Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

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canopychasesounds
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Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by canopychasesounds » Sun Jan 31, 2021 11:43 am

So I’ve been looking for arpeggiators for a bit in Eurorack format and not immediately finding what I’m looking for (admittedly it could be buried in functionality in a sequencer or something and I’m overlooking it) so I was hoping for some advice from all you wigglers.
Firstly, I’m looking for directional functionality that goes beyond the up/down/updown/random level.
Secondly it would be awesome to find something that can sequence an arpeggio based on incoming note order.
TL:DR; are there any arps in Eurorack that let you custom program the shape of the arpeggio based on incoming note order? Or that give you individual control over the structure and direction of the resulting arp?
I’ve looked into Zetaohm FLXS1 and WMD Arpitect but it’s not immediately apparent if I could recreate the functionality I’m looking for.

Way more detail:
Basically I’m looking (wishing?) for Eurorack hardware that can mirror or approximate the capability of the VST plugin BlueARP, which so far as I’ve found is possibly one of the most fully featured arpeggiator out there.

Take the arpeggio in the Muse song Stockholm Syndrome chorus part. It is essentially two different arpeggio patterns the first which goes up for the first two chords then the second goes down the second two chords. The first is essentially ascending triads with each triad starting on the next note degree n the scale:
R 3 5 - 3 5 R - 5 R 3 - R 3 5 - 3 5 R - 5
The down one is the mirror of that, descending from high note:
R 5 3 - 5 3 R - 3 R 5 - R 5 3 - 5 3 R - 3
(I’m doing this from memory so if that note sequence isn’t exactly correct for the Stockholm Syndrome arp I apologize, but you get the idea).
Now the way I do this in BlueARP is by setting the arpeggiator to trigger the Notes of the chord I play in that order based on note-on-order.
So my arp program looks like note 1 note 2 note 3 note 2 note three note 4 etc
And then I just trigger a four note triad chord with high root on top, but quickly “rolled on” so the notes play in the order I’m intending.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by gentle_attack » Sun Jan 31, 2021 1:58 pm

There's a lot of really cool sequencers to explore, and if you look at sequencers on Modulargrid, sorted by popularity (how many racks on their site use the module) you'll see a lot of stuff worth exploring. I hate to say "you can't go wrong with Eirorack" but if something is in the top 50 for popularity for a category, it's definitely useful and dare I say powerful. https://www.modulargrid.net/e/modules/b ... ection=asc

One of the all time favorites, for good reason, is: Make Noise Rene / Rene 2... which move the 16 step sequencer into a 4x4 grid, so among many other things you can move positions "up and down" as well as the traditional "right to left / left to right", or you can do snake or other shape patterns. And mute steps. I don't think it's the best thing for doing "songs" (can't beat a DAW or midi sequencer like Octatrack or MPCs for that) but for making complex patterns it's really cool.

Another really cool one is the Five12 Vector sequencer, which is essentially Numerology in a eurorack, tactile format. Cirklon is outside of the Euro world but literally limitless in what it can do when you get into all of the event based stuff. I personally love using Octatrack with a CV.OCD.


I would DEFINITELY also explore precision adders, as the name suggests they allow you to sum (or in some cases subtract) two voltages. You can basically have two or more sequencers, moving at different speeds and/or pattern lengths, and then add them to create really complex patterns, especially if you add in mutes / VCAs to the mix


Last but not least is the world of Quantizers, Ornament and Crime being a personal favorite (can do a lot of other stuff too). Again as the name suggests, can turn raw CV into quantized pitches, using rules and "rounding" that you define. You can have clocked (or free flowing) LFOs going wild, then define what scale you want to be in, and you will have endlessly complex, in key patterns. Then all you need to do is line up a clock with some envelopes controlling VCAs and/or filters, and you very quickly can create repeatable (or not repeatable if you want) patterns in any key. It's defintiely more exploratory than actually writing out a song with intentional pitches, but from a purely cerebral pov its pretty fun to use your rules and commands turn into something that exists in a musical realm.
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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun Jan 31, 2021 2:01 pm

Why do you specifically want an arpeggiator module for this purpose (as opposed to just using a keyboard with a note order arpeggiator such as the KeyStep)?

