I’ve made a lot of use of the original Beatstep for a couple of years now, and although the Beatstep pro has been out a while I hadn’t really got into the idea of having one until now. For some reason it seem less intuitive and more aimed at being a substitute for using a computer as a project sequencer, and a lot of the demos on youtube seemed to show this, however I use step sequencers as improvisation tools and this wasn’t what I was looking for. However things changed when I started a piece using drum racks in Ableton, and we quite frustrated with the process of writing MIDI clips, even with the launchpad, so I downloaded the Beatstep Pro user manual and read it. Here combined with a good review on Sonic State (Nick Batt) I took the plunge.
So here it is:
Use on its own
As advertised it works really well on its own- the two melodic sequencers have a gate and 2 CVs each, and the drum sequencer has 8 individual track outs. You can do some major alterations to its setup via software, the CVs can be set to Hz/V or V/Oct to drive either Korg MS20 or standard v/Oct kit- and there is both MIDI in and OUT plus a separate CLOCK out. Use as a standalone device has proven popular with Eurorack users, especially as it can store 16 entire projects
You can store up to 16 projects, each project can consist of all three sequencers, all 16 loops of each sequencer; this means you can store 16 pieces, each piece can use all 16 loops on each sequencer.
Each loop can be up to 64 steps long, and the latest firmware update allows two of these to chained to make 128 step long sequences
As with the original Beatstep there is a control mode whereby the pads and knobs are assignable to MIDI controls and can be used as a control surface.
The two melodic sequencers have can use the knobs to chance the pitch (like the original beatstep, only this time the note is displayed on the LED display, which is a lot more helpful), the Velocity (the original was fixed globs ally) and importantly, the Gate, which allows notes to be tied, or slide into next note or stuccato/ tenuto. This is a major improvement.
The drum sequencer also has velocity and gate controls but the addition of a shift control which allows the notes to be moved forwards or after the beat- when combined with the randomness and probability controls, this can be really interesting.
Roller/Looper – If the beatstep is in control mode it will loop what you’ve pressed. if its in sequencer more it will roll on the beat playing at the time, and allow you to slide between faster and slower allowing for some nice ratcheting effects.
Swing, Randomness and Probability
You could alter Swing on the original Beatstep but only in the setup software, which was really frustrating, this is now on the panel- together with Randomness and Probability- the Randomness controls how much randomness takes place and the Probability controls how often random evens occur. The good thing about this is they can globally affect all 3 sequencers or only specific ones- if you press the button ‘current track’. The same applies to Swing
Other nice things
Tap tempo input.
Fine tempo adjustment.
If you touch the tops of any of the encoder knobs the display will show current value
Triplets now available
Easy to expand sequence length and copy intro new length- great for improvising with
What it lacks
An active step: although you can change where the sequence ends, it always begins on step 1
Video of standalone use