Orca - alternative firmware for white whale


Yes, that should work.


exactly, you can’t edit shared scales directly, so one way to do it is by editing a user scale and then copying it into a shared scale.

shared scales are like scale presets that are shared between all orca presets.


Understood. Thanks indeed !


a new version of orca, v2.6, is ready. as always, you will lose all your presets when you update the firmware - if you would like to keep them you can store them to a USB stick and then restore after. get it here: https://github.com/scanner-darkly/monome-mods/releases/tag/v2.6

what’s new:

  • you can now save individual banks or presets
  • you can edit scales and rotate/mutate/set global reset with arc4
  • the clock speed knob will control clock multiplication / division when using an external clock
  • you can manually rotate scale while in scale editing
  • when saving all presets a better visual confirmation is shown
  • a couple of bug fixes (see the release link for details)
  • for devs: libavr32 is now referenced as a submodule

important: in order to improve the interface i’ve disabled a couple of things:

  • double pressing the preset page button does not save anymore - just use the front panel button instead, or save individual banks/presets
  • double clicking the front panel button is also removed (it used to remove resets and reset the counters)

the manual has been updated as well, some sections were completely rewritten and some new sections added (clocking and tips&tricks): https://github.com/scanner-darkly/monome-mods/wiki/Orca

i’ve also made new videos and updated the captions on the old videos to match the terminology. the videos are linked in the manual, or just check the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMZROl1GNSMHJHpEsBsqqDx-G9nn9uAVI

i’ve marked it as beta for now just in case, if you run into any weirdness or a potential bug please let me know! any bugs will be given top priority. but other than that this is it for orca for now. at this point i don’t think i want to do some light version of it as part of the ansible firmware, but i still plan to port the full version to ansible at some point, but it will be several months before i get to that - i really want to do something different and have a lot of ideas i want to try!

check out https://www.instagram.com/scanner_darkly_ if you want to keep an eye on new developments (and see some orca demos).


maybe it was already asked, but do you have any plans to port this to ansible?


Nice job, scanner. Looking forward to updating.


I asked, answer was yes, timeline unknown.


orca as part of the ansible firmware - no (changed my mind), full port of standalone orca running on ansible - yes, but will likely be a few months before it happens.

i did consider doing a “light” version of orca that would be one of the apps in the ansible firmware, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. mostly because i’m really excited about trying some new ideas, so this would be pretty low on the priority list against all the other stuff i want to try.

i do want a full port to happen at some point - i’m curious to hear what could be done with 4 CV tracks instead of 2. and the plan is to use that as an opportunity to refactor the code to make such ports easier in the future. but yeah, no timeline yet.


Just upgraded to 2.6 and I’m seeing problems with the bottom row of the monome when Orca is synced to an external clock. When synced to an external clock, the bottom row lights up as it should for a couple of beats, and then begins flickering buttons 8 & 9 on and off. Now and again the display is correct, but mostly it’s just flashing these two buttons on and off. :confused:

Removing the external sync results in the bottom row being displayed correctly. See the linked video - you can hear the click as I pull the cable out of the sync in socket on the WW at around 8 seconds:



so what happens is - when an external clock is used the clock knob controls the ext clock division / multiplication. when you turn the knob orca detects that the value was changed and uses the bottom row to display the new value for a couple of seconds. but if the knob is right in between values it can appear if the value changes when it’s not (due to some small fluctuations), causing the effect you describe.

if you just turn the knob a bit it should settle into one of the 2 values and the behavior should stop. i’ll try adding “dead” zones in between the values which should help prevent this from happening.


Aha! You are - of course - absolutely correct. Thanks for the clarification! :slight_smile:


Looking forward to seeing what you do with ansible, orca looks like such a great sequencer. Out of curiosity when you get around to porting it to ansible will it be for both arc & grid?


thank you! yes, it will be a full port of the existing version which supports hot swapping between arc/grid. it will be a standalone version though, so not an addition to the existing ansible apps but a full replacement.

basically, it will be exactly same version of orca except it will run on ansible instead of white whale, and you will have 4 CV outputs, so 4 sequences generated instead of 2.


Sounds interesting @scanner_darkly. Although, I find Orca with 2 outs can be pretty busy. Can’t imagine it with 4 outs! Is there a way to separate the channels/voices that I’ve not come across yet?


i’ll start with saying you can use different scales for CV A and B, of course, but i think there is a lot to explore when sharing the same scale - this is due to the fact that both sequences are affected by the same 4 tracks, so one of the more unusual things about orca is that you have 2 sequences that are related in some way (also true with different scales, but easier to hear the effect when sharing the same scale). there is some interesting interplay when you have 2 voices playing from the same pool of 16 notes and both reacting to changes in parameters, but in different ways. and then play with track assignment, the sequences will change but remain related to each other. here’s an example: https://www.instagram.com/p/BL0DmOADcdH

to separate them - so, normally, what i do is a typical patch: trigger outputs -> envelopes -> VCAs. unlike a typical sequencer in orca you can configure triggers independently from CV outs, but you can also do it the standard way where a trigger is fired whenever a new note is output - basically, assign the same tracks to the CV and the corresponding trigger output. do it for the 2nd CV too, and now you have 2 typical CV/trig outputs you can use to drive 2 voices. if you tune the 2 voices to the same pitch (or an interval) you now have 2 sequences that compliment each other in interesting ways.

since you can configure triggers independently from CVs you can also do some interesting effects where triggers are not necessarily triggered on each note change. so what you can do is mult the same oscillator to another env/vca pair and control it with another trigger. example: assign tracks 1&2 to CV A, assign track 1 to trigger 1, and track 2 to trigger 2. now use CV A to control an oscillator and put it through 2 pairs of env/vca, one controlled by trigger 1 and another one controlled by trigger 2. so you’ll only hear some notes through vca #1 and other notes through vca #2, playing from the same oscillator. now play with attack/decay times and you get sequences that kinda flow into each other…

this is the kind of a patch that i find really interesting in orca, especially if you add delay to the mix, sequences that flow into each other, interrelated but different, changing together but in different ways. so with ansible you can do that times 2 - i’m really curious to hear what it might sound like!


Sounds awesome! Would you say that its usable just with the arc alone? I realize there is much more control with the grid, i just love the simplicity of the interface with the arc.


with the latest version, much more so. you could use it before but it was more of an automatic sequence generator. the latest version gives you access to some of the more interesting ways to alter a sequence [such as scale rotation] but more importantly you can now edit scales with an arc which wasn’t possible before, so now you have a lot more control over sequences.

this video gives a good walk through what is possible with arcs:


Thank you, looking forward to install Orca, I have been holding back until now, but the scale rotation sold it for me!


here is a couple of examples of the effect rotate scale / rotate weights / mutate have on a sequence (these are from before the code was finalized so it looks a little different but functionality is the same):


Thanks for the advice… I’ve watched your orca tutorial a few times recently trying to help me decide whether to get an arc or a grid. They both look so awesome its pretty hard decision since i can only get 1 of them :smiley:

The arc is so alluring though… Especially with prospect of orca on ansible! Just love way it works