IMG_0032

Your iPad could be a perfect step sequencer. Could be, anyway.

It’s portable. It’s easy to prop alongside other equipment – the digital equivalent of a music manuscript notebook. It has a long battery life. It can connect to MIDI. And above all, its interface means you can touch the interface directly, which is ideally suited to software that provides an interface to various musical parameters.

And surely you have stuff that needs sequencing. With loads of apps and loads of hardware, a sequencer might be as necessary to your instruments as a conductor and score are to an orchestra.

But burdened by history, a lot of iPad step sequencers aren’t as good as they could be. Some follow the model of hardware, with knobs and faders and analog step sequencing capabilities. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it restricts what you can do – and it’ll always be worse than the hardware it models, because it lacks tangible feedback. Other apps cram a computer software interface for editing onto the iPad’s screen – powerful, but still worse when it comes to usability.

ModStep breaks from the pack. We got a world-exclusive first look at this app this week at the semi-monthly app meetup I host in Berlin (with Electric Drums creator Oliver Greschke). The app isn’t available yet, but I bet we’ll make you impatient for it to arrive. And it has quite a pedigree: the coder is the creator of touchAble, working together with Benjamin Weiss.

10712446_1510549705868884_2926232720897834165_o

ModStep is deep – layers of sequences, rich options for melodies and rhythms. But it builds a workflow around touch. Instead of borrowing superficial features of software or hardware, it includes the actual functionality in drum machines like the MPC and Maschine, then makes them touchable. (Pardon the reference to the developer’s other app. By the way – don’t ever Google that.)

And as such, it’s one of the apps I’m most eager to really begin to use deeply. Good thing I feel that way, as my techno-making partner Nerk is its co-creator. Don’t think that means I’m biased. On the contrary: it means he’s been pushing the darned thing on me every chance he gets, and of course, he knows his way around it an order of magnitude better than I do, so I’m left stupidly tapping around. Plus, part of having a musical collaboration is, whatever your partner says, you first try to say the opposite. But ModStep growing on me.

It does chords.

It does note repeat.

It has chase modes and skips steps and does all the other step operations you’d want to do.

It’s fairly precise for melodic step sequencing – at least in that you get a clear read-out of where you are.

It lets you make more sophisticated rhythms.

It chains clips in an Ableton Session View-style interface, for easy reference to your various layers.

It connects to your computer, via a cable and not only wifi. So if you want sync, or if you want to sequence a software instrument via touch (lovely on the road), you can do so without worrying about wireless performance.

You can use unlimited tracks, and route them anywhere.

It connects apps and hardware via MIDI (via the aforementioned computer, or a USB MIDI interface, or to other apps locally).

It can send trigger.

It works on all iPads – even the old ones.

In short, it’s everything you wanted, all at once.

Here you can see it happily humming along with some hardware:

midiconnections

modstepgear

ModStep is still at its heart a step sequencer. This is about playing by adjusting parameters, sequencing series of notes rather than playing them directly on a keyboard or the like. And it isn’t Auxy, either, the app we saw earlier this week that focuses on drawing into a piano roll.

But what it is is a damned good step sequencer. ModStep fits into a perfect gap, one sorely left by dedicated multitrack sequencing hardware on one hand and computer software on the other. Hardware step sequencers are beautiful, but as I believe we’ll see with the new Arturia BeatStep Pro, a good tactile interface necessarily means simplifying sequencing capabilities. ModStep could be the app that fills what lies between: all the power of a computer sequencer, but designed in such a way that lends itself to performance and mobility.

If you’ve amassed lots of iPad apps for music, or lots of hardware, or both, I expect I may have gotten you rather excited.

So, yes, we’ll be looking at this more. Christian and Benjamin promise some videos and other tips. If you have specific questions, I can answer them. And we’ll have something to do while we wait.

http://modstep.net

https://www.facebook.com/modstepapp

Previous post

With MIDI, A Simple iOS Piano Roll App Gets More Useful: Auxy Update

Next post

Soon Your iPad Will Be Wired Into Your Music Studio: Midimux

  • This looks great, the iPad feels devoid of good sequencers. I’m a big fan of Genome however and have relied on that for live performances and composition for a long time, but its always good to try new things!

  • This looks great, the iPad feels devoid of good sequencers. I’m a big fan of Genome however and have relied on that for live performances and composition for a long time, but its always good to try new things!

  • Question! Will any of the sequencers features be controllable by other MIDI hardware? eg stop/start, tempo etc

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Yes, this will be possible.

