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Old fashioned MIDI sequencing
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Author Old fashioned MIDI sequencing
Remember the good old days when one used a sequencer that controlled a bunch of outboard synths and rom players and you had that locked to tape?

I liked using Performer back in the 90's but by the time it became digital performer I wasn't doing much sequencing.

Now after a long time I actually feel like busting out a bunch of sound modules and using a sequencer to actually write stuff. I normally use protools and the MIDI does not look inviting.

Everything I see seems to assume you own no hardware and don't actually want to write music just play it.

Any suggestions on a traditional non loop based sequencer?
take a look at 'metro', not a tracker, but definitely still along those '90s lines.
Definitely not looking for a retro tracker type of deal, Looking for something where I can write, play and edit notes and I'm so tempted to bust out an old computer and performer, go all 7.5.2
fucking nostalgia

Now you make me want to climb up in the attic, get down the macintosh and fire up master tracks pro with the music quest interface and adat. waah I thought I was rocking then. It was a blast to make music that way.

edit to add...
I do still use Cubase. It has retained the midi functionality that made it popular from the beginning.

I may be missing the full intent of your query but I do understand midi sequencing and sync to tape and I think Cubase does still do that pretty well. Ignoring the audio tracking is the hard/distracting part. The midi note editing interface of new DAW's is also frustrating and distracting. Not quite as simple.
CJ Miller
I tend to try to keep my computer setups running within a certain hardware and software era for what they are good at. On my quad i7 for instance I am trying to get into OSC and Silent Way, and not use so much for MIDI at all. My Mac dual G4 I have set up with serial ports and use late-90s stuff like my Korg OASYS and other outboard DRS gear, Max/MSP 4.1, Pluggo, Hyperprism, and other fun stuff. My older boxes tend to be more for MIDI use, and since they are less cluttered and using real serial UARTs they work better IMO for MIDI than more modern machines. Reliving some nostalgia by using old sequencers in an emulator might be ok for seeing if a particular software might be useful, but IMO misses the point of the improved timing and whole working experience. In the modern world, I find that look-ahead improves MIDI timing for things like DAW mixdown. Emagic's "AMT" worked on this principle. But this only works if your MIDI tracks are completely fixed in place for playback. For more improvisational sequencing obviously the machine can't look ahead.

I have two main computers set up for retro-sequencing antics:

Macintosh SE, with an 68030 accelerator, running MacOS system 6.0.8. It has an external 1GB hard drive, which I am gradually trying to convert to flash/SSD. MIDI is via an old serial MOTU Fastlane interface. It is a pretty self-contained setup, I can just nest the keyboard and mouse into it and push it back on my desk if I need room. For MIDI software I have been using Music Mouse, M, Jam Factory, Max 2.5, and some LISP-based tools. I also have Logic 1.7, Performer, and HMSL which I don't use so much as of yet. Also this box is handy for generating waves to load onto old samplers, for which I have been messing around with Alchemy, SoundEdit, and SoftSynth.

Atari Falcon030, with FPU and expanded to 14MB of RAM. On this one I use various synth and sampler editors, and mostly Dr. T software for sequencing. Years of casual use and I have not even scratched the surface of what KCS/Omega can do. The whole Dr. T suite is beyond brilliant. KCS is I guess kind of like a Live session, one can pipe data in or out of it with other tools such as Tiger, MidiAx, and the PVG. Also I have dabbled with the Hybrid Arts software and many other interesting tools. The only thing which snaps me out of playing on my Falcon is when I decide that it is time to edit one of my more modern synths, or use plugin instruments. But this is just a workflow problem of mine, sequencing modern gear and software from an old computer works great.

Some other projects on the back burner for now are:

Quieting my SE a bit. The external SCSI drive is loud, as are the internal fans. I tried using an old SCSI->IDE adaptor to run an SSD drive, but apparently the SSD used so little juice that the adaptor couldn't see it. I'll try another approach with this and install some quiet fans in the PSU and case sometime.

Atari Mega original. This things is getting installed in a new case, and expanded for more RAM, at least 4MB. Maybe high density floppies too, but I have yet to decide. Also I have a DMA->SCSI adaptor which might work for including hard drives and CD-ROMs in it. And built-in adaptors for keyboards and VGA can be built into the case. I have some software which never ran with an 030 based Atari. A few Dr. T tools such as Tunesmith and T-Basic, and I have a dongle for Steinberg's Avalon editor. This is all a bit of a project, for later on.
Dr T MIDI software for Atari, such as KCS Omega and Tunesmith, remain the ultimate MIDI sequencers as far as I am concerned. The good news is that they can easily run on a PC using the Steem emulator. Performance is surprisingly good and the original Dr T software is now freely available! More details on Just check out the PVG algorithmic generator. Pity there is still nothing like it for PC or Mac.
Thanks for all the replies, I guess to clarify what I'm asking...

