We’ll focus on the 13 best sequencer plugins that we think would be beneficial for you. The list will include synth, midi, and step sequencers.
A step sequencer is essentially a looping device that allows you to customize the outcome of every step (loop) in a given phrase of music. You determine the loop lengths and can set them to be played after one another or to be played together in parallel, which is a more interactive fashion.
In this post we will discuss the 13 best Synth, MIDI & Step Sequencer plugins in 2023:
What’s the difference between a synthesizer and a sequencer?
Synthesizers are hardware or software audio signal generators that use a combination of additive and subtractive synthesis to emit varied sounds that can be adjusted and morphed. Sequencers are instructive hardware or software devices that are used to create and manipulate MIDI information that audio signal generators respond to.
Despite their different purposes, these two devices coincide when used together. You can achieve astonishing results by sequencing audio from synths. You could use the pair to create an array of musical components and phrases, from basslines to melodies or riffs.
Additionally, with the MIDI learning capabilities of synths and sequencers, you can map parameters from each device to those on the other. In most cases, you can achieve a comprehensive level of integration between them.
What does a sequencer do?
Sequencers use adjustable steps, rate, pitch, octaves, rolls, stutters, and more to emit MIDI information. This information is then sent to an instrument (such as a synthesizer) that interprets the instructions and produces audio based on them.
You use a sequencer to do the work for you; it doesn’t have to be all the work if you don’t want it. Although, it could potentially make life easier and more enjoyable.
You can create multiple phrases with altered settings and outcomes and save them in banks or as presets, which means you can easily change things up on the fly or have a progressive flow.
How do you use a sequencer?
You use a sequencer by routing it through your elected instrument and adjusting the parameters to create chord progressions, melodies, polyrhythms, riffs, drum takes, and more.
You can set up multiple sequences to trigger at different times for progressions or use various sequences at once to create complex patterns.
One of the prominent features of sequencers is the randomization capabilities achieved in unique ways across different devices. You have control over the extent of randomization occurring because you can set boundaries and exclude various parameters from it.
By using randomization, you can get the sequencers to behave in ways that you might not have expected, leading to some exciting outcomes, whether you’re creating chord progressions or any of the aforementioned possibilities.
Top 13 Sequencer & Looper Plugins 2023 (Synth, MIDI & Step Sequencers)
Stepic By Devicemeister (Step and Modulation Sequencer)
Stepic is a versatile and flexible polyphonic step sequencer and modulation plugin.
It also allows you to do modulation sequencing to automate any parameters of any software synthesizer you use. The plugin’s main window is the sequencer, in which you can program up to sixteen switchable steps. You can set each step to trigger any note from the chromatic scale or restrict it to any other scale.
The plugin allows you to select the octave on which you want to program your sequences. The next row consists of an octave sequencer, in which you can program some steps to go up to two octaves above or below. Finally, in the last row are sequencing options for the note duration, velocity, swing, divider, and repeater.
You can use patterns to store different sequences. That way, you can go beyond sixteen steps and trigger different patterns. This is helpful for live shows, where you have to play different songs and need different patterns for different instances.
- Detailed programming
You can go in-depth by setting the root note, scale, note length, bar count, swing, and other global parameters. You can also set outputs to different synths or samplers and do detailed sequencing. Plus, you can go to the settings window to command more control on randomization and swing functions.
- Chord Editor
The plugin allows you to assign chords on different steps and gives you a range of six octaves. In addition, there’s an option by which you can stick to the scale and restrict yourself to it so you don’t assign atonal chords.
- Dice button
Each sequencing window, like duration, velocity, octave, etc., allows you to randomly roll a die to select the value on the slider. For example, the die will select any random octave between two octaves above and below the root note on the octave window.
- Scale selector
You can select various scales like chromatic, major, minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc. There are a total of 26 scales that you can choose from. However, most of these are western scales, but you can also create your scales by editing the note selector to the right of the scale selector.
You can add the probability of selecting or playing a particular note and control the randomness with which notes are played. These probability functions can help you with better generative playing.
- Midi Device Manager
For different MIDI devices, you can assign different parameters of the plugin to different controllers on your MIDI device. This will give you hands-on control with different parameters at your fingertips.
- Parameter Automation
The automation page gives you eight lanes of automation and sixteen steps, such that for each lane, you can step-edit parameters. The MIDI value ranges from 0 to 127, and you can set the length, minimum and maximum values to control the expressions and humanize your sequences.
The plugin is available in VST3 and AU plugin formats and requires Windows 7 or higher operating systems for Windows users and macOS 10.14 or higher operating systems for Mac users. That makes the plugin compatible with popular DAWs like Bitwig, Logic Pro, Abelton, Cubase, Studio One, etc., but incompatible with the latest Pro Tools versions that only support AAX plugin formats.
Stepic by Devicemeister is an expansive and easy-to-use plugin that enables you to expand your creative options and go beyond the conventional step sequencing practices. It’s an advanced tool that can help with your music production, sound design projects, live shows, and performances.
It’s great for music producers, sound designers, DJs, one-person bands, and artists/singers/performers. With its user-friendly GUI and simplified workflow, it’s excellent for beginners as well as experienced producers. Moreover, it takes no time to get used to the butter-smooth workflow of the software.
