to get an idea how they work, because each manufacturer has their own UI that is common across their lines. Don't overlook the Akai MPC line just because they lack keys, their sequencers can handle 32 MIDI channels...I don't know of any workstations that can do that.

Things to look out for:

1. Storage

While the earliest workstations had non-volatile sequence storage, many newer ones require the user to back up the data before powering down. That even includes today's $3000+ Korg Kronos!!! Sysex backups to a computer will work but check carefully whether individual sequences can be backed up independent of other data. Otherwise, reloading individual sequences may be impossible. Older machines often used proprietary RAM cartridges which are rare and expensive. Floppy drives wear out over time, check to see if it can easily be upgraded to flash memory cards. SCSI hard drives are no longer made and can be fussy to work with. Smart Media cards were popular from roughly 1995-2005 but are no longer made. The early cards that used 5.5V supplies are the hardest to find, the 3V cards are preferable. For all flash cards (SM, CF, SD, XD), check to see what the maximum supported size is. In today's world of 32GB cards, finding cards under 2GB is difficult. Units made in the last decade will likely support USB drives, this feature alone may be worth paying extra for.

2. Embedding sysex

The simplest way to keep all the hardware organized so that the sequences play back properly is to make sysex dumps from each instrument which will be sent out before the sequence plays. Check to see how difficult it is to record and edit the dumps. For example, if I have three outboard instruments, can I record the three dumps and then cut and paste that data into another sequence?

3. Labeling

Not all sequencers will let you freely name your sequences as you see fit. This means the user has to be more careful in keeping track of files. Typically the older the unit the less flexibility you will have here.

4. Editing

Almost every sequencer has simple bar-based cut and paste editing, but more detailed edits may or may not be possible. The most basic (and powerful) method is the event list (Roland calls this "microscope editing") whcih is literally each MIDI message displayed individually for full editing. Change a note's pitch, start time, duration, velocity, etc. Look for job functions that allow thinning controller data, creating controller curves for swells and fades, ability to freely edit CC data, etc. Check to see if the sequence can run in a loop for overdubs. Step entry is not always possible so if step sequencing is crucial, make sure the unit allows it. The ESQ-1 for example does not allow step entry while recording but if the user records a blank track in the edit mode it is possible to step enter notes. In Yamaha's Motif family, the XS and XF models do not allow step entry although all other models do.

5. Live performance

If live performance will be an important application, look into features that allow chaining songs together, creating "set lists" and similar features. Check on load times and how easy it is to load new data. Some units may not be able to hold an entire show's music, units with non-volatile storage run the risk of being powered down on stage for any number of reasons so expect you will eventually have to do reloads on the fly.

6. MIDI compatibility

There are lots of possible MIDI messages and the sequencer you choose should be able to handle any messgaes your unstruments require. The common ones that can be problematic are polyphonic aftertouch, the full range of MIDI CCs, NRPNs and sysex. For example, the Yamaha Motif series only supports CCs from 0 to 119. Since NRPNs are actually a series of related CC messages, if the sequencer supports all CCs NRPNs can be handled but for editing it's best if the sequencer supports editing them as NRPNs rather than CCs. Also check the filtering options for both recording and playback.
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Re: Keyboard Sequencers to Use as main sequencer

Postby krzeppa » Thu Mar 23, 2017 11:41 pm

meatballfulton wrote:The good news is that workstation sequencers became sophistciated very quickly. While the ESQ-1 sequencer (1986) is limited in editing features it's still quite usable today and pretty much any workstation made in the last 20 years will do the job. You should research them carefully to get an idea how they work, because each manufacturer has their own UI that is common across their lines. Don't overlook the Akai MPC line just because they lack keys, their sequencers can handle 32 MIDI channels...I don't know of any workstations that can do that.


+1....I used a Roland Fantom FA-76 and a Yamaha MO8 for a time, and they did the job quite well. The Yamaha was a little less user friendly me, but I think that was because the screen was so small. I did enjoy the ESQ-1, and it was very capable (as meatballfulton has stated), but it was much more limited than the other two. I don't know what you price point is, but the MPC looks pretty enticing.

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