Sequencing anacruses (pickups)

I’m struggling to find ways of dealing with anacruses, aka pickups, with the Pyramid. What I’m referring to is notes that are played before a bar line but sustained across it.

Say I have a phrase that I want to repeat a few times that starts a beat or two before a bar line (‘the one’). When I play/write the notes in, the notes that begin the phrase are at the end of the final bar, and sustain beyond the ‘end’ of the bar (let’s say of an 8 bar phrase). If I’m just jamming the tune, I simply unmute the track just before the first note of the phrase (so in the final bar of the previous block of tracks). The track repeats, with the notes that span the bar line playing out for their duration.

However if I then want to make ‘Sequences’ (in the Pyramid’s definition) and have the whole tune simply play out, I’m struggling to find a way to get the phrase to start at the beginning. As I understand it there is no way to offset the start of a track within a sequence, and in all my attempts so far to find a way around this I end up with the ‘pickup’ notes being cut off at the start of the next sequence.

Playing/writing phrases that run across bar lines is something that I find myself doing a lot, and isn’t exactly uncommon in music in general (it’s a fixture in Latin music, for example, so by extension not unusual in House) and isn’t a problem in a DAW. Maybe there’s something I’ve missed in the Pyramid workflow? If not, how have other Pyramid users got around this?

Right now all I can think of is to compile the Sequences, and manually unmute any pickups/mute the phrase at the end of the last repeat, before it gets to the pickup at the end of the last bar. I’m hoping there’s a better way that I’ve missed.

Thanks for any help on this, it’s not the easiest thing to explain so I hope I’ve made some sort of sense. Happy to try to clarify anything that doesn’t.

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Many ways to approach this.
Sorry, but I’m not the bright one to respond, but let’s try this!

It also depends heavily on how you relate to the Pyramid. Even saying “I play sequences” can mean different things - it’s an extremely flexible instrument.

I’m assuming you record with the pickups going into a phrase so that you end up with a Track/Pattern that has the anacrusis plus the melody for the next bit.

First, I’d slice those apart to make two different Patterns by duplicating it, the using Track Length and Rotate to end up with 2 Patterns: the anacrusis and the next bit that we’re leading into.

Let’s say Sequence 06 is the part that is looping where you want the anacrusis to happen at the 4th iteration. make a Sequence 07 that is the same as Sequence 06, except Unmuting the pickup Track. Then Sequence 08 is the next musical paragraph.

So you’d end up with a chain like 06-06-06-07-08…

Of course, this is depending on what Run Mode you use.

If Run Mode’s get in the way of that, you can also do the same “split off the pickup” bit above and if you have a finite number of loops before the next paragraph of music that the pickup will lead into, then you can just create a Track the length of the number of all the repetitions before hand with the pickup at the end of the Track.

Note: If a Track is longer than others that are looping in say Relatch mode, and the Track in question is in Trig mode, and it is Unmuted in multiple Sequences, the Trig mode Track will continue to play through.

So, if you have 16 bars where the pickup is the final 2 bars, but everything else is 4 bars and looping, you create a pickup Track of 16 Bars long, set it in Trig mode. The other Tracks will loop 4 times and the pickup Track will play on until it hits the pickup.

This only works if you’re not improvising and might end up want to play this section different lengths of time. But honestly from your query it seems you’re a Press Play and Go kind of performance?

Note: I don’t use Sequence Mode at all, so apologies if I’m totes out to lunch.

Since you asked how others deal with it, I typed a bunch, but it was a whole lot of blah-blah-blah. Sorry. I deleted it. I could explain it, but truly you want to work with your workflow and mine is…bizarre.

Some good information to share until the smart people chime in might be:

  • Do you improv or are your compositions written in ‘stone’ as it were? (as in, can things repeat more or less depending on mood/whim/cocktail delivery/etc?)
  • Do you want to just press Play and have your song play?
  • How do you set up your Tracks for Run Mode? What is your approach to constructing the bits and bobs into a solid composition?
  • Do you loop sections of music or are they linear? Do you record all your Notes and CC Data (so, finite hard data) or do you use FX like Harmonisers, Arpeggiators, Chance, Transpose, etc?

There’s probably other salient questions. Sorry I can’t get my brain to work better right now.

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Thanks for this!