510k SEQUND (Polyrhytmic Sequencer)
SEQUND by 510k is a polyrhythmic sequencer that feeds MIDI data to other virtual instruments.
It’s an expansive and detailed step sequencer that may take some time to get used to because of its unconventional workflow, but it’s also intuitive and easy to use, given the advanced programming it allows. It’s not an instrument with its own sound generators and is routed to another plugin/virtual instrument.
- Great for creating Techno & other groovy EDM genres
Suppose you want to trigger MIDI data for the perfect techno bassline. You can select different grid steps and adjust their pitch, length, velocity, and other parameters. That will help you create interesting melodies, especially for the Techno.
The plugin has an interesting workflow, with two melodic lanes and a probabilistic lane so that you can alternate between the two pitch lanes, Octave, Transpose, Velocity, and three assignable MIDI CC lanes, for which you can assign the steps. You can also unhide additional parameters like Length, Hold, Chance, etc.
- Probabilistic lane
SEQUND allows you to alternate between Pitch A and Pitch B based on the probability percentage you set in the lane. That allows you to create generative musical data.
- GATE lane for sequencing
The plugin allows you to select the rhythm by selecting the GATE triggers. In addition, you can decide the flow of the movement by the arrow button, which can be forward, backward, bidirectional, pendulum, or random. Overall, it offers the easiest and most intuitive workflow for step sequencing.
- Create interesting polyrhythms
You can set different mixes of steps per gate lane and pitch lane and artistically create unexpected and musical patterns by adjusting the gate/pitch similarities and keeping the rhythm and melody separate.
SEQUND is available in VST2, AU, and VST3 plugin versions and has a minimum operating system requirement of a Mac OS 10.14 and Windows 10.
The plugin has great presets to get you started and help you understand its functionalities. It may also require some manual diving, but the manual is great and detailed. The GUI is resizeable and colorful, with the plugin being light on the CPU. You can create some great musical movements with SEQUND.
Audiomodern Loopmix (Creative Remixer With Sequencer)
Loopmix by Audiomodern is a creative loop remix and rearrangement plugin for transforming your loops into interesting and artistic sounds.
It allows you to work with loops unconventionally and mix full-length loops with one-shots, other loops, sounds, etc. It inspires new beats and songs and does detailed sound design. It’s also a good way to recycle old ideas, melodies, grooves, etc., into something fresh.
The plugin has a great preset management system, using which you can import presets, create preset packs, and browse through a great collection of sounds, including presets of Late House, IDM Kits, LoFi kits, and more.
Loopmix sequencer window has six tracks on which you can fix different loops on different time stamps. In addition, there are windows for rearranging, reversing, and adjusting density, volume, and pitch for different loops. That can help you create interesting loops and track beds. You can also set the tempo for the Loopmix session.
It’s an interesting and creative way of creating drum loops, melody loops, basslines, and other elements. You can also drag in your loops, slice them, pitch them, edit them, etc., and create something new. Using a MIDI instrument, you can also trigger different clips from six tracks.
- Multifunctional keyboard
You can arrange your stems and clips and assign them in up to two keyboard octaves to trigger sequences, loops, and arrangements with a single button click.
The plugin is available in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin versions and is compatible with Mac OS X 10.12 or higher or Windows 10 or later operating system and 2 GB of hard disk space.
Loopmix is one of the best looper plugins due to its detailed editing window and simple drag-and-drop workflow. The controls are intuitive, and the interface is attractive. However, it may seem a bit intimidating and all over the place at first, but it’s quite easy once you get your hands on it.
Sugar Bytes Graindad (Granular FX With 16 Step Trigger Sequencer )
Graindad is a granular effect plugin by Sugar Bytes for high-quality and real-time audio manipulation.
The advanced grain engine plugin allows you to adjust the grain size, position, pitch, speed, and jitter settings. You can also adjust the settings for filter and time modulations and add reverb and delay effects to your sounds. In addition, it has an audio editor that allows you to freeze, texturize, reorganize, and slice your audio.
- Granular capabilities
The plugin allows you to chop the audio into 64 grains and has 12 main controllers for manipulating the audio. In addition, the plugin has two modulation structures: harvested for creative, playful, and simplified granular manipulation and the classic system with step sequencers, LFOs, and envelopes.
- Modulation capabilities
You can use MIDI notes and randomizers as the sources to trigger modulations, along with the typical step sequencer, LFOs, and envelopes. The plugin also has Modmix control, allowing you to crossfade between the two granular engines.
The plugin allows you to have high quality and a wide variety of effects, like filters, reverbs, delays, etc. For example, the reverb category includes effects like HQ reverb, spring reverb, and shimmer. The delay effects include phasers, flangers, and other time-based effects.
The most advanced feature of Graindad is its Harvester system which allows you to modulate all twelve controls simultaneously, allowing for complex modulations and effects.
Graindad is available in Audio Unit, VST2, VST3, AAX, and Standalone plugin formats and requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 or Windows 7 operating system.
The possibilities with this great granular plugin are infinite. However, due to its unfamiliar workflow, it may be a bit strange at first, but it is fun once you get hold of it. In addition, the creative output you can derive from the plugin is limitless.
