Advancing the steps of a sequencer in a non-linear fashion can result in some serious discoveries! While there are many ways to achieve a good result, I tend to take the “programmer” route and understand what my sequencer CAN and CANNOT receive as a triggering gate; for example the Buchla Easel Command step sequencer can be triggered by any MDI note > note #23 and also by note # 0-2 (C to D), or as I interpret it: the sequencer DOESN’T advance when receiving midi notes #13-23 (lower than #13 other modules get triggered). This is very important data and you should go look it up in your sequencer manual!
Why is it important?! In my previous post I speak about organic polyrhythms and how to be economical about our multiple sequences/rhythms, this time I want to expand that concept and explore just how a very short sequence (3-4-5 steps) can be stretched and made interesting by triggering its steps with a non grid-like trigger source.

Let’s take as an example the following non-linear trigger source pattern (by non-linear I mean a pattern that is not a series of triggers at the same subdivision, e.x. a grid of 8th notes or 16th):

Notice it has three 8th note and one 8th rest, the rest is the KEY! In my case to simulate this pause I’ll send to my sequencer a trigger that it DOESN’T recognize (midi notes #13-23?!) so it won’t advance.
Then let’s use this trigger source pattern to advance our step sequencer, let’s say that our sequencer has been programmed with the following pattern:

Now, finally, we get to observe the main concept in action. Let’s go ahead and program the sequencer so that it advances ONLY when the trigger source pattern is outputting a trigger, meaning the main sequence WON’T advance whenever the trigger source pattern is on a rest.

The result, in this particular case, will be the following:

As you can see, the top line is our trigger source pattern, and at the bottom the result of the triggered steps in our sequencer, I labeled the step # below each trigger that will be recognized by the sequencer with the step it will actually trigger. et voilà!
It immediately evokes me some sort of rhythmic ostinato/clave that could well be the source of your entire track! In the video I’m playing a similar clave together with a Caribbean ostinato, will go in depth in the next post on how to setup the 2 and where the 1 is =)