Max for Live Sightings: The dric Stepper
In recent MFL-related articles, I’ve been straightforward with you: I’m a little obsessed with sequencers, and especially with sequencers using unique interfaces. So of course, when looking for my next Max for Live nugget, I started sniffing around the sequencer pile again. And didn’t I come across a peach!
When most of us think about sequencing, we think of something like the canonical Arp 1601 analog sequencer, with its row of sliders representing pitches for our melodic development. But back when I was using a 1601, I found that much of its fun was in using the sequencer for parameter sequencing within an otherwise keyboard-driven melody line. Great fun – and a little out of the ordinary!
Imagine my excitement when I found a new little sequencer called “Stepper”, written by maxforlive.com user dric (aka The Dric), that combines a unique sequence drawing mode with mappable parameter selection and simple-but-effective scaling. I downloaded, tested and became a fan within 10 minutes – and it’s something I suggest you do as well!
Details in Drawing and Setting Up
When you instantiate this MIDI device, you will get something that looks, pretty much, like every other step sequencer you’ve seen:
But once you start exploring, you’ll find one big difference: the use of shaping tools to draw interesting curves and humps instead of a generic level. In most cases, if you were building a step sequencer for use as a note generator, you would avoid this like the plague – you want a specific note value on each step. But this is a sequencer for automation, and that changes everything!
You can still have straight values, linear ramps, exponential or logarithmic curves and even doubled figures. You attach the output of the sequence (whose value is conveniently displayed in an output scope) to any Live automation target using the Map button. You can also pick the step count/size, scale or invert the output and offset the output to pick a base level. I found this to be a really nice combination of simplicity and functionality. And the price (free) is pretty hard to argue with.
A nifty addition is the “Note Reset” function, which makes this a MIDI-responsive device. Whenever Stepper receives a MIDI note, it will reset its position to the start of the sequence. Combine this with turning off the looping function, and you now have a controllable one-shot sequence player that can alter anything (like my favorite target – the rate setting of an MFL LFO device).
A Short Wish List
I do have a few simple requests for the developer. First, please add the necessary content so that each control’s function shows up in the Info View panel. Secondly, a per-step offset would allow me to start each step’s curve somewhere other than zero. But even as-is, it was a lot of fun and a highly recommended addition to my device stack.
Way to go, Dric!