It’s just great for randomizing percussions. Resample it, slice it and find the best bits to fit in your composition – great practice for advanced DnB production.
Arturia Pigments 4 (Synth With Sequencer)
Pigments 4 is a powerful and versatile synth that combines the best features of both virtual analog and granular synthesis.
It features a user-friendly interface and offers a wide range of sounds and presets, as well as the ability to create and modify your own sounds. It also includes a built-in modulation matrix, effects, and a step sequencer. Lastly, it features analog, wavetable, Harmonic, and sample-based synthesis engines.
It is the fourth version of their Pigments software, which is known for its versatile sound design capabilities and advanced modulation options. It includes new features, such as a granular engine, a revamped modulation matrix, and new user interface, as new upgrades. It also includes a wide range of sounds and presets and the ability to import samples and use them in the synthesizer.
- Virtual Analog and Granular Synthesis
The plugin combines the best of both worlds by offering the warmth and richness of virtual analog synthesis with the flexibility and granularity of granular synthesis. This allows you to create a wide range of sounds, from classic analog emulations to more experimental and unique sounds.
- Dual Oscillator Engine
The synth features a dual oscillator engine that allows you to layer and combine different waveforms and samples. You can also use the dual oscillator engine to create complex modulation and cross-modulation effects.
- Modulation Matrix
Pigments 4 includes a built-in modulation matrix that allows you to create complex and dynamic sounds by routing different modulation sources to various destinations. This feature is particularly useful for creating evolving, organic sounds.
- Step Sequencer
Pigments 4 includes a step sequencer that allows you to create patterns and sequences in various ways. The step sequencer can be used to create simple beats or more complex patterns and can also be used as a modulation source in the modulation matrix.
The synth includes several effects that can be used to shape and sculpt the sound. These effects include delay, reverb, distortion, chorus, compressor, EQ, filter, and more. The effects can be used in series or parallel and modulated using the modulation matrix, which allows for high sound design possibilities.
The arpeggiator in the synth can be used to create arpeggiated patterns. It allows you to adjust the tempo, the number of octaves, the direction, and the pattern of the arpeggio.
- Presets and Sound Library
The presets are organized into categories, such as bass, leads, pads, and effects, making it easy to find the type of sound you want. You can also search for presets by keyword, which can be useful when looking for a specific type of sound.
Lastly, the presets are categorized into Types (leads, pads, etc.), Styles (e.g., Ambient cinematic, modern, dubstep, etc.), and Banks.
- Sequencing capabilities
The synth includes a built-in step sequencer that can be used to create rhythmic patterns and melodic sequences, which allows you to adjust the sequence length, the number of steps, and the tempo. In addition, you can add and edit notes, rests, and ties and adjust each step’s velocity, swing, and gate. Lastly, the modulation matrix can connect the step sequencer to other synthesizer parameters, such as oscillator pitch or filter cutoff.
- Advanced Interface
The interface of Arturia Pigments 4 is well-designed and user-friendly, making it easy to navigate and adjust the parameters of the synthesizer. It also allows for a high level of customization, which makes it adaptable to different workflows and preferences.
For example, it lets you adjust the layout and color scheme to suit your preferences. It also includes a full-screen mode, which allows you to focus on the main panel and hide the sidebar and bottom bar.
The synth includes a variety of views that can be accessed from the left sidebar of its interface. These views let you isolate and edit different synthesizer sections, such as the oscillators, filters, effects, and modulation matrix. Each view displays the relevant parameters and controls for that section, making it easy to access and adjust the settings you need.
The plugin has a variety of skins by which you can change the overall look and feel of the interface. These skins include color schemes and layouts, such as classic, dark, and minimal. The skins can be selected from the global settings menu, and you can switch between them anytime.
- Macro Controls
Arturia Pigments 4 includes macro controls, a set of eight knobs that can be used to control multiple parameters simultaneously. They allow you to quickly adjust multiple settings with a single control, making it easier to create complex sounds and perform live. The macro controls can be mapped to any parameters within the synthesizer, such as filter cutoff, oscillator pitch, or LFO rate. This allows you to create custom mappings that suit your workflow.
Arturia Pigments 4 is compatible with Mac and Windows operating systems and can be used as a standalone application or as a plugin within a digital audio workstation (DAW) software that supports VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats.
In addition, it requires a minimum of 4GB of RAM and a 2GHz processor, and also a display with a minimum resolution of 1280x800 pixels. It is also compatible with eLicenser, iLok, and Arturia Software Center for managing and authorizing Arturia software products.
The synth combines the best features of virtual analog and granular synthesis and features a user-friendly interface. In addition, the plugin features a set of macros controls that allow you to quickly and easily shape and sculpt the sound of the synth, which also includes a randomize button that can be used to randomly adjust the values of the macros, which can be useful for generating new and unexpected sounds.
XLN Audio XO (Creative Sequencer)
If you make beats, you know how time-consuming it can be to shuffle through samples until you find the ones that sound good together.
Well, XLN Audio’s XO plugin does impressive work by bringing all the samples on your computer into the interface. Unlike the previous plugin, the XO is more geared towards drums and offers a couple of unique features that make it more helpful with beat creation.
The XO has a terrific sequencer and some other exciting surprises that we’ll look at below.
