The musical technique of step sequencing has been around for quite a while. In fact, the very first electronic sequencers
of any kind were step sequencers. Their appeal is no secret: they are super-easy to use,
and provide both immediate gratification and a surprising level of flexiblity despite their
limitations. Their hands-on approach to music making provides a level
of intuitiveness and experimentaition that is unmatched. They are indeed machines for creativity.
But there are limitations: Fixed numbers of steps, fixed speed settings and pitch ranges. Limited
numbers of voices, or presets, or routing options. Sometimes these issues are
tied to a serious learning curve, or a cryptic user interface. And in the case of most
of the interesting hardware options, expensive. Very expensive.
Numerology gives you a step sequencing environment that provides all the immediacy
and experimentation that you are looking for, but removes the limitations. It does this by
giving you several powerful but easy to use sequencing modules and a flexible virtual
studio environment for them to live in, complete with audio plugin hosting, audio mixing
and a timeline for building arrangements.
Numerology's sequencers are not primitive modules that you have to spend weeks
configuring and routing with other components just to get something playable. These are
full-on MIDI and CV step sequencers that on their own are more powerful than most
hardware sequencers, while still offering enough flexibility to satisfy
even the most die-hard tweaker.
But it doesn't stop there. A full suite of companion modules can be mixed and matched
with the sequencers to expand their capabilities. LFO's, Envelopes, CV Mixers, MIDI Generators
and processors, they're all there. There is even an integrated parameter modulation feature
that makes it easy to automate anything from just about anything else.
Numerology's Sequencers : A Catalog of Obsessions
The core of Numerology's module library are its sequencers, which come in two varieties.
The first of these are the Note Sequencers, which are a set of four very flexible MIDI sequencers.
Lets first look at the MonoNote:
The MonoNote is a monophonic step sequencer with up to 128 steps per pattern,
and an internal range of 8 octaves.
For each step, there are thirteen sequenced parameters:
- Pitch Interval : This is where you choose your pitches. They are Labeled as intervals, semitones or absolute pitch,
and can range plus/minus 1, 2, or 4 octaves
- Gate Length : These set the length of a note within a step : short for staccato, long for legato.
- Step Length : Variable lengths per step, in a range of musical and extra-musical options.
- Step Repeat : Like a step? Repeat it up to 16 times.
- Gate Divide : Want to add some emphasis? Sub-divide a step. Up to 16 times.
- Velocity : Tweak the feel of your sequence here by adjusting velocity.
- Random Jump : Too much regularity? Use this to set probability of a random movement.
- CVs 1-3 : Very handy for tweaking those filter cutoffs and other timbral goodies.
- Channel Pressure : More of the same, for emphasis.
- Step Skip : A classic trick from the Moog 960 : add instant variety to your sequence by adding
and removing steps.
- Step Mute : Handy per-step muting.
Step rate options for Numerology's sequencers include all the common musical options
(quarter notes, eigth notes and so on -- down to one quarter of a "hemi demi semi quaver"), but you can also specify
that they run at any integer ratio of a beat (up to 16/16ths), or at any arbitrary percentage
of a beat, from 0.01% to 999%. Some folks call this
Want to run that choppy 8 part harmony at 40 Hertz? No Problemo.
If you want to get really crazy, you can easily moduate the speed
of a sequencer with an LFO, Envelope or another Sequencer. It takes about 10 seconds to set that up.
Or perhaps you're a timing demon, and you want extreme control over the groove of your sequences.
Numerology's GrooveClock is all about that, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Back to sequencing. In the MonoNote, pitches are specified as intervals from a common base pitch
(or Key). This allows you to easily tranpose a sequence to different keys, with one mouse click.
A built-in scale quantizer helps to keep you on-key.
Along the right-hand side of the module are some parameters and actions that can be used to quickly
modify a running sequence, including shifting it left or right, zero-ing out or inverting steps,
tweaking gate or velocity values, or just randomizing everything, or some portion of everything,
all at once.
That's the MonoNote, in a nutshell. We didn't cover quite everything (such as 8 options for sequence
triggering, MIDI transposition, and a variety of I/O ports for further tweaking), but you can
always dig into the manual for the gory details.
We have three more Note Sequencers to cover off on. But don't fret -- they are all direct variations
on the MonoNote. Each shares its features and layout, while being suitably customized
for different tasks. Once you learn you way around one of them, you will already know the
The PolyNote is a fully 128 note polyphonic step sequencer. Complete with an adjustable height grid, just
the thing to fill up that huge monitor.
The DrumSeq is a drum sequencer with up to 8 tracks, each with per-step velocity settings. It's great
to use on it's own, even better to use two or three at a time. Want to make your friends with
old analog drum machines cry? Just set up a high-hat pattern in 14 against a Snare/Bass Drum
pattern in 16.
The MatrixSeq is a 12-note polyphonic sequencer with per-row adjustments for pitch,
mute, and labelling -- great for percussion programming, or your latest
The MatrixSeq also has a second life as a programmable arpeggiator.
CV Sequencing : Pitch Intervals, Modulation and Gates
Early electronic sequencers did not have the luxury of MIDI, they used analog circuits and CV (control voltage)
connections to implement musical sequencing. While being a touch more complicated to setup
(about 15 seconds of mousing versus 2 to 3), this approach offers the adventureous whole
new realms of sequencing experimentation.
