Pyramid Common "Gotchas?"

Hello all!

I’m trying out the Pyramid mostly blind from several YT videos. I’m coming back to music after a long break, and am hoping that the Pyramid is my holy grail of “Everything I own is now a groovebox that can finish songs.” My current setup is small, Digitone, Virus B, a 1010 Blackbox, a Kurzweil K2661, Model Samples, and on Monday, the Nymphes that’s arriving with my Pyramid.

I got started with the Roland MC-505 back in… well I’ll let that age me.

What I’d like to get is a general list of common missteps that you made when first working with the Pyramid. I’m really trying to avoid as many new mistakes as possible.

Everybody works differently, and one persons mistake is the centerpiece of another ones workflow. The “mistakes” you make when learning are essential to forming your own workflow. That’s regardless of gear but certainly applies to the Pyramid, it’s a flexible thing and packs a lot of depth, also known as complexity.

There’s one advice that you’ll see repeated a lot, and that is to keep re-reading the manual a lot. Omitting that is the single biggest mistake you can make.

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In a similar boat – had some basic gear (Roland Alpha Juno, Yamaha DX 11, Korg EX800, and EMAX II) back in the day, all running off the very linear MC-50 sequencer, i.e., one track per instrument and pattern/song based in terms of its workflow)

Now I’m easing back into a similar setup (still have the Alpha Juno but with Blackbox 1010 for looping, PIPES for chromatic sample playback, RD-9 for drums, and TD-3 for acid basslines). Still scratching the surface on Pyramid in terms of being able to control everything and my first impressions have been:

  1. Crawl before walking (and don’t even think about running yet). Pyramid feels intended more to be programmed (if not played) improvisationally, rather than the traditional sequencer method of live recording directly onto a track for a single pattern and then repeat that process until all the patterns of a song are constructed. Pyramid can do that but the different Track (step sequencing) and Live (recording) modes feel like they will actually be more creative once I get more comfortable with the full workflow. So for me, it’s been a process of just learning how one mode works before going on to the next mode. I can do most of the basics but also know that I’m still at stage one of the learning curve. Not sure I’ll ever really use Pyramid as an on-the-fly live programming thing but I can already appreciate how it (probably) will make that more attractive when I’m fully up to speed on the workflow

  2. One MIDI input + Two MIDI outputs (that also can double as MIDI OUT and/or THRU) = a lot of different possible permutations for routing note data directly from the Pyramid, while also using an external controller to play notes into Pyramid for sequencing. Mapping multiple devices to Pyramid’s MIDI IN/OUT (A+B) is still something I’m figuring out to get all my devices talking back and forth with each other properly. Pyramid’s documentation for the various IN/OUT/THRU modes doesn’t make all the possible settings as user-friendly as I would like.

  3. More generally, it feels like Pyramid has many “hidden” features or ways of performing seemingly simple tasks that are less than obvious or simple in actually executing them. It rarely feels intuitive, until you’ve just been using it long enough that the menu diving, encoder twisting, and button combos become second nature

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Use this one:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t53JWxwV3xvlFRTBDvyoEH6PQpuiJo3l/view?usp=drivesdk

Get familiar with zoom levels and Thier impact on note lengths

Sequence mode with patterns will make your life easy / setting auto pattern in setting / misc

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all great advice above…

I think the most common ‘issue’ I see here is new users expecting the Pyramid to work like something the have previously used… all sequencers work differently, have a different ‘workflow’ - so its important to understand the Pyramid’s design and work within its ‘constraints’ … rather than trying to make an apple from an orange… this way you’ll be able to take advantage of its (many) unique features rather than wondering why its missing x/y/z.
(in fairness, this is a common mistake, and not unique to the pyramid … that and not reading the manual :wink: )

the manual is very ‘detailed’ but perhaps not the easiest of read (its not a novel, rather more reference text) … so id check out a couple of youtube videos, loopop’s I think is (as always) excellent.

then go thru the manual, but your aim then is not to memorise settings/features, but rather make a mental note of what (features/settings) exist… so that later when you need them, they trigger that memory.
thats what i do , I don’t remember everything, rather I have a good idea of what’s possible, and will check the manual if I cannot remember the exact details.

also the forum is a a great source of common issues/misconceptions etc… in fact, this is it main purpose - to let the community help one another use the pyramid.