The image below displays the sequencer section of the plugin where you can build beat progressions.
- Explore, Sort, Audition
The XO has a handy trick up its sleeve, it finds all drum samples on your computer, no matter where they are, and brings them together within the plugin. Not only that, but it also sorts all of them by similarity and color codes the different instances of audio (kick, hats, snare, etc.). XO also offers eight thousand samples and over one hundred presets which will get the creative process moving forward. This feature allows you to audition the samples and find the sounds that work best for your situation. Instead of going through hundreds of folders and sub-folders, you have everything you need right in front of you. However, if there’s something specific you want, just use the integrated filter and search functions. Finally, create playlists and sort your samples into organized folders from within the plugin.
- Sequence and Excite
The in-house sequencer, effects, and randomization functions provide an arsenal of generation and manipulation tools to get your beats on the go. As with most sequencers, you have complete control over the steps and rate of each channel as well as many other standard parameters such as swing and pan. You can affect individual steps or the entire sequence and trigger various FX and creative parameters with easy mapping and routing functions. The Accenuator adds feel, groove, and life into your beat by affecting dynamics, velocity, and adding swing. If you’re in a hurry or just need a creative boost, apply one of the many groove templates to do it for you and tweak settings where necessary. Another exciting feature is the choke/gate, which helps keep drums sounding realistic and clean.
- Random or Reckless?
XO has what is known as Playground Mode for you to explore. You’re able to randomize specific parameters or the entire interface, which is bound to lead to some exciting sounds being produced. Tap into the endless possibilities of randomization by triggering various effects or dialing in specific instances across the whole sequence.
- Standalone but easily Integrated
The XO can create beats in the standalone plugin or as a VST within your DAW. You’re able to export stems and drop them directly into your session for quick access. If you’d prefer, you can route audio from the plugin to your session as a direct input or send it through more FX processing. XO makes it easy to develop ideas and get them down before the creative spark dies out.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 – 10 (64-bit only) and macOS 10.9 or later (64-bit only). It comes in VST, AU, or AAX formats.
All-in-all, XO is a great tool for drum sequencing, which has useful features and a straightforward interface that integrates everything you need for beat-making.
You can come up with interesting, original patterns and phrases by employing all the detailed features. XO is great if you’re working on the go or looking to dial in extreme precision.
2getheraudio G8TOR (Step Sequencer)
G8TOR is a diverse sequencer and arpeggiator with lots of effects and presets.
It can be used as a standalone or as a plugin within your DAW session. Generally speaking, this plugin would be more suited for electronic music due to the nature of the sound. The plugin has two built-in oscillators and an additional supersaw and noise generator that adds extra character to the sound.
It also offers two ADSR envelopes for adjusting the filter and AMP to suit your needs. G8TOR is equipped with four main modes – Free play, Sequencer, Arpeggiator, and Filter.
Each of these options provides a new perspective and offers different ways of producing and manipulating audio. There’s a lot to dabble with, and it wouldn’t be surprising if you got carried away for hours tweaking endless parameters and enjoying the ride.
- In-House Audio Engine
Generate audio from within the plugin with the two oscillators, supersaw, noise source, and manipulate the waveform with ADSR controls for filter and AMP. You can do a lot to the initial signal here and get it sounding pretty awesome long before things get interesting. Hand-in-hand with the synth is the sequencer with incredible sounding effects that can be added and balanced into the overall signal.
- Compelling Multi-Mode Sequencer
Below the audio engine, you can select one of the four sequencer modes; Free Play, Sequencer, Arpeggiator, and Filter. The sequencer lets you control eight steps and has all the general parameters like rate, swing, transpose, etc. Determine the sequence loop length by clicking on the step you want to end the sequence, making it easy to build endless polyrhythms. The arpeggiator offers a straightforward solution to creating movement through modulation. It has a couple of exciting options aside from just up/down. The filter option is straightforward and allows you to create gated sequences by adjusting volume and filter controls.
- Smoothly Infused FX
The sequencer has a couple of effects that you can add to the mix: distortion, chorus, delay, and reverb. G8TOR proves that you don’t need much to evolve your audio into something entirely different or enhanced. You can separately balance each effect into the overall signal to avoid overwhelming it. The most important thing about this section is that these four simple choices sound excellent.
- Get Hands-On with Pad FX
In addition to the global sequencer effects, this section has another eight FX to access. However, the idea here is slightly different, whereby you can affect the overall signal by touch. The touch options include: Bit Crush, Modulation, Fractal Delay, Filter, Paneer, Wah, Transform and Cut Echo, and each of them has unique parameters that can adjust for varied outcomes. Aside from these fantastic functions, there is another one that determines how these pads behave when played. You can switch between modes such as one-shot, toggle, hold, and others, to set how the pads respond to your touch (or click if you don’t have a device to map to).
This plug-in is available for Windows (64-bit only) and macOS (64-bit only). It comes in VST, AU, or AAX formats.
G8TOR is an excellent option if you’re on a budget but want a comprehensive creative tool.
It’s a multi-engine, multi-faceted machine beast, and it does a lot for the price range. It certainly is an excellent tool and can be of enormous help when you’re stuck in a creative rut.