Numerology offers a quartet of CV Sequencers, (choosed the "Advanced" option in the
Module Lib to see them), three of which share the same base module but
are customized for various uses. First lets talk about a pair of them that when used
in combination are so interesting and powerful, we had to come up with a new name
for the technique: Discrete Sequencing. This involves using a Pitch Interval
Sequencer for pitches, a Gate Sequencer for rhythmic values, and a NoteGen to generate
By using separate sequencing modules for the pitched and rhymic parts of your music,
you can literally play one of them against the other: tweaking their length, rate
and other behaviors independently.
With this technique, you will quickly find yourself exploring a range of obscure musical territory with
funny names like isorhythm,
and polymeter. No matter,
just use your ears and you will be fine. Try pitch patterns of 5, 7 or 13 against
rhythmic patterns of 8, 14 or 32. Or just 8 against 3; very simple, very easy
By specifying pitch sequences in intervals instead of
absolute pitches, the Interval Sequencer allows you to combine pitches
from multiple sequences. Setup an auxiliary IntervalSeq to run
as whole notes, and it makes chord changes trivial to compose. Or
run it at the same rate as your main pitch sequence, and use it to
add tasty bits of of transposition here and there. Gamelan indeed.
To complete your discrete sequencing setup, there is a dedicated Velocity
sequencer, for accentuating your patterns as you see fit.
The capabilities of the Interval Sequencer is also available in its sibling,
the Modulation Sequencer, which can be used as a general-purpose source
of modulation, something of a cross between an LFO and an Envelope.
Speaking of which, Numerology offers two dedicated LFO modules, an Envelope module, and
several other modules for processing modulation (a.k.a CV) signals.
The Rack, Stacks and Presets
Lets back up from module madness to consider where all these goodies live. In Numerology,
all modules live in a stack. A stack is a group of modules gathered together to implement
some musical part. Visually, it looks like a vertical rack of equipment, complete
with patchbay modules. But musically, it is like having a musician, the part they will play,
and their instruments, effects and goodies, all in one place.
You can create as many stacks as you want, each with its own set of modules, all geared
up for a specific musical task. Each stack has its own set of presets. Imagine you
had an immense analog modular synthesizer (or, perhaps if you are a guitar player, an immense
FX rack...), with every toy you could want. Now imagine that all the components magically
synchronized and coordinated their settings and routings with instant recall. That is what Numerology's
stack presets are like: they store all the parameter settings and routings for their
modules for easy access.
The Timeline and The Mixer
Within any Numerology
project, you can create as many stacks as you like. Each stack gets its own track in
Numerology's Timeline, where you can easily create arrangements by lining up presets
to be played. And each stack gets a channel in the mixer, where you can perform
a live arrangement via preset changes, and handling audio mixing duties.
Ahh, audio. Numerology isn't just for notes. It is also a powerful host for AudioUnit
synthesizers and effects, complete with an incredibly flexible routing system including support
for aux busses, parallel routings, audio feedback and so on. These are all well and good,
but Numerology's secret forte for plugins is all about:
Numerology's ParamMod is your ticket to organic composition nirvana.
This feature allows you to modulate almost any parameter in any module (sequencer, AU or otherwise)
using any of Numerology's CV sources, including LFO's, envelopes, sequencers or any
combination of such. ParamMod is easy. Bring up a settings dialog via contextual menus
on most parameters, choose a modulation source, a target range, click OK, then you're done.
Numerology will insert the modules you need and handle all the internal setup.
Of course, sticking an LFO on filter cutoff is a well known trick, but in Numerology
that's nearly trivial. Far more interesting are the options to modulate the speed
of sequencences, or use GateSeqs and Envelopes to sequence pitch bends. Or to build
long automated parameter changes on audio effects, "electronic ghost scores" to be
applied to un-suspecting band-mates.
One special favorite is to modulate the length of a running drum pattern, especially
when modulating one pattern against another. Too fun.
Numerology's MIDI modules make it easy to transmit it's sequencing and
modulation tricks to your external synthesizers.
There are modules that can generate various MIDI messages
directly from CV sources, including MIDI Notes, CC and NRPN controllers, pitch bend,
and program changes. There is also a nice suite of MIDI processing modules for
processing and filtering those messages. Of special note are the randomization
options in the NoteProcessor module, great for humanizing those melodies. There's
also a stand-alone scale quantizer, for keeping those melodies on-key.
FaderBox and TripleXY
The FaderBox and TripleXY modules make it easy to coordinate the control of modules
and AU plugins from a single location. In addition to generating CV and MIDI CC data
streams, they have a powerful built-in glide feature. This allows you to spread
control changes out over time ranges that you specify (in beats).
Available in two convenient sizes: SE & Pro
Numerology 3 comes in two variants, a Standard Edition for anyone that wants an
economical step sequencing addition to their studio, and a Pro version with advanced
features for users looking to make Numerology a cornerstone of their compositional workflow.
The Pro version includes these extra features:
- Multi-output support for hosted AudioUnits.
- Monophonic audio routing support.
- OSC (Open Sound Control) support.
- Custom scale quantization (via the Custom Scale module).
- Several advanced modules for working with CV signals.
- More customization options for the Evolve function.
If you are primarily interested in using Numerology as a MIDI step sequencer, then
the SE version has everything you need. If, on the other hand, you like to use CV-based
modules to build customized sequencing setups, or plan to host Audio Unit plugins with
multiple outputs, then go for the Pro version.
Plays Well With Others
You can integrate Numerology into your existing studio workflow in a variety of
ways, such as running it as an Audio Unit or VST plugin, or by using
ReWire. Also, although Numerology is not a DAW, it has built-in recorders for Audio
and MIDI files so you can easily transfer your work to other programs.
Ready to give it a go?
You can get the download here. For the latest news and builds, be
sure to check out the forum. And certainly don't hesitate
to drop us a note to let us know what you think.