Drum machines (or sequencers) non 4/4 friendly?

I’ve used a few drum machines before, amongst them the Elektron MDUW, and while i love it, i can’t deal with one thing : you can’t define a “page’s” number of steps.

Simple example : you’re working in 3/4. Your “page” should be 12 steps, but instead of this it sticks to 16, so bar 2 effectively starts on page 1 step 13, bar 3 starts on page 2 step 8, and so on…

This honestly kept me from using those machines and from buying an Elektron Rytm as well.

Any thoughts ?


It’s maligned online, but I’ve always loved my Tempest. You can use it like the Elektrons in 16 Steps mode (in the six years I’ve had it, I’ve never used that mode), but it’s really easy to just change the time signature and bang out a beat in 3/4, 5/4, 7/4, whatever. I also don’t like the page issue you mention on the Octatrack. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit counting beats out on there when I’ve got a non-4/4 sequence.

Having said all of this, if you just want x0x style kicks, snares, whatever, the Tempest may not be for you. I’ve never had an issue getting big kicks and other sounds I really like out of it, but I’ve seen a lot of (I think unwarranted) complaints about that sort of stuff online. It’s also excellent as a 6 voice poly, and excels at making more “unusual” percussive sounds.

Thanks for pointing the Tempest. I admit i never considered it because of all the negative feedback you find online.
I’ll check this definitely, but i wonder how the programming is done. It feels more like a “live” machine and i’m more into step programming.

You can sort of go either way, in terms of live or step programming, but the live aspect was something that appealed to me because I do step sequencing on the Octatrack. I can’t say I’ve done a whole lot of step programming on it, and I’m not sure it’ll be particularly good if that’s what you’re looking for, especially in odd time signatures, but I really like mine. I have it permanently running through an Eventide H9 and get amazing results.

Thanks. Watching really nice demos as i type.

Not sure I understand the issue. I have an Octatrack and you can define how many steps to have per track, with a bit of math you can do any time signature you want + polymetric stuff as well.
The Sonic Potions LXR is also good at doing this, but it’s a thing of its own soundwise, and DIY.

The issue isn’t that it can’t be done, just that it’s a bit annoying to have a sequence in 3/4 but then having to remember that the final four steps of the first page are the first 4 steps of the second bar and so on.

Oh that’s the problem…
Well on the OT you can set a track to 3/4, but that’s mostly to have triplets going against another track. So you’ll still have to work around it if you want to use a non-4/4 signature as the main one on your song.
The sequencer has 4 pages with max 16 steps, but you can tell the sequencer to use less steps per page. If you’d want a 4/4 beat with 16th note resolution you’d just use all 16 and get one bar per page. So the way I do it is this: if I want to have a 7/8 signature on a track, or in a project, I set the track length to 14, so on each page of the sequencer I know that I have one bar with a 16th note resolution, the first upbeat being on step 1 and 8 and the last 2 steps are just inactive. Similarly if I want 3/4 and I want 16th notes, then I’ll just set the track length to 12, so I get one 3/4 bar per page (the last 4 steps are just inactive).
That seems pretty ok to me. Not much to remember and nothing wrapping around.
No idea how that works on the Rytm but should be more or less the same

Yeah, that’s what I do too, it’s just a hassle when you want more than one bar/page sequences not in 4/4. It’s not a deal breaker, it’s just obvious that the general intended use, as far as Elektron is concerned, is using 16 step sequences, and while you can change the number of steps, it’s a bit inconvenient to work with.

It is to me. I love to step edit patterns in live. When i perform, i’d rather play than do math exercises !

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If you’re open to a sequencer rather than a drum machine/noise maker the the Squrp Pyramid excels at odd times and lengths, and you can have many many tracks at once all with different times and lengths if you like.

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I guess it’s more convenient for them to do so… since designing a step sequencer with actual physical step buttons is easier when you stick to one target measure. I wonder if music made on these machines is predominantly 4/4 because of how the machines are designed or they designed them this way because most people want that. I guess it’s a bit chicken&egg, and both of them as well. It’s a self-feeding system.

This said… I second what emenel said, the Pyramid might be more what you’re looking for. Though when going through the manual and the videos, I find the very concept of how the sequencer is conceived a bit cumbersome, but I have never tried it IRL. This is just to say: check it out closely, it might or might not be what you’re looking for.

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i sincerely hope all of this won’t be in issue on the upcoming synthstrom deluge.
really planning to use this one with odd time signatures all the time, and from what can be made out by demo videos and the manuals, it should be very straightforward.

To be honest i had this in mind when opening the topic. Hard to find one to test though.

Yeah, they’re only really available direct from Squarp so it’s hard to test. I had one for a while and really liked it, if I still did anything with midi I would have kept it. Easily as powerful as the other major sequencers, but much cheaper.

I would consider MFB Tanzbar.
You can define the number of steps.

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Can you ? i had no idea. Is it possible on the “small” ones (i believe it’s called tanzmaus ?) as well ?

Yes you can.
Also you can define different length per instrument track so that you can create strange polyrithms.
not sure you can do on the little ones as I do not have them but I have seen videos that said that you can.

It is a nice feature if you want to create strange timing and evolving drum patterns.
It is just a little hard to learn but ones you get the grips, it is very nice to program.


Coming back to the topic. Not decided yet…
Are you limited to 16 steps max per pattern on the tanzbär ?
I know you can chain patterns, but what happens when you chain patterns with different track lengths ? For instance can you do a 24 an 16 steps superposition ?

Thanks !

Rytm (plus former OT and MD) user here. It isn’t a deal breaker for me, but I’m glad that I’m not the only one that is annoyed by this.

Lately I’ve mostly been programming patterns that are 16 steps or less and using trig conditions to add variation. This isn’t ideal for every situation, but it makes live programming easier. I do run into situations where this becomes a problem, so I’ll use a longer pattern length.