Sample Logic Animation Station (MIDI Sequencer)
The Animation Station is a powerful arpeggiator and musical sequencer used in conjunction with your favorite instruments.
That being said, it doesn’t have an audio generator and works solely as a standalone application or a third-party plugin. If you know what bass instruments and synths you enjoy, all it takes is for you to open up Animation Station, dial in some settings, or pick one of the many presets, and you’ll be creating musical phrases in no time.
Whether you’re creating orchestral music, laying down a drum beat, creating a realistic guitar riff, or mind-bending synth melodies, this plugin is a die-hard choice.
Animation Station is a diverse sequencer used for several musical applications and is suitable for many genres. The interface is user-friendly and has a great workflow with drag and drop features within the plugin and when exporting MIDI.
- Userfriendly Sequencer
Animation Station has two views to work in, the standard linear view and the circle view. However, the controls and parameters are the same for both. Select up to 64 steps to work with and enjoy control over each element in the sequence and each step. You can manually set up the step count and sequence settings, use the many categorized presets, or hit the dice to randomize the parameters globally. Whichever way you go, there are infinite settings to tweak and mold your musical phrases into workable MIDI data or directly over an instrument.
- Create Wild Arpeggios and Phrases
The arpeggio engine is driven by adjusting rate, arpeggio type, note duration, transposition, velocity, and stutter. It is almost elementary but still very potent. The simplified interface means that it’s excellent for anybody, even if you don’t know how to use it, because you can explore without getting overwhelmed. This is equally important for those who do know what they’re doing because it can streamline your workflow and narrow your focus.
- Bottomless Pit of Randomization
The randomization abilities of Animation Station are fantastic. You’re able to select which elements of the interface are affected manually or have all of the components affected. Some more advanced randomize settings let you adjust the global amount, mode, scale, and more. Randomize can be a handy tool when you’re stuck and can’t find any inspiration to start something new or perfect what you’ve already got.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 – 10 (32/64-bit), and macOS X 10.11 (64-bit only). It comes in VST, AU, or AAX formats.
With all things considered, Animation Station is a simple yet effective arpeggiator and sequencer. Its humble construction and features don’t take away from its charm, and the focus on randomization goes a long way.
Audiomodern Playbeat 2 (Groove Randomizer)
Playbeat 2 is a very simple, 32 step groove randomizer that’s great for drum sequencing.
It’s a sister plugin to the Riffer and has many of the same features, such as the dice roll, Infinity setting, and general makeup.
Hitting the dice roll will randomize everything from steps, rate, pitch, velocity, and more. It’s that easy! Drag and drop samples or load kits from factory presets or saved presets to get started.
- Load In or Trigger Out
You can use Playbeat in two ways. You could load samples into the plugin itself, or you can use Playbeat to trigger external drum machines and racks. However, if you decide to work within Playbeat you are not hindered as it is effortless to save, export, and implement the MIDI elsewhere. So, if you come up with a great groove, you can save it as a preset and come back to it later – either in the plugin or as exported MIDI.
- It’s Always a Lucky Roll
Similar to the Riffer, you have autonomy over what gets randomized and what doesn’t. This level of control means you can keep specific elements unchanged (like the kick and snare) but add randomization to the hi-hats to keep it interesting. Additionally, you can employ the Infinity Mode to set the frequency that randomization occurs. So, with all of these features in play, you can bet your bottom dollar that every roll will be lucky. After all, accidents of this nature are usually happy because sometimes things work out unexpectedly well.
- Other Bits and Bobs
You can create and use up to four patterns simultaneously, as we saw with the Riffer, meaning you can apply that same polyrhythm mentality towards making evolving drum beats. You can map the output of each row and step to trigger samples loaded in your drums machines or drum racks.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS X 10.12 or higher. It comes in VST, VST3, AU, or AAX formats.
Playbeat 2 is a super simple plugin that will create exciting grooves through its randomizing function. It also has a comprehensive collection of presets available to you or complete autonomy if that’s what you’d prefer.
Venomode Phrasebox (Phrase Arpeggiator / MIDI Sequencer)
Phrasebox, at the core, is a musical phrase generator and works with MIDI notes you feed into it.
You could use it with another chord generator to create melodies and riffs. With the freeform piano roll, you can select various note positions to play, and Phrasebox will arrange a pattern based on the notes you feed it.
Additionally, the piano roll supports transposing each note, modifying velocity, randomizing transposition, probability of playback, and even MIDI CC envelopes.
- Intuitive Design and Interface
The UI of this plugin is self-explanatory for the most part. It uses distinct icons and colors to signify various tweaks you can perform. There are two main modes, Playback and Generate, which allow you to either generate musical phrases or playback what you’ve created (pretty self-explanatory). The faders for introducing randomization and chance are convenient and work well to spice things up. The piano roll is similar to the one you might find in a DAW – it’s extensive and has numerous functions.
- Multiple Phrases at Once
Each instance of Phrasebox can have up to 12 different phrases. You can quickly move phrases to another slot by dragging and dropping. You can also automate to switch between other phrases to create variations.
