5 Step Pattern Unicorn

This may be silly to almost everyone here, but I’m writing it up in case there’s another lunk-head like me around wondering the same thing:

I’ve got Pyramid MkI Serial Number 008, so you know I’ve been using this wonderful sequencer since they were first introduced, and I believe I know it well, use it extensively, and love it very much.

There’s this business of a “5 step pattern” which I struggled with at first, and became obsessed with, and then eventually just gave up on it and got my “5 step” and sometimes my “7 step” satisfaction out of sub sequencers in sync with the Pyramid (don’t worry, I’ll explain this in a minute.)

Occasionally I would return to the question on the Pyramid, and once in a while I would search the forum for others struggling with this issue, and I often found threads like this:

To be transparent, by the time anyone is done explaining polymetrics or polyrhymics to me I almost don’t care any more. It makes my brain shut off, and I just kind of go into a coma. The way I learn is very much touch it, do it, listen to it, and see… think about it… then go try it again. I’m very tactile, and so as delighted as I am with words and ideas, I never really seem to retain them unless I use them in practice. This gets even better for me when I help someone else. Most of my life I’ve felt pretty stupid. Like not stupid enough to enjoy the freedom of idiocy, but nowhere near smart enough to be “bright.”

So last night I began looking at how in the world to get a “5 step” pattern from a track on the Pyramid again, this time it’s a job that only the Pyramid should do, and sub sequencing isn’t helpful. So I returned here, re read the above forum for the 50th time and made notes. I also cross referenced the manual again, and came up with these notes:

POLYMETRIC: 1 + 1/4 BAR = 5 Step
POLYRHYTHMIC 5:4 time sinature = 1 1/5 (or 5 Step)

So everyone is talking about zoom, and time signature and attempting to get 5 steps (or whatever) into the span of a bar in the Pyramid. Since my frontal lobes go into a popsicle freeze when we start talking like this, I didn’t think it through… because no. That’s not what I want to do.

This morning I applied 5:4 time to a track, and synced it up with a typical 4/4 drum machine. It was fun, but the results are all of the steps happen over the course of the drum machine’s 16 steps (1 bar.) This is not at all what I’ve been trying to do.

I have been trying to make a 20 step LOOP out of a track. So I want the LENGTH of the track to be 20 steps - 1 and 1/4 Bars. See the confusion when we start saying “steps” and “bars” and “loops” and “tracks” and put it into 7:8 and the next thing you know we’re selling that sucker on Reverb and angry about the whole thing… hahahaha (I will never EVER sell my Pyramid. Don’t even look at it. Move on…)

Ok, so I was bummed about this again this morning once I realized that adjusting the zoom and the time signature wouldn’t accomplish what seemed to me to be such a simple thing. I mean, one should be able to set the length of a track to whatever they like, right? And with the encoder, holding TRACK and LENGTH you can easily adjust from 1/4 to 1/2 to 3/4 to 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on… but until this morning I didn’t realize that there’s a trick here.

To accomplish a “5 step loop” here’s what you do:

  1. Select the track you want to adjust (Hold TRACK, Press The Track)
  2. Hold TRACK
  3. Press LENGTH
  4. Press the Encoder
  5. Rotate the Encoder

My stars… it works. I shouted. I drooled a little. I looked around for someone to kiss… (I was alone) and then I tried it again to be sure I wasn’t unconscious in a bathroom somewhere.
It’s true. I completely overlooked this, and had no idea that this was how you accomplish a “5 step” track loop.

To be fair, saying a “5 step” anything is wrong. It’s actually a 20 step loop.
There are 4 Beats per bar in 4/4 time, and so what I suppose I meant was a 5 Beat track loop… (each beat has 4 steps and 4 x 5 = 20, but this hasn’t got anything to do with time signature in terms of accomplishing it.)

While many devices have a simple length setting, and the Pyramid is no exception, I completely accepted that 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and then whole lengths was just how it worked… but it isn’t true. Depressing the encoder saves the day, and allows for 1/4 bar incremental adjustments to the track length.