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by Back Down the Path » Sun Jan 31, 2021 2:47 pm

Just get an Arpitecht and Triad and set up some basic patches and something to trigger triads with and find a sweet spot, engage the reverb and delay, stare off into space and vibe out.

But seriously, Arpitecht is so great. May not produce exactly what you’re after but it adds a high level of musicality to your rack with basic patches, and for true music theory folks it can add very complex stuff with some thoughtful patching.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by cinnatoastg » Sun Jan 31, 2021 3:15 pm

So an arpeggiator as I understand it is a keyboard related thing, you press the notes, it's sequences through them. Any sequencer could accomplish this, you'd just need to set up the notes for the specific chords you're looking to arpeggiate through as opposed to pressing them. I'm not sure how a arp would be different from a sequencer in the modular realm unless it's just built in melodic patterns/quantization you're after.

It doesn't have the functionality you want, but as an example I use cellz for this. I set up four different "arpeggiated" 4 note chords on each set of four pads and then sequence through. Same thing as an arpeggiator. You could combine multiples sequences or switch through them using any manner of precision adders, switches, etc.

Arpitecht sounds like it may be what you're looking for after looking at BlueArp though.
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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by jjterbeek » Sun Jan 31, 2021 3:23 pm

Nerdseq use of tables for arps?

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by megarat » Sun Jan 31, 2021 6:57 pm

Sub'd. I'm psyched to see what kind of gold turns up here.

That said, I tend to agree with @cinnatoastg . When I first got into Eurorack, I scrounged around heavily for a killer arpeggiator, and it took a while for me to realize that I just wanted a good basic sequencer. Perhaps this is because cinnatoastg's semantic argument is true: that an "arpeggiator" is a function of a controller (e.g., keyboard), and a "sequencer" is a dedicated device that you use to create specific patterns (arpeggios or otherwise). All I knew was that I wanted to create compositions of Philip Glass- and Tangerine Dream-esque repeating patterns, and based on my experience with hardware keyboard synths in the '80s and '90s, it seemed like an "arpeggiator" module was what I needed. But I wasn't able to find one that really scratched my itch, and most basic sequencers seem handle this with aplomb. E.g., I've always been tempted by the Arpitecht, and it seems like a fun module for random jamming, but I didn't like that it had preset rhythms and note masks, as I prefer to have more direct, deliberate control.

OP: in your post, you make a point of wanting to drive the arpeggiator module with a controller of some sort. How important is that to your workflow? Perhaps what you need in an external controller with a built-in arpeggiator, which you can use to program a sequencer module?

If it helps, here's what I'm using:

-- 2 x XAOC Tirana II, linked together. They're pretty great, I equate this pair to a Metropolis Lite but in almost one-quarter the space. It profits from an external quantizer, however.

-- Kilpatrick K-2579 (discontinued). A killer all-around basic sequencer, but especially great for arp-driven motifs. It has two tracks of 16 sequences of 16 steps apiece. You can also set the sequence length and start position, and modulate them with VC. So ... in a single "sequence", you can (e.g.) bury four different four-step "sub-sequences" and run which ever one you want via voltage control.

-- Orthogonal Devices ER-101/102: a flagship sequencer by any measure, so probably overkill here, but using the "group" and "part" features of the ER-102, it becomes a serious arpeggiation engine. This is even highlighed in the ER-102 manual (page 7).

-- XOR Electronics NerdSEQ: as already mentioned, the "tables" feature in the NerdSEQ is built for this sort of thing. And the sequencer view gives you an excellent top-level overview of your patterns, so you can lay out exactly how you want chain your patterns/arpeggios together. It's another flagship sequencer, so it brings a lot more to the table than simple arpeggiation features, but it gives you those functions for free.

