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Thread: Thinking about integrating my Mac into my synth setup - what sequencer software?

  1. #1
    Member Phreon's Avatar
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    Thinking about integrating my Mac into my synth setup - what sequencer software?

    I recently acquired a dirt cheap Mac Pro 2008 (3.1) with dual quad core 3.2 Xeons. I know it's no spring chicken, but it'll get new life with an SSD+WD Black drive set up as a "fusion drive", GTX 660 video upgrade and increasing it to 16 GB of RAM.

    I have a nice small setup of vintage and analog synths*, etc that I've kept computer free mainly since I stare at a computer all day at work. I've been thinking since I have this ol' Mac Pro, it's time to integrate a computer in. I've been using my RM1x as a sequencer - for this task, it is both brilliant and maddeningly frustrating. The sequencing engine is a direct descendent of Yamaha's QY100. It's strengths are the pattern, pattern/chain and song modes, rock solid 480 part per measure clock and one of the best "groove" engines of all time. Any parameter of any note or set of notes can be altered on the fly. The downside however is twofold and has always been frustrating. 1st, the interface is just not intuitive. I know it clicks for other people, but If I'm away from it for a couple weeks, I start forgetting where things are buried in the menus. 2nd, and this is supremely frustrating, you cannot add new sequences or loops on the fly to a running pattern - this really kills the ability to organically build a "groove". With the Akai sequencers, you can get a beat or sequence going and start layering more instruments/patters on the fly, but having to stop the RM1x and record each track individually just kills this. I really don't care to build complete songs, but rather just enjoy tinkering, building upon whats going, much like how one might with a full analog modular. I'm not sure if I'd want the computer to be the true master or leave the RM1x as the master clock and integrate the Mac in.

    What software should I be looking at? I'm really interested in something with intuitive, live sequencing features. My Akai keyboard came with Ableton Lite and I have Maschine (Mikro), as well, but both seemed built around the paradigm of having the sound engines virtual in the box. I might try Ableton for the recording and FX feature, but really, I think I'm looking for a good Midi Software sequencer. Think performance oriented, not offline song construction.

    *My setup is as follows:

    • Yamaha RM1x as the MIDI master routed through a
    • Digital Music Co. MX-8 MIDI patchbay working in conjunction with a
    • Akai MAX49 keyboard with integrated drum pad and touch sliders also acting as a gate/CV interface for my
    • Realistic (MOOG) MG-1. The rest of the synths are
    • DSI Mono Evolver Keyboard potentiometer edition
    • Waldorf microQ
    • Shruthi DIY synth
    • Akai S2800 rack mount sampler
    • Yamaha SPX90 mk2 for various FX
    • Shitty Behringer X1622 - completely maxed out and I still haven't used all the ins/outs on my synths. Need a bigger mixer.




    The RM1x is also a passable drum machine and its synth engine is decent. I also have the Maschine Mikro setup as mentioned, but haven't played with it much. It, like most every bit of kit above, is quite deep, laden with features. I could spend years learning to master each piece in the stack.

    Thanks,

    Phreon
    Last edited by Phreon; 08-31-2014 at 04:06 PM.

  2. #2
    凸(ಠ_ರೃ )凸 stuck's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what you're looking for if you're set on using the RM1x as your master, but I bet you could find a better workflow in ableton. It has two modes- the session and the arrangement mode. Arrangement mode allows you to sequence on the fly without stopping the clock- you can throw midi clips to various channels, record anything from anywhere, make audio and midi loops, and even record entire improv'd arrangements- again, without stopping the clock.

    It is a profoundly modular piece of kit, and well worth learning.

    The reason it's called Ableton "Live" is precisely for these live performance capabilities. It was conceived for live electronic musicians.

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    Member Phreon's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if I want to keep the RM1x as complete master. But it does have a rock solid clock - I'd like to keep it as the master in that respect. I'm not quite sold on the idea of having the Mac as master in the sense that my setup won't work w/o it running. Perhaps "dual master" or switchable master/slave is what I'm looking for.

    Thanks,

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    凸(ಠ_ರೃ )凸 stuck's Avatar
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    Yeah, you could slave ableton to whatever, too. I used to do this from the Nord G2, creating a feedback loop, using ableton as a midi processor/recorder.

    The one piece of new kit you'd need to really get your setup integrated would be a good i/o, sending audio and midi back and forth. To make it "solid" you'd need something with low latency.

    After you worked that last bit out, you'd be able to route it and slave/master things to your heart's content.

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    this is dense, but it gives you an idea of how you can improvise/sample on the fly/sequence hardware/deviate from an arrangement within ableton

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOLRgY_j5wo

    this guy seems to have your same preferences. look at how easy he's made things for himself.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFkiUeLZzZY

    ^
    in his next video, he goes into a computerless setup, sequencing from an mpc. that's something you might consider, too. the diehard hardware folks I know swear by the mpc- these are electronic music heads, not just hiphop beatmakers.

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    BUT

    if you're not interested in any of that, I have something else to suggest. It's weird and complicated and I've only used it in passing for about 3 days

    http://www.five12.com/n2.html

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    Member Phreon's Avatar
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    I've heard of Numerology. I's sort of an Uber sequencer/patch bay, isn't it?

    I'm still in the process of hotrodding the ol' Mac Pro 3,1 - new video and USB3 card on order. Right now it's crunching a backlog of GoPro video. I can say setting up a fusion drive is *highly* worth it. 250 MB/sec out of plain ol SATA SSD and spinning drive combination. I'll have to think how I'd want to use this thing for MIDI and audio I/O.

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phreon View Post
    I've heard of Numerology. I's sort of an Uber sequencer/patch bay, isn't it?
    It's a modular sequencer. So it does your normal moog step sequencing stuff, and then a bunch of extras. Modular extras. Getting a halfie just thinking about the possibilities.

    But, you know, takes bandwidth and all that. Not sure that's what you want, if you're dodging the mouse like I sense you may be.

    Honestly, nobody likes modular sequencing except for me and this sad asshole:

    http://www.oldcrows.net/~patchell/synthmodulesII/

    I harangued this guy into making a kind of modular sequencer once:

    http://ruinelectronics.com/?p=168
    Last edited by stuck; 09-03-2014 at 06:23 AM.

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