No worries, I haven’t used Sequence mode much either, partly because it’s been easier and more rewarding to jam mute states, but I think also because there was no immediately obvious way to work across the bar line, which I put down to my unfamiliarity with the Pyramid/hardware sequencers in general (put it another way - it’s too hard, so I’ll leave it for now). I also have an Octatrack and (after an embarrassingly long period of it’s too hard so I’ll leave it for now) have been getting into the Arranger, which allows the equivalent of Pyramid Sequences to start at points between the beginning and end of the patterns, whereas Sequences on the Pyramid seem to be tied to the beginning of the tracks/patterns (if I’m wrong about this I would be very happy!). One reason I’m wanting to make more use of the Sequence mode is to make it easier to keep track of stuff that is written over two sequencers.

  • I like to keep some flexibility to the arrangement. What’s being sequenced from the Pyramid could be the entire piece, or a backing track, or somewhere between the two.
  • In the current instance I’d like to have an arrangement that I can just press Play (so that I can improv over it on an instrument, or tweak knobs, or whatever). So I am looking to be in Play mode, but the same issues seem to crop up in Perform mode.
  • I don’t usually change Run Mode from Free but I’ve been experimenting with the different modes to try to solve the problem (so far without success, but with some interesting results…*).
  • I’m looking at plenty of repetition (this is electronic music after all!). With more linear elements, it gets more likely that I’ll perform these (maybe capturing audio and adding that back in). If I want CC data I mainly use the FX or write it in, rather than recording it via controllers.

It might help if I give a bit more detail about the specifics of the problem.

The particular material that’s giving me problems is an 8 bar succession of chords. I’ve been using the term ‘phrase’ (because of the differing use of ‘sequence’) but this tends to imply melodic material, perhaps I should say ‘chord sequence’. The chords are played on an electric piano voice, so for the chords to sustain requires the midi trigger to continue for the duration of the chord. The first chord in the sequence is not ‘on the one’ but two beats before it, and there is a second chord, a half beat before the ‘one’, which should sustain until shortly before the next chord, which is one and a half bars after the ‘one’. So the chord sequence plays out for 8 and a half bars after the one, the last half of the 8th bar being the anacrusis for the repeat of the phrase. In that sense the anacrusis is baked into the phrase, there isn’t a subset of looping material between one instance of it and the next.

I think anacrusis is a correct term for this, I don’t know if there is a better one but I’m looking at material that starts before the bar line on a consistent basis, ‘pushed time’ is another term that gets used, syncopation also. A lot of the music I’m drawn to, and a way I tend to play, works around the one rather than on it. The track I’m working on is rather more banal than this, but a good reference point would be the way the chords move in Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way.

Where the notes of the anacrusis don’t sustain over the end of the bar, this works (although it can get fiddly). The problem is with the midi notes that sustain over bar line and into the next variation of the pattern (in this instance a sustained electric piano chord). Slicing up the pattern looks like it has to be part of the solution but when I tried this I kept coming up against the problem that however you slice it, at some point there are notes that start before the ‘one’ and need to sustain over it, but these get cut off. I presume this is because the next pattern has started, even though there are no midi events until a bar and a half into that pattern.

One workaround would be to copy the repeats of the phrase into one long passage (which I would normally call a sequence, but that means something else in Pyramid speak… which I will refer to as ‘Seq’) but I would rather keep phrases to their unrepeated length so I can stay flexible about changing the arrangement, and bringing other tracks in and out. Another solution would be to have a Seq with the chord sequence unmuted, but have midi volume at 0 until the anacrusis. A third solution is to set up the same synth patch on two different channels, so that the main part of the chord sequence doesn’t mute the ‘tail’ of the anacrusis. The particular synth that’s playing the chord sequence is multi-timbral so this is doable, but in general the synths I use are mono-timbral or I don’t have them set up to use multi-timbrally, and I’d like to have a way of dealing with this that can apply to all of my gear.

This is where things get interesting. One of my attempts was to make a 9 and a half bar Pattern, where 7 and a half bars are silent, then the anacrusis and its sustain play out. The Pattern is in Trig mode, and is made a part of an opening Seq 01, of 8 bars. The next Seq, 02, includes the whole phrase (the original Pattern). I thought the anacrusis was cutting off in this version, but when I reloaded it I found to my surprise that it worked - the problem being that both patterns then continued simultaneously, so the anacrusis chords reappeared at odd intervals. I was a bit surprised that this could happen (as well as that different Patterns on the same track could have different Run modes - the original Pattern is in Free) and wondered if it’s a bug. Trying different combinations of Run modes just reintroduced the choking of the sustain at the bar line. This tends to make me think that the Pyramid ought to be able to handle this, there’s just one elusive element that’s missing, either in my comprehension or the Pyramid’s code.