- Use What’s Tried and True
There are plenty of preset phrases that you could use to get started. All it takes are a couple of tweaks, and you’ll have completely original melodies playing back in no time. You could set up different presets across each phrase and have wildly different results if you automated playback to switch between the other phrase banks or, you could create new phrases and save them for later use too.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher (32/64-bit), macOS 10.7 or higher (64-bit), and Ubuntu 18.04 or higher (64-bit). It comes in VST2, VST3, and AAX formats.
A lot of people can get stuck when it comes to creating melodies. Phrasebox helps ease the process by creating inspiring phrases out of your chords.
If this sounds like something that could help your workflow, do try out the demo. The result is a usable melody created within minutes of tweaking parameters and exploring settings.
Sugar Bytes Consequence (Chord Sequencer/Arp)
Consequence is an arpeggiator, sequencer, and synth all in one. You don’t need anything besides Consequence to get going.
Additionally, you can use it as a standalone application and don’t need to rely on your DAW and external instruments. The simplicity of the sound engine is one of the charms of this plugin.
You have three different oscillators that can be loaded with samples, sounds, and presets. Furthermore, you have access to a simple filter and a master section.
- Synth Engines
Consequence offers you three separate synth engines to work with. Essentially, you have three oscillators that can all be managed independently. Each of them has ADSR controls for further adjusting and shaping. You can load one of the many presets available to get the ball rolling and tweak the parameters as you go to achieve your desired sound. There is also a filter section that can alter the sound from the synth engines further. You can select which synth engine you want to affect or affect them all equally on the filter. No matter what type of music you’re making, these diverse sound generators will be able to handle it.
- Sequencer Section
The chord sequencer is a beautiful tool that is different from your typical sequencer. The standard controls needed for musical phrase generation are present. However, emphasis has been placed on the modulation and performance elements. You’re able to select which synth engines you want to affect, and you can choose many modulation types. Aside from the modulation feature, you can affect the general performance of the sequence by adding glide to the elements (again, individually or globally). You can also add a gate to the mix, set the clock’s time, and adjust global swing levels and randomization.
- Effects Section
Reverse, Chorus, Phaser, Delay, and Reverb are the effects you’re able to employ into the mix. The reverse FX is fascinating as it reverses sounds in real-time, and you can adjust the amount. The rest behave as you’d expect, and there isn’t a lack of quality at all.
- Master Bus Section
The master bus section is not used in much depth. It has a compressor to tame your overall sound, a basic 4/4 kick drum to reference against a beat, and offer a sidechain. This section is where you can activate the recording feature and record your current sequence. You can also transpose the entire sound from here and fine-tune it if you need to match another instrument in a performance.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher (64 bit) and macOS 10.9 or higher (64 bit). It comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
Consequence really is all you need as it does it all from sound generation to musical phrase creation. It has extensive capabilities when it comes to sound generation as you can load a variety of samples to spice things up.
Aside from that, the super-intuitive interface makes getting around the plugin really fun with exciting results.
Audiomodern Riffer (MIDI Sequencer)
The Riffer by Audiomodern is more than a MIDI sequencer; it’s a creative tool within the realms of melody creation.
You can keep things simple and use it to help develop basic chord progressions or employ the many built-in effects to transform your musical phrases into something unanticipated.
It’s compatible with anything that will accept MIDI information and can be used to generate it for an accepting device (such as a synth, drum rack, bass, or more). It’s also capable of generating MIDI for hardware devices too.
The main view has all the expected controls of a sequencer and a piano roll that lets you zoom in and out to include more notes. It’s intuitive, looks great, and will be a loyal companion in your musical endeavors.
- Roll The Dice
By now, you’ve probably noticed the popularity of randomization amongst sequencers and arpeggiators. Randomization can be a helpful tool when you’re creating musical phrases, chord progressions, or starting something from scratch because a lot of the work gets down for you. Often, you end up with something that you wouldn’t typically have come up with by yourself. The magic happens because randomization occurs within the bounds set by the initial parameters (like scale, chord progression, rate, etc.). You can select any parameter on the screen and then click the lock icon to prevent it from being affected when you roll the dice of randomization. To top it all off, you can use Infinity mode to set Riffer to randomize after a specific amount of playback time so you can implement the frequent changes necessary to keep things sounding interesting. It could be a great option for live performances.
- The Motherboard
Let’s take a look at the sequencer interface, which is the real star of the show. It doesn’t get much better than when plugins are user-friendly but pack a punch. Here we have all the standard controls you’d expect a sequencer to have with quick access to humanizing ‘shuffle’ and stutter. The root note feature is helpful as it allows you to determine how many times the fundamental note will play in the sequence. Additionally, you can lock notes and steps so that they aren’t affected by randomization. At the bottom, you’ll find a preset tab that lets you load up to 16 presets for quick application on each Riff.
- Polyphonic Mode
There is a series of banks named “R1 to R4,” which are all separate instances of Riffer, or ‘Riffs’ that can run alongside each other or be used individually. Quickly move between each Riff by clicking on the desired one or mute any of them by double-clicking. You can build complex polyrhythms by linking the banks together and creating different patterns, progressions, and scales on the different Riffs. It lets you work on them individually or make universal changes – having both options is a sure win. The Riffs are a great feature and make it easy to build exciting progressions.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher (32-bit & 64-bit) and macOS 10.12 or higher (64-bit only, M1 supported). It comes in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Riffer scores pretty highly as a sequencer due to the well-integrated special features that make it so unique. It’s straightforward to use and understand as it has all the elements right in front of you in a good design. The old saying, “dynamite comes in small packages,” is rather fitting for this device.