If you weren’t like me, and you already knew this, thanks for reading. What fun right?
If you didn’t know this, like me, and needed to know it, I hope this helps you out.



I didn’t know this, I didn’t need to know it, but now that know, I’m curious about it. :slight_smile:
Thanks for sharing @Sunshine

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I tend to try press+encoder, and 2nd+‘things’ all over the place … as the Pyramid UI is pretty ‘dense’ due to the fairly limited number of knobs/buttons for the number of functions.
(in fairness, they are always in the manual, but the manual is pretty dense too)

I do really love these kind of posts though… as its a fascinating area of the pyramid

I think the pyramid manual explains polymeters / polyrythms very well, but in a very condensed form, but often belies the true complexity. (same for many other topics)
I think a good example, is this (throwaway) comment from the manual

its a great observation, but its not explained really, I think there is an expectation here, thats its thought provoking, and so you go off exploring, and discover why yourself - whenever Ive done this Ive learnt something , in this case how time signatures affect time. (doh!)

I don’t blame the manual for this brevity, I guess, I view it’s as, foremost a reference on how to use Pyramid, and secondarily an introduction into the more complex topics.
(in the same way, I don’t expect the Ableton Live manual to teach me music theory)

it’s one of the things I love about the Pyramid, its allowed me to explore how things relate… e.g. polyrythms vs polymeters, time signatures… and more generally how time and duration are denoted in music.

which brings me back to why I love these kind of topics… the discussions I think help us get a different perspective of what, as i said earlier, seems like simple concepts , but actually are pretty deep…

the pyramid allows us play with time, like a putty …
we can look at it close up/or from up high (with zoom),
we can cut it other in various different ways (with time signatures)
and if that was not enough, we play with multiple views of time (on different tracks) and then observe how they interact.

thats pretty complex stuff, not surprising it blows our minds at times :slight_smile:


How on earth did you accomplish this? I can’t for the life of me figure it out. All I want is a 6 step pattern. No matter what I do the bar will always start on 1 with the other track. Is there some equation I can do like length * signature to get steps?

I do this:

  • Set mode to polymeters
  • Set default track time signature to 16/16
  • Set zoom level to 1

With these settings it’s possible to change the pattern length by 1 step at a time (Can’t remember if you have to press the encoder or not). I usually run a lot of odd pattern lengths against each other, so for me this is the best way to go.

I think using 16/16 instead of 4/4 will limit the range of some midi FX, such as the arp. Can’t really expand on that because I don’t use them too much.


Thanks for the tip.

I found a workaround here somewhere in poly rhythm mode.

Set the signature to 16/4.
Change the zoom to 1.
You can now select any number of steps between 1 and 16.

This is particularly useful for acid lines.


The Pyramid is note based - what is a step?.. You decide with notes and time signatures. You could use 3/4, 6/4. 6/8 or 4/4+2/4. Set zoom and the track to loop or retrigger. That flexibility is the best the best thing about this sequencer.

If you have a 4/4 bar you have sixteen 16ths or 16 steps. 6 steps would refer to it being the same speed as 4/4 but it finishes earlier. Messing with time divisions changes its pace. I’m talking about changing its length.

Thanks for this. As a new user this is a great help and something I was having trouble doing.

Page 33 in the manual describes polyrhythm and polymeter. Sounds like you want polyrhythm.

“I looked around for someone to kiss…(I was alone)“. Haha…hah…ha…h…I’m sad now. Great comment. 2nd only to the one about early payday, PayPal credit, and alcohol.

that’s because you were in polyrhythms mode where the 5/4 signature isn’t actually 5/4, it’s more like one 4/4 bar with five quintuplets. To actually have a true 5/4 signature (one bar with five 1/4 notes) you need to be in polymeters mode

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I do wish that individual tracks could be polyrhythms or polymeters. I know it’s greedy of me, but I want to use both at the same time.

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now I get it but this is not respecting traditional terminology of music notation therefore very confusing, especially since it is not explained clearly anywhere