A music sequencer (or audio sequencer or simply sequencer) is a device or application software that can record, edit, or play back music, by handling note and performance information in several forms, typically CV/Gate, MIDI, or Open Sound Control (OSC), and possibly audio and automation data for DAWs and plug-ins. (See § Types of music sequencer)[note 1]
The advent of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) and the Atari ST home computer in the 1980s gave programmers the opportunity to design software that could more easily record and play back sequences of notes played or programmed by a musician. This software also improved on the quality of the earlier sequencers which tended to be mechanical sounding and were only able to play back notes of exactly equal duration. Software-based sequencers allowed musicians to program performances that were more expressive and more human. These new sequencers could also be used to control external synthesizers, especially rackmounted sound modules, and it was no longer necessary for each synthesizer to have its own devoted keyboard.
Many modern sequencers can be used to control virtual instruments implemented as software plug-ins. This allows musicians to replace expensive and cumbersome standalone synthesizers with their software equivalents.
Today the term "sequencer" is often used to describe software. However, hardware sequencers still exist. Workstation keyboards have their own proprietary built-in MIDI sequencers. Drum machines and some older synthesizers have their own step sequencer built in. There are still also standalone hardware MIDI sequencers, although the market demand for those has diminished greatly due to the greater feature set of their software counterparts.
Music sequencers can be categorized by handling data types, such as:
Alternative subsets of audio sequencers include:
Digital audio workstation (DAW), Hard disk recorder — a class of audio software or dedicated system primarily designed to record, edit, and play back digital audio, first appeared in the late 1970s and emerging since the 1990s. After the 1990s–2000s, several DAWs for music production were integrated with music sequencer.
In today, "DAW integrated with MIDI sequencer" is often simply abbreviated as "DAW", or sometimes referred as "Audio and MIDI sequencer", etc. On the later usage, the term "audio sequencer" is just a synonym for the "DAW".
Loop-based music software — a class of music software for Loop-based music compositions and remix, emerging since late 1990s. Typical software included ACID Pro (1998), Ableton Live (2001), GarageBand (2004), etc. And now, several of them are referred as DAW, resulting of the expansions and/or integrations.
Its core feature, pitch/time manipulation allows user to handle audio samples (loops) with the analogy of MIDI data, in several aspects; user can designate Pitches and Durations independently on short music samples, as on MIDI notes, to remix a song.
This type of software really controls sequences of audio samples; thus, possibly, we can call it an "audio sequencer".
Tracker (music software) — a class of software music sequencer with embedded sample players, developed since the 1980s. Although it provides earlier "sequence of sampling sound" similar to grooveboxes and later loop-based music software, its design is slightly dated, and rarely referred as "audio sequencer".
Phrase sampler (or phrase sampling) — similar to above, musicians or remixers sometimes remixed or composed songs by sampling relatively long phrases or part of songs, and then rearranging these on grooveboxes or a combination of sampler (musical instrument) and sequencer.
This technique is possibly referred as "audio sequencing".
Beat slicing — before the DAW became popular, several musicians sometimes derived various beats from limited drum sample Loop by slicing beats and rearranging them on samplers. This technique was popularized with the introduction of "beat slicer" tool, especially the "ReCycle" released in 1992.
Possibly it may be one origin of "audio sequencing".
Also, music sequencer can be categorized by its construction and supporting modes.
Realtime sequencers record the musical notes in real-time as on audio recorders, and play back musical notes with designated tempo, quantizations, and pitch. For editing, usually "punch in/punch out" features originated in the tape recording are provided, although it requires sufficient skills to obtain the desired result. For detailed editing, possibly another visual editing mode under graphical user interface may be more suitable. Anyway, this mode provides usability similar to audio recorders already familiar to musicians, and it is widely supported on software sequencers, DAWs, and built-in hardware sequencers.
Analog sequencers are typically implemented with analog electronics, and play the musical notes designated by a series of knobs or sliders corresponding to each musical note (step). It is designed for both composition and live performance; users can change the musical notes at any time without regarding recording mode. And also possibly, the time-interval between each musical note (length of each step) can be independently adjustable. Typically, analog sequencers are used to generate the repeated minimalistic phrases which may be reminiscent of Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder or trance music.
