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How to design your perfect modular system: sequencers

modular
(Image credit: Future)

Sequencers can be the heart of a modular system and come in an array of flavours, from classic analogue eight-step modules, with fewer options – perfect for looping simple melodies – through to the massively complex digital sequencers that, while harder to grasp, can be programmed for a full live set. 

Fundamentally a sequencer is used to send pitch and trigger info to the rest of your system, but increasing numbers of features have been added to many, so that modern sequencers can output multiple channels of pitch information, send gates and triggers, as well as modulation, so they really can act as the brain for a rig. Some sequencers add even more, with options to add controlled randomisation to a sequence, allowing patches to evolve over time, while remaining in key and musical.

Consider different use cases. Do you want simple pitch output and if so, how many steps? 64 tends to be the upper limit. Are you after gates and triggers? Do you want the ability to modulate? Sequencers that cater for these needs are becoming more plentiful and many offer multiple channels. 

Erica Synths Black Sequencer provides four channels with its ‘magic’ button providing musical variation. Likewise Intellijel’s Metropolix has two channels and a wonderful accumulator for programming controllable variation. 

Consider outboard sequencing too. You could get your DAW to send midi to your modular rig or, for a computer-free solution, something like Korg’s SQ-64. If you prefer keyboard playability too, then Arturia’s Keystep Pro has four channels of sequencing, patch points for pitch, mod and gate, and one channel that can also be a drum sequencer, with dedicated patch points for each trigger output.

Lastly there are semi-modular synths that integrate very well and often have onboard sequencers that can be patched up into the main rig. Moog’s Mother-32 is a fine example.

Three sequencers to consider...

1. Wavefonix 8-Step Sequencer

Wavefonix

(Image credit: Future)

A classic sequencer, solidly built, with toggle switches for skipping and repeating steps and dual outputs for extra versatility. If you want a simple but excellent sequencer, look no further.

2. Erica Synths Black Sequencer

erica synths black sequencer

(Image credit: Future)

A four-channel sequencer with a lovely tactile interface, that can add musical variations to pitch, gates and modulation with a single button. Offers ratchets, channel muting and more.

3. Intellijel Metropolix

metropolix

(Image credit: Future)

This jam-ready module is a joy to use, with two channels, a very hands-on interface and fantastic tools for shaping phrases. It has colour-coded lights for instant feedback too. A very intuitive device.

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