For a lot of us, hands-on sequencing control is a boon to playing, even alongside a computer. So then there’s the question of which sequencer. The reason Arturia’s BeatStep Pro got so interesting this year is that it’s a right-down-the-middle option: not too expensive, not too complicated, and not too weird, but very capable of driving the essential stuff you’d want to sequence. Bassline, some drums, maybe a lead – in whatever genre you happen to use – it’s covered.
So, that was all good enough. But what’s been impressive as the year has gone on is that Arturia haven’t relented as far as refining functionality. So whereas, frankly, the first BeatStep often failed to do what you wanted, the BeatStep Pro has been getting steadily better.
And the 1.3 update is especially compelling – enough so that people have actually shouted to me over the din of music in bars and clubs about it, which even with me, tends not to happen with firmware updates. (“Omigod this firmware update is AMAAAAAZING you have to try it TOTALLLLY CHANGES EVERYTHING i’m like full of energy and everything looks totally different.” Well, yes, welcome to my world.)
The 1.3 firmware update hit mid-month, followed quickly by a refresh to the MIDI Control Center, which handles how the hardware works as a controller.
These changes could for many tilt the scales to that magical ability to leave out the laptop. And not that we don’t love you, laptop. It’s that feeling of even the hypothetical ability to carry on with a set without the computer that can be freeing.
Quantizing patterns is easier. This is my favorite: a pattern can now wait until the end of a pattern before switching to a new one (settable via MIDI Control Center). And you can restart all three sequencers, quantized to the next drum step, using SHIFT + PLAY.
You can chain patterns. That makes this workable as an all-in-one song control center, not just a clever bassline sequencer and whatnot.
Change all steps’ parameters at once. This is particularly nice in live use, which is why I fell in love with this gear in the first place. You can know hold down shift and turn a knob to change everything at once. In fact, you can even do that via either absolute or relative changes, making it doubly useful. (Unfortunately, this doesn’t yet apply to CC, so I hope that comes next.)
Copy patterns between sequences, and see better what you’re doing. This makes saving feel far more comfortable. For one, you can copy from sequencer 1 to sequencer 2. Also, thankfully, there’s now a dot that gives you feedback on patterns as you save, and you get visual feedback for which slots are available.
Also, Arturia have fixed a number of features that stopped me from making the BeatStep Pro my main sequencer. USB clock no longer causes you to lose sync. (Uff.) And real-time recording has been improved (there were a few little glitches there, which seem to be fixed).
Lots of other enhancements are in there, too.
I think the best evidence that the BeatStep Pro is a hit is that it’s getting all this press and it doesn’t itself make sound. That flies in the face of an industry that assumes sequencers either have to be crammed into instruments, or have instruments crammed into them.
On the iOS side, I’m still eagerly awaiting ModStep. But that won’t satisfy someone who wants physical controls. And I think Elektron could follow up the OctaTrack – but even so, that hardware is far more expensive and complex to operate. The BeatStep Pro is a no-brainer even alongside a laptop, which I think accounts for a lot of its success.
And with 1.3, it’s easily vying for some ‘product of the year’ status. It’s just about to get a whole lot more use in my rig. Curious to hear how you’re using it, too.
Download those updates: