MIDI Looper?

I’m starting to think I’d like a MIDI sequencer that behaves somewhat like a looper, doing the following:

  • Capture a short sample of a MIDI performance, including key velocity data.
  • Quantize to a tempo set by a “tap tempo” pedal continually and dynamically throughout the capture, rather than to an LED or click track.
  • Loop and play back, by default to the last tempo seen but honoring continuous “tap tempo” data from the same pedal.

Using a MIDI sequencer with these “tap tempo” features should give greater flexibility for capture and playback during a live ensemble performance than using a traditional audio looper, which requires the whole ensemble to play to the tempo recorded in the loop.

But my real motivation is to be able to play a pattern and then make gradual, multi-bar changes to the analog character of the sound without having to continue playing with one hand and turn knobs with the other.

Record a one-bar pattern on a MIDI keyboard driving a x0xb0x (or a real TB-303, if you’re filthy rich enough to have one and a DIN-sync MIDI adapter to go with it), then play it back and slowly tweak the knobs while everyone else jams on for a bit.

Am I going to find that all of this functionality already exists within the x0xb0x? (It looks like it might be close — MIDI ports; internal sequencer; variable tempo, although perhaps not that sophisticated.) Alternatively, are there MIDI sequencers that do all of this? Is this de rigeuer for every sequencer under the sun?

6 Responses to “MIDI Looper?”

  1. David Nichols says:

    Ableton Live!

    Learn it, love it. In the context of this one single thing it may seem like an extremely large undertaking, but with a few days of poking around you’ll see that a lot of things you have ideas to do just get simple. Can’t recommend it enough.

  2. steve cooley says:

    You could probably just ask Lenore directly about the x0xb0x. She’s pretty cool. Also, it’s firmware based… so you should be able to either modify the source or lobby her to consider a tap tempo feature.

  3. Keith Neufeld says:

    Steve, don’t confuse Limor of Adafruit with Lenore of EMSL!

    I have the impression Limor has pretty well moved on from the x0xb0x and isn’t much interested in doing more with it. But I’ll learn about its feature set when I finish assembling mine; and of course you’re right about the open-source firmware.

  4. steve cooley says:

    totally right! sorry! Limor it is. Duh.

  5. Peter says:

    As far a s I know, it’s not a particularly common feature… Live might offer it in software, but it sounded to me like you were asking about a MIDI version of a delay pedal… it’s an interesting idea, actually. A super basic version would just have a punch in/out button or pedal and it would begin recording midi in on punch-in and then repeat it in a loop when you punch out.

    I’m guessing you’d have to do some massaging on the inside to sync the messages to the clock (I’m guessing the data would have to fit neatly inside two bar messages, and you’d have to increment the time clock data every loop, or the destination loop wouldn’t actually play the notes), but once you figured out the basics, it would be pretty simple to add some pretty neat features.

    One that jumps out would be the ability to selectively mute/solo channels that were being looped, and maybe flip them around instruments – although that could get complicated design-wise with analog hardware.

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