Hardware Step Sequencer


Just got this vague idea, I really like x0x step sequencers as interface for creating music, and I think Analogue Solutions Europa for example looks like a great one.

I’ve been thinking lately about diggin into electronics and build something similar in hardware, but the I though, hey why not make it like a controller for a computer sequencer, and well renoise is my fav.

So, imagine a box with buttons for 16 (x 4) or 32 (x 2) steps and then some knobs and buttons for controlling parameters of each/selected step. Maybe because it’s a tracker the buttons should be aligned horisontally.

Also you must be able to select current track, and select instrument, and maybe perform operations like copy, mute etc.

The hardware part, I would try to do in arduino. But do you guys have any pointers on the software. Would this be possible at all? Can you script renoise and say “select track x - set note x on step x”, and also display information from renoise in the hardware, like what steps have notes in them and so on.

Has anyone made such attempts before? Is there anything available or a controller that could work like this, monome for example?


yep. a monome and renoise as a pair are capaable of all the things you mention.

Have a look at the really well documented arduionome project for a very well documented description of how to build your own. or get hold of a starfire pcb or a kit from the monome bods.

or livid’s block controller.

Yep, both the livid and monome are good for this kind of thing.
But the idea is interesting - what would a hardware sequencer look like if it was built specifically for Renoise?


Thanks for the replies.

Livid is quite nice, but still I want another finish, like oldschool-electronics look. The finish is the whole point of this, else I could keep using the tracker like i do. I’m after an inspiring interface, like, say the tr-909. So I’m still into building something of my own.

Seems like duplex is the way to go.

So, if I’ve gotten this right; if I am to build something in hardware that should communicate with duplex, is it MIDI messages that is sent back and forth?

If so, what do I translate button presses to? Control change messages? 126 = button clicked?

And do duplex send midi messages back? So should I recieve them in my hardware and change status of the HW sequencer leds and stuff?

Sorry for asking lots of noobish questions, adn thanks for helping out.


Duplex is both MIDI and OSC capable. For MIDI it’s normal to use a unique CC number of each control, and (sometimes) note messages.
Standard MIDI is limited to a 7-bit range of CC messages and notes, but you can extend it by using the MIDI channel as well, or forgo MIDI and use OSC instead.

If you look at the Launchpad or monome, they’re both capable of sending and receiving messages, and they are both fully controlled by the computer - they don’t have any sort of built-in logic that tell them to light up when a button is pressed. This is handled by the computer, just as the computer is the one receiving messages from the device. Or put differently: they are both a blank canvas that you can paint with lights, and program just as you’d like. Pressing button XY doesn’t have to light up button XY, it might as well start a game of tetris.

The monome has a number of events associated with button presses. Something like “/press 1 2 1” telling us the x/y coordinate and button state
Then, when we want to set a light, we issue the command “/led 1 2 0” (similar syntax, but with a different button state)

Thanks guys! Cool stuff.

Midi fighter for sure looks awesome, though it’s not exactly what i’m looking for.

Sooo, but if I’m to build something, I would choose arduino as base because I have done some arduino stuff (but maybe there are better options?).

I mean I need something that will communicate with the computer to translate button presses to … some kind of message, and the other way, duplex neeeds to be able to send some kind of message to my arduino which in turn tells the leds to light etc. I have never done anything similar though (except recieve midi and act upon it), I guess the arduino USB connection makes it available as a device to communicate with from the computer, but then I’m pretty lost… but maybe this is not the right place to ask.

But, then i though, what if I get the midi fighter circuit and use it for other buttons etc. But maybe there are, better kits for doing this kind of stuff. I know doepfer has some any-controller-to-midi kits, but there’s no way to communicate back there I guess…

Sorry for asking lotsa questions, and thanks for answering!


the new arduino uno is class compliant so it can be recognised as a midi device straight up. there are various “midi brains” around too, check out highly liquid amongst others…

Hey, that’s an interesting subject :)
I was considering about doing the same using my APC-40 controller. You could take a look at this one at it seems to have everything you would need.

Nice, thanks for more tips.

I liked the APC-40, it sure has enough buttons to theoretically be turned in to a full-fledged tracker interface.