Learning sequencers - asking for tips


I am new to synthesis and falling in love with VCV racks and the sounds I am making and hearing - mostly hearing actually from people who know more of what they do.

I am struggling with sequencing. I do not know the principles behind it and its logic. I do not know how to control the melodies not even to make a simply decent sounding sequence.

The goal would though to have a progression of root notes (actually more than one that I would like to be able to alternate) that would send the root note of the sequnce to the bass line, to the chords, and to an arp. I am sure this is possible, but I do not have the knowledge myself and I am here to ask to tips and explanation.

Even some good resource for theory and pure knowledge would be appreciated. thank you in advance!

To me, a sequencer in its most simple form is a device that sends out a chain (sequence) of CV values over time and repeats it indefinitely.

You usually set the number of steps you want in your chain. While playing, a new step is selected when the sequencer receives a gate/clock signal at its clock input.

For each step, you can select the CV value it emits, which can be used for anything, such as the cutoff frequency of a filter, but also for pitch. At first, try connecting a scope and watch the levels dancing around based on the CV values you set.

As the emitted voltage can be any number within the set range, you can send the signal through a quantizer to e.g. restrict it to values of defined semitones.

From there you would draw a cable to the V/Oct input of a device that produces the sound, such as an oscillator or a synth.

Then you can either play out the music theory of intervals or just set the knobs by ear until the sequence sounds the way you like it.

It helps if your synth plays a short, plucky sound with a reasonably short release. Otherwise notes will overlap and may blend into each other more than you want.

Good starting points are the ADDR-SEQ by Bogaudio and SEQ 3 by VCV, but there are many more with different features to explore.


thank you for this knowledge. It is good baseground for me to start learning more by doing, but with awareness of what I am doing!

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Sequencing can encompass many techniques and controls. You can sometimes think of the modulation sources as sequences too. Any moving cv I can modulate is a sequence to me. Trying to think modular and voltage is voltage.

But in the case you mention, there are definitely ways to create this kind of sequencing. I basically think of this kind of thing as transposition sequencing. I may want to use my keyboard to change the pitch level of the current sequences, like basslines, chords and melodies. I can do this several ways. Like for instance I get a decent melody coming out of Slips for instance and I have Fm-Op playing this sequence, I can insert Harmonee between Slips sequence out and Fm-Op s v/oct input. So now I can use gates to change the pitch level up or down. I could take gates directly from midi notes with Midi to Gate module or use a sequencer with gate outs. Or I could use v/oct from my keyboard and mix with the sequence v/oct in CVMix or other mixer. If I need to hold these notes out, I could sample and hold to make them hold until I hit another pitch. Or some VCOs like Even Vco have 2 v/oct inputs so I could send a sequence to one input and my keyboard or another sequencer to the other and mix right there at the oscillator. A few sequencers allow this kind of transposition right within the sequencer itself like the JW sequencers or BordL or Slips, just input voltage to the root inputs to move it around. Another question is do you want exact transposition or transposed within the same key, and for that insert a quantizer to keep the notes as you like them. Have fun.

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Creating a decent melody is hard, and that’s a separate problem. Many of the sequencers in VCV create random patterns of notes, which may or may not sound good, but if you want to program in a specific melody rather than using ‘generative’ sequencers, have a look at Phrase Seq. You can chain different sequences together in song mode, if you want to create progressions. There are other choices available, but this is quite easy to use.

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That’s a fine one. I gotta say I’m still partial to EnCore from BiDoo for basslines especially, love the gate length controls and note nudge called “trim” and the 64 possible steps. Very expressive stuff. And I love the way the JPLabs stuff has note and rhythm selections, cool design for musical entry. I also think in v/oct and can just write voltages for any chromatic pitch and do with ADDR or PGMR often. I’m a sequencer junkie.