I think the difficulty with the pyramid is its extremely flexible, but the issue is, if you read the manual without a ‘purpose in mind’, you see lots settings and features - its not clear when you would use them.
later… you are trying to do something (so have a purpose!) , but have forgotten what’s available, or perhaps don’t see how a setting/feature might relate to what you are doing.
… thats when searching the forum is a great resource :wink:

as for actual details that confuse most…
as @OxOnFord mention, note and pattern lengths are probably the most confusing at first, and how these interact with zoom level. its a powerful concept but one that doesn’t appear on many sequencers (see first point :wink: ) - some good forum threads on this esp. about setting pattern lengths.

similarly, the fact that polymeters and polyrhythms are at the heart of the pyramid, so a lot of things about pattern length and pattern/sequence triggering are tied up with synchronising these - a lot of ‘settings’ are related to this (again pretty unique to the pyramid)
there are a few good forum threads on this.

note: the last two are probably ‘advanced’ concepts, you don’t need to worry too much about initially but are good to have in the back of your mind, so when you come up against them… you ‘know’ they exist.

midi sync is common question, check out midi menu settings its all there,
midi input channel is a very common question - look up omni mode - multitrack bank

of course, everyone is different, so im sure what we try to predict will the ‘gotchas’ is going to be wrong, only practice/using will really help… but hey ho, we are here to try to help :slight_smile:

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……… who hasn’t got a BlackBox?

Just wondering……

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I thought we all had Octatracks :wink:

Florian from BadGear doesn’t. He just asked me if it was worth getting! :smiley:

I held onto my K2661 for all these years, but after a couple weekends with the BB… I don’t see myself using the K2661 for much more than for specific one-off audio processing demands.

Three features that have kept it in my arsenal is the 1.) Ability to craft arbitrary LFO shapes and 2.) Ability to do FM processing against any input samples and 3.) It’s a really excellent MIDI controller. (Though I miss the ribbon on the K2500)

The blackbox however seems to have gotten rid of all the really annoying parts of sampling that I learned to live with but now can’t understand why I ever lived like that in the first place. (It was 1999. I lived with it because I had nothing better.) I wasn’t expecting to go “dawless” (I didn’t know that was a special thing) but the BB has me… pretty much there. I can safely say that I would sell the kurzweil before the blackbox. (And never would I have predicted saying such a thing…)

… and not to forget it records CV too. 16 pads of stored LFOs or ENVs or both if you record stereo left/right that’s some modulation power to me

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@chrisroland We are in very similar boats indeed!

I’m super excited about many of the improvisational ideas of sequencing that the Pyramid seems to offer. Loopop’s video essentially sealed the deal for me. My ideal is to be able to swap back and forth between improvisational and rails-on (I’m writing a finished track) songwriting. I really like working on the Model Samples (M:S) or the Digitone (DN)'s sequencers, but those units both lack a coherent ability to take the patterns into full songs. Initial creativity right now is off the charts, but I run out of steam quickly with pattern chaining.

What seemed to be more difficult is finding sequencers that had more ability to “finish” songs. I hated linear sequencers too and jumped to the DAW as soon as that was feasible. And then I hated the DAW because it became copy/paste editing. On the MC-505 at least, I could get inspired enough to write out several patterns of a song, and at the bare minimum I could program say an ABACBA song structure with mutes etc. Aside from most of the synth on the unit being meh that would get me to 90% of a track being written. (You could get album quality sounds out of it but it took some programming.)

As far as MIDI I still have a merge and a 1x4 that I was figuring would get me pumping, but I’m looking at a mioXL as the next studio acquisition so if you’re still having some issues then, I’ll have some routing gear I don’t need anymore.

There were a few reviews where the Pyramid was being slammed for having too small a screen for midi editing. I’m used to a 2x16 display. Both elektrons and the pyramid screens feel like absolute luxuries from where I used to live.

… and not to forget it records CV too. 16 pads of stored LFOs or ENVs or both if you record stereo left/right that’s some modulation power to me

I’m not quite there: I don’t have any gear that requires CV (yet) but I’m absolutely floored by how much is available now vs 2009 when I quit. The CV sequencing was a huge plus.

I hadn’t considered… how much automation that would open up. That’s alot.

So I write electronic music that’s probably more influenced by rock/metal (Katatonia is my favorite band) and I frequently use 6/8 and other “weird” time signatures. I adjusted to it a little bit on my elektron devices, but there’s no replacement for saying, “7/8” and then all the sequencing setup adjusts accordingly.

Like, even the 505 could do bizarre time sigs natively. Even with its XOX editing.

You’ll have lot of fun with Pyra

and what about to join our little challenge here?

Still plenty of time, lot of music