HY-Plugins HY-RPE2 (MIDI Sequencer)
The RPE2 is a pretty powerful sequencer that offers two engines – Euclidean and Grid. These engines both have exciting features and work differently from one another.
RPE2 is not a sound generator – its focus rests on arpeggiation and sequencing. Although, you can use it over any of your favorite instruments, racks, and samples to generate phrases and MIDI information.
- Euclidean Engine
The Euclidean engine offers a different view to that of grid mode. However, that’s not all that’s unique about it. You’re given eight separate and fully customizable channels that can be set up independently. In these channels, you have access to several scales and chords that can be selected, as well as the general sequencing settings you’d expect (such as rate, steps, etc.). You can get some wildly complex polyrhythms on the go with the eight-channel options and have each of the steps sounding unique and exciting in the context of one another. The main surprise in this view is the four LFOs that you can use to map any parameter easily. Using LFOs to alter settings is an excellent method of creating randomness.
- Grid Mode
Grid mode also has eight tracks to work with and all of the anticipated controls needed for sequencing musical melodies and phrases. This view is excellent for drumbeat creation as you can map the grid to various instruments and racks to generate audio. Take advantage of the extensive controllability and dial in specific settings to get perfect results.
- Other Useful Features
The MIDI functions of RPE2 are pretty impressive as it allows for MIDI note mapping, recording, and MIDI learning. You can lay down MIDI information from RPE2 straight into your session, or you can use the information at a later stage by saving presets. MIDI learn capabilities mean that you can map various plugin elements to whatever instrument or device you’re using as your audio source. This is exciting because RPE2 can work hand-in-hand with your favorite devices to achieve even more varied results.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher (32/64 bit) and macOS 10.12 or higher. It comes in VST2, VST3, and AUv3 formats.
The Euclidean sequencer is the star of the show when it comes down to it. However, that’s not a simple achievement as the grid sequencer is almost as contentious. The level of control afforded to you by this plugin is very impressive.
The ability to interact and intertwine with your sound sources through MIDI learning takes things to another level.
6 Best Free Sequencer Plugins 2023
AudioModern GateLab (Gate Sequencer)
The GateLab by AudioModern is a proficient, all-encompassing gate sequencer with a few stellar features that set it apart as a top-notch free device.
You can send out two channels of MIDI to other instruments in the session, which is done by advanced MIDI learning and syncing.
- Infinity Mode
As we saw with the Playbeat and the Riffer devices (also designed by AuioModern), an infinity setting helps when triggering new phrases after a specific period. You set the count on the control, which determines when automatic changes will be made to your chosen parameters. It triggers a new phrase that creates variation to your progression without you needing to do the hands-on work.
- Disintegration and Grow Mode
These modes are similar to one another but perform opposite roles. It works in conjunction with Infinity Mode and either diminishes or adds notes to the phrase. This is especially useful when you’re working with build-ups or breakdowns, as you can get the plugin to do the work for you and create seamless transitions between essential points in your track.
- Randomization – Well-suited to Live Performance
The giant randomization button cannot be missed and will likely be one of the frequent elements you employ. This can be used to create random chaos or be more controlled and only affect specific parameters. You can choose for the randomization to be subtle, regular, or intense.
- Gate and Flow Modes
These two options are relatively simple and determine how the device will playback audio. In gate mode, the steps are either on or off, meaning that there either is sound or no sound triggered. In Flow mode, you’re able to determine changes in velocity and choose from some presets that will add movement and feel to your sequence.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher (64 bit) and macOS X 10.12 or higher (64 bit). It comes in VST, VST3, AU, AAX, iOS, and Standalone formats.
GateLab is a powerful plugin that offers a lot for free. It’s impressive just how much you can do with this neat little plugin without needing to spend a cent. The design looks great and helps facilitate a smooth workflow, thanks to how it’s set up.
It wouldn’t be surprising if you managed to achieve anything you’d hoped to with a full-paid version. You might just fall in love with GateLab and find that it becomes a loyal companion to your creative process.
HY-RPE2 FREE (MIDI Sequencer)
Earlier on, we looked at the full version of the RPE2, and the stellar features were the Euclidean rhythm generator combined with a standard grid sequencer.
However, the free version limits you to three channels only with the grid sequencer. This plugin is a lot of fun because you can create distinct patterns and melodies with noticeable influence added from almost any adjustment.
- Fully Capable but Limited
Although you’re only given three channels to work with, the capabilities of the free version are not hindered in any other way. Essentially, you’re able to employ the powerful Grid sequencer to create patterns and rhythmic phrases – just with three channels. You’ll be glad to hear that you can do a lot with it and you won’t be disappointed with the results.
- MIDI Generation and Export
As with the full version, the MIDI potential of RPE2 is awe-inspiring because it’s so easy to use the data you generate anywhere. You can employ saved presets and phrases at any time, and it’s not limited to use with this plugin.