-- I also love using the old "different clock divisions into a mixer into a quantizer" trick, but I add a step of my own: throw a Branches (technically a Twiigs) between the clock divider and the mixer, which adds some random influence to the sequence.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by guitargyro » Mon Feb 01, 2021 9:20 am

I personally can’t think of an arpeggiator that does all those things in the way I think you want. There are many that do ALL of those things, but maybe not in the specific order you want. Probably the quickest would just be a sequencer.

If you are down with more a random approach, that’s pretty much ANY one.

Arpitecht is what i have and love at the moment.

Scales Quantizer with an LFO would be 90% there and pretty quick. Rene would snake it’s way through them as well. But what everybody else said works as well.

If it were me I’d prob just bust out the old Grandmother or Sub37 and turn on the arpeggiator. Love having those weird white and black things around sometimes.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by Electro Something » Mon Feb 01, 2021 9:27 am

The Conductive Labs NDLR is the most complex arp I know of, but it’s MIDI with only CV on the clock in and out.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by megarat » Mon Feb 01, 2021 2:54 pm

Ever since it was brought up in this thread, I've been thinking about the actual definition of "arpeggiator". Specifically, what exactly is an arpeggiator (especially a "complex arpeggiator") and how does it differ from a sequencer?

If I were being dogmatic, I would say "an arpeggiator is something that makes arpeggios", which is typically defined as "the notes of a chord played in rapid succession rather than simultaneously". I'm only a dilettante at music theory, but to my understanding, any combination of notes doesn't necessarily make a chord, so I've adopted the technical definition of "something that, given any number of unique notes, plays those notes back at a defined tempo in a specific order (where that order can be up, down, up-down, order entered, random, etc.). So, you can't use an arpeggiator to play the pattern 1-4-5-4-5-5. An arpeggiator would only be able to play those three notes (1-4-5) in a given order and then repeat that sequence (although that play order could include repeats, such as 1-1-4-4-5-5).

A sequencer, on the other hand, will play whatever you put into it, including any sequence that you can create with an arpeggiator.

There are some exceptions that blur the lines, like the legendary Oberheim Cyclone, which proudly calls itself an arpeggiator but has some features that clearly fall into sequencing territory, at least given the above definitions.

Personally, I've always regarded an arpeggiator's key feature is that it is performable: it will play whatever notes you're currently feeding it (by pressing keys, etc.) and if you change the notes, the arpeggiator will react accordingly. Of course, one can argue that you could just as easily perform with a sequencer, by making changes to it while it is playing, so that view really doesn't hold up and the lines get blurred even further.

So, is an arpeggiator just a basic sequencer that you can "program" in real time with a controller instrument of some sort?

Perhaps I love such academic discussion a little too much, but I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this, especially if it helps address the OP's question and sheds light on what distinguishes a "complex arpeggiator" from a "sequencer".
Last edited by megarat on Mon Feb 01, 2021 7:04 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by starthief » Mon Feb 01, 2021 3:09 pm

Yeah, I would say an arpeggio is either a keyboard feature, or a kind of MIDI multiplexer that converts multiple note-on states to a sequence of note-on/note-off pairs -- not applicable to Eurorack.

Three things might get you where you want to go:

- a programmable quantizer that you can limit to specific notes. Feed it an LFO or another sequence to determine the order in which they appear.

- a CV-addressable sequencer: pretty much the same result as the above, though you can program in it in any order by default and a rising ramp LFO will follow that order.

- a grid sequencer or other nonlinear sequencer, where you've got more than just clock and reset inputs. Something like Rene or Mimetic Digitalis perhaps

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by Transistor » Mon Feb 01, 2021 3:14 pm

Perhaps any sequencer set to three notes and with a CV input (or joined up in a precision adder) to play the sequence up and down a keyboard- or by another sequencer for that matter?

