Sunday 22 October 2017

ProbablyS tutorial - using the newly added memory sequencing

Probably was my first attempt at an 'antidote to step sequencers' - a simple monophonic step sequencer that took a different approach to step sequences by adding probabilistic control over events, as well as legato note lengths.

ProbablyZ added extra time features, a well as separating the octave transposition from the notes in an octave. The controls that you get over time allow probabilistic control over time-warping, which isn't a common feature of sequencers...

Since I first released ProbablyZ, I have fixed the state memories (the little grey squares)(thanks to Cory at Ableton for his help on this!) and improved the sync with Ableton Live's transport. Whilst I was fixing the memories, I tried out one of my further extension ideas, and this is now ready for release...

ProbablyS (available from

ProbablyS adds extra control over the state memories. There are now 12 'State' memories (each grey square can save the state of all the grids to the right - just Shift-Click in one of the grey squares in the black 'Memory' section). To recall a state then just click on the grey square, and it will turn white.

The 'Memory' grid on the left of the vertical bar of memories allows you to sequence thee. Each row corresponds to the associated memory on the right, and so if you set all of the memory cells to the top row only (white cells all along the top of the grid), then ProbablyS will play back just the state stored in that memory. Here's an ASCII text illustration of the layout:

State Grid  OOOOOOOO []  State Memory
            OOOOOOOO [] 

The default setting for the state grid should be similar to the basic setting for the other grids - a horizontal line o white 'cells'. (As with the time grid, the 'cells' are round, not squares...). Time scans horizontally across the cells - and this is shown by a darker cursor line.

If you set the 'repeat' to 1 and the length to 2, and set the second grid position to a different memory, then the memory grid will cycle between those two memories. If you set the 'repeats' to 4, then each memory will play for four times, before moving to the next memory. If you set the 'length' to 8, and the 'repeats' to 8, then it will play each memory 8 times.

The two screenshots above show the 2nd and 8th stage of the 8 step state sequencer (which drives the underlying 16 step grids). The 2nd stage is playing the top memory (see the white square in the vertical memory bar in the 'Memory' section?), which has a very simple set of grids, whilst the 8th stage gas chosen one of 9 possibilities, and has chosen a memory four steps lower, with a much more complex set of grids controlling the output.

As with all the other grids in Probably, you can have more than one white cell in a vertical column, and the choice between the two cells will happen at random. This means that you now have probabilistic control over which memory is playing at any time.

(I'm still working on providing a separate way to store the 'State' grid - and I may provide a preset state in the next version, plus some new functions...)

Looking at just the state grid (plus the time grid so you know where the new Memory section is positioned):

The first two stages (which could each be from 1 bar through to 8 bars long), are set to play the top memory. The next two stages play the next memory down, and the same for the firth and sixth stages. The final two stages are different - they each provide a choice of any of the remaining 9 memories for each stage. So the first couple of stages could be simple introductory patterns, the next two could add some extra detail, and the next two might add some more detail. The final two stages are chosen from a range of memories, and could provide lots of variations of the basic patterns. 

In this state grid, the second repeat stage for the first six stages provides a choice of 1 of 3 memories. As you may be realising, the key to using the state memories effectively is to fill them with fried patterns, and to keep track of where you store each pattern, so that you can then sequence them into builds, breaks and other pats of your song structure. 


Here's a hint derived from hours of playing with state memories:

"Keep shift-clicking to save your work!"

The sinking feeling you get when you click on another memory and you realise that you have just lost that brilliant pattern you were working on, is not a good one... Save, save, save...

My recommendation is that you start with Probably, then try ProbablyZ, and then ProbablyS - the features increase each time if you try them in this order, and this should give a smoother learning curve. ProbablyS is the most complex step sequencer so far in this series, and I have more ideas in the pipeline. 

New to this?

(If you are new to Probably's way of working, then don't forget to set the transpose by setting the record focus to the track with ProbablyS in it, and then playing a note - otherwise you just get very low MIDI notes. Transpose from a clip in the track can still be used to transpose ProbablyS, of course...)

Tutorial for Probably (1st in the series):

Tutorial for ProbablyZ (2nd in the series):

SoundCloud demo for ProbablyZ:

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