On step sequencers, musical notes are rounded into steps of equal time-intervals, and users can enter each musical note without exact timing; instead, the timing and duration of each step can be designated in several different ways:
In general, step mode, along with roughly quantized semi-realtime mode, is often supported on the drum machines, bass machines and several groove machines.
Software sequencer is a class of application software providing a functionality of music sequencer, and often provided as one feature of the DAW or the integrated music authoring environments. The features provided as sequencers vary widely depending on the software; even an analog sequencer can be simulated. The user may control the software sequencer either by using the graphical user interfaces or a specialized input devices, such as a MIDI controller.
Numerical editor on Tracker
Piano roll editor
with strip chart
Audio and MIDI tracks on DAW
Automated, software studio environment including instruments and effect processors
with beat slicer
for pitch and timing
The early music sequencers were sound producing devices such as automatic musical instruments, music boxes, mechanical organs, player pianos, and Orchestrions. Player pianos, for example, had much in common with contemporary sequencers. Composers or arrangers transmitted music to piano rolls which were subsequently edited by technicians who prepared the rolls for mass duplication. Eventually consumers were able to purchase these rolls and play them back on their own player pianos.
The origin of automatic musical instruments seems remarkably old. As early as the 9th century, Persian inventors Banū Mūsā brothers invented a hydropowered organ using exchangeable cylinders with pins, and also an automatic flute playing machine using steam power, as described in their Book of Ingenious Devices. In the 14th century, rotating cylinders with pins were used to play a carillon (steam organ) in Flanders, and at least in the 15th century, barrel organs were seen in the Netherlands.
In the late-18th or early-19th century, with technological advances of the Industrial Revolution various automatic musical instruments were invented. Some examples: music boxes, barrel organs and barrel pianos consisting of a barrel or cylinder with pins or a flat metal disc with punched holes; or mechanical organs, player pianos and orchestrions using book music / music rolls (piano rolls) with punched holes, etc. These instruments were disseminated widely as popular entertainment devices prior to the inventions of phonographs, radios, and sound films which eventually eclipsed all such home music production devices. Of them all, punched-paper-tape media had been used until the mid-20th century. The earliest programmable music synthesizers including the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer in 1957, and the Siemens Synthesizer in 1959, were also controlled via punch tapes similar to piano rolls.
Additional inventions grew out of sound film audio technology. The drawn sound technique which appeared in the late 1920s, is notable as a precursor of today's intuitive graphical user interfaces. In this technique, notes and various sound parameters are trigggered by hand-drawn black ink waveforms directly upon the film substrate, hence they resemble piano rolls (or the 'strip charts' of the modern sequencers/DAWs). Drawn soundtrack was often used in early experimental electronic music, including the Variophone developed by Yevgeny Sholpo in 1930, and the Oramics designed by Daphne Oram in 1957, and so forth.
During the 1940s–1960s, Raymond Scott, an American composer of electronic music, invented various kind of music sequencers for his electric compositions. The "Wall of Sound", once covered on the wall of his studio in New York during the 1940s–1950s, was an electro-mechanical sequencer to produce rhythmic patterns, consisting of stepping relays (used on dial pulse telephone exchange), solenoids, control switches, and tone circuits with 16 individual oscillators. Later, Robert Moog would explain it in such terms as "the whole room would go 'clack - clack - clack', and the sounds would come out all over the place". The Circle Machine, developed in 1959, had dimmer bulbs arranged in a ring, and a rotating arm with photocell scanning over the ring, to generate an arbitrary waveform. Also, the rotating speed of the arm was controlled via the brightness of lights, and as a result, arbitrary rhythms were generated.
Clavivox, developed since 1952, was a kind of keyboard synthesizer with sequencer. On its prototype, a theremin manufactured by young Robert Moog was utilized to enable portamento over 3-octave range, and on later version, it was replaced by a pair of photographic film and photocell for controlling the pitch by voltage.
