I do this too. And the. Use o_C to quantize and ERica Synths DS for the tiggers (both melodic and percussion).
It sounds pretty awesome!
I don’t have modular but very much enjoy sequencers.
I think for me the type of sequencer is pretty key to both getting interesting results and enjoying using the sequencer itself.
Some of my favourite sequencers are the combo of a tr606 triggering a sh101, the jx3p, cubase on the Atari and more recently been really enjoying the Yamaha Qx1.
Each has a place, be it speed, tactility, arrangement or thought process and/or planning.
The QX1 specifically has a really complex combination of button presses and menu diving and the sequencer itself is huge warranting it’s own stand. The buttons tho, they sound so good to type on. I can sit at that sequencer for hours and get hardly anywhere and be very satisfied. It feels like I’m programming some big computer system in some old sci-fi.
With the qx1 you can also key in notes from the keys, and hitting shift and a key scales down the octaves, and hitting the key without shift scales up the octaves, which sounds super nice.
This is a great abstraction of gamelan music!
One thing I like about Rene is that is allows very intuitive multi tempo control with WYSIWYG patching. I liked Rene for generating basic melodic ideas and as a gate sequencer.
Rene 2 I find more convoluted but with z mod and snake mod you can definitely get complex polyphony. One thing that annoys me is no keyboard entry of notes. It is a bit tedious to program and recall, so I haven’t explored it yet as much as I should have.
I use an Entropy Engine, sometimes combined with sample and holds as described by Crim above and like mdg said mixing in random octaves and semitones with precision adders. I also switch gates between melodies or break melodies by chance across voices.
It is fun to ride the tempo knob, and it can be clocked using PNW expander to DIN, although not multitempo.
I wish there was something in modular that had the programmability of Nerdseq with the patching philosophy of Rene, keyboard input and unquantized record option.
I find pure Todd Barton style timbre and building-block patch exploration very interesting. Rhythmic manipulation is cool too, but for this I usually think simpler (something that could be played by hand) is better for arrangement.
I find generative melodic music gets boring after a few bars and no amount of FX can cover up a lack of modal development.
If I’m seriously writing, I may have begun an idea on modular, but if it doesn’t sound right quantized, I will play it out on keyboard, and for development unquantized midi mapped to cv is still king.
Sad but true, at least for me.
Then same randomizing techniques applied.
ah i forgot my favorite and simplest sqncr:
slope output channel into quantizer voltage input(set to desired scale)
second slope as desired tempo clock to quantizer trig in (to tell it when to grab voltage)
and there you will have a cyclic feel of seq/arpeg voltage but it wont repeat, feels elegant to me.
an attenuated falling ramp wave is my favorite voltage for this quant input/patch concept.
a pulse multiplier can be used to add rhythm spice (melange) via modcan quad lfo staircase out to quantizer voltage input. quantizer senses change in voltage. the number of steps to staircase goes between 1 to many steps under voltage control within one “waveform cycle” so # of steps = clock multiplier.
i like to send that multiplied clk to another slope as a combo of vc eg with built in divider to get said speed spice as envelope. fixed/minimal voltage to manually or subtly impact division.
clocked delay is another fun destination for this multiplier as a complicator to sequence as audio end. copies are copying.
I do this a bunch. Sometimes with Rene (using a four step with each row slightly different and then selecting row via the Y mod, can bend out a variety of timbres that way) and also the DFAM which is great for this approach.
One trick I like to employ can be seen starting around 6:50 into this rather poor video:
I have an externally clocked sequencer with gate outs per step as well as a common gate out. I also have a Boolean logic module handling gate events as well as control voltages coming from the sequencer. With the voltages set to 0 on each stage, only the gates will trigger the drum module, but when I turn up the voltages for individual stages, those stages will also generate gate signals via the logic module. I also have the CV routed to my drum module’s v/o input, so you get the benefit of pitched drums - with additional patching, I could make the higher notes sound more like a snare, or whatever. The effect is not dissimilar to using a sample and hold to constrain voltages to their gate events.
I guess I could also just flip the switches on the sequencer to create gates but this feels a little more immediate.
Because a sequence is a tone row, all of the tone row manipulation techniques that serial composers developed over the 20th century are applicable in a modular system. It’s a good place to turn for ideas after you get bored with listening to the same eight notes repeat over and over again.
Beyond serialism, lately I’ve been working through Tom Johnson’s “Self-Similar Melodies”, and trying to figure out how many of his techniques I can patch program with a modular system.
My favorite sequencer for all of the above is the A-155/154 combo. Also crucial if you want to derive several polyphonic voices out of a single sequence are: extra VCOs (obviously), clock dividers, sample & hold, multiple quantizer channels, gate delay, and modules to invert and/or offset.
A separate gate sequencer for generating rhythmic patterns independent of your melodic sequencer is also very useful for getting new melodies out of a single sequence. I’ve used Triggerman, Grids, and Zularic Repetitor for this.
