I’m another one in the “there is no best” camp, which is why I use several sequencers and in combination
I don’t do MPE – 90% of the voices in my music are monophonic hardware synths, and I’ll rarely even go above two notes of polyphony in software synths anymore. I don’t use aftertouch, I barely even use velocity. Expressiveness comes from other control factors.
Overall I find piano roll MIDI is the most flexible sequencing method for 12TET stuff. But I also like unquantized analog sequencing, whether it’s a short loop addressed linearly through steps or nonlinearly (multiple “dimensions” or direct addressing via gates), and combining gates in a mixer to produce CVs. I find algorithmic and generative sequencing useful as part of an improvisational setup – although MIDI-sequenced gates can control or influence those too.
So for me the “best sequencer” is Maschine, Teletype, Marbles, Sputnik 5-Step, SQ-1, Stages and a Doepfer A-138m…
You might consider a better name for this thread “help me find a sequencer to replace my computer” or “with features xyz” since it doesn’t seem like you really want to hear what other people consider the best, just what meets your criteria. I’m sure people would be happy to talk about the things you need out of a sequencer, just a different conversation than the one the subject implies.
Any hardware sequencer that tries to do the job of a DAW is going to be burdened with myriad compromises. Those compromises were selected by the designer to favor certain capabilities and a way of working unique to the design, while subordinating other capabilities. In other words, every hardware sequencer has a shtick. A hardware sequencer can promise the world with its feature list, but will likely only to do a good job of the few things the designer gave primacy to. The other capabilities will likely be kind of half-assed. This is the problem with feature lists. Moreover, you have to more or less commit to the designer’s vision of working, or you’re just going to fight the device every step of the way. Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to pinpoint what a hardware sequencer is actually best at, and even harder to be sure that its way of working will suit you, but that is the challenge.
Even if there was a hardware sequencer that dealt with MPE, you have to shop based on shtick, not features.
(I don’t think there yet exists a hardware sequencer that focuses on MPE—few DAWs do, yet, either—but that could be quite interesting: with MPE there’s a huge amount of data to manage, so that might require some exciting new ideas to produce a compelling workflow.)
Very well said. I think that explains what I have been finding myself as I’ve looked through them. I guess I just didn’t want to accept that, and thought it might just be me unfairly biasing those sequencers.
Imagine having the data used to play a soaring guitar solo, and then applying that to a crazy patch in your rack.
I mean that’s just one possibilities, and I bet it would have some truly wild and great results. But if you could edit the data to maybe take off some attack here, smooth out some data there, etc. then you could even repurpose that data and apply it in interesting ways else where.
Many simple sequencers seems more flexible and performable than one beast.
The keyword in MPE is expression and while I can record and play it back, I don’t see an advantage of doing that over playing in real-time, where I can react to whatever is happening with my multiple interacting simple sequencers (who may be working out something algorithmic that features probability and therefore won’t be the same thing twice…)
There are so many simple sequencers out there. SQ-1 is very capable and affordable. Crazy8 is like 4 SQ-1s in one small box. Eloquencer was nice but I didn’t like how much HP it used up for what it does. SSP has a sequencer that isn’t too bad.
My approach is less about arranging patterns in some kind of song mode, nor is it about performing XOX style. It’s more of a generative idea. Those three paradigms for sequencing produce really different results and none of them even touch MPE. I think of MPE as a layer above…
I’m of the same camp as others above, I prefer smaller sequencers that make a larger whole. Had my fare share of hardware sequencers until I realized I could do so much more using simpler, more straightforward means, to end up with a more complex result.
In Eurorack I don’t really see the point of powerful sequencers like the Eloquencer or the Nerdseq. Yes, they are nice if you want to perform linear music, but I’m unsure whether the form factor (everything ITB) is so much more important than the UI (DAW piano roll). If I wanted linear, non-performable, songs I’d go with the piano roll or a score even. I’ve had great results working with Sibelius. It does expression as well! I mean, why not use the nomenclature of the people who struggled with such things for years? Big discussion.
Anyway, I use my modular setups as sequencers compiled by very different aspects. Gives great options such as creativity, expression, non-linearity, and others. Seems limiting to focus on one particular “powerful” sequencer when you can do more with a few “weak” ones combined. Unless you want something very straight in which case the piano roll or a score are still the best options in my opinion.
But why don’t you see the point? Why would you want to arbitrarily limit what your Eurorack can do? I don’t see modular synthesis as something that can only do one form of music or sound creation. If I did, I never would have bought a single modular thing.
I don’t see it as limiting but more of a focusing. When things can do too much the UI/UX suffers in my opinion so I rather like things that do one thing and they do it well. The nice thing in eurorack is that you build bigger systems from a smaller components.
For example I had a Yamaha RM1X which has very powerful sequencer on paper (16 tracks at once, polymetrics etc.) but programming it was a pain and after you programmed the sequence I felt that it was rather hard to modify it on the fly.
Funny you should say that. As mdoudoroff said above, it’s actually the powerful sequencers that feel more limiting in modular. The reason I use a 6U system as a sequencer is because it would be impossible for any standalone sequencer (let alone a module one) to pull off what I do when I patch things up.
I can repurpose the same super simple 8 step sequencer to be a transposer, or a remixer (if it sequences my switch) or a clock controller. We have macro controllers, sequencers, switches, gates, all kinds of weird things, to use and abuse.
I’ll give you an example of something I came up with only yesterday while daydreaming! I’m enjoying my ADDAC306 macro controller module a lot lately (full disclaimer: it was my concept so I’m biased) but yesterday I patched it up to a Ginko VCSQ mk1. Now I have a slider controller that gets its position transformed into triggers/gates that I can use elsewhere. So the bottom gate starts/stops the main clock in a case, while the top position retriggers another sequencer that acts as a bouncing ball. And I still get to use other tracks of the 306 as macro controls for other parameters. I can even automate the whole thing using a sequencer at the input. You simply cannot come up with stuff like that outside modular world!
Or, you get stuff like a pin matrix mixer to repurpose your signals/triggers/etc in real time. I get excited just thinking about these things.
The very act of designing an instrument is to limit an infinite space of possibilities to a smaller portion which can then be explored deeply. That’s what allows you to make a connection with it and go beyond looking at it as a list of features.
The trick with modular systems is to select the set of limitations that leads you to interesting explorations. And one beautiful thing about modular systems is that you can change the limitations of your instruments at times. But if you never impose limitations, I do not think that it is possible to create any art at all. Then it merely becomes engineering.
I would agree with this. It’s why I’ve limited the size of my rack significantly, and am trying to downsize it as I grow with it.
I might have just misunderstood. I think modular synths can do anything regular synths can. We don’t see it much, but I think modular synths can be used to make linear music or anything else. It is just that hasn’t been the focus of manufacturers, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
I was reading somewhere that quick changes in modular aren’t really possible, but I think that is because we don’t have sequencers for example that allow us to change several modules with CV rapidly.
Think about it like this: Modular synthesis is so great because there aren’t really any limitations other than the ones you accept (limited by time, money, etc.). It might not be popular to use modular synthesis for linear music, but those who have, have made some of the greatest stuff in my opinion.