Sequencer strategies

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.

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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.


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.


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.


Ooo… thanks!
My research begins

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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.

Now we’re talking. If I count correctly, the Erica Synths has 29 outputs counting the CV/Gate pair in addition to the triggers and accents. I knew it could be done.

And how do you go about applying such tone row manipulations on the modular? I’m very curious.

That’s a good suggestion, thank you for bringing that book up. Any success in your application of his techniques on the modular?

I wasn’t aware of the gamelan angle, but this is what tends to happen in self-generating Krell patches with smaller configurations - if you apply the core random CV value to v/oct as well as the decay, note length is naturally tied to pitch. With Maths, at least, higher CVs will lead to shorter notes by default. It doesn’t factor in lower notes playing less often, but this is easy enough to configure with the right module.

I don’t know a great deal about gamelan music, though the uni where I work used to have one installed near my office, so we’d quite often find ourselves working to the sound of student gamelan explorations. I’ll have to listen to a few performances and see if the Krell is a good starting point for an emulation of technique…


I’d love to hear more about this!

It also mimics acoustic phenomena - higher frequency strings, eg, will decay and ring out earlier. It’s usually not a drastic difference, but it’s one well-established in our perceptions, and we appreciate hearing it in synth patches (in my experience, at least).

Edit: of course, you were replying to @eblomquist, who already said this.


So much good stuff in this thread.

The thing that keeps coming to my mind - and that, frankly, I am feeling an urge to write a Norns script for when I can get me a Norns - is change ringing as a model for ‘tone row manipulation’ - that is, the traditional English practice of bellringing, in which a series of fixed pitches are cycled through rhythmically, each bell controlled by one person, and the order of rings changing according to an algorithm each cycle until you end up back where you begun (important so all the bells are hanging ‘up’). As one programmer friend realise when he was trying it, it’s basically sort algorithms. Here’s a diagram of eight pitches being cycled through from wikipedia:

Patching this on modular: might be doable depending on sequencer. Feels very straightforward for Teletype/Norns; I think what’d be interesting is finding UI to play this - after all, changes often change sort-algorithm as they go.


It’s not quite hocketing - as well as “each note played by individuals”, the point really is a repetitive pattern where the order of notes shifts on each repetition. The latter is more important than the hocketing.

This is nice:

on explaining the physical limits on change-ringing. Also, footage of people doing it.


oh! yeah, that’s really, really similar - that cycling through all permutations of a small combination. I didn’t know about that!