  • Question! Will any of the sequencers features be controllable by other MIDI hardware? eg stop/start, tempo etc

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Yes, this will be possible.

  • djkm

    Is this a kind of ‘if you had an ipad and had waited for this, there was zero point to that beatstep you just bought’ kind of thing?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Yes, a beatstep cannot do what ModStep is able to do, but on the other hand it doesn´t have physical pads 😉

      • djkm

        Well, if at the very least it tells me the tempo that it’s playing at, it’s already infinitely more useful! the BeatStep itself can just be my ‘virtual knob’ controller!

        • Yeah, BeatStep Pro to me is looking far more interesting… but BeatStep (v1) will be a nice complement to ModStep

          • Benjamin Weiss

            Well compared to the Beatstep Pro, ModStep has virtually unlimited tracks…

    • Not at all. For instance…

      1. You might use the BeatStep as physical pads for ModStep.
      2. You might sync ModStep and BeatStep and use them together.
      3. You might use BeatStep on its own as a physical sequencer.

      And this is doubly true with BeatStep Pro, I’m guessing – really looking forward to reviewing that.

      I think each makes the other more useful. It’s also nice to be able to spatially separate musical elements by assigning the different controllers – particularly in live performance, when you have less mental bandwidth for task switching. (Wow, this alone could be an article… but maybe that’s just because when I play I find I have really low bandwidth for operating software, etc.)

  • djkm

    Is this a kind of ‘if you had an ipad and had waited for this, there was zero point to that beatstep you just bought’ kind of thing?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Yes, a beatstep cannot do what ModStep is able to do, but on the other hand it doesn´t have physical pads 😉

      • djkm

        Well, if at the very least it tells me the tempo that it’s playing at, it’s already infinitely more useful! the BeatStep itself can just be my ‘virtual knob’ controller!

        • Yeah, BeatStep Pro to me is looking far more interesting… but BeatStep (v1) will be a nice complement to ModStep

          • Benjamin Weiss

            Well compared to the Beatstep Pro, ModStep has virtually unlimited tracks…

    • Not at all. For instance…

      1. You might use the BeatStep as physical pads for ModStep.
      2. You might sync ModStep and BeatStep and use them together.
      3. You might use BeatStep on its own as a physical sequencer.

      And this is doubly true with BeatStep Pro, I’m guessing – really looking forward to reviewing that.

      I think each makes the other more useful. It’s also nice to be able to spatially separate musical elements by assigning the different controllers – particularly in live performance, when you have less mental bandwidth for task switching. (Wow, this alone could be an article… but maybe that’s just because when I play I find I have really low bandwidth for operating software, etc.)

  • Mutis Mayfield

    I need an audio slicer like BM2 and audio deck like… Djplayer since d(–)b seems discontinued…
    About hardware I’m enjoying the trigger finger pro and its lcd 😉

  • Mutis Mayfield

    I need an audio slicer like BM2 and audio deck like… Djplayer since d(–)b seems discontinued…
    About hardware I’m enjoying the trigger finger pro and its lcd 😉

  • Josh

    Looks like a winner! Can you setup custom scales and or trigger specific notes etc like the cells in Ableton’s drum rack? For example I’d like to trigger my Volca beats with a nice simple UI but the notes are spread out over a few octaves. I hope that made sense

    • papertiger

      That would be incredibly useful with Nord Leads that have the percussion kit feature that relies on using specific notes. +1!

    • Benjamin Weiss

      So far we haven´t implemented custom scales, but you can choose between 25 scales that are in there. As for triggering specific notes: yes this is possible with the
      drum mode and we even have a preset with the CCs for the Volca Beats.

      • Josh

        Thats awesome! Can’t wait for this!

  • Josh

    Looks like a winner! Can you setup custom scales and or trigger specific notes etc like the cells in Ableton’s drum rack? For example I’d like to trigger my Volca beats with a nice simple UI but the notes are spread out over a few octaves. I hope that made sense

    • papertiger

      That would be incredibly useful with Nord Leads that have the percussion kit feature that relies on using specific notes. +1!

    • Benjamin Weiss

      So far we haven´t implemented custom scales, but you can choose between 25 scales that are in there. As for triggering specific notes: yes this is possible with the
      drum mode and we even have a preset with the CCs for the Volca Beats.

      • Josh

        Thats awesome! Can’t wait for this!