The step sequencers played rigid patterns of notes using a grid of (usually) 16 buttons, or steps, each step being 1/16 of a measure. These patterns of notes were then chained together to form longer compositions. Sequencers of this kind are still in use, mostly built into drum machines and grooveboxes. They are monophonic by nature, although some are multi-timbral, meaning that they can control several different sounds but only play one note on each of those sounds.
On the other hand, software sequencers were continuously utilized since the 1950s in the context of computer music, including computer-played music (software sequencer), computer-composed music (music synthesis), and computer sound generation (sound synthesis). In June 1951, the first computer music Colonel Bogey was played on CSIRAC, Australia's first digital computer. In 1956, Lejaren Hiller at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign wrote one of the earliest programs for computer music composition on ILLIAC, and collaborated on the first piece, Illiac Suite for String Quartet, with Leonard Issaction. In 1957 Max Mathews at Bell Labs wrote MUSIC, the first widely used program for sound generation, and a 17-second composition was performed by the IBM 704 computer. Subsequently, computer music was mainly researched on the expensive mainframe computers in computer centers, until the 1970s when minicomputers and then microcomputers became available in this field.
In Japan, experiments in computer music date back to 1962, when Keio University professor Sekine and Toshiba engineer Hayashi experimented with the TOSBAC computer. This resulted in a piece entitled TOSBAC Suite.
DDP-24 S Block (expansion card rack unit) that is assumed the A/D converters used for GROOVE (1970) by Max Mathews.
In 1965, Mathews and L. Rosler developed Graphic 1, an interactive graphical sound system (that implies sequencer) on which one could draw figures using a light-pen that would be converted into sound, simplifying the process of composing computer generated music. It used PDP-5 minicomputer for data input, and IBM 7094 mainframe computer for rendering sound. Also in 1970, Mathews and F. R. Moore developed the GROOVE (Generated Real-time Output Operations on Voltage-controlled Equipment) system, a first fully developed music synthesis system for interactive composition (that implies sequencer) and realtime performance, using 3C/Honeywell DDP-24 (or DDP-224) minicomputers. It used a CRT display to simplify the management of music synthesis in realtime, 12bit D/A for realtime sound playback, an interface for analog devices, and even several controllers including a musical keyboard, knobs, and rotating joysticks to capture realtime performance.
In 1971, Electronic Music Studios (EMS) released one of the first digital sequencer products as a module of Synthi 100, and its derivation, Synthi Sequencer series. After then, Oberheim released the DS-2 Digital Sequencer in 1974, and Sequential Circuits released Model 800 in 1977 
In 1975, New England Digital (NED) released ABLE computer (microcomputer) as a dedicated data processing unit for Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer (1973), and based on it, later Synclavier series were developed.
The Synclavier I, released in September 1977, was one of the earliest digital music workstation product with multitrack sequencer. Synclavier series evolved throughout the late-1970s to the mid-1980s, and they also established integration of digital-audio and music-sequencer, on their Direct-to-Disk option in 1984, and later Tapeless Studio system.
Yamaha's GS-1, their first FM digital synthesizer, was released in 1980. To program the synthesizer, Yamaha built a custom computer workstation . It was only available at Yamaha's headquarters in Japan (Hamamatsu) and the United States (Buena Park).
While there were earlier microprocessor-based sequencers for digital polyphonic synthesizers,[note 4] their early products tended to prefer the newer internal digital buses than the old-style analogue CV/Gate interface once used on their prototype system. Then in the early-1980s, they also re-recognized the needs of CV/Gate interface, and supported it along with MIDI as options.
In 1977, Roland Corporation released the MC-8 Microcomposer, also called computer music composer by Roland. It was an early stand-alone, microprocessor-based, digital CV/Gate sequencer, and an early polyphonic sequencer. It equipped a keypad to enter notes as numeric codes, 16 KB of RAM for a maximum of 5200 notes (large for the time), and a polyphony function which allocated multiple pitch CVs to a single Gate. It was capable of eight-channel polyphony, allowing the creation of polyrhythmic sequences. The MC-8 had a significant impact on popular electronic music, with the MC-8 and its descendants (such as the Roland MC-4 Microcomposer) impacting popular electronic music production in the 1970s and 1980s more than any other family of sequencers. The MC-8's earliest known users were Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1978.