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by canopychasesounds » Sat Feb 06, 2021 2:01 pm

mdoudoroff wrote:
Sun Jan 31, 2021 2:01 pm
Why do you specifically want an arpeggiator module for this purpose (as opposed to just using a keyboard with a note order arpeggiator such as the KeyStep)?
Side note @Mdoudoroff : if you're the same doudoroff.com guy/gal making eurorack comparison summaries, I'm forever indebted to your work. I pour over your information about mixers, sequencers, etc probably 2-3 times a week. Thank you for your work on that!

Well, because if I wanted to touch a keyboard I'd just play piano instead of fooling with all these cables hahahahahaha. No seriously, I REALLY like the idea of generating complex musical structures in a programmatic way with single-note sequencers (current fav being my NI Mimetic Digitalis) playing a "base" pitch/voltage into something else set up to sequence patterns off of that base pitch. Its just the way I think about music composition (probably because I'm a numbers kind of person with a very good ear for intervals...eg when I see a phone number I see it as a melody hahaha). I also kind of think it would be cool to set up major, minor, and ambiguous (eg no 3rd) scaled arpeggio patterns in groups and then be able to select the voice with one CV then cycle randomly through the specific pattern with another CV. Kind of controllable randomness which still adheres to the musical context. Long story short, I've been spoiled by the possibilities BlueARP presents and I'm thirsting for a way to do it in eurorack. For the time being, its a midi keyboard into Ableton into BlueArp into CV Tools out to Expert Sleepers ES-3. First world problems. :)

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by canopychasesounds » Sat Feb 06, 2021 2:23 pm

megarat wrote:
Mon Feb 01, 2021 2:54 pm
Ever since it was brought up in this thread, I've been thinking about the actual definition of "arpeggiator". Specifically, what exactly is an arpeggiator (especially a "complex arpeggiator") and how does it differ from a sequencer?

... .... ....

So, is an arpeggiator just a basic sequencer that you can "program" in real time with a controller instrument of some sort?

Perhaps I love such academic discussion a little too much, but I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this, especially if it helps address the OP's question and sheds light on what distinguishes a "complex arpeggiator" from a "sequencer".
Dude, we could fall down a deep rabbit hole over beers on this topic. Possibly because BlueARP opens up so much cool capability while calling itself an arpeggiator, and enabling complex rules input in sequencer fashion rather than musical note fashion.
OK So to your question: how would I define an arpeggiator. I would answer that question this way in the electronic music context:
An arpeggiator is a tool that creates repeating patterns of note output based on combining multiple simultaneous note inputs with a set of structured rules or setting parameters (like note order, interval order, on off pattern, rhythmic pattern, etc) that define how the arpeggiator should handle those input notes in creating the output sequence. An arpeggiator is about applying rules to a group of notes to create a patterned output.

I know its semantics, and starts to get blurry with all that eurorack can offer....but that differs from a sequencer in my mind primarily because sequencers are oriented more around hardcoding an output sequence of notes/voltages/whatever, then possibly modulating that output's "root", "length" etc. With sequencers, you start with the sequence and output rules are kind of an afterthought. Arpeggiators in contrast, allow for (or at least "can" allow for) a more robust set of input rules and a less rigid definition of the resulting output because it's "adding" together a rigid set of rules with an ever-changeable set of note inputs.

For instance....I have been having LOADS of fun in BlueARP with its note order feature, where you "sequence" 16 (or 64 if you want) "steps" of note order numbers, and it cycles through the notes in that pattern. The cool part? If you specify note order numbers 1 through 5, but only play two notes it is silent on the steps representing notes 3-5. Add a 3rd note and the 3rd note steps are activated. Release the first note, and only steps 2-3 are heard. This is creating really amazing, evolving, and unpredictable rhythmic and melodic sequences, and I would just really really love to have this capability translated to eurorack. But you know if wishes were horses or whatever that saying is.

