Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Software Sequencers

2. Sequencing

The term ‘sequencing’ comes from the days of analogue synths. when a cycle of control voltages would be set up to trigger different pitches - more sophisticated models also allowing other properties of the notes such as filter cut-off to be altered. These would be run as a ‘sequence’ of maybe 8 or 16 notes, and the familiar looped basslines and arpeggios they created can be found in much early 80s synth-based music, although Donna Summer’s 1977 disco smash ‘I Feel Love’ is perhaps the most famous early example (produced by Giorgio Moroder). When MIDI and digital instruments arrived on the scene, the concept of sequencing remained - that is to store or record a sequence of notes - but the new technology allowed for far more than just a simple monophonic loop.

Roland System 700
Roland System 700

MIDI – Musical Instrument Digital Interface. A communications protocol for electronic musical instruments and computers. MIDI can operate over up to 16 independent channels per port and uses 7-bit values (between 0 and 127).

At a basic level MIDI sends information like ‘play this note, this hard, for this long’ but it can also send many different kinds of control information such as pitch bend, modulation, sustain, filter frequency, fader position, tempo - in fact pretty much anything that you are likely to find on an electronic instrument. So a MIDI sequencer enables you to record not just note and pitch information, but also all your other performance data. It’s important to remember that a MIDI sequencer records performance data only - not the actual sound of the performance, as if you make an audio recording. Of course once the data is in the sequencer, you gain the ability to edit the performance and change the sounds being used. You can also tweak various synthesis parameters, ‘quantize’ notes (automatically correct their timing), and even change the tempo of the music without changing the pitch. When computers arrived in the studio, MIDI data could be displayed on a full-size screen which made composition and all this editing a great deal easier.

In the early days, there were two major competitors in the software sequencing field, both from Germany - ‘Notator’ from Emagic (which evolved into Apple’s ‘Logic’) used musical notation to display MIDI data, and Pro 24 from Steinberg (which evolved into Cubase) that opted for what has become the standard MIDI editing interface – the ’piano-roll’.

The piano-roll editor is largely unchanged today, and takes its cue from the piano rolls put into player-pianos that you often see in the saloons of Western movies. It’s basically a grid with a piano keyboard, and therefore pitch, on the vertical axis, and time, and therefore note duration and position, on the horizontal axis. Piano-roll editors often additionally show controller information such as velocity (how hard a note is played) at the bottom of the screen beneath the notes. Graphic editors of this kind at last allowed people who couldn’t read traditional notation to use music software and start composing.

Cubase Piano-Roll
Cubase Piano-Roll

The great advantages presented by MIDI sequencing were not always matched by the usability of the hardware of the day though. As everything ‘went digital’ in the 90s, many creative musicians sought out discarded analogue hardware and introduced the hypnotic, looping, pulse of analogue sequencing to a new generation of clubbers and ravers. While pop music languished in complex arrangements, the throbbing heart of dance culture worshipped the synth bassline loop. It took a while before software developers came close to replicating that ease of use, but in 1997, Propellerheads released ‘Rebirth RB-338’. Rebirth was a virtual model of the Roland TB303 Bassline and TR808 drum machine - suddenly sequencing was intuitive and instant again. In the ten years that followed, Rebirth evolved into the extraordinary ‘Reason’ software sequencer - probably the best example of combining an analogue-style interface with the depth and programming power of MIDI.

Reason 4
Reason 4
Your Contacts
Phone: +49-9546-9223-30
FAX: +49-9546-922328
Question! Give the right answer and win 1x Stairville Quad Par Profile 5x8W RGB WW worth €64.
The daughter of Frank Sinatra sung (among others) ´these boots are made for walking´. What was her first name?
Conditions of participation
Terms and Conditions for participation
in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Thomann GmbH. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

  1. Competition

    1. The competitions are organised by Thomann GmbH, CEO: Hans Thomann, Hans-Thomann-Straße 1, 96138 Burgebrach, Germany.
  2. Participation

    1. Competitions are only open to persons of full age.
    2. To take part in the competition you must answer all questions correctly, fill in the registration form and submit your entry to Thomann GmbH by pressing the "send" button.
      By pressing the "send" button the participant accepts the aforementioned terms and conditions.
    3. The participant is responsible for entering their email and/or postal address correctly. Entries to the competition will be logged electronically.
  3. Qualifying Entrants

    1. Staff of Thomann GmbH and any cooperation partners and their dependants are excluded from participation.
    2. Should these conditions of participation be violated, especially by using illegitimate means, Thomann GmbH reserves the right to exclude persons from the competition. In case of such violations prizes can be withdrawn and claimed back subsequently.
  4. Announcing the winner

    1. The winners will be notified by Thomann GmbH by email or in writing and their names may be published on the homepage The winner accepts this form of publication explicitly.
      Should for whatever reason the winner not claim their prize, then a new winner will be drawn.
    2. The prize presented to the winner may not be identical to the item description. There can be deviances regarding the model, colour etc.
    3. The merchandise prizes will be sent by Thomann GmbH or by one of its contracting delivery companies, per freight forwarder, courier or postal service to the postal address indicated by the winner.