In June 1981, Roland Corporation founder Ikutaro Kakehashi proposed the concept of standardization between different manufacturers' instruments as well as computers, to Oberheim Electronics founder Tom Oberheim and Sequential Circuits president Dave Smith. In October 1981, Kakehashi, Oberheim and Smith discussed the concept with representatives from Yamaha, Korg and Kawai. In 1983, the MIDI standard was unveiled by Kakehashi and Smith. The first MIDI sequencer was the Roland MSQ-700, released in 1983.
It was not until the advent of MIDI that general-purpose computers started to play a role as sequencers. Following the widespread adoption of MIDI, computer-based MIDI sequencers were developed. MIDI-to-CV/Gate converters were then used to enable analogue synthesizers to be controlled by a MIDI sequencer. Since its introduction, MIDI has remained the musical instrument industry standard interface through to the present day.
In 1978, Japanese personal computers such as the Hitachi Basic Master equipped the low-bit D/A converter to generate sound which can be sequenced using Music Macro Language (MML). This was used to produce chiptune video game music.
It was not until the advent of MIDI, introduced to the public in 1983, that general-purpose computers really started to play a role as software sequencers. NEC's personal computers, the PC-88 and PC-98, added support for MIDI sequencing with MML programming in 1982. In 1983, Yamaha modules for the MSX featured music production capabilities, real-time FM synthesis with sequencing, MIDI sequencing, and a graphical user interface for the software sequencer. Also in 1983, Roland Corporation's CMU-800 sound module introduced music synthesis and sequencing to the PC, Apple II, and Commodore 64.
The spread of MIDI on personal computers was facilitated by Roland's MPU-401, released in 1984. It was the first MIDI-equipped PC sound card, capable of MIDI sound processing and sequencing. After Roland sold MPU sound chips to other sound card manufacturers, it established a universal standard MIDI-to-PC interface. Following the widespread adoption of MIDI, computer-based MIDI software sequencers were developed.
In 1987, software sequencers called trackers were developed to realize the low-cost integration of sampling sound and interactive digital sequencer as seen on Fairlight CMI II "Page R". They became popular in the 1980s and 1990s as simple sequencers for creating computer game music, and remain popular in the demoscene and chiptune music.
Mechanical (pre 20c)
Transistorized drum machine (1964–)
Step drum machine (1972–)
Digital drum machine (1980–)
Groove machine (1981–)
“Page R” on Fairlight (1982)
Beat slicer (1990s–)
Spectrogram editing (1994)
Loop sequencer (1998–)
In digital audio recording, a sequencer is a program in a computer or stand-alone keyboard unit that puts together a sound sequence from a series (or sequence) of Musical Instrument Digital Interface ( MIDI ) events (operations). The MIDI sequencer allows the user to record and edit a musical performance without using an audio-based input source. ...
MusE is a MIDI/Audio sequencer with recording and editing capabilities ...
Moog admired Buchla's work, recently stating that Buchla designed a system not only for "making new sounds but [for] making textures out of these sounds by specifying when these sounds could change and how regular those change would be."
In September 1977, I bought the first Synclavier, although mine came without the special keyboard and control panel ... (see Fig. 1 on the page).
Fairlight launched the CMI Series II in 1982, which incorporated their now legendary Page R, the first serious music sequencer, which, according to Paine, "simply blew people away".
2.特長 ... (4) スピーカーを内蔵しており、プログラムによる音楽の自動演奏が可能である。 / 表 I 「ベーシックマスター」の主な仕様一覧 ... 音楽発生機能: 5ビットD/A変換のスピーカー再生 / 4.3 音楽発生機能 ...
List of papers sharing a similar perspective with this Wikipedia article:
Cakewalk, Inc. was a music production software company based in Boston, Massachusetts.
The company's best known product was their professional-level digital audio workstation (DAW) software, SONAR. SONAR integrates multi-track recording and editing of digital audio and MIDI. The company also offers a full range of music software products, including Pyro Audio Creator—a digital music management program, and Dimension Pro—a virtual instrument.Cyclone (Tangerine Dream album)
Cyclone is the eleventh album by Tangerine Dream and the first in their canon to feature proper vocals and lyrics. The mystical lyrics and rock flute of Steve Jolliffe on the first two tracks marked a turn toward progressive rock. The third track, however, is an extended Berlin School instrumental more in the vein of the title track from Stratosfear. The cover is a painting by band leader Edgar Froese that slightly resembles his cover for 1974's Phaedra.