For melodies I like sending an audio rate (or close to audio rate) oscillator to a sample & hold and then a quantizer. You can get nice melodies that evolve over a long period of time but do act according to a pattern. I’ll also just send an output of the sequenced oscillator to the S&H a lot so the melody is formed by a feedback loop, resulting in sort of chaotic patterns.
For rhythms I really like using very fast LFO’s that are either slightly cross modulated, or combined in an AND gate, and then dividing down from there. I also really like working with LFO’s into comparators to generate my master clocks. They’re all pretty quick ways to get very natural sounding rhythms.
Speaking of paradigms, what about the spectrum from melodic sequencer to (drum pattern) rhythm sequencer?
I suppose the OP is speaking purely of melodic sequencing. Lately, I find myself wondering how common it is in the modular world to employ rhythm sequencing like the TR-808 or other drum pattern sequencers.
At one end of the spectrum is a sequencer with a single CV/Gate output pair, and lots of knobs to control the CV at each step. Some sequencers add switches to remove steps or change the length of the sequence (number of steps). Others add a second, third, or fourth CV output that potentially shares the same Gate output (especially if there are no switches to remove steps from any sequence). The latter offer options between longer sequences with fewer CV outputs or shorter sequences with more simultaneous, parallel CV outputs.
At the other end of the spectrum is a drum sequencer with 12 or 16 or more Gate outputs and potentially no CV output at all. How common are these in the modular world? There are certainly many modules that are percussive in nature, even if they might accept 1V/octave CV. Except for the number of jacks needed, this sort of sequencer seems easy to implement, but perhaps difficult to integrate into a rack.
I swear that I’ve heard Autechre alter rhythms on the fly, in an improvised way, but I don’t know what gear was used at those particular live shows. I’m talking about taking time out of a measure in an otherwise repeating pattern. I’d certainly be interested in a drum trigger sequencer with the ability to edit dynamically.
Although not modular, the Dave Smith Instruments Evolver synth has a 4-track CV sequencer where each channel can drive any of the modulation destinations - and there are lots. Since the Evolver only has 2 analog and 2 digital oscillators, it’s certainly possible to dedicate each track to pitch, but it seems far more common to sequence other aspects of the timbre with the Evolver. I mean, the name implies that it’s all about evolving sounds…
This isn’t really unique to the Evolver. There are many sequencers with 3 or 4 rows of knobs, and a separate CV output for each row. These can be used to sequence anything that CV can control. Sorry, no examples, though.
It’s been years, but I recall that the Evolver’s clock division was a sequencer and modulation destination. Rhythmic possibilities abound.
Those are called gate sequencers, and they’re very common: Mutable Grids, Zularic Repetitor, Trigger Man, Trigger Riot, etc.
My research begins
There are a bunch of these out there. But I’ll give you an example of how I use a couple of them.
I have one of the prototype Pithoprakta modules from boutique maker Iron Ether (https://ironether.com/modules/pithoprakta/), it is a gate/trigger sequencer with 8 gates which fire off based on probabilities. It also has a loop button if you want to have something that feels more like a pattern rather than a bunch of probabilistic gates. I could hook the outputs up to trigger any of the different trigger-based drum modules and have interesting, evolving drums all day long.
If I want something a little more rigid, the Batumi is a quad LFO that can be configured to have three LFOs set up as nice rhythmic fractions of the first—four rhythmically related LFOs. Batumi outputs several wave shapes and the square is great for triggering drum machine stuff: 1/4 on the bass drum, 1/8 or 1/16 on a high hat, maybe triplets on something etc. If I want to get more interesting I run pulses through a Euclidean module, so maybe 1/4 goes to Klasmata or 2hp Euclid and then to a snare.
But these gates and triggers can do other stuff too: freeze Clouds, start phonogene sample recording, trigger an envelope that controls the wet/dry mix in an internal reverb or end-of-chain reverb, switch some CV logic (let some tremolo inducing CV through a VCA for example), or even become a pitch sequencer (mult the rhythm gate to the filter/VCA envelopes and also to some cv mixers with attenuation/offset and use that knob to select pitch, maybe quantize it if you like), a large number of possibilities here.
Are there literally no 12-channel gate sequencers? I’m talking about a literal TR-808 sequencer (11 sounds + accent) that can drive the various TR-808 analog drum synthesizer modules that are readily available. Seems like a modern processor could easily bump that up to 16 channels to take advantage of the many modules that squeeze multiple TR-808-style synth circuits into a single unit.
In regards to gate sequencers in eurorack, I believe the Varigate 8 is known to be one of the most versatile, performative and fun gate sequencers. I’ve heard amazing rhythms come out of those things.
The Erica Synths Drum Sequencer has 16 trigger outs/12 accent outs plus some other stuff. WMD Metron is 16 channels as well.
I often find pleasing results in exploring new indirect sequences this way. Just gates from a gate sequencer or normal sequencer, those into S&H or LFO/EG and a quantizer or as clock into a Turing machine or Marbles. Gives me a nice decoupled rhythm and pitch pair.