Hardware sequencers were a fantastic idea: you had a box that did nothing but sequence other gear. Then along came the computer, then the idea of trying to make the computer do absolutely everything all the time, and the standalone MIDI sequencer disappeared. In a bizarre twist of fate, it’s back — on Nintendo DS.

Jed (beatsnbleeps.com) writes to let us know about his DS sequencer, DStep. It’s partly an “homage to the KP3” from Korg, though unless your fingertip is the size of a DS stylus point, it should be a bit more accurate touch-wise. It’s a very elegant little step sequencer, shown here controlling a Nord Micro Modular. (The modular patch you see on the computer screen is the Nord editing software.) Hardware MIDI support gets hacked into the DS via Collin Meyer’s DS MIDI cable hardware/code solution.

It’s funny, because to me this brings the way you integrate a computer into a studio back full circle. It’s not that you dump the computer — on the contrary, you simply use it as a component in a set of gear.

As for mobile gadgets to work with, this also illustrates some advantages of the DS over the iPhone — well, aside from the obvious facts that it’s far cheaper, you’re not saving up battery life to make calls, and you can play Mario Kart. The old-fashioned game hardware buttons actually come in handy, and they’re ergonomically placed, you get the added precision of a stylus, and the DS hardware is more hackable. Multi-touch would be nice on those faders, though.

If you’re ready to give this a go, here’s what you need:

DS MIDI hack

Tob’s DS MIDI Website

DStep details and ROM download

It’s still in development, so we’ll be watching.

Previously: GrooveStep step sequencer / pattern maker for DS

  • I love the UI

  • dead_red_eyes

    Wow, it looks just like the KP3. I bought the KP3 shortly after its release, and was bummed at the 7-second sampling capability. I was hoping for longer sample times. Then I tried using the thing as a sequencer and failed horribly. $400 down the drain for me. And for some reason, I could swear that the effects on the KP2 sounded less aliased and digital than those on the KP3.

  • vt_pete

    Yeah, but what is the other screen doing?

  • jade

    is the midi hack as easy as it looks, just ading cables to a cart?

  • Jed

    vt_pete – the top screen's not doing much at the moment just some global info, tempo and what the midi channels/cc's are hard coded to – and it's all sent on ch10 at the moment.

    jade – the midi hack is pretty much just taking the game chip off the card (i just cut through all the legs with a knife) and soldering on 2 wires for the midi signal and ground. I used the brain training demo that came with my DS 🙂

    and I welcome any suggestions on improvements/ideas. feel free to post them up here or soundpunk or email me @ jedatbeatsnbleepsdotcom

    might do a wifi version in the future but I like that fact that it can be used to control hardware without sequencing everything via a laptop.

  • jed – tob's dsmi library does both wifi and dserial. i'd love to see that choice – while controlling hardware directly is a neat feature, people that have a laptop in their setup anyway (like me) possibly prefer the wireless solution.

  • komplexoptik

    So now I can do pretty much everything I want with a DS….hmmm

    Can anyone point me to a good (simple) link to get started with home brew apps and such. I am buying one this week.



  • Paul

    i want a midi synced pace maker for the ds

  • Paul

    sorry i forgot the link here is a pretty good compilation of various homebrew

  • Paul


    "though unless your fingertip is the size of a DS stylus point, it should be a bit more accurate touch-wise."

    hmmm a bit more hacking could do us all some good

  • Claudio

    This is pretty cool. Incidentally, I still have my old Kawai Q-80 tabletop sequencer. Haven't used it in years, but I always hold on to it just in case. I should put it back into use just to get my old sequences out again. 🙂

  • Tob

    komplexoptik: Check out http://www.dev-scene.com which has a well organized but slightly outdated homebrew database and http://drunkencoders.com for news on DS homebrew releases

  • Pingback: 任天堂DS Lite MIDI 编曲机再现江湖 | 网络赚钱网摘()