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Homebrew step sequencer
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Zoe



Joined: Jul 15, 2011
Posts: 17
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 11:56 pm    Post subject: Homebrew step sequencer Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi everyone!

So my partner and I are making a homebrew step sequencer, called Stepper. She's making most of the hardware, and I'm making most of the software. It should hopefully be vaguely similar to the TB-303 and MC-202's sequencers, in as much as it has that very specific kind of portamento.

The source code is split up into a library class which can be used by a bunch of different applications, so eventually we can build various different hardware devices without having to rewrite all the code from scratch.

We're currently up to the stage where the prototype is ready for trying out. There's a Git repository at git://github.com/ZoeB/stepper.git if anyone would like to give it a go. The whole project's open source, so anyone can dissect it, modify it, and use it in their own open source projects.

To try it out in Linux, OS X etc. try: "git clone git://github.com/ZoeB/stepper.git; python3 stepper/python/stepper_1_prototype.py" It's a bit awkward as I'm representing a bunch of LEDs and buttons in a terminal window, but it does work, albeit not actually doing all that much.

I'll let you know when there's been some more progress, such as actually porting it all across to C, copying it onto an Arduino board and hooking it up to a real synthesiser. So far, we only have some test code doing that, playing a preset acidline, but again, it does work as a proof of method.

Enjoy!

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andrewF



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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2012 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi
welcome to e-m
sounds a good project
tho my soft-skills only extend to loading a finished prog and running an arduino board
so am looking forward to it getting to that point Very Happy
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Zoe



Joined: Jul 15, 2011
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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2012 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

andrewF wrote:
Hi
:welcome: to e-m
sounds a good project
tho my soft-skills only extend to loading a finished prog and running an arduino board
so am looking forward to it getting to that point :D


Hi! Thank you for the warm welcome. :)

Don't worry about the software side, I can take care of that. I'm currently refactoring it to allow DIN sync input. On the hardware side, trying out the prototypes that should come out over the next month or two should mostly be a case of soldering some 3.5mm sockets and the occasional 12-bit DAC onto an Arduino shield (and a DIN socket, if you'd like to try out that). It's once the LCD, buttons and LEDs come into play so you can actually program the thing with notes, slides and accents that it gets a bit trickier... But compared to some of the DIY projects I've seen in these forums, it shouldn't be too difficult. :)

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Zoe



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PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2012 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It's a bit glitchy, but Stepper is now sending out signals! \o/

How it looks
How it sounds
How it works

The metronome-like clicking is probably an issue with sliding, which isn't surprising as I've completely revamped it, guessing at what might be good values, so hopefully I can fix that pretty soon.

Enjoy!

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Zoe



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PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2012 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Bugs fixed, yay! Raw and BBDed.
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Tim Servo



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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 8:46 pm    Post subject: Homebrew step sequencer Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Nicely done! I'm a bit confused though. Will you be publishing a schematic and/or selling the additional hardware necessary? I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more about this project as it matures.

Tim (a bit confused, and confused about bits) Servo
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Zoe



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:10 am    Post subject: Re: Homebrew step sequencer Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Tim Servo wrote:
Nicely done! I'm a bit confused though. Will you be publishing a schematic and/or selling the additional hardware necessary? I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more about this project as it matures.

Tim (a bit confused, and confused about bits) Servo


We've already published the source code, and will publish the schematic too once we've finalised the design. (We're still looking at various LCDs at the moment, for instance.)

We should be selling a kit in a few months or so, either as an Arduino shield or just as a PCB in its own right. We're purposefully using popular off-the-shelf components though, so you shouldn't need the kit, it should just be easier to use it rather than seeking everything separately.

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Uncle Krunkus
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'd love to do some stuff with Arduino, but always felt unsure. I've built PIC stuff, and loaded programs into them, maybe that's why I'm so reticent to learn a completely new system. But I'm sure it's heaps easier these days.
Either way, I'm mostly posting just so I can keep an eye on this thread! Laughing
Have you seen the Klee Sequencer that Scott and the team put together? It's completely hardware based, but there's also a VST plug-in which is an exact copy of the hardware version with a load of other functions added on.
Sequencers are an amazing branch of DIY Synth construction.

