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AlenK

Serendipitous Sequencer Synergy

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Both the XW-P1 and XW-G1 synthesizers provide three independent and quite different types of sequencer: the step sequencer, the phrase sequencer and the arpeggiator. You might not recognize the arpeggiator as a sequencer but that is what it is, the only difference being that the notes it sequences are based on the keys that you hold down (or latch). All three of these sequencers are typically used more-or-less independently. For example, play a backing rhythm using the step sequencer while using the argeggiator in a zone to play a note sequence with one tone while periodically triggering a phrase in another zone with another tone.

 

However, the XW synths contain a number of features that can tie two or even all three of the sequencers together into a seamless, synchronized whole that is more than the sum of its parts (the definition of "synergy"). It may seem serendipitous (by chance) to us but I have a hard time believing that the XW’s designers who added these features didn't know exactly what they were doing.

 

The first feature is called Sync. You’ll find it described, somewhat confusingly, on page E-40 in the XW-P1’s User Guide and page E-41 in the XW-G1’s User Guide. When it is turned on it starts the step sequencer when an arpeggio starts playing, which of course happens as soon as you press one or more keys in an area (note range) of the keyboard in which the arpeggiator is enabled. If you are playing in Performance mode that range is determined by the Performance parameters ArpKeyRgLo (Arpeggio Key Range Low) and ArpKeyRgHi (Arpeggio Key Range High). The Sync feature can also stop the sequence automatically when you release the keys (or release the "hold" condition if you used that to keep the arpeggio going without needing to keep pressing keys); the "S/S" setting enables that. 

 

The other feature doesn’t have a name. It is the ability to start and stop a specified phrase from the fourth control track (Ctl4) of the step sequencer. You’ll find the parameters for that feature described on page E-56 in the XW-P1’s User Guide and page E-57 in the XW-G1’s User Guide. I have previously described here in this forum one way to use that feature, allowing phrases to be selected using the step sequencer’s pattern buttons. But it can also be used merely to synchronize a phrase to the step sequencer.

 

Note that a phrase initiated from the step sequencer is actually independent of a phrase initiated from the phrase sequencer, the latter done using the PLAY/STOP button in the PHRASE SEQ area of the front panel. Hence the XW-P1 can be playing two independent phrases at any given moment. The XW-G1 can actually play up to four phrases indpendently, since two additional phrases can be initiated from the multi-function area of the keyboard. (It is a great pity that the multi-function feature did not make it into the P1. There is no reason for its omission other than artificial feature separation between the models.) If you count the G1's independent sample looper as another phrase (because it can easily record phrases played by the G1 itself) then five phrases can be going on at the same time. With all that going on plus the step sequencer who needs to actually play the keyboard??

 

There is yet another interaction between sequencers, this one between the primary phrase sequencer and the arpeggiator. If a phrase is started by hitting PLAY/STOP in the PHRASE SEQ area of the panel while the arpeggiator is also active, the arpeggiator behaves as if the notes played by the phrase sequencer are actually being pressed on the keyboard. Those that are in the range over which the arpeggio is enabled then supply the arpeggiator with its source notes. Furthermore, if KEY PLAY is enabled then pressing a single key in an area enabled for both the phrase sequencer and the arpeggio will immediately transpose the phrase and hence transpose the source notes for the arpeggio. This is powerful stuff. (Note that if you DON'T want such behavior you need to enable the phrase sequencer and the arpeggiator in different zones or in different key ranges within the same zone.)

 

So, to recap: The step sequencer can be started automatically, and optionally also stopped, when we play an arpeggio. A phrase can be started when the step sequencer starts playing or indeed at any time during a pattern, depending on which step(s) in the pattern the start command appears. If the step sequencer is started by the arpeggiator and a phrase is started by the step sequencer, then all three can start at the same time. Finally, if a phrase is started from the PLAY/STOP button on the panel then that phrase can be used to automatically change the notes played by the arpeggiator.

 

What can we do with such synchronization? Here are a couple of ideas:

 

(1) The control tracks of a step-sequencer pattern can rhythmically modify parameters like volume, filter cutoff, pan position or even tempo while an arpeggio is playing using the four control (Ctl) tracks. For example, if we arrange an arpeggio to play an upward sequence of four sixteenth notes from a fingered four-note chord we could also program a step-sequencer pattern to increase volume and raise the filter cutoff with each cycle of the arpeggiator. This could go on for eight cycles, then the cutoff and volume could be progressively lowered back down to their original settings on the next eight cycles, after which the pattern repeats.

 

The resulting “composite” sequence is sixty-four notes long and it is chord-interactive (because of course the arpeggio is chord-interactive). The only other way to accomplish such a long sequence on the XW-P1 would be to chain four 16-note patterns together but the result would not be chord interactive (but could still be transposed).
 
(2) A user arpeggio is set up that does nothing (!) The arpeggio's Sync option is set to "S/S." This “null” arpeggio is enabled in a zone, which consequently becomes silent (because the null arpeggio has no notes). However, its noble sacrifice allows the step sequencer to be started and stopped by pressing a single "trigger" key without an accompanying arpeggio. For our trigger key we choose C3 immediately above the untransposed first octave of the keyboard. We use the step sequencer to call a phrase using part 8 set to an acoustic-guitar tone (we could choose part 1 or any one of parts 8 to 16). The phrase implements an acoustic-guitar strum or perhaps a complete rhythmic strumming pattern that we sourced from the internet or created ourselves in a PC-based MIDI sequencer. We enable KEY SHIFT on the panel. We now use our left hand to press the trigger key, producing our strum or strumming pattern in the original key. Simultaneously pressing the trigger key and another key in the octave below it with our left hand produces a transposed strum or strumming pattern.

 

We thus produce a rhythm-guitar accompaniment with our left hand while our right hand is playing a melody in another zone using another tone. Need different kinds of strummed chords? Then create phrases for them, call each up using a separate pattern and then select them during live play using the pattern buttons, as described here. Think of this as "Motif Lite."

 

PS. I have added a gratuitous shot of Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper comping on a keyboard from the film "Wet Hot American Summer."  It has nothing to do with the post but it's funny and some people just won't read long articles without a picture or two attached.  :lol:

 

wet-hot-american-summer-first-day-of-camp.jpg

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