      The delivery is free of charge. Only extra transport costs and customs/duties must be covered by the winner. In the case that the delivery has to be made through a freight forwarding company the freight forwarding company will contact the winner to arrange delivery timings.
    4. An exchange, cash alternative or replacement prize is not possible.
    5. The claim to the prize or replacement of the prize cannot be assigned to a third party.
  5. Data protection

    1. The participant accepts explicitly that Thomann GmbH saves all necessary data for the duration of the competition and forwards them exclusively for purposes related to the winning process to the respective cooperation partner, who is also permitted to save the personal data only for the duration of the competition. The participant is free to withdraw his entry at any time. Please direct the withdrawal to:

      Thomann GmbH
      to the data protection officer
      Hans-Thomann-Straße 1
      96138 Burgebrach, Germany
    2. Thomann GmbH is obliged to consider the regulations for data protection according to the Federal Data Protection Law (BDSG) valid at the conclusion of the competition. In this context the general data protection regulations under notes regarding data protection should be noted.
  6. Liability

    1. Thomann GmbH will be released from any obligations by handing out the prize.
    2. Thomann GmbH is not liable for the insolvency of a cooperation partner and the resulting consequences for the implementation and processing of the competition.
  7. Other

    1. Legal proceedings are barred.
    2. The law of the Federal Republic of Germany applies exclusively.

Software Sequencers overview

Arturia DrumBrute Impact Daslight Light Rider Wifi DMX Interface Gator iMac 27" Tote Bag Origin Effects Revival Footswitch Aston Microphones Swift Cameo Studio PAR DTW Audient iD44 EQ Acoustics Spectrum 2 L5 Tile Black Universal Audio Apollo Thunderbolt 3 Card Korg D1 IK Multimedia UNO Synth Presonus Studio 1810
Arturia DrumBrute Impact

Analog drum computer; 10 sounds: Kick, Snare 1, Snare 2, Tom Hi, Tom Low, Cowbell, Cymbal, Closed Hat, Open Hat and FM; 64 patterns with up to 64 steps each; accentuation and switchable color tone coloring per instrument and step;...

to the product
Daslight Light Rider Wifi DMX Interface

Daslight Light Rider Wifi DMX Interface, Tablet-based DMX control, intuitive operating concept allows quick access to all functions and simplifies use, free App "Light Rider" for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire Tablet, perfect for DJs thanks to beat synchronization via...

to the product
Gator iMac 27" Tote Bag

Nylon bag for 27" Apple iMac Good hold and protection with adjustable foam blocks and hard-panel reinforcement in the front cover, Foldable sun and dust protection, Double zipper, Cable bag inside, Outer accessory pocket for keyboard, mouse, SD cards...

to the product
Origin Effects Revival Footswitch

Origin Effects Revival Footswitch, 2-button footswitch, add more flexibility to the Origin Effects RevivalDRIVE with footswitchable mid-boost and dry blend

to the product
Aston Microphones Swift

Aston Microphones Swift; Universal Mic Mount without Rubber Bands; fits Mics from 40 bis 60 Diameter; two quick release spring clips; made of Aluminium, grade glass-fill nylon polymer and medical grade latex ("ShockStar" suspension); Dimensions: 145 x 60 x 170...

to the product
Cameo Studio PAR DTW

White light LED PAR With variable colour temperature and dim-to-warm function, Professional LED PAR for use on theater and drama stages or for object lighting, Dim-to-warm function ensures a dark orange light colour in the low brightness range by...

to the product
Audient iD44

20-in / 24-out desktop audio interface Fully metallic desktop housing, Control knobs made of solid, hand-milled aluminium, 4 Class A Audient console mic preamps, 60 dB gain, AD / DA converter of the highest class, 2 ADAT inputs and...

to the product
EQ Acoustics Spectrum 2 L5 Tile Black

Acoustic Absorber Material of the absorber's core: 100% polyester with textile cover, Very robust, Non-allergenic and doesn't contain irritants, Odour-free, Good efficiency in the medium and high frequency ranges, Wall and ceiling mounting is possible with the flexi-system (hook...

to the product
Universal Audio Apollo Thunderbolt 3 Card

Universal Audio Apollo Thunderbolt 3 Card; Expansion Card for Apollo Rack Interfaces; two Thunderbolt 3 Ports, 5 W bus power for all connected Thunderbolt 3 peripherals; up to 40 Gbit/s; System requirements: macOS Sierra/High Sierra or Windows 10 with Fall...

to the product
Korg D1

Digital Piano 88 Keys weighted RH3 keyboard (Real Weighted Hammer Action 3), 5 Sensitivity curves, Stereo PCM sound generation, 120 Voice polyphony, 30 Sounds, 30 Demo songs, Key-Off simulation, Damper resonance, 3 Effects, Metronome, 2x Line out 6.3 mm...

to the product
IK Multimedia UNO Synth

Monophonic analog synthesizer with step sequencer, arpeggiator and effects section Classic setup with 2 VCOs and noise generator, multimode filters, amps, 2 envelopes and LFO, Waveform VCOs Triangle, sawtooth and variable pulse width rectangle, Multimode filter with 12 dB...

to the product
Presonus Studio 1810

18 x 8 USB 2.0 audio interface 24 bits / 192 kHz, 2 front combo inputs Mic / Line / Inst (XLR / jack), 2 front combo inputs Mic / Line (XLR / jack), 4 XMAX Class A mic...

to the product
Feedback Found an error or want to give us feedback about this page?

We're looking forward to hearing from you and aim to solve any problems as soon as we can.

Please leave a comment. Please enter your e-mail address.