Introduction to Step Sequencers

This is a Moog 960 sequencer, circa 1968, among the earliest step sequencers for music. It has three rows of 8 value knobs, giving a 3-value sequence of up to 8 steps. The clock on the left steps through the 8 stages, a lamp in the row along the top lights to indicate which stage column is active, and values from the active stage are sent to the outputs on the right. (The 3 knobs on the far right simply multiply the output by x1, x2, and x4.) There is also a means of addressing stages out-of-sequence, or randomly, the buttons and jacks along the very bottom.

The Moog sequencer used rows of knobs to store the sequence values, and programs like ArtWonk use arrays of memory cells, but the concept remains the same:

1. one or more rows of preset values.
2. a pointer to the current stage (column).
3. both sequencial clocking and random addressing of the stages.
4. an output for each row to hold its current stage value.

Sequencers in Algorithmic Arts Software

The three main composing programs offered by Algorithmic Arts contain software emulations of the classic hardware step sequencers, but each program uses a somewhat different approach:

BankStep Bank module:

BankStep sequencers are a very close emulation. Anyone familiar with classic sequencers such as the Moog 360 will instantly recognize how to use a BankStep sequencer. When developing a module layout with BankStep, there is only a limited amount of choice in the the design of the sequencer module because it is fully designed already. You can specify a 4th row of knobs, and you can set the number of stages from 2 to 48. But for the most part, you use this module just as you would use a hardware step sequencer. In fact, that was the design goal for BankStep: to create a software emulation of a super rack of hardware step sequencers like the Moog 360.

SoftStep sequencer modules:

While still recognizable as sequencers by their row of sliders, knobs, or buttons, SoftStep sequencers are more stylized and less complete. They are only partial implementations of the Moog-type step sequencer. The intent of SoftStep is to give you the components of a sequencer - the row of sliders or knobs, plus separate clock modules, mixer and switch modules, etc. - to create your own version of a step sequencer. You can make very simple 1 line sequencers or highly complex multiple line, multiple clocked sequencers, according to your composing requirements.

ArtWonk/MusicWonk sequencer modules:

With ArtWonk, there is no longer a recognizable emulation of the Moog-type sequencer, although the essentiall functionality is still there. ArtWonk modules are language-like components that plug together to create the functions you design.

You can have knobs and sliders, and even create a visually recognizable graphical emulation of a hardware sequencer, but the modules used to design the functionality and the widgets that make the user interface are separated.

It takes more effort to create an emulation of a Moog-type hardware sequencer in ArtWonk, but you have far more flexibility in its design because with ArtWonk, you are essentially programming your own design. In fact, while you certainly can design hardware sequencer emulators with ArtWonk, generally you would only implement the functionality needed for the music you are creating. This can be simpler than the hardware emulation, or it can be far more complex. At either extreme, the intention of ArtWonk is to give you the language components, and leave the design up to you.

Run the Tutorials:

Note: These tutorials require ArtWonk or MusicWonk v1.4 or later.

1. Sequencer Memory

2. Sequencer Stepping

3. Array Sequencers

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