  • papertiger

    Will there be MIDI CC/moduation sequencers in there too?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Per track you have up to 128 CCs, so yes 😉 By not setting any steps, you can use them as pure CC modulation sequencers as well.

      • papertiger

        hell yeah! 😀

  • papertiger

    Will there be MIDI CC/moduation sequencers in there too?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Per track you have up to 128 CCs, so yes 😉 By not setting any steps, you can use them as pure CC modulation sequencers as well.

      • papertiger

        hell yeah! 😀

  • Gwydion

    “It works on all iPads – even the old ones.” – nice! Still lots of life left in my iPad 1, great to see new apps on it (for as long as Apple allows devs to target this device).

  • Gwydion

    “It works on all iPads – even the old ones.” – nice! Still lots of life left in my iPad 1, great to see new apps on it (for as long as Apple allows devs to target this device).

  • yoyodyne

    Is MIDI jitter better or worse out the iPad as compared to the Mac? I’ve given up trying to sequence hardware from my computer, it’s so bad.

    • Benjamin Weiss

      This is different from DAW to DAW, so it´s not easy to answer. We haven´t done any scientific measurements yet (but it sounds good) and it also depends on the midi interface you want to use.

  • yoyodyne

    Is MIDI jitter better or worse out the iPad as compared to the Mac? I’ve given up trying to sequence hardware from my computer, it’s so bad.

    • Benjamin Weiss

      This is different from DAW to DAW, so it´s not easy to answer. We haven´t done any scientific measurements yet (but it sounds good) and it also depends on the midi interface you want to use.

  • heinrichz

    Can’t wait to get this!

  • heinrichz

    Can’t wait to get this!

  • Guest Man

    The Pyramid hardware sequencer from Squarp finds a nice balance between features and price… WAY better than a BeatStep Pro. (Does 16 tracks, polyphonic, polyrhythmic, polymetric, and EUCLYDIAN RHYTHMS. Among many other features (i.e. midi effects, chords, assignable controllers, etc.)

    http://www.squarp.net/

    • Hanswans

      This thing looks really cool, can’t wait to see it out of prototyping!

  • Will

    > By the way – don’t ever Google that.

    Thanks for the tip.

    This looks quite good.

  • Guest Man

    The Pyramid hardware sequencer from Squarp finds a nice balance between features and price… WAY better than a BeatStep Pro. (Does 16 tracks, polyphonic, polyrhythmic, polymetric, and EUCLYDIAN RHYTHMS. Among many other features (i.e. midi effects, chords, assignable controllers, etc.)

    http://www.squarp.net/

    • Hanswans

      This thing looks really cool, can’t wait to see it out of prototyping!

  • Will

    > By the way – don’t ever Google that.

    Thanks for the tip.

    This looks quite good.

  • Will

    “Works on all iPads”, per their site, is impressive. If true, I just saw a used iPad 1 for under 100 dollars. Brings this in at significantly less than something like the Beatstep pro.

    • Michi

      Don’t buy that. You won’t enjoy it, even if this App might (barely) works, countless others won’t and you will regret it. I can’t recommend buying anything older than the iPad Air 1 at this point and would actually lean toward sthe current Air 2 – Remember you can always sell those iDevices for a very good price in cas eyou want to upgrade in a year or two.

      • Christian Blomert

        the app does not work ‘barely’ – it works the same on iPad 1 as it does on iPad Air 2 – and if the iPad is set to be a sequencer only, the 100$ pricepoint is a pretty good argument for the older version i think.

        however: if you plan to use other (especially audio) apps with it, we definitely recommend a newer generation iPad as well. The iPad Air 2 comes close to laptop performance from 2-3 years ago, which is a lot in this form factor.

      • Will

        I hear you but… what Christian said. 🙂 As a general purpose music tablet, iPad 1 would be a bad choice but as a dedicated sequencer it is pretty cost competetive and compelling. You could use it for other stuff (thumbjam, nanostudio, MIDI control surface, manuals… all spring to mind) but at that price, which I imagine we’ll see more and more, you needn’t feel compelled to use it for more than one thing.

  • Will

    “Works on all iPads”, per their site, is impressive. If true, I just saw a used iPad 1 for under 100 dollars. Brings this in at significantly less than something like the Beatstep pro.

    • Michi

      Don’t buy that. You won’t enjoy it, even if this App might (barely) works, countless others won’t and you will regret it. I can’t recommend buying anything older than the iPad Air 1 at this point and would actually lean toward sthe current Air 2 – Remember you can always sell those iDevices for a very good price in cas eyou want to upgrade in a year or two.

