The Covert Seq – Creating patterns and Presets from Bjorn Vayner on Vimeo.

The Covert Operators and Bjorn Vayner have become my favorite go-to source for wild Ableton Live hacks. And even before the release of Max for Live, Bjorn has built some terrific, simple step-sequencers using Live’s Racks feature. That’s just the Racks feature – no Max patches or hidden features anywhere to be found. Sure, I suppose the clip view itself can be seen as a kind of step sequencer, but this gives you a unique way of generating sequences.

If you just want to begin playing with step sequencing in Live, Bjorn has a new download, aptly called The Covert Sequencer, as seen in the video at top. It’s free, it’s fun, it celebrates the 5th Anniversary of Covert Ops and the 10th of Ableton Live (good grief!), and it’s all voodoo built with dummy clips and MIDI effects.

Full post, downloads, and video tutorials:
The Covert Seq [The Covert Operators]

If you want to try your hand at the ninja skills behind all of this, Bjorn posted a screencast back in August revealing his secrets:

Making a Step Sequencer in Ableton Live. from Bjorn Vayner on Vimeo.

And if you like this sort of thing, definitely don’t miss The Covert Operators’ exclusive creation for CDM, making elaborate use of the racks and slicing features of Live 7 and later:

Exclusive: Free Ableton Live Slicing Pack by Covert Operators

Slice of Winter from Bjorn Vayner on Vimeo.

  • I think this is one of those things people do simply because they can. While it's pretty cool to watch, I keep thinking there are tons of simpler ways to get the same sound with a much simpler setup.

    I don't have anything against step sequencers, but I think Live's interface doesn't help. If the steps were all visible at the same time — which is something that will definitely be possible on Max4Live — it would be another story, but this is really just a clever hack for masochists.

  • Fabio, I don't necessarily disagree. This is definitely in the "because it's there" category. But it's impressive nonetheless, and it *does* illustrate how nice it is having MIDI effects in a host – more, please? (We'll be able to write our own using Max, of course…)

  • Why not do something because "you can"? I had a theory about a device I could build and built it.

    In the long run some MIDI Effects even got improved because of it.

    And apart from M4L, there still is no sequencer you can use as a MIDI Effect on a single track.

    Sure there are more easier ways to get the same sequence, but not with a MIDI Controller. Which is what this Rack allows you to do.

    Regardless of how convoluted things may seem, its built so you don't have to look at it.

    For a final bit of context, this Rack was originally built in the Live 6 beta 3 years ago. It tested the limits of what Racks could do because at that point I needed more devices to work around the limitations we don't have anymore today.

  • Fantastic post, can't wait to try this when I get back.

    Long may mankind do things "because we can"!

  • Ableton Live = Great DIY workflow

    i get things done 100 times faster than in a conventional DAW.

    The Covert Ops reverse reverb ROCKS!

    It reminds me of how on my Roland S-330 i could take one sample and create a new patch from that sample…reverse it…offset the start of the sample and loop the end that when both the normal sample and the reversed off set sampler i could make delays, forward and reverse reverbs, and phase/flange effects.(something i learned in Keyboard magazine on how to create delays and revers in samplers with no on board effects).

  • Mscoelho

    EM's Len Sasso did an article on this

  • Edward

    I wouldn't exactly categorize this as "because we can", what if you had something like a BCR2000, wouldn't that be sufficient controls to map the buttons to on/off, a set of knobs as velocity and a set of knobs as midi note coming up with at least a nice, very playable step sequencer?

  • s ford

    i had no idea what was going on, and got pretty confused early on.

    but i have to make one point.


    sorry. probably not a necessary point to make.

  • A little bit more clarity in the tutorial would be better, it's a bit difficult to follow, since you kind of assume that people don't know how to change rack presets, while assuming that everyone is familiar with MIDI rack chain select automation.

    Having said that, I got this going the other night and it is, indeed, the bomb. Even without plugging in my Knob Box ™, it was a very playable sequencer.

  • @Birds_use_Stars

    Thanks for the feedback. I agree it isn't the best tutorial from the ground up. But I can help you with learning more about chain select automation.

    I understand people don't always have the knowledge I take for granted. But if I use a somewhat complex trick and glance over it. Chances are there is a video or an article on our site that goes into more details. I'll make a note to mention specific tutorials in future videos like this.

    @S Ford

    You may understand it a bit better from the articles that are linked above. And thank you! 🙂


    – Bjorn