Entrian Sequencers: VCV Rack Plugin

This is the home of Entrian Sequencers, a commercial plugin for VCV Rack.

Introduction 

 
Here's a 2-minute video to give you an idea of what the Entrian Sequencers plugin is capable of.  Mostly what you're seeing here is the popup editor of the Timeline module:
 
There are four modules in the plugin:
 
Timeline, a DAW-like timeline sequencer.
Melody, a polyphonic piano-roll sequencer.
Drummer, a drum sequencer.
CV, a CV sequencer.
 
(A free copy of Drummer is also included in the Entrian Acoustic Drums plugin.)
 
The screens on the panels display the current song, with a vertical line representing the playhead: 
 
Clicking the panel screen shows a resizable popup editor: 
 
 The Timeline editor has ten tracks, and on those tracks are clips, and in those clips are notes.  Different type of clip contain pitched notes (orange), drum notes (yellow), or CV segments (green).
 
The Melody, Drummer, and CV modules each contain a single clip of pitched, drum, or CV notes respectively.

Outputs

 
Down the right-hand side of the Timeline module are three columns of outputs, one set per track, whose purpose depends on the type of clip that lives on that track:
 
Column 1. V/Oct (for Melody clips), CV (for CV clips) or Trigger (for Drum clips).
Column 2. Gate (for Melody or CV clips) or Accent (for Drum clips).
Column 3. Velocity (for all clips; yes, CV segments have velocity, why not? :-) ) 

The editor

 
You control the length of the sequence with "Number of beats" on the left-hand side of the editor:
 
Use "Beats per bar" to control bar lines.  Bar lines are purely cosmetic.
 
You can have up to 25 named songs in a module, and there's a CV input to switch between them: you can supply a voltage to choose which song to play (using notes C3-C5) or you can trigger the next song, or a random song.  Right-click the panel to set which option you want to use.
 
To keep things in sync when switching between songs, you probably want to set "Song CV/menu" to "End of phrase" - when a new song is selected, that won't take effect until the end of the current phrase, rather than happening instantly.  Instant change might be what you want, but it's likely to be jarring.
 
 By enabling "Record keys", you can record into the current clip using your PC keyboard.  Use the standard Rack keys for Melody notes, and the number keys 1 up to 0 for drums.
 
Quantization, when enabled, affects newly-added notes (including when recording live), notes that you add or move with the mouse, and the repeat markers.  When recording CV from an external MIDI controller, a new segment is created at each quantization point (if the voltage has changed) so for example, setting it to 2 steps per beat at 120BPM will add a new segment every quarter second.
 
In the editors for Melody and Drum clips, there's a button to quantise all the notes according to the current quantization settings.
 
Across the top of the editor is the Playhead bar.  Click or drag in here to move the playhead:
Immediately under the Playhead bar is the Markers bar, where you can optionally place Start and End repeat markers.  A click in the markers bar creates a marker, or if the markers already exist, moves the nearest marker to that position.  Right-clicking anywhere in the markers bar deletes both markers.
 
Notes have properties, which you can edit by left-clicking the notes.  Here are the properties for a Drum note: 
 
Note that most editor operations can be undone and redone with the standard rack Undo and Redo commands (Ctrl+Z, Shift+Ctrl+Z).  This is why there are no "Are you sure?" dialogs!

Mouse and keyboard gestures

 
 - Left-click in empty space to add a clip or a note.
 - Left-click a note to edit its properties: velocity, probabilities, etc.
 - Right-click a clip or a note to delete it.
 - Left-drag a clip or a note to move it.
 - Hold Alt while dragging to lock the drag to horizontal or vertical movement.
 - Left-drag the right-hand end of a clip or a note to adjust its duration.
 - Ctrl+left-drag-up-and-down a note to adjust its velocity.
 - Point to a clip or note and press Backspace or Delete to delete it.
 - Point to a note and press Enter to apply the most recent property change to it.
 - Hold a key and sweep with the mouse to apply a keystroke to lots of notes.
 - Point to empty space and press A to Add a drum note.
 - Hold the A key and sweep to add many drum notes, controlled by quantisation.
 - Left-drag a rectangle around a set of notes to select them.
 - Press Ctrl+A to select all the notes in the clip.
 - Hover on a clip and press Ctrl+C or Ctrl+Insert to copy, or Ctrl+X to cut, the clip.
 - Hover on a clip and press Ctrl+D to duplicate it to its right.
 - Hover on a clip and press Shift+Ctrl+D to to create an Alias clip to its right.
 - Hover over space in the timeline and press Ctrl+V or Shift+Insert to paste a clip.
 - Scroll the mouse wheel to scroll vertically, or horizontally if there's no vertical scroll.
 - Shift+Scroll the mouse wheel to scroll horizontally where vertical scroll is a thing.
 - [Shift+]Ctrl+Scroll the mouse wheel to zoom, horizontally or vertically.
 - Right-click a scrollbar to reset its position.
 - Hold Ctrl while dragging a scrollbar thumb to zoom rather than scroll. 