      • Christian Blomert

        the app does not work ‘barely’ – it works the same on iPad 1 as it does on iPad Air 2 – and if the iPad is set to be a sequencer only, the 100$ pricepoint is a pretty good argument for the older version i think.

        however: if you plan to use other (especially audio) apps with it, we definitely recommend a newer generation iPad as well. The iPad Air 2 comes close to laptop performance from 2-3 years ago, which is a lot in this form factor.

      • Will

        I hear you but… what Christian said. 🙂 As a general purpose music tablet, iPad 1 would be a bad choice but as a dedicated sequencer it is pretty cost competetive and compelling. You could use it for other stuff (thumbjam, nanostudio, MIDI control surface, manuals… all spring to mind) but at that price, which I imagine we’ll see more and more, you needn’t feel compelled to use it for more than one thing.

  • kobamoto rin

    Peter pretty please, could you ask your friends if there is also a ModStep Sampler on the way, I think it would be so easy for the dev of touchable to understand how wonderful it would be to have all of those capabilities controlling an onboard drum sampling groove box on the ipad, it could even be said that there is a bigger hole that such an instrument could fill in iOS music dev.

  • kobamoto rin

    Peter pretty please, could you ask your friends if there is also a ModStep Sampler on the way, I think it would be so easy for the dev of touchable to understand how wonderful it would be to have all of those capabilities controlling an onboard drum sampling groove box on the ipad, it could even be said that there is a bigger hole that such an instrument could fill in iOS music dev.

  • Wait’o’wait

    So excited by this new app! I have been tantalisingly close to realizing a decent midi sequencer with the Lemur app but for one annoying problem – random glitching occurs every so often whereby the sequencer kinda stutters for a moment and sends out an extra loud note – a real bummer to what would be a brilliant tool. Now this is announced and my hopes are raised once more. I love using the iPad for sequencing and if this is stable it will be a god-send. I will buy it straight away! Has it been a nightmare to get the app to run stable or is it just Lemur that suffers with this behaviour? I notice most Lemur users say it is better to use Lemur to control other sequencers in Max or other for the most stability.

    Most importantly, what kind of timeframe until release?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Hopefully within the next 2 months…

      • Wait’o’wait

        Great news, thanks! If your looking for any more beta testers don’t hesitate, I would be very willing 😀

  • Wait’o’wait

    So excited by this new app! I have been tantalisingly close to realizing a decent midi sequencer with the Lemur app but for one annoying problem – random glitching occurs every so often whereby the sequencer kinda stutters for a moment and sends out an extra loud note – a real bummer to what would be a brilliant tool. Now this is announced and my hopes are raised once more. I love using the iPad for sequencing and if this is stable it will be a god-send. I will buy it straight away! Has it been a nightmare to get the app to run stable or is it just Lemur that suffers with this behaviour? I notice most Lemur users say it is better to use Lemur to control other sequencers in Max or other for the most stability.

    Most importantly, what kind of timeframe until release?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Hopefully within the next 2 months…

      • Wait’o’wait

        Great news, thanks! If your looking for any more beta testers don’t hesitate, I would be very willing 😀

  • Josh

    Is there any chance that this could someday be made into an iPhone app as well?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Not enough space on “standard” iPhones, but it could work on a 6+:

      • Benjamin Weiss

        Like this:

      • Josh

        Would be awesome on a 6plus!

  • Josh

    Is there any chance that this could someday be made into an iPhone app as well?

    • Benjamin Weiss

      Not enough space on “standard” iPhones, but it could work on a 6+:

      • Benjamin Weiss

        Like this:

      • Josh

        Would be awesome on a 6plus!

  • kobamoto rin

    any samplers on the horizon in this form?

  • kobamoto rin

    any samplers on the horizon in this form?

  • oscdrift

    Seems like we can all stop waiting for that Lost in the Ether update from Genome……….

  • oscdrift

    Seems like we can all stop waiting for that Lost in the Ether update from Genome……….

  • lala

    Yum yum, can’t wait
    Tease me some more

  • lala

    Yum yum, can’t wait
    Tease me some more

  • Jeff

    I’m looking for a specific feature that I got a big kick out of in the software Sundog Studio and I think it is part of Chordion on the iPad. Maybe you’ll have it/toss it in??

    I want to be able to trigger a series of chords with one synth and have another synth’s access to notes be limited to the notes within the currently playing chord.

