Beginning the Sequence

Returning to seq24, you're now in a position to sequence your first loop. The application's main window is divided into an eight-by-four grid of brackets, each of which can contain an individual sequence. Right-click inside the upper-left bracket, and select New from the pop-up menu. A piano-roll window appears, so-called because it resembles the paper rolls fed into mechanical pianos. In this early form of automation, punched holes of various lengths represented the length and pitch of musical notes. Here, you can right-click the paper of the piano roll, and the mouse pointer changes into a pencil icon. Keeping the right button held down, you can click anywhere on the piano roll to place notes.

To edit a note, click to select it; it turns orange. Then, click and drag to move it on the piano roll, or press the Delete key to remove it. By default, these are sixteenth notes; but you can easily change this setting using the Note Length button in the second row of controls from the top of the window. The top row of controls allows you to set the time signature and the loop's length in bars—by default, it's 4/4 time and a one-bar loop, which can get a little repetitive (see Figure 8-36).

Figure 8-36. A simple descending bassline one-bar loop, set up in seq24

At the bottom of the window, vertical bars indicate the velocity value of the Note On message, equivalent to how hard the key on a MIDI piano is pressed. This is the same as the velocity control in Hydrogen, which you read about earlier in this chapter. By clicking and dragging, you can adjust these bars to vary the velocity of the note messages sent to the synthesizer. One difference between this velocity control and the equivalent in Hydrogen is that seq24 shows the numerical velocity value to the right of the vertical line (see Figure 8-37). 100 is the default velocity for each note, but the MIDI standard allows a maximum velocity of 127.

Figure 8-37. Note-on velocities are adjusted in the same way as in Hydrogen, but the velocity number is also shown.

In the upper-left corner, give the sequence a name that's more interesting than the default of Untitled. Then, in the upper-right corner, change the MIDI output device from (MIDI Through Port) to (ams) by clicking the Select Output Bus button, to the left of the output device label. The default setting of MIDI channel 1, in the box to the right, can be left alone for now. You next have to click the button in the lower-right corner with the green arrow pointing to a five-pin MIDI socket, for which the explanatory tooltip is "Sequence dumps data to MIDI bus." Otherwise, seq24 doesn't send any notes to AlsaModularSynth.

Figure 8-38. Name the loop, connect the MIDI output to the synth, and then make sure seq24 is in the right mode to send data.

Close or minimize this window, and click the green play button in the lower-left corner of the main seq24 window. A cursor line scrolls across your named loop in its bracket. If the loop has a white background and the synthesizer isn't being triggered, click it. It should then turn from white to black (see Figure 8-39); and if AlsaModularSynth is connected correctly, you start to hear your loop.

Figure 8-39. The seq24 loop doesn't trigger the synthesizer until it's activated, when its background turns black.

You can create as many loops as you want, pointing to different software or hardware synthesizers, and then turn individual sequences on and off with clicks. It works very well with a touchscreen, not unlike triggering loops on a hardware sequencer via its rubber pads. A low-budget alternative is to get the seq24 window in focus and then use QWERTY keyboard shortcuts to trigger the loops. The first row of loops is triggered by the number keys, starting with 1; the second row is triggered by the keys QWERTYUI; and so on.

You're not limited to the 32 loops in the brackets—in the middle of the main window, you can name any number of sets, numbered from 0 to 31. A loop that's playing in a particular set keeps playing when you switch to another set. Loops can be cut and pasted from one set to another with a right-click.

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