Actually Ableton Live, with a bit of Max4Live and a launchpad does more or less what I want. That’s what I had been using until I decided to try to do live gigs without the computer.
This has been a sort of liberation, it helped me to focus a lot more on the music and makes both improvising and performing a lot easier. My main use for a sequencer is to sequence drums, since all the rest is either played live or played live and looped with a Boss RC-505. So the E2 for me is mainly a sample-based drum machine that can play percussive sounds chromatically (which is something I use a lot).
Actually I really like the E2, and it’s very simple and straightforward interface, so I could live with most shortcomings, even with the fact that editing a sequence is total PIA. But there’s a couple of big deal breakers for me, and they are:
- There’s no projects, all the patterns live in the same monolithic project. This wouldn’t be a big issue, if you could at least re-arrange the patterns in some way that does not involve the cumbersome duplicating/overwriting process.
- You can’t have dynamically clone a part. i.e. you can’t create a part and then use it in several patterns, so when you change parameters in it, the changes are propagated to all patterns. Sure you can work with the pattern launch page, but I find that very messy to use, since usually I just prepare the patterns and play them in sequence anyway.
- There’s only one master effect and only one stereo output. Most of the time I like to have some reverb on certain parts but not on others, the only way to do that is by using it on the master (that’s the only place where the E2 has a reverb). But by doing so, you can’t use any of the cool beat-repeater and sequence mangling effects on the pattern.
What do I need? Well I’ll try to make it easy
I have two choices now:
Either I go for a drum machine, that supports samples and has a nice sequencer that let’s me perform stuff live in an intuitive way (The Elektron Rytm would be a candidate, but I’m not sure I have 1.4K), Something like the E2, without the annoying things above and with a proper sequence editor would be great. It should have fully featured, polyphonic, sequencer tracks, no drums-only tracks like the Beatstep (Pro), which I also tried and discarded. If it could have different sequence speeds and play modes per track, next to different sequence lengths that would be even better.
The other choice is to go with a “pure” sampler, and use the modular to play the sounds (since I have a bunch of drum modules anyway). It’s not my preferred solution, but it would work with what I already have.
So since I’ve come to the point that I’m exasperated with these things, I tried to look for other options. I did check the Carbon, which has a couple of really nice features (like that you can apply different gate patterns to the same sequence and shift things around), but I’m a bit turned off by the fact that you only get 6 scenes per project and that they all base on the sequence (though I’m not 100% sure about that). Didn’t get to try the thing out myself at Superbooth unfortunately.
I did try a lot of iPad-based sequencers and wasted a lot of good money on that. Both the hardware and software has been very disappointing in many regards and I’m not wasting one more cent on it.
The Fyrd SQR had a couple of really nice features for me, but alas, the company vanished and rumour has it that a lot of people who paid for the device apparently will never see their money back or get what they paid for.
So the Pyramid is the only hardware sequencer I can imagine to work for me. It has many cool features I like, especially all the polyrhythmic and polymetric ones, the fact that the tracks are independent, it’s small and compact, it even has CV-gate outputs (albeit only one) and looks like it has a nice and straightforward interface.
It has those disadvantages as listed in the first post though so… if you confirm that my assumptions are right, I guess it’s going to be a computer with Ableton