Thats the cool thing about eurorack - its forcing me to think about music composition in a completely different way than I would on guitar, or in Ableton, or on a keyboard....but then I invariably want to translate tools from one world into the other hehe.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by mdoudoroff » Sat Feb 06, 2021 3:28 pm

canopychasesounds wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 2:01 pm
Side note @Mdoudoroff : if you're the same doudoroff.com guy/gal making eurorack comparison summaries, I'm forever indebted to your work. I pour over your information about mixers, sequencers, etc probably 2-3 times a week. Thank you for your work on that!
👍
canopychasesounds wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 2:01 pm
Well, because if I wanted to touch a keyboard I'd just play piano instead of fooling with all these cables hahahahahaha. No seriously, I REALLY like the idea of generating complex musical structures in a programmatic way with single-note sequencers (current fav being my NI Mimetic Digitalis) playing a "base" pitch/voltage into something else set up to sequence patterns off of that base pitch. Its just the way I think about music composition (probably because I'm a numbers kind of person with a very good ear for intervals...eg when I see a phone number I see it as a melody hahaha). I also kind of think it would be cool to set up major, minor, and ambiguous (eg no 3rd) scaled arpeggio patterns in groups and then be able to select the voice with one CV then cycle randomly through the specific pattern with another CV. Kind of controllable randomness which still adheres to the musical context. Long story short, I've been spoiled by the possibilities BlueARP presents and I'm thirsting for a way to do it in eurorack. For the time being, its a midi keyboard into Ableton into BlueArp into CV Tools out to Expert Sleepers ES-3. First world problems. :)
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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by burdickjp » Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:20 pm

This made me think about sequencers differently. In a way I think you'll appreciate.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by tokidoki » Sun Feb 07, 2021 8:37 pm

The musical style is different from trance but illustrates the noises or LFOs into quantizers way of arpeggiating. Everything comes from the modular system excepting the piano, an external expander.


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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by megarat » Sat Feb 13, 2021 12:16 am

Back Down the Path wrote:
Sun Jan 31, 2021 2:47 pm
Just get an Arpitecht and Triad and set up some basic patches and something to trigger triads with and find a sweet spot, engage the reverb and delay, stare off into space and vibe out.
Okay, I’m sold. This thread inspired me to look into the Arpitecht some more, and I became persuaded to pick up an Arpitecht/Triad pair by way of the BST forum. And oh happy day, I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I’m still not a fan of the prescribed “rhythm” options, but I figured that I could still exert external control over the rhythm myself, and most of the time I just want it to play on every step anyway (rhythm knob = full CW). I’m very pleasantly surprised, this module has been a heap of fun so far, and it modulates nicely with some deliberate, subtle CV.

I’m doubtful whether or not the Triad will find a final place in my rack, but the Arpitecht itself looks to be a fun and simple way to add some nice musical structure to my patches. It really delivers in bringing the arpeggiator experience to Eurorack.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by Back Down the Path » Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:57 am

Great choice! With some careful CVs you can create any rhythm. Pro Tip: Send a clock with some swing into the Step input.

Triad is super nice to have but I think need a dedicated polyphonic module to really get the most out of it. I’m looking at Saich, which I see is kinda finicky with its tuning. But those sounds....

I might get an Acid Rain Chainsaw and save my wallet though.

Right now I’m loading 3 single cycle waveforms into Assimil8or (organ, piano, etc.) and it works great but as a lazy human it’s a lot of effort to produce pretty pads or loads more effort to produce interesting rhythmic progressions. Having a dedicated module with 3 1v/Oct inputs would be the best option. However, I’m also seeing it’s pretty nice to just give some Cvs and only use one of the outputs + some big FX on the signal. Long winded way of saying I’m keeping the Triad!
Last edited by Back Down the Path on Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:24 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by guitargyro » Sat Feb 13, 2021 9:02 am

Arpitecht is a no brainer. Not to mention it has pretty in depth rhythmic sequencing as well. Win win.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by megarat » Sun Feb 14, 2021 12:35 am

Back Down the Path wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:57 am
Triad is super nice to have but I think need a dedicated polyphonic module to really get the most out of it. I’m looking at Saich, which I see is kinda finicky with its tuning. But those sounds....