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Zoe



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Uncle Krunkus wrote:
I'd love to do some stuff with Arduino, but always felt unsure. I've built PIC stuff, and loaded programs into them, maybe that's why I'm so reticent to learn a completely new system. But I'm sure it's heaps easier these days.
Either way, I'm mostly posting just so I can keep an eye on this thread! :lol:
Have you seen the Klee Sequencer that Scott and the team put together? It's completely hardware based, but there's also a VST plug-in which is an exact copy of the hardware version with a load of other functions added on.
Sequencers are an amazing branch of DIY Synth construction.


The only issue I have with PIC is that BASIC is a pretty bad language. I can see how C might come off as downright finicky though. Maybe Python would be a good high level language for something like the PIC to use... But if you happen to already be a programmer, then programming the Arduino in C is pretty straightforward. I bought a (second hand, Indian... I think I got ripped off, it only cost 125 rupees brand new!) copy of K&R's ANSI C book the other week, and I'm struggling to remember why I didn't properly learn it before. I think I just didn't have anything I wanted to make as much as I want to be able to play acidlines on my Doepfer! :D

If it's any consolation, I'm as new to electronics as many people here are to programming, and I think it's great that we can get together and combine our skillsets.

As far as digital vs. analogue controllers go though, I think there's a world of difference in the usefulness of some potentiometers that you can cycle through, vs. storing whole bars and joining them into whole songs, and then being able to load, save and manipulate those songs easily. The former may be easier to build if you come from an electronics background, but the latter help you write intricate, versatile music that you'll want to sit down and listen to afterwards. So I'm a big fan of digital control of synthesisers, whether it's in the form of the MC-8, programming a SID chip in assembly, or anything else. At least, I'm a big fan of the musical outcome. Those devices were from an earlier era, with primitive interfaces that required the musician to do as much work as the computer!

Conversely, I'm really coming around to the gloriously imperfect sound of analogue filters, which tend to have much more character than any softsynths I've used (although that could admittedly just be the placebo effect). I think this combination is a best of both worlds approach, anyway.

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elmegil



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Zoe wrote:
The only issue I have with PIC is that BASIC is a pretty bad language.


This made me Laughing ... I learned to program in BASIC and I have to agree... But you do what has to be done with the tools available.

Zoe wrote:
I think this combination is a best of both worlds approach, anyway.


Hear hear!
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Zoe



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elmegil wrote:
I learned to program in BASIC and I have to agree... But you do what has to be done with the tools available.


Oh yeah, I learned to program in BASIC way back on the Commodore Plus/4, then C64. It was a while before I discovered better languages and learnt better habits.

But with the Arduino (and possibly the PIC too if you use third party compilers?) you can use C from the outset, which, for all its faults, is popular, portable, reasonably well thought out, and low level enough to let you shave off valuable CPU cycles here and there, which is actually important again once you start programming CPUs directly without a pesky operating system in the way. :D

If BASIC's all you have available, then yes, take it, it's better than not programming anything... but if you have options, there are better high level languages, and also lower level ones which are more useful for making firmware.

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Zoe



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It's been brought to my attention that I'm confusing PICs in general with the PICAXE in particular. My mistake. I have nothing against PICs. :D
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Uncle Krunkus
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Cool
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OW



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Looks great! Will it be CV/ Gate?
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Zoe



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

OW wrote:
Looks great! Will it be CV/ Gate?


It already is! :D It has a 12-bit DAC for the CV (with a software slide), and two digital outputs for gate and accent. It's just the human interface part and the syncing to other machines that will be tricky.

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OW



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Finally, a digital CV/ Gate DIY sequencer! Does it store patches and do you have a rough date in mind for release of the schematics?