I did like working in the 90's in the manner in which I described. I would like to do some sequencing now, using MIDI modules as opposed to soft instruments.

From what I have been seeing most of the current programs are 1. based on loop based as opposed to song based. 2. The interfaces are so much based on the fact that most people use internal synths.

I really don't want to bust out an old computer, although I always have a bunch of older ones doing various things, I don't actually own my 90's computers any more. Something modern that is actually pleasant to write in would be good.

I will take a look at recent Cubase and Metro. Any others, that still feel solid and haven't been dumbed to death?
haven't used it but reaper maybe?
You don't have to dig up an old computer, you can use an emulator. Sometimes I'll jump into an Amiga or Atari ST emulator to do some old fashioned MIDI sequencing. There's a lot of sequencing software that never made it to other platforms that is incredibly handy.
Ableton in "Arrangement" view and just turn off the loop. I use it in the way you describe all the time. Super easy to set up the midi(via a Emagic Unitor mkII).
i started with gajits breakthru on the atari ste back in 1992, never got into cubase because a) i couldn't afford it, and b) i refused to use the common cracked version.

very powerful "diamond drag" system it had.

Why not Logic?

It's still very much got the emagic DNA.

The Environment is the best thing ever for setting up and controlling a ton of outboard midi gear. I can't imagine fucking with midi gear without it.

Of course Digital Performer and Cubase still exist as well...Yes they've had a shitton of stuff bolted on over the years, but I think once you got back up to speed you'd find all those old school workflows are still possible.
I used to run each of the big three through the paces every few years and for me I always liked Logic least. Despite being originally the most powerful I felt like it was better at creating custom set up then sitting there and just let me be creative.

It's all personal taste. I use pro tools as a recorder and editor and very little else. If I want custom I use max/msp
I mostly use Logic and Numerology* when I'm using software myself, but if you want a stripped down piano roll maybe XX?(I picked it up on sale more for the wavetables and algorithmic features) Depending on your MIDI setup you may need another program to route things.

*Numerology at least has some pretty damn great MIDI routing and transformation options so I don't have to turn to Logic's Environment as much (and save some of my sanity!). You might find it handy even if you use a more traditional sequencer.
Bath House
Someone is overthinking this. All of the modern DAW's do exactly what you're referring to. Logic (my choice), Cubase, Reaper, Digital Performer, even Ableton live - just use the arrange, not loop launcher view.
i have a similar related question, kind of weird as i don't use any of the traditional DAWs much at all, but would like a piano roll midi sequencer to use in audiomulch (which the developer has said will never include one). so, does anyone know of a little midi sequencer that will run as a VST plugin?
Babaluma wrote:
does anyone know of a little midi sequencer that will run as a VST plugin?




but those are more like advanced step sequencers.
thank you! will check them out. could be just what the doctor ordered. step sequencers is all i need really. forgot to mention i am on PC.
I'm still using Opcode's StudioVision Pro MIDI sequencing software on an old Mac G3 (beige desktop version) with Opcode's Studio 4 (128 MIDI channel interface).
It still works like a champ, locks to SMPTE timecode flawlessly and I have found nothing newer that works better for me.
Of course, once that G3 dies, I'll be screwed and then I'll be forced to look at something new - but, for now - I love this system for MIDI sequencing.

Bath House wrote:
Someone is overthinking this. All of the modern DAW's do exactly what you're referring to

^^^THIS^^^ hihi

free download here:!24 6

Copy the link to your browser, don't click it! And erase the space between 4 and 6 at the end.. dunno why it's messing with me evil

Or try this page, there are several different "new" sequencers for mac and pc:

That's it from acidbob

Reaper's MIDI editing isn't the most fully featured, but it works, and it's free to try, so why not give it a shot? Has the normal piano roll thing goin on. If you work in weird keys I can point you to a .reascale file with tons of them.
Yeah as said any of them will do the job. Still a logic + hardware user here since V 2.x.

If you midi sequencing fun just get five12 numerology and rock out. It rules. And then use a daw to record. Done.
When I want to strip back I use this

Watch the video to understand it's full potential
Much better than MMT-8 ..IMO
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