Clock / Reset / Run

 
You need to provide the sequencers with a clock, and that clock needs to be set to give four ticks per beat.  Your clock might call that x4 or 1/16th ("four ticks per beat" is the same thing as "sixteenth notes" because one beat is considered a "quarter note", regardless of time signature).
 
You should also wire up the Reset and Run outputs from your clock to the Reset and Run inputs of all your sequencers, and prefer to use those rather than the Reset and Run buttons on the panel, so that you can wire up any other clock-driven modules from your clock in the same way, and everything will stay in sync.  It also ensures that Reset and Run events are synchronized with clock ticks.
 
Run is a trigger input that toggles the running state of the sequencer.  When the sequencer is not running, its gates are closed so sounds stop playing.  The clock is ignored when the sequencer isn't running.
 
Reset is a trigger input that returns the playhead to the beginning of the song.  If the sequencer is running, it will immediately start playing from the beginning after a reset.  (Note that being in the running state without a running clock is a weird state to be in - that's why you should use the Run output from your clock to keep things in sync.) 
 
Clock Delay: Every cable in Rack carries a one-sample delay.  This is inaudible, but it can have an effect for triggers and clocks.  If you feed the same clock to both a scene sequencer and a trigger sequencer, the change of scene will arrive one sample too late to affect the first beat of a scene.  The fix is to add a one-sample delay to the trigger sequencer’s clock input via the “Delay Clock” menu.  (That menu has an “Auto” option, enabled by default, which makes the most common cases just work without needing to do anything.)

Joining sequencers together: shared playheads

 
You can link the playheads of multiple sequencers so that they will always stay in sync.  On the context menu, designate one of the modules as the leader by checking the "Shared playhead leader" option, and on the others, check "Shared playhead follower".  Then, when any of the playheads move, they all move together.
 
For example, you can link two Timeline modules like to make them into a single 20-track sequencer.
 
Note that even when you're using shared playheads, it's good practise to connect the Run and Reset outputs of your clock to all your sequencers.

 Copy/Paste

 
You can point at a clip in the Timeline editor and press Ctrl+C to copy it or Ctrl+X to cut it, and then point into an empty space and press Ctrl+V to paste the clip.
 
You can drag-select a set of notes in the editor, and Ctrl+C / Ctrl+X / Ctrl+V to copy or move those notes, within that clip or into a different clip.  Press Ctrl+A to select all the notes.
 
Entrian Sequencers supports clipboard sharing of clips with other VCV Rack sequencers that respect the Portable Sequence standard.  At the time of writing, this includes Seq++ and Seq4x4 from Squinky Labs, most of Aria Salvatrice’s collection, and from Impromptu Modular: Foundry, PhraseSeq16/32, SMS16, BigButtonSeq2, FourView (copy only), and ChordKey.  Clips copied from any of these sequencers can be pasted into any of the others.

Repeating patterns

 
To create a repeating pattern, create a clip, then left-click to the right of it to add an Alias clip, then drag that Alias clip into place.  Alias clips appear in the timeline in a slightly darker color.  You can duplicate a clip by pointing at it and pressing Ctrl+D, and you can create an alias clip by pointing at a clip and pressing Shift+Ctrl+D.