Despite being much maligned over the years, Cyclone has been outsold by only five other Tangerine Dream albums in the UK. It reached No. 37 in a 4-week chart run.Denemo
Denemo is a scorewriter and music sequencer. Denemo has been under development since 1999.Denemo helps prepare notation for publishing and lets a user rapidly enter notation, simultaneously typesetting via the LilyPond music engraver. Music can be typed in using a PC keyboard, taken from MIDI input, or played into a microphone plugged into a soundcard. The program plays back via an internal sampler and can act as a JACK/MIDI client. Denemo includes scripts to run music tests and practice exercises for educational purposes.Disposable Soft Synth Interface
Disposable Soft Synth Interface (DSSI) is a virtual instrument (software synthesizer) plugin architecture for use by music sequencer applications. It was designed for applications running under Linux, although there is nothing specific to Linux in the interface itself. It is distributed under the terms of a combination of GNU Lesser General Public License and some BSD licenses, all of which are free software licences.Geiss Digisequencer
The Geiss Digisequencer is a hardware MIDI music sequencer used by the musician Jean-Michel Jarre. It is the successor of the Matrisequencer. The French custom-built Digisequencer was designed by Michel Geiss and Jean-Claude Dubois. The sequencer was built around the components of an Atari ST computer. The unit features a realtime view of the pattern being played.Impulse Tracker
Impulse Tracker is a multi-track digital sound tracker (music sequencer). Originally released in 1995 by Jeffrey Lim as Freeware with commercial extensions, it was one of the last tracker programs for the DOS platform.
In 2014, on its 20th anniversary, Impulse Tracker became open-source software and the source code was released.Internet Co., Ltd.
Internet Co., Ltd. (株式会社インターネット, Kabushikigaisha Intānetto), or Internet, is a software company based in Osaka, Japan. It is best known for the music sequencer Singer Song Writer and Niconico Movie Maker for Nico Nico Douga, a video sharing website. It also develops singing synthesizers using the Vocaloid 4 engine developed by Yamaha Corporation. In 2014, they were the second leading company in sound related software in Japan, boasting a 14.0% share of the market.Kawai Q-80
The Kawai Q-80 by Kawai Musical Instruments in 1989, is a music sequencer that has a built in 2DD floppy disk drive for storage. It allows you to playback edit and record performances via its MIDI connections. There is a battery backup to hold the configuation when the unit is powered down. The tempo can be set from 40-250 BPM.Masazumi Ozawa
Masazumi Ozawa (小澤 正澄, Ozawa Masazumi) is a Japanese composer, arranger and guitarist from agency Being Inc..
In 1991, he debuted as a composer for Japanese rock band Wands debut single's b-side track Stray Cat.
In years 1995-2001, he was member of power-pop unit Pamelah as a composer, arranger, keyboardist, music sequencer and guitarist. During time he constantly composed songs for artist as Kaori Nanao, Zard or Field of View. As leader of Pamelah, he produced over 14 singles and 5 studio albums.Since disband he continued providing music for various artist including U-ka Saegusa in dB, Azumi Uehara or Rina Aiuchi.
He's active as of 2018.Music workstation
A music workstation is an electronic musical instrument providing the facilities of:
a sound module,
a music sequencer and
(usually) a musical keyboard.It enables a musician to compose electronic music using just one piece of equipment.Notation Composer
Notation Composer is primarily a scorewriter and music sequencer software that is developed and released by Notation Software Germany for Microsoft Windows and with Wine for macOS, Linux Ubuntu and Linux openSUSE.Portable Sound Format
The Portable Sound Format (PSF) is an audio file format ripped directly from video games from a variety of video game consoles. The format was originally used for PlayStation video games, but has since been adapted to support other systems.
