Step Sequencer

Originally, a step sequencer was a hardware module that produced a limited number of control signals in a stable and pulsed sequence that was continuous while active. In it, you usually sent the output of the signal to an oscillator or an audio filter. When the step sequencer was active and the musician played a continuous note, the frequency of the oscillator changed the voltage. As a result, a series of repeating changing pitches emerged.

A Jump to Today

This was before. Through time, step sequencers have evolved dramatically. Nowadays, they include various things. Some examples are modulating the amplitudes of diverse sounds and controlling the cutoff and center frequency of audio filters. It can include, too, triggering synthesized drum sounds, also known as patterned sequences. The output of a step sequencer is applicable to practically every function of a synthesizer. And it can even regulate the amplitude, the pitch, and the filter cutoff.

The Controls

Every step sequencer has a set of controls. These allow the player to have the domain of the pace at which the sequencer goes through the steps. It also allows the player to establish the number of steps s/he wants to use, select the active and inactive steps, set the gate time for every step, and designate the output to a synthesizer component. Every step sequencer has unique variations. For instance, some might have different rows of controls for each step. This permits the player to designate individual rows to different ends. As a result, the user gets layering patterns.

The Steps in the Step Sequencer

The modulation source of the step sequencer is similar to the output of a sample-and-hold LFO, but with better control. On the one hand, while a sample-and-hold oscillator is generally able to synch its stepped output to a rhythm or tempo, the output levels of the steps are arbitrary and they hardly repeat. On the other, the step sequencer is capable of both synchronizing the tempo and determining the exact output level of each and every step. With a step sequencer, the user is able to activate and deactivate single steps. S/he can, too, create shorter or longer note values when altering the duration of the steps.

Modern step sequencers can provide up to sixteen steps. Some even allow the player to create diverse pulses. They can also create more complex rhythms to create complete music fragments. Overall, these devices are an essential modulator source for creating rhythmically pulsed effects.

Step sequencers were popular long before computers played an important role in the music production industry. Today it’s rather easy to edit the steps to a beat employing user-friendly advanced music software. Despite technological advances, many producers still choose step sequencers to produce, record, and perform live.