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Thesys | Pitch Sequencer with vast MIDI out capabilites.

«Thesys-Intechna» was founded in 1993 by a Russian company «Thesys» conjunctly with a German firm «Thesys Gesellschaft für Mikroelektronik mbH» (since 1999 – one of the semiconductor divisions of «XFAB Semiconductor Foundries GmbH») as a designated representative in Russia and for joint work in the microelectronic field.

He is never bound by one particular material, but seeks the possibility of many, which is a sign of the array of his creativity and his distinct personal trait.

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It is an attempt to initiate a dialogue between the classic and the contemporary, to broaden viewers’ perspective, and to elevate their sense of aesthetics.

With modern music technology, the user is often spoilt for creative choice and it's refreshing to take a simple tool and see just how far you can push it. StepDesigner might not be one of the more whizz-bang elements of the Cubase feature set but, despite the occasional quirk, with a little lateral thinking it's capable of great things.

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Notes can be added to the pattern grid via the mouse. You can also click and drag to enter multiple notes, while the range of pitches displayed can be scrolled up and down if you want to enter higher or lower pitches. Notes longer than an individual step can be added via the Tie lane (between the Note and Controller lanes) and, for notes shorter than a step, you can add controller data to the Gate lane. Simply select Gate from the drop-down menu and draw in controller data to define note lengths. This menu allows you to toggle the controller lane between four sets of controller data: velocity and gate, and two, user-defined, continuous controllers. Note that velocity and continuous controller (CC) data is added here in the same way.

Your choice of which two CCs you use is configured via the Setup button. This selection box simply lists the CC numbers, so you'll need to check your target synth's MIDI specifications to work out exactly which CC numbers you require. In my example project I used Halion Sonic SE.

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Each instance of StepDesigner can contain up to 200 patterns. The current pattern number is indicated in the control strip at the base of the window and, during playback, MIDI notes can be used to automate pattern changes. Sets of patterns can be saved as presets for later recall.

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Used as described above, StepDesigner is a perfectly respectable pattern sequencer, but as all elements of the pattern (notes, velocity, gate and CCs) operate to the same number of steps, you can't create the 'different step length' effects possible in Thesys. So, I thought, how about using two (or more) instances of StepDesigner, all targeting the same synth, but set to different step lengths? Well, perhaps this wasn't what Steinberg had in mind (for reasons that will become obvious in a minute) when creating StepDesigner plug-in, but it can be made to work. There are, however, a couple of limitations... You're limited as to where you can insert your additional StepDesigner plug-ins. You might think that the obvious location would be the MIDI Insert slot beneath your first instance of the plug-in, but this doesn't work because the MIDI note output from the first StepDesigner instance is interpreted as program change data by the second instance, and CC data just doesn't seem to be passed at all. So you need to create a second MIDI track, with its own StepDesigner inserted, that targets exactly the same synth. In this way, the two instances of the plug-in do not interfere with each other (well, they do, but I'll come back to that issue in a minute) so both sets of StepDesigner data get to the synth.

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StepDesigner might not win prizes for elegance, but it is straightforward to use. It's placed as a MIDI Insert on the MIDI track that drives your target synth and, once opened, provides two main panes for editing: the upper note area and the lower controller lane. Patterns can be up to 32 steps in length and you can adjust this and the timebase of the steps (1/16th, 1/8th, for example) via the narrow control panel that runs along the top of the window. Other useful options include a swing control and buttons to shift the pattern left and right or reverse it and shift the notes up and down an octave.

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The screenshot shows an example setup, with a 16-step pattern of notes playing in one instance of StepDesigner (top) while a second instance (bottom) is sending CC data to Halion Sonic SE's filter resonance in a 15-step pattern. Both patterns play back continuously and in sync with the project but, on each cycle through, the shorter filter cutoff pattern is offset by a single step relative to the note pattern. As a result, instead of the relationship between the notes and filter sweep staying constant, they change over each cycle and, in this case, only start to repeat after 15 cycles.

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You can, of course, add a third MIDI track and a third instance of StepDesigner, and then use this to set another synth parameter in motion over a different pattern length. The next screenshot shows a 28-step pattern set to vary Halion Sonic SE's filter cutoff. However, there's an extra trick employed here: the step size setting has been set to a half rather than a sixteenth. Each step in this instance of StepDesigner, therefore, lasts for half a bar and the whole 28-step pattern for 14 bars. Combine this with your two other levels of variation from the first two tracks and, well, it makes my head hurt trying to calculate, so let's just say the variation in the synth tone cycles over a long period! If you target a suitable combination of synth parameters and step lengths in this way, the sequence can take on a real ebb and flow, and the effect can be very cool indeed; it certainly avoids some of the 'rigidity' that's often associated with poor electronic music.

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