I'm really looking forward to this!
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Zoe



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

OW wrote:
Finally, a digital CV/ Gate DIY sequencer! Does it store patches and do you have a rough date in mind for release of the schematics?

I'm really looking forward to this!


It looks like there are a few people working on digital step sequencers with CV/gate outputs right now. (Or at least three different and unrelated projects to more-or-less clone early 80s Roland digital sequencers, all by people in the UK with Arduino boards, it seems!) Check out these threads over at Muff Wiggler's:

http://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/post-310983.html (Especially search within that page for "CSQ")

http://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/post-825352.html

Anyway, regarding the project that Nina and I are working on in particular, yes, it will store patches! As we haven't built the interface yet, I have to hardwire them into the firmware, which is awkward... but in the finished version, it will have multiple patterns that you can erase, edit, copy, and easily switch between as it's playing.

Here are some more previews of Stepper to show different patterns I've tried porting across to it as reference material:

ReBirth pattern
Acid Trax pattern

I'm not sure when the schematics will be released. It's still very much a work in progress at the moment, and Nina's making the hardware side, when her busy self employed schedule permits it!

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roglok



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
It's just the human interface part and the syncing to other machines that will be tricky.


I'm so excited about this cyclops Do you intend to make stepper a eurorack module or an external box?
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Zoe



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 3:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

roglok wrote:
I'm so excited about this :cyclopsani: Do you intend to make stepper a eurorack module or an external box?


I was thinking it would work best as an external box for two reasons:

1. I don't know about you, but I never have enough eurorack space left as it is.
2. Looking at the screen and pressing the buttons would be a bit fiddly if it was vertical.

So I was going to make a little box that sits on the desk in front of the rack.

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roglok



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
1. I don't know about you, but I never have enough eurorack space left as it is.


hehe. I am still in the process of building my DIY modular. Originally I planned to limit myself to a 2 unit rack - it's already 3U now but there are so many great modules to make. I guess they call it 'Eurocrack' for a reason... ^.^

Quote:
2. Looking at the screen and pressing the buttons would be a bit fiddly if it was vertical.


Might be true, but I like the idea of a self contained production unit... An external box would also be fine though...
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Zoe



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

roglok wrote:
I like the idea of a self contained production unit...


Me too, I just don't think it's realistically going to happen. :) I think you'll always need three distinct parts to a studio: the sequencer you actually write the notation on; the synthesisers that play these notes; and the mixing desk or multitrack recorder. While you can whittle down all your synthesisers into a single modular, you'll still need the other two parts (even if they're being performed by a computer quite often these days). Programming in notes and pushing faders is much more easily done when they're horizontal.

Having said that, I'd be totally open to one day making some sequencer hardware that could be rackmounted, and you could make a custom rack that's almost L-shaped, so the modules are vertical and the sequencer's almost horizontal. That would look very neat and tidy. But I'm not sure if anyone would really do that, so for now at least, I'm going to make an external box. :)

Remember, obsessing over how your music sounds is much more productive than obsessing over how your studio looks!

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Zoe



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Here's a rough demo of where the sequencer's at so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiV_uZcucrQ

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skylab76



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Very nice work, Zoe !! I'll be keeping an eye on this project for sure.
As for multiple patterns, instead of interface, perhaps just use CV signals to toggle them. For example, use 1V/Oct format , and assign a pattern per note. I could then toss my Max-based software sequencer and use Stepper forever! Very Happy
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Zoe



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

skylab76 wrote:
Very nice work, Zoe !! I'll be keeping an eye on this project for sure.
As for multiple patterns, instead of interface, perhaps just use CV signals to toggle them. For example, use 1V/Oct format , and assign a pattern per note. I could then toss my Max-based software sequencer and use Stepper forever! :D


Thanks!

I'm not sure about a CV input for something like changing patterns, but I'll reserve the right to make a version one day with a MIDI input. That seems better suited to entering twelve-tone equal temperament quantised notes and giving commands like pattern changes.

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Paradigm X



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

cool stuff Smile
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