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Step Sequencers

Ableton Live Tips & Techniques
Published February 2019
By Len Sasso

Screen 1: M4L Step Sequencer plays a nine-step eighth-note loop, Fore-Back. The varied step probabilities result in different 16-step patterns.Screen 1: M4L Step Sequencer plays a nine-step eighth-note loop, Fore-Back. The varied step probabilities result in different 16-step patterns.

Max For Live has a rich assortment of step sequencers. We look at some of the best.

Step sequencing is nearly as old as synthesis itself — early modular systems offered step-sequencer modules, and there were stand-alone hardware step sequencers as well. In the world of DAWs the role of the step sequencer has largely fallen to manipulating MIDI clips, although step sequencer plug-ins are plentiful and provide features not easily replicated using MIDI clips. Max For Live is the source for most of these devices in Live, and the selection is large and varied. Back in December we took a look at Melodic Steps from the Creative Extensions Live pack. This month we'll explore four of my favourite melody-oriented sequencers in greater detail.

Step One

Before we get into the MFL devices, let's start with a quick look at using a MIDI clip as a step sequencer. You can emulate many step-sequencing functions using MIDI clips by combining them with Live's assortment of MIDI Effects devices. For a template, create a MIDI clip, select a Grid and Time Signature, create notes of the same pitch and velocity at each grid position and then disable all the notes (Ctrl+0). Duplicate the clip and enable some notes to establish the desired rhythm sequence. Next, adjust the enabled notes' pitches, velocities and lengths, or use Live's Random and Velocity MIDI effects to randomise the pitch and velocity of enabled notes and use the Scale effect to restrict or scale-correct their pitches. You'll find more details in the April 2012 and August 2015 Live workshop columns,...

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Published February 2019