God bless you, 4/4. Yes, there’s still something about that four-beat, sixteen step bar that gets toes tapping and booties shaking and floors fouring on the… floor. So, when musician and maker Steve Cooley decided he wanted more physical control, he didn’t want some perfectly generic controls, and he didn’t want rows and columns. He wanted sixteen steps and faders alongside. The result is Beatseqr, an Arduino-powered hardware controller recently spotted at the Maker Faire outside San Francisco.

Because it’s just a controller, they’ve built Roxor, a Mac software step app that sends OSC, and Steppa, a Max/MSP patch, though other options would be viable. The idea is to combine software to make a productive “toolchain.” (I’m still surprised people don’t make more use of tools like Python for these sorts of tasks, not only for cross-platform compatibility, but even for ease. But the principle is the same.)

I like the idea and layout, and if you want one, you can even buy one for $299. (We’re talking extremely limited runs. Right now, there appears to be … one of them.) It’s a cool creation, though it makes me imagine this as a prototype for something else – something with onboard MIDI or possibly even basic onboard sound generation. I think we could be on the verge of a real explosion in new, hand-built devices of that sort. And that could mean layouts like the one found on Roland’s 808 are about to make a very big comeback, re-imagined for a new generation.

And the bottom line: it’s fun for its creator. It’s not only a solution to a problem from an engineering perspective; it represents bridging the gap from wanting something, and realizing exactly that thing you want by making it yourself. As Steve puts it:

The goal wasn’t to create a box that can do all things for all people. It’s a specific tool for a specific purpose. It is a very fun tool for improvising and performing.

If that isn’t the spirit of DIY, I don’t know what is.


  • I'd love to see an XOX based step sequencer on the Launchpad.
    I should really do it myself, when I'll be good enough with M4L.

  • gregorz

    Wow! Brilliant! I've been experimenting with Arduino+Max4Live combo with much success. It is a lot of fun indeed!

  • Yeah! Thats what I was saying on some post some weeks ago.. To make a groovebox-like controller.. A lot of people like me are very fond of the Electribe interfase, but like the flexibility of softrware… Right now I'm doing pretty much the same thing with a Launchpad, a nanoKontrol and M4L…I think it's more worth cos I've spent $ 250 in hardware and have more faders and buttons.. Nevertheless I hope this new design gets all the attention it deserves!

  • I like the simplistic design and the fact that he hooked it into a Max program. Nice work. I might have to pick up a kit for review on my site!


  • P.S. Mat's new Sequencomat v3 is really nice if you have a Lemur too…

  • Steve cooley

    Hey thanks for the post, Peter! A couple of extra data points: 1. Derek Scott is the creator of the max patches. I couldn't have done anything useful without his critical piece of the puzzle. Derek also runs dobox recordings. (http://doboxrecordings.com) 2. This is unannounced to some degree, I'm still decompressing from maker faire, but I have 4 kits available. I'm working on the instructions now. 3. We've applied to maker faire new york, so we hope to bring our projects out to your neck of the woods in September. Hopefully by that time we'll have a couple of refinements done. And maybe a second type of kit.

  • I love this idea and I hope more stuff like this or monome get the mainstream user base.

    I'm still waiting some things are in the labs…


  • mat

    great tool!

    I specially like the combination of rotary and fader in one control element. Although I am not sure if this is robust enough…

    I work on max-stepsequencers for the Lemur (as you can see on my side). It misses haptic, but interaction got some benefits by touchscreen.

  • mat

    so… i'm confused. you need a full copy of Max/MSP to run it? or is the runtime something free?

  • Aaron

    mat: the runtime for running patches other ppl have created is free

  • 4/4? Feh. Some clever hacker should build a 9/8 beatbox, for mad karsilima action. 🙂

  • Pingback: Beatseqr: 808-Inspired DIY Step Sequencing Controller, and Making Just What You Need | VJ Heaven()

  • J. Phoenix

    I like it better than the BeatThang already.