Importing MIDI files

You can import MIDI files into Entrian Sequencers (and the Player modules in the Entrian Free plugin).  Here's a 4-minute video demo:

To import a melody or drum groove into Timeline, click in empty space to add a clip, and choose one of the MIDI options.  From there you can choose your MIDI file, and choose one or more tracks to import.  To import CV, you need to create a CV clip that's long enough, then show the editor and click the "Import from a MIDI file..." button.

To import into Melody, Drummer, or CV, show the editor and click the "Import from a MIDI file..." button.

Here's the MIDI import dialog:

You can import multiple MIDI tracks at once into a single sequencer track, so in this example you only need one oscillator to play both of the French Horn MIDI tracks.

When you're importing melody or drums, you can choose to import expression information like pitch bend, channel volume, and expression pedal into the notes themselves, or you can switch that off and import them separately as CV channels if you want full control.  You can specify the number of semitones that the pitch bend range corresponds with, independently for upward and downward bends.

When you're importing drums, be aware that not all MIDI files identify their drum tracks as drum tracks, so clicking the "List MIDI drum tracks" button might not show them.  That's why the "List all MIDI tracks" button is there.

The supported CV import types are Tempo, Pitch bend, Mod wheel, Channel volume, Expression pedal, Channel pressure, and Pan:

Recording from MIDI devices

 
To record from an external MIDI device, patch the VCV MIDI-CV or MIDI-CC modules into the Record inputs on the panel.  Velocity is optional, as is Gate for CV recording.
 
Click on a track name on the panel or in the editor to arm it for recording (a circle appears in the track label).  For a CV track, open up the clip and click on a channel to arm that channel for recording.
 
When recording CV, if you connect a cable to the Gate input then recording will only happen when the gate is open.  Otherwise any existing notes will stay in place.  Without a gate, recording happens continuously, but only starts when the incoming value changes.
 
Press the Record button to start recording.  You can "press" the Record or Clear buttons from a physical MIDI device via the VCV MIDI-Map module.  Press the button again to stop recroding, or use the context menu command "Stop recording at end of song" to stop recording automatically when the playhead reaches the end of the song.
 
In Melody and Drummer the Clear button clears the phrase; in Timeline it clears the armed clip.
 
Free loop mode: To record into a section of your song, rather than the whole thing, enable "Automatically create repeat markers when recording".  When you start recording, a start-repeat marker will be created, and when you stop recording, an end-repeat marker will be created.  The playhead will then loop over the marked section.

Arming a track using a MIDI device or CV

 
You can use a knob on a MIDI device to choose which track on a Timeline module, or which channel on a CV module, is armed for recording.  This lets you record multiple tracks one after the other without needing to reach for the mouse.  The list of tracks or channels is a MIDI-controllable parameter: using the MIDI-MAP module, click on a slot in MIDI-MAP, wiggle the knob, click anywhere in the track/channel list, and the mapping is created.  The full range of the knob is mapped to the tracks/channels, so hard left arms the first one and hard right arms the last.
 
You can also use Stoermelder's CV-MAP or µMAP to map a CV signal rather than MIDI, which will map either the unipolar voltage range from 0V to 10V, or the bipolar range from -5V to 5V, to the range of tracks or channels.

Polyphonic CV recording

 
CV recording can be monophonic or polyphonic.  If you plug a polyphonic cable into the "CV" input (or "V/Oct" in Timeline) then CV recording is polyphonic.  All the channels that are present in the cable are armed for recording.  The Clear input is also polyphonic in this case, so you can combine multiple buttons on your MIDI controller into a polyphonic cable into the Clear input, and use those buttons to selectively clear the channels.  The Clear button on the panel (or a MIDI controller button mapped to that Clear button) clears all the armed channels at once.

Simultaneous recording

 
Sometimes you want to record melody and CV at the same time, for example to record a melody with pitch bend and mod wheel.  You can do this using two synchronised recording modules, eg. a Timeline module for the melody and a CV module for pitch bend and mod wheel.
 
Here's how that might look:
 
 
(You can't record two types of input into a single Timeline module at once, but you can use two modules as described above and then Copy/Paste the resulting phrase from the CV module into the Timeline to get them into the same place.)

Step recording

To record a melody or a drum groove step-by-step, connect a MIDI-CV module to the recording inputs, then enable Record and disable Run.  Now, when you hit a note on your keyboard / drum pads / whatever, that note will be added at the playhead position and the playhead will move forwards by the quantisation amount, ready for the next note.  To add a rest, ensure your mouse cursor is hovering over the module and press the spacebar.

