Arturia’s BeatStep Pro has long been a hub of choice for live performance, including with modular. But the KeyStep Pro actually does more – and these videos explain how. That could help answer how to play live with your gear (and apps).
So, obviously, the KeyStep Pro gives you keys instead of pads as on the BeatStep Pro, plus an arpeggiator. But the existing KeyStep did that already.
The KeyStep Pro does more than either the BeatStep Pro or original KeyStep before it – a lot more:
- 4 independent sequencers, with patterns and chaining and scenes and projects (the BeatStep Pro has two mono step sequencers and one 16-track drum sequencers)
- Polyphony! Each step has up to 16 note polyphony, on each sequencer, and there are polyphonic outs
- Quantize or not. You can record without quantization and play back with or without it – critical for more natural performances (or, like, ambient music)
- Scale quantization, or not. There are also user scales, though tuning options would be nice. (this just quantizes to modes with existing tuning, so you’ll have to rely on your hardware or software to re-tune)
- Touch Strip with looper and expression
- Independent metronome (which you can also route, essential for human instrumentalists – or use it as a clock signal)
- Encoders with LED feedback, great for controlling synths (see the VCV Rack example)
- Step edit in addition to the sequencing controls, plus dedicated step buttons
- Tons of analog outputs – CV, gate, mod, drum gate, all configurable
- Analog clock
- MIDI in + two out
The Perfect Circuit video gives a good overview, with explanation of patching, how the sequencer and arpeggiator work, and drum muting (plus some jamming.)
Using USB you can also work with an iPad, for instance. Oh yeah, and since it’s a keyboard – melodic sequencing here makes more sense for a lot of us.
The BeatStep Pro does most of this – if you like pads more than keys, it’s still probably what you want. But you don’t get ring LED feedback on the encoders. It lacks not only keys but also the clever dual touch strips on the KSP (it has one smaller loop touch strip, mounted horizontally).
And mainly, the KeyStep Pro gives you polyphony across all four sequencers. You can use it for monophonic parts or drum parts, for sure – but you aren’t restricted as on the BeatStep Pro.
Plus the KeyStep Pro offers you the option of making unquantized recordings. The BeatStep Pro quantizes everything, until you shift it off the beat.
And now is a good time to look at the KeyStep Pro [KSP] because of firmware improvements delivered in the innocuously named “1.2.6.” MIDI in makes more sense, you can record over a count-in, and there are fixes and lots of sync improvements (both performance and behavior).
Most importantly, this instrument is way more playable now on the fly. You can store drum track time-division per pattern – so you can swap patterns and change rhythmic divisions. (That alone almost makes it worth considering the KSP.) Plus with record on you can now swap patterns and record pattern changes. One of the sync improvements also involves automatically swapping back to internal clock even after sync to external signal – perfect for recovering from equipment or cable failures, for one thing!
Videos: how to use it, what’s cool
There are a bunch of KSP videos online, but here are some that I found most useful.
Jade from DAWLESS Jammin’ goes through what’s cool:
For modular users, she also walks through how she patches and even how the KeyStep Pro and a modular can be used in songwriting. Yeah, I know – not even random fart noises, you modular skeptics, you! Like a song!
This instrument is a natural with VCV Rack. (I’d add in something like a Sensel Morph for polyphonic expression for those patches, but then it’s still useful to have the Arturia piece for additional sequencing/clock/parameter control)!
Arturia also have their own official tutorials, which are quite clear. And we can all covet the clinician’s hair, which has beautiful volume. (Mine is currently lumped on my head in chaotic fashion and I need a hairdresser – or just some French seaside air, maybe! I salute you, sir!)
They also did a big walkthrough:
Let us know if you have questions or specific scenarios you’d like to see. I know my studio mate is tangling with sequencing on her modular and I owe a live set recording soon, so we should all get to work!