Diy Hardware X0X-Style Step Sequencer

Hello people

I have discussed this idea before in one of the forums here, and after looking more into it I have decided to make reality of it.

So I’m about to build a retro-designed hardware x0x-style step sequencer for renoise (and other DAW that can/will support it, but renoise is what i use and I dont know of the other DAW:s integration support). Working name is Step brother.

It will have a nice late-70:s look, I think the 808 will be closest. I have digged around for the right kinda buttons (the 808 ones) and found them.

It will have 16 808-like steps (times 4 = 64) and a 303-like keyboard, and the idea is to use it both for step sequencing drums and synths.

I have chosen to make it less rather than more, meaning you won’t be able to contol everything in renoise, like volume and other commands. Instead you use it as a complement as a part of composing or for playing live.

I guess in the very beginning I thought of making a stand-alone sequencer, but that would be stupid when you have a great DAW in the computer, and all I want is a cooler interface.

The hardware will be an Arduino, with a Centipede shield for controlling all the buttons/leds and the spikenzielabs serial-MIDI converter, maybe just lab cards + disances + glue for mounting buttons. Right now I’m thinking about a case with wooden sides, and I will try to print+glue the front panel layout.

So far so good. Then there is the renoise part of it. I need to know how to make that integration. Is it possible with just duplex?

A simple example:

When I select a track in renoise I want it to be reflected in the HW-sequencer, so for example the buttonled for each step that has a note value is lit. Is this possible? What kind of message would this be from renoise? CC?

When I press a step on the HW-sequencer that is lit, the renoise step is cleared and the led is turned off.

And of course it gets more and more complex, maybe I want to select tracks and instruments from the HW-sequencer, drum editing differs a lot from synth editing, and so on, but I think I got it worked out in my head.

Thanks for helping out a noob!


Have you seen Cie’s Lua step sequencer? It recently acquired very capable MIDI mapping. Click here for more info.

Maybe it’s a good partner for your hardware project?

Yeah, I saw it before!

Yes, of course contribution and collaboration is welcome, if more people are interested in building a similar device we can help each other out, and if someone wants to help out with the renoise/duplex/LUA part that’s great.

I will post scetches of my interface design and functionality ideas when they are more clear. Maybe put up a site/blog (suggestions on how and where are appreciated)

Hi Frederik, would love to see that Hardware come true :) Do you want to build it for yourself only or also for other interested people?

Regarding my StepSequencer Lauflicht, the second case (pressing button on Hardware to set/erase note in Renoise) is already implemented. This is done via Midi CC messages of type ‘switch’, though simple values from 0-127 are also working (values <=64 means then off, >64 on) which you can determine in the RenoiseMidiMapping dialog.
I am currently working on the first case, the reflection of the notes of each track in the Hardware. I think it is the other way round then, sending a MidiCC which reflects the current state of the step (note set/not set) from Renoise to the hardware. Currently I can not test it properly because I do not have hardware with LEDs. Maybe I can afford the launchpad soon. Btw Ableton has released a “Midi how-to for programmers” for the launchpad, maybe it is helpful for you in some way: report download
Above answers are only affecting the Lauflicht Sequencer, regarding Duplex maybe danoise can help you with further info.

Yes, Duplex also has a XOX-style step sequencer, and basically it’s the same approach: toggle notes on and off, flip through lines and tracks. Originally made by Daxton as a launchpad step sequencer, it now supports any type of controller with enough buttons, so you could build a virtual control surface in Duplex and use it to prototype the hardware.

But how are you planning on using the keyboard? For entering notes using “edit-step”, realtime recording or something else?
I’m asking because this Duplex step sequencer has a feature where you hold button(s) to adjust note pitch and volume. Since a keyboard is capable of both, I’ve considered adding keyboard as an additional input method - and this would seem to work very well with a device like yours: press a key to set the base-note/volume, press a key while holding some buttons to adjust their values. And while we’re at it, why should key pressure/velocity always control volume? Volume is not always useful, so the ability to remap to some other parameter like sample offset seems like a useful thing.

Hey guys

Cool, lots of ideas and opportunities! Hope we can collaborate.

My main plan is to build one for myself, but also to make it accessible as a DIY project, with parts list, code and instructions. Maybe if there is interest, some parts could be manufactured and sold to DIY:ers.

I have ideas for how to use the steps and notes in conjuction, I will get back and explain everything when I have the time, but in short; synth notes have to be monophonic and drums polyphonic (columns in the track). In drum mode, you first select a drum (note on the keyboard C = bassdrum etc) to see at what positions it is, but the synth is the other way, you press the step to see what note is there.


any news on your project?


Been busy with real-life-stuff. Good that you poke me once in a while.

I got most parts figured out. I have come to realise I need to start a blog for this. Started looking for a nice minimalistic neutral but nice wp theme, but found nothing I liked. Any suggestions appreciated. Can I use some project hosting place? Or maybe something timpler, live Tumblr?

looking forward to reading your blog!

Just to give an update which might interest you as well. In the meantime I have bought a Launchpad and the reflection of steps to the hardware is solved. A lit LED on the Launchpad reflects a set note in the step-sequencer plugin (=note in track), and each row of the Launchpad reflects one track. When you hit a button on the Launchpad the note is changed, and if you change a note in Renoise, the button-led is changed. So the two questions above can be answered with yes. ;) The message format for turning on/off LEDs is normal midi message, please see the above manual for details.

Great to hear, i’ve made some progress as well. Started buying components and a blog is coming up!


Check this out: Introducing Step Brother