Portfolio Noah Vawter. Home-Built Realtime Editable Sequencer

X0X (zocks!)

Many years ago in college, I began jamming on electronic musical instruments with some friends. We called ourselves MSF, for Many Small Functions (a phrase from a science fiction novel). One day, Steve Richardson and I decided we needed an improved electronic jam-sequencer. This was because everything we were using (mostly Roland mc-202, tr-505, tr-606, and tr-707 boxes) would only let us edit a single pattern while we were playing. It can cool to have limitations like that, but we really wanted something more flexible and exciting...so we went out a designed x0x!

Josh , one of our bandmates, gave us lots of advice. He told us the box didn't have to be too fancy, but basically needed to be a series of notes to form a pattern, and a series of patterns. Together, we sketched pictures until one day Steve and I set out to work. It took several months of time outside our regular jobs, but ultimately, we achieved it. Steve laid out the circuit boards, then, over several years, we developed software for it in bursts. Steve wrote drivers for the awesome LCD screen and the knobs and buttons, then I wrote the main application that lets you edit and organize sequences.

Particolari Tecnici (technical details)

We based the whole thing on an inexpensive and available single board computer which had a Motorola 68hc11 on it. Then, we made a User Interface board which had 8 knobs, chaser LED's, a dozen control buttons, a 2.5 octave keyboard (!) and a really nice 32x8 line backlit LCD display on it.

The most essential point of x0x is that there is never any need to stop playback while editing!

The editor has 16 different patterns and four tracks. Each track can play one of the 16 different patterns on any MIDI channel transposed by any amount. On the editing page, patterns can be copied, and rotated. On the sequencing page, start and end loop points can be set. The sequencing has an internal tempo setting, from about 30 to 250 BPM. It can also be synced externally to other MIDI Devices. It understands MIDI start, stop and continue.

We never developed pattern & sequencing saving, but that wasn't a priority for our jam-band :)


The most important thing: does it sound good? Here are mp3's of some songs I have made using x0x.
  • Revolve
  • N8z Asleep
  • Fender
  • Taking it Easy


    Guts #1. On the right, you can see the single board computer. On the left, you can see an Analog Devices EZ-Kit Lite that we stuffed in there for synthesis! It runs the Death Synth algorithm, which you can read about elsewhere in this portfolio.

  • Guts #2. The big knob is contrast for the LCD.

  • Ultra-dramatic shot of the keyboard with LED's

  • I love this pic. It's the sequencer User Interface itself, showing the backlit screen. That's with the old font. Toward the end of development, I used Steve's custom font utilities to make a futuristic-looking font.

  • Here are the two original x0x boxes, connected together for DUELIN'. Up in the left is a TR-505 acting as a master. Notice how I stuffed my LED's with different colors from Steve.


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