Samplers & Sequencers

A sampler is a digital audio recorder that records any sound via a microphone, turns them into wave samples and maps them to a keyboard.  It works by giving a key a wave sample, and the sound of the next key is then determined by slowing down or speeding up the wave sample.

A sequencer is a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) recorder, either a device or a software application that can record, edit and play back events on the keyboard and program settings.  Most samplers incorporate sequencers, allowing for editing.

Types of products available

Sequencers are usually defined by the data types they handle and they are:

  • MIDI sequencers in either software or hardware format
  • Control voltage or gate analog sequencers
  • Automation for mixing automation on digital audio workstations
  • Audio data on audio sequencers, which also include digital audio workstations, loop-based music software, and phrase samplers

A sequencer’s supporting modes and construction is also a factor:

  • Real-time sequencer – Records music in real-time, plays back with designated quantisations, pitch and tempo
  • Analog sequencer – Used with analog electrics and is plays music by a series of sliders that correspond to each note.  Music notes can be changed at any time
  • Step sequencer – Notes of music are rounded into steps at equal time intervals.  Timing and length of step is designated in a number of ways: on drum machines, on bass machines and home keyboards
  • Software sequencer – A feature of digital audio workstations and integrated music authoring sets.  Graphical user interfaces or specialised input devices allow the user to control music functionality

Why use a sampler or a sequencer?

Samplers often contain more features than sample playback including FX on board, modulation and envelopes, which allow users to control the sound of an instrumentwithin one piece of equipment.  A sampler also allows users to share music libraries.

Sequencers are capable of recording multiple music performances, including different sounds, and can play them back simultaneously.  Using a sequencer, a musician is able to add ‘instruments’ to their music.  Every track is a type of sound that imitates a musical sound, such as a drum or a piano.