the teachings of noiz...

lessons in noiz

The Sequencer as a Friend and Enemy

So you have practiced your butt off with the Metronome.

You work with the drum machine till it's tired.

Now it's time to enter the assimilated chaos of the sequencer...........

Whether it's a keyboard or a computer hitting you with notes, it's ALL the same. Sequencers are machines or computer programs that record MIDI information and play back this recorded data. You can then edit the data and add or subtract from the information.
When playing along with this sort of creature things can get very distracting. Which parts of the sequence should you look into for timing? Which parts of the sequence are going to be problem areas?
In many cases i use a principle I learned early on. When playing slow you should subdivide the beats in your head or listen to another instrument that is subdividing all of the notes for you. When playing fast count out the down beats or listen for an instrument that can provide them for you. A sequence can have any or all of these attributes you just need to find them.
In much of the music i work with these elements tend to present themselves rather strong. If i am playing something in the 80bpm range I like to try and use any sort of arppeggiated sound as a clock source for me. A trigger gated sound can also help with this as well. The gated sound has a sort of "chopped up" aspect that tends to provide a fast rhythm. This is where one can look for all of those nice subdivisions in order to keep the timing tight at these slower tempos. Of course those are only two small examples of sound ideas present in sequencing. The idea is to find short consistent sounds that occur consistently throughout the sequence.
If you find yourself slamming it out at 135-165 bpm(or beyond) the arppeggiated sounds and trigger gated sounds can cause one hell of a wreck. In these cases I usually let those sounds fly all over the place and search for the foundation of the sequence. Usually a backbeat drum / noiz loop or the bass. This is where you can usually find the elements of the sequence that can provide those important downbeats while you attack the audience with your double bass or grind.

ALWAYS know where ONE is!

It's not a good thing when you come out of a fierce fill and you find youself in the great abyss lost amongst all the noiz. Of course you could always "roll when in doubt" but the machines will have NO mercy on your mistake.

When recording or performing I also use a reference drum track and a click track. The reference track is a rhythm track used in the creative process of the sequence that does not get used in the final version. It's just some basic rhythm ideas in order to create the other electronic tracks. The click track is usually a rim shot or a cowbell from one of the drum machines. I don't like to use the usual BLIP that the sequencer blasts out because it can get very annoying. Of course that is all a matter of personal preference. Just use what is comfortable for you b ut always use something that you can easily pick out of the sound spectrum. You don't want your click track to get lost in the thick of all the noiz!
So when presented with an onslaught of sequenced data ALWAYS break it down to the elements that can help you along the way to keeping that perfect timing for the song no matter what the tempo.

For more info on a couple of sequencing programs check here:

Digital Performer MOTU's
Digital Performer

The heart of The Noiz Temple studio.
Apple Logic
Logic Studio

Another very popular choice by many.