I’d rather be shown up as too stupid or lazy to have understood how the Pyramid does this rather than be right that it can’t!

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Ah yes. I use a different system for Mute/Unmute which doesn’t cut off Notes in this manner so I completely spaced that this is how it is for everyone else. (I actually had to test it because I as all, “whut?” LOL)

However, it’s an extra step, but creative use of CC64 (Sustain) should suffice, no?
I’m of the school where you don’t mess with CC07 to modulate in realtime in favour of CC11 (Expression). Some older synths that don’t respond to CC11 natively can be pgm’d to emulate this, if yours don’t.

Sorry that no one smarter has come up with options/solutions yet.
If you don’t mind being stuck with my suggestions, I can keep going.

Ugh, also Free Mode confuses the heck out of me. Sorry.

on your example where you did the 9 1/2 bar Pattern: So you have 2 bars of pickup then? Or 1/2 bar?
Seq 01 is the part that happens before whatever the pickup leads to happens
Seq02 is the part that happens as a result of the pickup

I’m not sure if I put this in my original comment, but it was in my head:
Have you pondered making the pickup just the 2 bars? (or 1/2 bar)

Then Seq01 is the part that happens before pickup.
Seq02 is that prepickip material and Unmutes the pickup
Seq03 is the material including that which the pickup leads to.

I get lost in repetitions in Free Mode. I improv sequences and hate having to remember which phrases are built in 4, 6, 8, or different and if/when they loop together. So I “made” a pseudo-mode which uses external control, but depending on your gear could be done natively on the Pyramid (I think) if you dedicate one or more of the Encoders to modulate MIDI FX parameters.

Which is another blather subject for me (like that old guy in the management meeting that goes off on the same boring stuff every meeting):
Interesting you would consider mucking about with MIDI Volume in such a manner as you described above. Easier would be to put a Chance MIDI Effect, set the Chance % to 0, and turn it ON (Enabled) when you want the Notes to end. This actually does NOT cut off the Note Off and will maintain a natural (non CC#64) Sustain.

Sorry, that’s my soapbox. It’s a pseudo-mode I use I call FreeLatch. :sunglasses:

So…you have 384 bars length.
If you just want to Press Play and maybe Mute/Unmute some stuff without adjusting the structure of a song, there’s still just creating linear sequences that play str8 on through. No? Yeah, it gets to be a pain when you start looping stuff…or does it. Again: I don’t really do Free Mode because it confuses the poop out of me - or rather, it doesn’t apply to the way I approach music and want to interface with my devices.

Another option in my head is to use a Trig or Relatch Mode, make the Track include the pickup and more repetitions than you’d use, and Sequence as above with the 01 (pre pickup) -> 02 (pickup) -> 03 (next section) method.

Assuming once you invoke the pickup you are determind to go to the next section of music.

Sorry this ambles a bit.

How I approach this in my own music (which I think was part of your OP) is irreconcilable with your method, sorry.
I think that just exemplifies how incredibly flexible Pyramid can be: for each problem there are multiple solutions that can speak to a variety of workflows and interactive options.



CC64 does the business! It hadn’t occurred to me at all, Thank you!

It may take me a while to digest the rest of your comments, and once the immediate problem is solved my curiosity tends to wander to the next. However I’m still interested in other Pyramid users’ approaches to this. I’d like to think there’s a more (or other equally) elegant solution, although I’ve spent long enough with the Octatrack to know that it’s best to treat the way that the machine allows you to do something as the way you always really want to do it.

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Yay for CC64!
As for digestion issues: avoid the rest of my comments - they tend to cause gas.

I’d be interested to hear how others do it, too!
I stayed in a vacuum as I was defining the early bits of my workflow and ended up with an approach that is incompatible with experiences/counsel from most others, alas.

Oh, and just a note that if you end up with stuck notes because you stopped your sequence before CC64 goes to 0, double tap the [Stop] button to send All Note Off CC msg (or triple for All Sound Off).

Great topic! :+1:

I wish I had something more productive to say than: yeah, it’s a PITA, I usually side-step the issue by recording the parts with pickups in audio.

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CC’s are awesome, glad to know how to do this as well, because I stopped doing anacrouse since I have the pyramid (fortunately I started doing other things as well since I had it ^^)

Thank you for starting this topic !!

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