Old School Hardware Sequencing With The Roland MC-4

In his latest video, synthesist Alex Ball takes a look at old-school hardware sequencing with the Roland MicroComposer MC-4, from 1981.

The MicroComposer sequencers represented a huge step forward in hardware sequencing, compared to earlier analog sequencers, supporting polyphonic sequencing, sequences with thousands of notes, and the ability to save and recall sequences.

Video Summary:

“In 1977, Roland introduced the first ever microprocessor controlled digital sequencer, which was the MC-8 designed by Ralph Dyck. The MC-4 was the successor and was Roland’s last CV/Gate sequencer as they moved over to MIDI shortly after.

Both when it was new and many years after it was seemingly obsolete, numerous artists swore by it and they’re now sought after. In the video we explore why.”

Topics covered:

0:00 Intro Jam
0:41 Origin of the MC series
2:54 Interlude
3:31 Demonstration of how it works
10:20 The end result
10:47 Summary of the experience
12:09 Others ways to program
13:16 Experiments & explorations
19:03 MC-4b etc
19:39 Who used it, when and why?

8 thoughts on “Old School Hardware Sequencing With The Roland MC-4

  1. That GUI can be mastered, of course, but sweet Jebus, it sure makes you appreciate modern sequencers a lot more. “A few thousand button presses later” is accurate, argh. I was an MC-500 user and it was a far better tool, for me. The Age of Floppies had its issues, but it was a real pleasure after the earlier Age of WTF.

    1. It doesn’t make you appreciate modern sequencers more

      You don’t have to use manual entry with the MC-4, you could use your keyboard to enter notes and timing and then do further timing tweaking later manually

      I really hope Behringer makes a clone of this but of course it must be 1:1 with more modern features if needed, just must have that TB display and din sync and keypad otherwise its not an MC-4 anymore and what gives it its charm

        1. i don’t, the Alesis MMT-8 also had (only) a numerical representation of the MIDI (!) information and that worked super super fast

  2. ive been lucky enough to witness the rise of grooveboxes, which have also transformed music to some degree – altho you might be able to call the MPC the original godfather of all that

    personally i really wish yamaha had kept up with the rm1x & rs7k series stuff

  3. Working with these was enough to make you quit music and get into computer science where you would get paid for the mental anguish.

  4. man, I love Alex Ball’s content, but this was the first video he’s ever done where I left feeling glad that I DIDN’T own the gear he was demoing =-) Hugging my digitakt extra tight tonight.

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