I might get an Acid Rain Chainsaw and save my wallet though.
The only polyphonic module I have is a Threshold (the Edges clone) and I don’t like it enough to keep it in my main rack. I do have an Akemie’s Castle (which I suppose one could argue is a polyphonic module), and it has a great chord mode that I’ve already figured out how to work with, so I don’t feel that chords are a gap in my rack that needs to be filled. But I’m still playing with it, to see what I can do with it other than the obvious.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by Footkerchief » Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:45 am

Self-plug: I've been working on complex arpeggiators in Loom, a fork of the Mutable Yarns firmware:
https://github.com/rcrogers/yarns-loom#loom

More detail about the Loom arpeggiator here:
https://github.com/rcrogers/yarns-loom/ ... rpeggiator

All of the arpeggiator directions are sensitive to note order. The arpeggiator can also be triggered by the step sequencer instead of the clock, or by the unquantized loop sequencer, allowing direct rhythm programming. Also, the "pitch" of the sequence notes can be repurposed as a movement instruction, allowing non-linear traversal of the arp chord (heavily inspired by the Rene here).

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by megarat » Tue Feb 23, 2021 10:58 am

Footkerchief wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:45 am
Self-plug: I've been working on complex arpeggiators in Loom, a fork of the Mutable Yarns firmware:
https://github.com/rcrogers/yarns-loom#loom

More detail about the Loom arpeggiator here:
https://github.com/rcrogers/yarns-loom/ ... rpeggiator

All of the arpeggiator directions are sensitive to note order. The arpeggiator can also be triggered by the step sequencer instead of the clock, or by the unquantized loop sequencer, allowing direct rhythm programming. Also, the "pitch" of the sequence notes can be repurposed as a movement instruction, allowing non-linear traversal of the arp chord (heavily inspired by the Rene here).
This is really neat, thanks for the info. I wasn’t aware of this alternate firmware.

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by Footkerchief » Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:04 am

megarat wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 10:58 am
Footkerchief wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:45 am
Self-plug: I've been working on complex arpeggiators in Loom, a fork of the Mutable Yarns firmware:
https://github.com/rcrogers/yarns-loom#loom

More detail about the Loom arpeggiator here:
https://github.com/rcrogers/yarns-loom/ ... rpeggiator

All of the arpeggiator directions are sensitive to note order. The arpeggiator can also be triggered by the step sequencer instead of the clock, or by the unquantized loop sequencer, allowing direct rhythm programming. Also, the "pitch" of the sequence notes can be repurposed as a movement instruction, allowing non-linear traversal of the arp chord (heavily inspired by the Rene here).
This is really neat, thanks for the info. I wasn’t aware of this alternate firmware.
If you ever end up using it, let me know what you think of the arp functionality! I'm getting lots of Rene-like surprises out of it without sacrificing keyboard control of pitch, which I've long considered the holy grail of performance sequencing.

There's huge amounts of untapped potential for new chord traversal algorithms, and I'm looking to explore dynamic rhythms as well -- simultaneous keyboard control of both the arp chord and the arp rhythm might be a tall order, but who knows!

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Re: Complex Arpeggiator Roundup

Post by megarat » Wed Feb 24, 2021 5:43 pm

Footkerchief wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:04 am
If you ever end up using it, let me know what you think of the arp functionality! I'm getting lots of Rene-like surprises out of it without sacrificing keyboard control of pitch, which I've long considered the holy grail of performance sequencing.

There's huge amounts of untapped potential for new chord traversal algorithms, and I'm looking to explore dynamic rhythms as well -- simultaneous keyboard control of both the arp chord and the arp rhythm might be a tall order, but who knows!
I don’t currently own a Yarns, so it’s not an option for me at the moment, but mBranes don’t take up much space, and it might be fun to play with one just for this firmware version.

I take it that the notes get entered into Loom’s arp via a MIDI controller?

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