Sequencer Tips & Tricks

Sequencer software packages, such as Sibelius, Finale, Cubase, Logic and others, all have their separate programming and file-saving protocols. However, they all run using a common code called MIDI. All files can be saved to and imported in this common format, as well as using the maker-specific protocols. This makes it easy to transfer music and materials presented in this website between different sequencing platforms. Popular media players, too, such as realtime or windows media player, also support .mid files. However, when you use these for playback you are usually limited to a compomised sound quality and very restricted ‘fiunctionality’. While you may be able to adjust the volume and place in the music with a media player, when you sequencing software you can change tempo, transpose, delete or mute tracks, simplify or elaborate the music, print parts and much, much more. They have huge benefits in teaching music. Do not discard them because of the sound quality is not as good as streaming mp3 technologies (as in YouTube or Spotify). They are a much more flexible resource for learning.

Cycle: Look on the main screen of the sequencer by the start, stop and record controls. Find a control called cycle or loop and two others call left locator and right locator (both have a series of numbers which represent bar numbers and divsions of bars). Now supposing you wanted to cycle (or constantly repeat) bars 9 & 10 of a whole sequenced composition, you must set the left locator (which shows the start of the cycle) to (Bar 9 – the very beginning) and the right locator to (not or When the cycle or loop control is activated (with a click), the music will now read the beginning of bar 9 every time that it reaches the beginning of bar 11, i.e. bars 9 & 10 will be cycled.

Note that sequencers vary a little when you press start with cycle activated. Some play from the beginning of the music and only start cycling when bar 9 is reached; others will start at bar 9 when you click start because the left locator is set to bar You may need to experiment a little with these controls in advance to be sure of your presentation.

If you only want to cycle one track of your composition, look for the term loop on the track information window. Adjust the numeric setting here and the set length on the track will be looped (repeated again). See Loop in the manual for more details.

Mute: Each track of a sequenced piece can be be muted separately. Normally a click in the margin to the left of the track strip will activate an on/off mute for that track. Note too the solo on/off control. This will mute all other tracks, leaving the activated track to play solo. An alternative to muting is to use the “Solo” control (see below).

Solo: In the track control panel your sequencer will have a button marked “solo”. When you click this the highlighted track will be unaffected, but all other tracks will be “muted” (see above), meaning, of course, that on playing your file only the highlighted (solo) track will play.

Tempo: Look on the main screen of the sequencer by the start, stop and record controls. Find a control called tempo. By either dragging up or down from the numeric tempo indication or by using the left and right mouse buttons you can can increase or decrease the tempo.

If you stop the sequencer and the music reverts to the original tempo when you start to play the music again, this indicates that the composition you are playing has a recorded MIDI-tempo track. If you can identify this track set it on mute (click to the left of the track strip). If not you may need to set your own tempo and re-save (Save as…)the composition under a slightly different name for later use.

©  John Mason