Step recording works one note at a time.  You can use repeat markers to mark the section of the clip that you want to step-record into, and when you reach the end marker, the playhead will loop back to the start.  That's how to step-record a polyphonic melody sequence, or a drum groove with multiple instrument hits at the same playhead position (rather than trying to hit two keys at exactly the same time!) 

Polyphony and channel assignment

 
Under normal circumstances, melody clips are polyphonic.  Overlapping notes will be sent to different channels of the outputs, with channels being assigned automatically.  The assumption is that you're connecting a polyphonic sequencer track to a polyphonic voice, and it all works as expected.
 
But sometimes you want more control.  You might have a monophonic voice, and therefore want to limit the output to one channel.  Or you have three monophonic voices on channels 1, 2, and 3.  Or you've connected different channels to different variations of a voice, and you want to control which notes go to which channels.
The polyphony-limiting and channel assignment features work together to let you control how notes are assigned to channels. First, you set up your track with a channel limit, and as many reserved channels as you want to control yourself:

So here I’ve limited it to 8 channels, and told it that I want to reserve channels 1 and 2 for my own use. Normal polyphonic notes will be assigned to channels 3-8, and if I bust that limit, new notes will override older ones.

You can set the polyphony all the way down to 1 for monophonic behaviour.

Having reserved some channels, you can assign notes to channels individually via Note Properties: 

or for a rubber-band-selected group of notes:

Notes that are assigned to a channel are painted with a little diagonal tag at their left-hand end, with each channel being displayed with a differently coloured tag.

You can highlight all the notes in a clip that live on a particular channel: 

The Swing feature lets you offset some of the beats within the rhythm of your piece, so that rather than a regular rhythm, DAH dah DAH dah DAH dah DAH dah, some of the notes are offset.  A typical swing rhythm delays every even-numbered note so that the odd-numbered notes are about twice as long as the even-numbered ones: DAH... dah-DAH... dah-DAH... dah-DAH...

The Entrian sequencers give you quite a lot of flexibility when defining a Swing pattern:

  • You can offset quarter notes, eighth notes, or sixteenth notes.
  • You can either delay them or bring them forward in time.
  • You can control the exact fraction of a note by which they are offset.

A more-specific pattern overrides a less-specific one, so for example a track-wide pattern applies to all the clips in that track unless a specific clip defines its own pattern.

The potential for making a truly hideous cacophany is huge.  You're welcome.

Sharing your patch

 
The Entrian Free plugin, which is available for free from the VCV Library, includes "Entrian Sequencers Player".  This is the same quartet of modules that make up Entrian Sequencers, but without the ability to edit the notes.  All the Entrian Sequencers have a context menu command "Save patch to use the free Entrian Player..." that saves a copy of your patch with the Sequencer modules replaced with Player modules, so you can share your patches with other people, even if they don't have the Entrian Sequencers plugin.  They just need to install the Entrian Free plugin to be able to play your patch. 

Downloading and installing

 
Entrian Sequencers is a commercial VCV Rack plugin, currently priced at $30. It’s available from the VCV Plugin Library.

Bugs and missing features

 
Known bugs and missing features are tracked using the Entrian Audio GitHub tracker - please use that to report bugs or make feature suggestions.  Before raising a new issue, please check to see whether it's already known, and if it is, add your voice to the open issue for it.
 
If you'd rather get in touch directly rather than using the tracker, please feel free to email support@entrian.com.
 

Release history

Version 2.1.24: 12th January 2022:

  • Added support for Rack V2.  #84
  • Added the "Automatically create repeat markers when recording" option.  Thanks, nay-seven.  #68
  • Added Swing.  #57
  • Fixed a crash-on-exit bug.  Thanks, Drew, Ewen, and Vortico.  #73

Version 1.1.22: 24th May 2021:

  • Added the "Delay Clock" context menu commands.  Thanks, spectromas.  #76

Version 1.1.21: 3rd April 2021:

  • Fixed a bug whereby a Reset could get out of step with other sequencers.
  • Pointing at the module and pressing Backspace once again deletes the module.

