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Sequencer App For iOS By Paul Nagle
Published December 2014

Many music apps that claim to be ‘fun and straightforward’ are, at best, either one or the other, yet from the moment Triqtraq burst into life on my iPad Air, it looked to be a cut above. It scored right away with its one-screen approach, putting everything needed up front, and if you’ve ever been frustrated by apps that require baby fingers, cotton buds or styli to use properly, prepare to sigh in relief because the screen area is carefully mapped, each item thoroughly accessible.

OK, so that’s my enthusiastic opener — but what the heck is Triqtraq? Well, it’s another of those musical sketchpad-type apps for jamming and improvising with. The specs seem pretty basic: there are four monophonic tracks (A-D), selected by coloured blobs in yellow, blue, cerise and orange. Each has a kit of eight sample-based pads processed by a resonant filter and the most basic envelope imaginable. The four tracks are balanced in a simple mixer and there’s a single delay effect, which if stacked against the competition doesn’t sound like much.

Where Triqtraq scores over most other musical ‘quickie’ apps is in its thoughtfully streamlined feature-set and clever use of the screen. This soon becomes apparent when you load a few of the factory kits and begin to populate the 16 patterns available to each session.

Poly-rhythmic heaven: each Triqtraq track has its own loop length and playback speed.Poly-rhythmic heaven: each Triqtraq track has its own loop length and playback speed.Vary the notes with the slider, after first eliminating those you don’t want with the slider.Vary the notes with the slider, after first eliminating those you don’t want with the slider.Record filter changes Kaoss Pad-style — for as many tracks as you want.Record filter changes Kaoss Pad-style — for as many tracks as you want.Notes are entered either in step mode or by tapping the on-screen pads, having first selected a track or tracks to record into. Another Triqtraq strength is that it’s your choice how many tracks you record or edit at once — the colour-coding ensures you never get lost. Patterns are up to 16 steps long and, having entered a few initial notes, you can begin to change the characteristics of the triggered samples, for example, by varying the pitch, filter, level, decay, pan and send amount to the delay. Furthermore, you can automate these changes directly in each pattern. There’s a helpful button to painlessly clone the current pattern in order to make variations, and pattern swapping takes place on the next step, all smoothly and in real time.

The real fun starts when you realise that not only do the four tracks have their own individual loop lengths and playback speed, but that every parameter automation sub-track does too. There are expensive hardware synths/sequencers not capable of that! This cool feature transforms Triqtraq into a fabulous tool for generating polyrhythms and patterns that take a very long time to repeat themselves. With a few finger gestures you can loop individual sections of a track (or tracks) and introduce moving accents, filter sweeps or staccato passages. This flexibility extends to the automation of the global delay and, although it’s the only effect, I never felt short-changed.

With pad-based input, entering pitches is quirky but arguably more effective than trying to play a tiny on-screen keyboard. There is a keyboard, but it acts as a filter for notes that are entered with a slider. There’s a chord function too, but since the tracks are monophonic, its purpose is to provide a major or minor triad from which you choose a note. The note filters are remembered for each track, which is a nice touch.

Should you want to arrange your patterns, the queue function offers a playlist with up to 16 steps. You select a pattern on each step that can be repeated up to 32 times before progressing to the next. Even though there are just four tracks, it’s surprising how often you reach for the mixer to quickly mute some of the mayhem.

There are a number of factory kits and a stock of over 400 usable samples. New kits or samples can be loaded at any time (even during playback) from categories such as Drum, Percussion, Bass, Keys and User. With 28 kicks, almost 50 snares, 87 synth-basses and an assortment of pianos, strings and bells, there’s plenty to get you started, but that isn’t the extent of Triqtraq’s appeal. It also has one of the easiest methods of sampling I’ve seen on the iPad, and building new kits by making noises into the built-in microphone is as fast as it is inspiring. For the first time in my life I became a human beatbox without feeling like a tit. If you have a ready-made collection of samples, they can be imported via iTunes or pasted in from other applications. The app is also WIST-compatible and can be opened within any Audiobus or Inter-App Audio host.

One thing I’d recommend is a visit to the iOS Settings page to turn off quantisation. This will disable the (rather unnecessary) latency that’s added by default. Ordinarily, notes played in real time are delayed so they always fall on the beat, but in my case this usually made recordings one beat late.

Triqtraq started its life as an iPhone app, which grew to accommodate the iPad. In such cases there’s always the chance it’ll be compromised for one or both — it isn’t! If I could add just one extra feature, it would be a metronome. Although you can make your own quickly enough, I felt it was a waste of time to do so each session. However, I’d hate to see Triqtraq become bloated, because at the moment it’s a delight to use, serving up surprisingly complex loops and patterns for export to a variety of destinations, including Dropbox. Above all, it’s one of the best jamming tools I’ve encountered on the iOS platform. Oh, and at a bargain price too!