  • Jeff

    I’m looking for a specific feature that I got a big kick out of in the software Sundog Studio and I think it is part of Chordion on the iPad. Maybe you’ll have it/toss it in??

    I want to be able to trigger a series of chords with one synth and have another synth’s access to notes be limited to the notes within the currently playing chord.

  • nudephotomusic

    Benjamin Weiss – you may have just forced me to buy an ipad. 😉

    Few questions for you:

    Can I trigger sequences / record from midi notes in?
    Any import / export SMF?
    Any kind of “midi thru” mapping so I could route a fader / knob controller to other devices in the midi chain?

    Awesome app – can’t wait to see it released. 🙂

  • nudephotomusic

    Benjamin Weiss – you may have just forced me to buy an ipad. 😉

    Few questions for you:

    Can I trigger sequences / record from midi notes in?
    Any import / export SMF?
    Any kind of “midi thru” mapping so I could route a fader / knob controller to other devices in the midi chain?

    Awesome app – can’t wait to see it released. 🙂

  • HansMono

    Well, that semi-monthly app meetup isnt open to the “general public” by any chance.. isn’t it?! Because i was looking for something like that for some time now and sadly had no luck… except for some of the workshops wich happen occasionaly.. :/

  • HansMono

    Well, that semi-monthly app meetup isnt open to the “general public” by any chance.. isn’t it?! Because i was looking for something like that for some time now and sadly had no luck… except for some of the workshops wich happen occasionaly.. :/

  • Ja’Maul Redmond

    Would it import/export midi files? I desperately want to stop taking my Maschine out live but I can’t find anything that imports/exports midi files. I can find something else that takes care of the samples.

  • Ja’Maul Redmond

    Would it import/export midi files? I desperately want to stop taking my Maschine out live but I can’t find anything that imports/exports midi files. I can find something else that takes care of the samples.

  • Fayek Helmi

    you know what? i started reading this article thinking to myself, this is going to be just a load of crap like all the other apps are… until you said creator or touchable.

    I bought recently the ipad air 2 for music production as its primary purpose, and a few hundred dollars on apps later i have given up hope on anything on the ipad to go beyond the novelty level….. except for touchable.
    Even though i still haven’t integrated it into my live setup, i have been surprised time and time again at its reliability flexibility, smart design and intuitiveness and i have in no way any affiliation with touchable (heck, i wish i did! if you need a tester or something im your guy!)
    and even though i haven’t bought the add on with the devices, i was playing around yesterday with the custom template creator and man is that thing a gift from heaven! as much as the app itself is really well built for me i think my primary use of touchable will be for the custom tempalte creator. after spending hours trying to get even the simplest of touchOSC templates to work without lag or disconnecting, touchable is king. and this makes me believe that modestep will be king as well….
    Im eagerly awaiting this app, and i dont even have any hardware! but a good step sequencer is a good step sequencer, and perhaps i’ll manage to transform this into a pretty elaborate drum machine with ableton drum racks instead of buying a dedicated hardware… i dunno, but what i do know is that i’m going to be buying this app and then figuring out what i could use it for…

    Please make all the ipad apps from now on! everyone else sucks

  • Fayek Helmi

    you know what? i started reading this article thinking to myself, this is going to be just a load of crap like all the other apps are… until you said creator or touchable.

    I bought recently the ipad air 2 for music production as its primary purpose, and a few hundred dollars on apps later i have given up hope on anything on the ipad to go beyond the novelty level….. except for touchable.
    Even though i still haven’t integrated it into my live setup, i have been surprised time and time again at its reliability flexibility, smart design and intuitiveness and i have in no way any affiliation with touchable (heck, i wish i did! if you need a tester or something im your guy!)
    and even though i haven’t bought the add on with the devices, i was playing around yesterday with the custom template creator and man is that thing a gift from heaven! as much as the app itself is really well built for me i think my primary use of touchable will be for the custom tempalte creator. after spending hours trying to get even the simplest of touchOSC templates to work without lag or disconnecting, touchable is king. and this makes me believe that modestep will be king as well….
    Im eagerly awaiting this app, and i dont even have any hardware! but a good step sequencer is a good step sequencer, and perhaps i’ll manage to transform this into a pretty elaborate drum machine with ableton drum racks instead of buying a dedicated hardware… i dunno, but what i do know is that i’m going to be buying this app and then figuring out what i could use it for…

    Please make all the ipad apps from now on! everyone else sucks