The Sequencer, pt 1
Computer Music|March 2021
Scot takes us through the history and development of another synth staple and advises how to use it in a modular setting
Scot Solida

Sequencers have played a role in modular synthesis from the start. Donald Buchla included one in his systems to alleviate the tedium of splicing passages together from bits of tape. Bob Moog likewise offered sequencing modules in his 960 Sequential Controller, 961 Sequencer Interface and 962 Sequential Switch. These would be offered as add-ons to the mighty Moog systems of the late 60s and 70s and were used by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Richard Pinhas. The first two of these used sequencers to forge the ‘Berlin School’, while the latter exploited the sequencer’s advanced functions to make a unique brand of prog.

But what exactly is a sequencer? As the name indicates, a sequencer, well, sequences. Sequencers are mostly used to trigger notes in a robotic musical passage, but that’s a rather limited approach, as even the simplest models can do much more. Indeed, a typical analogue sequencer is a flexible modulation source and a powerful sound-shaping tool in its own right. Some can even be called into play as audio-rate oscs. We’ll look at more esoteric uses next time.

For now, we’ll address the basics and, thanks to a pretty spiffy eight-step sequencer module that’s included with Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular Nucleus, you’ve already got all you need to get started.

Step by step: 1. Multipart sequences

1 We’ll kick off our two-part sequencer masterclass by creating a two-part bass and hi-hat rhythm in Voltage Modular Nucleus. As ever, the first order of business is to clear the rack with the New button in the upper-left corner. Our patch will ultimately contain multiple individual elements, so let’s start with a Six-Input Mixer module.

2 Let’s get to work building a suitable bass part. For that, we’ll need an Oscillator, so grab one and set its Range to 32’. As we’ll want to control it with our MIDI controller as we’re designing the patch, we’ll run a cable from the CV Sources panel’s Pitch Output down to the Oscillator’s Pitch CV jack.

3 Any decent analogue bass patch is going to need a filter, so grab the Filter module from the Library and stick it somewhere to the right of the Oscillator. We’ll be using our Oscillator’s square wave for the patch, so route a cable from the Oscillator’s middle output on the bottom over to the Filter’s Audio In jack.

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