The PSF format was created by Neill Corlett in 2003, who also wrote the Winamp plug-in Highly Experimental that plays PSF1 and PSF2 files.
Generally, PSF files contain a number of samples and a Music sequencer player program. This takes far less space than an equivalent streamed format of the same music (WAV, MP3) while still sounding exactly like the original track. Background music stored in PSF files can usually be looped forever, as the sequencer handles its own loop points.
Several PSF sub-formats also have a miniPSF/PSFlib capability, wherein data used by multiple tracks is stored only once in an accompanying PSFlib file. Further differences are stored in a miniPSF file, which can be zlib compressed to further increasing storage efficiency.
A PSF2 file is the PlayStation 2 equivalent of a PSF. PSF2 is internally structured as a file system, rather than PSF, which is a single PS executable. PSF's native sample rate is 44,100 Hz, while PSF2's is 48,000 Hz. Rates may vary from 8,000 Hz to 96,000 Hz.
Both PSF and PSF2 files contain a header which specifies the type of video game system the file contains data for, and an optional set of tags at the end which can give detailed information such as game name, artist and length.Roland MC-202
The Roland MC-202 (MicroComposer) is a monophonic analog synthesizer and music sequencer released by Roland in 1983. It was the first groovebox. Its synth is similar to the TB-303 bass synth and the SH-101 synthesizer, featuring one voltage-controlled oscillator with simultaneous saw and square/pulse-width waveforms. It is a successor to the Microcomposer family of sequencers, including the MC-8 and MC-4. The unit is portable and can be operated from batteries or an external power supply.Roland MC-307
The Roland MC-307 is a combination of MIDI music sequencer, synthesizer, drum machine and control surface produced by the Roland Corporation. This combination is commonly referred to by Roland as a 'Groovebox'
It is a scaled-down version of the Roland MC-505. It has the same tone generator, but a much smaller control surface. It does, however, have several features that make it an ideal clock source for musicians wanting to do beatmatching. These include a large, very granular tempo slider similar to the sliders found on a modern phonograph and 'push' and 'hold' buttons that permit temporarily slowing down or speeding up the beat clock.
It can also transmit MIDI Machine Control and MIDI beat clock, and slave to external beat clock sources such as other Roland grooveboxes. It can be used as a sequencer to drive external synthesizer units. It is the successor to the Roland MC-303 and Roland MC-505, and the predecessor to the Roland MC-909 and the Roland MC-808.Roland MC-4 Microcomposer
The Roland MC-4 MicroComposer was an early microprocessor-based music sequencer released by the Roland Corporation. It could be programmed using the ten key numeric keyboard or a synthesizer keyboard using the keyboards control voltage and gate outputs. It was released in 1981 with a list price of US$3,295 (¥430,000 JPY) and was the successor to the MC-8, which in 1977 was the first microprocessor-based digital sequencer. Like its predecessor, the MC-4 is a polyphonic CV/Gate sequencer.Roland MC-505
The Roland MC-505 is a groovebox conceived in 1998 as a combination of a MIDI controller, a music sequencer and a drum machine, and also has some of the prime features of synthesizers: arpeggiator, oscillators, voltage-controlled filter, control of attack, decay, sustain and release. It was released as the successor to the Roland MC-303 and is a compact version of the Roland JX-305 Groovesynth without the full set of 61 keys. It is also the predecessor to the Roland D2, Roland MC-307, Roland MC-909 and the Roland MC-808.Wayne Static
Wayne Richard Wells (November 4, 1965 – November 1, 2014), known professionally as Wayne Static, was an American musician, best known as the lead vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and music sequencer for metal band Static-X. He released his only solo studio album, Pighammer, on October 4, 2011.Yamaha RM1x
The Yamaha RM1x is a groovebox manufactured by Yamaha from 1999 to 2002. It integrates several, commonly separate, pieces of music composition and performance hardware into a single unit: a step-programmable drum machine, a synthesizer, a music sequencer, and a control surface.
The front panel of the RM1x is angled slightly to facilitate tabletop use but Yamaha also produced an accessory to allow rack-mounting the unit.
The RM1x is organized into five blocks: sequencer block, tone generator block, controller block, effect block, and arpeggio block.