Version 1.1.20: 30th March 2021:

  • Added Step Recording.  Thanks, Paul.  #70
  • When a Drummer module is set up as a Playhead Follower, it no longer occasionally drops notes.  Thanks, Gretchen.  #67
  • Quantisation now works properly for values of steps-per-beat that don't divide into 96.  Thanks, Paul.  #69

Version 1.1.19: 26th January 2021:

  • Increased the CV range to ±10V.  #47.  Thanks, Ewen and Latif.
  • Added channel rotation.  #53 and #60.  Thanks, Serge and ROGAVKA.
  • Where a drum note is a ratchet with a probability, and the ratchet comes before the note, and the note plays without the ratchet, the note now plays at the right time rather than playing the first note of the ratchet.  Thanks, Tom.  #63.

Version 1.1.18: 24th September 2020:

  • Parameterized track arming.  #50.  Thanks, Harlan.
  • Support for multi-instrument Type 0 MIDI files.  #49.
  • MIDI import pitch bend range control.  Thanks, Espen.
  • The editor window no longer loses its resizeability after you've launched a VCV-Host editor window.

Version 1.1.17: 5th September 2020:

  • MIDI import in both Entrian Sequencers and Entrian Free.
  • Dedicated CV module, to complement the Melody and Drummer modules. Thanks, Ewen.  #40.
  • Polyphonic CV recording.  Thanks, Artem and Ewen.  #39.
  • Copy/Paste of single channel vs. all channels for CV.
  • Controllable vertical snapping in the CV editor: disable snapping, or snap to increments of 1V, 1/12th V, BPM.  #6.  Thanks, Jue.
  • Context menu setting for "Stop recording at end of song". Thanks, Artem.
  • "End of phrase" output (Melody, Drummer, CV) and "End of clip" output (Timeline).  Thanks, Jue.  #31.
  • The piano keyboard in the Melody editor now displays the names of the notes ("C4" etc.)  Thanks, NoCode.
  • Holding Alt while dragging locks the drag to horizontal or vertical movement.
  • Ctrl+A now selects all the notes in a clip.  #25.
  • Hold Ctrl while dragging a scrollbar thumb to zoom rather than scroll; the opposite thumb mirrors your movements.
  • You can now pin the editor window so that it stays on top of other windows.  #14.  Thanks, Coirt.
  • There are now Run / Reset buttons in the editor and corresponding outputs on the panel, so you can control your clock from the editor.  #22.  Thanks, Eurikon.
  • The playhead and repeat markers now appear on the panel, so you can move the playhead and control the repeat range directly.  #1.
  • Shared playheads: connect the playheads of multiple sequencers together, so moving the playhead in one of them moves it in all of them.  #46.
  • Reduced CPU usage with complex songs.

Version 1.1.16: 22nd June 2020:

  • Clicking a Timeline track label on the panel screen now arms that track for recording.  #1
  • Right-clicking a scrollbar in the popup editor resets its position.  #2
  • The Melody editor can now scroll vertically by semitones rather than only by white notes, and the piano keys now line up with the editor underlay at all times. Thanks, Phil.  #13
  • Fixed-channel Melody notes now have coloured corner tags according to their channel. Thanks, Phil.  #33
  • When quantization is enabled, the lengths as well as positions of recorded notes are now quantized. Thanks, Ewen.  #34
  • Added a Clear button to the right of the Record button. In Melody and Drummer this clears the phrase; in Timeline it clears the armed clip. Thanks, Jean-Sébastien.  #34
  • Pasting in a Portable Sequence with an insanely short note no longer crashes. Thanks, Guy.  #42
  • When recording a chord, adding a new note to the chord no longer retriggers the already-playing notes. Thanks, Jean-Sébastien.  #43
  • The bar lines for very long songs now paint properly in the editor. Thanks, Ken.  #44
  • There's now a Display checkbox for quantization, which paints the quantization grid in the editor. Thanks, Steve.
  • When you disconnect the recording cables while auditioning notes through them, the notes no longer continue playing.
  • The panel buttons now trigger on any value greater than zero, making them easier to control with µMap etc.
 

Version 1.1.14: 9th March 2020 

First public release.

 

This article was updated on January 15, 2022