- Easy Upgrade
If you’re not sure that you want to spend your money on the full version, it’s a great idea to check out what RPE2 is all about before committing to that. If you like the basic features, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the extensive capabilities of the full version. It costs $48 for lifetime upgrades and full ownership.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher (64 bit) and macOS X 10.12 or higher (64 bit). It comes in VST, VST3, AU, AAX, iOS, and Standalone formats.
HY has done a great job at making this device worthy of experimenting with regardless of the limitations. You can have a great time getting to know the features and come up with some unanticipated but remarkable content!
Hy-Plugins HY-ESG (Euclidean Sequencer)
The HY-ESG boasts a Euclidean rhythm generator similar to that we explored in the RPE2 full version.
If you wanted to use the free RPE2 version with the grid sequencer, you could also employ this plugin to work with it to have the Euclidean element.
- Euclidean Charm
The Euclidean rhythm generator has a specific charm as a sequencer in that it creates pulses that are equidistant and well spread across the length of the sequence cycle. The pulse element is imperative for Euclidean algorithms because that’s how it comes up with its trigger information.
- LFO Mapping
You have access to three separate LFOs that can be tweaked independently and mapped to various plugin parameters to create varied results. You can set each of them to different rates, phases, and waveforms. This affords a lot of autonomy when it comes to mapping certain components.
- ADSR Controls
The attacks, delay, sustain, and release controls mean that you can sculpt your audio to fit your musical vibe. If you map the LFOs to these elements, the randomization will create wholly morphed sounds and happy accidents.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher (32/64 bit) and macOS 10.12 or higher. It comes in VST2, VST3, and AUv3 formats.
It’s a great idea to explore the functionality of this sequencer before committing to paid plugins, as you can determine whether it’s a good fit for you. In this case, you might find that the HY-ESG does everything you need and you don’t need to look any further.
Harvest Plugins Harvest MINI (MIDI Sequencer)
Earlier, we took a look at the full version of Harvest, which has slightly more advanced capabilities than this MINI version.
Fortunately, the primary Rhythm Tap function is accessible with this version. Having this function makes it very worthwhile to try out. However, the only downside is the limitation of effects.
- Tap Your Rhythms
This interactive feature is excellent for anybody who likes to contribute to the feel of your beat, physically. Once you’ve set the general sequencer adjustments, all you need to do is either click to tap or map your hardware and tap there!
- Comprehensive Randomization
The randomization functions of this tool are great because they work within the bounds you determine for your session. This means that you don’t need to worry about things being changed to a different scale or step sequence, and whatever is randomized will be workable.
- Simplicity is Key
Although you don’t have access to the full spectrum of effects, the simplicity of this plugin has the potential to guide you in a new creative direction. When it comes to creating MIDI and musical phrases, you can still get the job done in a good enough way, and this will allow you to apply your creative processing at a later stage.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 (with SP 1) or later and macOS X 10.7 – macOS 10.13. It comes in VST format.
As with any free plugin version, you’re given a good opportunity to experiment with the workflow and see if it is a worthy tool for your creative arsenal. You might find that the free version is all you need.
Monoplugs B-Sequencer (MIDI Sequencer)
The B-Sequencer works as you’d expect a full-paid version of a plugin to work.
It has extensive means for creation, chord programming, MIDI learning, syncing with external sequencers, and more. The interface is customizable to an extent, and it also comes as a standalone application too.
- Extensive Sequencer Generator
You are given the option to run four sequencers simultaneously if you need additional creative input. This is amazing because the B-Sequencer facilitates a comprehensive interface that allows you to do a lot for free. The design stretches beyond the immediate home screen, and you can open up various elements such as the chord section for in-depth tweaking. As with any sequencer, you need to set the general parameters to fit your needs before you can start making fitting phrases.
- Multifaceted Creation
You can use the B-Sequencer for many things like drum creation, melodic riffs, polyrhythms, basslines, and more. It works in conjunction with sound generators and can be super versatile depending on what instruments you employ. It has useful drag and drop features that let you copy information from specific steps across more of them, copy bars and steps, and save data to the clipboard for later revisitation.
- Competitive and Generous
There are extensive compatibility features with this plugin. You can link various sequencers, MIDI controllers, and launchpads into the session for wild interaction hardware, software, and creative interaction. There is an organized project management section that lets you take notes and import data from previous sessions. Additionally, you can share your projects on the B-ProjectRepository community.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 (with SP 1) or later and macOS X 10.7 – macOS 10.13. It comes in VST format.
This plugin has all the features you’d anticipate a full-paid plugin to have, plus more. It is a highly generous device for those who want a comprehensive sequencer but don’t have the budget for it.
With the precise control you can have over the creative process and the advanced syncing capabilities, this plugin should not go unnoticed and untried.
Syntler Drumper (Drum Sequencer)
Drumper is a humble yet effective drum sequencer.
In fact, Drumper has two individual sequencers that work together to combine and morph the different kits and settings into one.
Additionally, it’s equipped with four LFOs, two filters, a crossfade function to keep the transitions smooth, an FX panel, and pan, pitch, decay, and reverb settings for each sample.
- Why Have One Drum Kit When You Can Have Two?
You can load up two entirely different kits into each of the sequencers to create an exciting contrast. Drumper employs both of the sequencer engines to make the final output, which means that you can adjust the settings to trigger more or less drastically. You start by selecting the step pattern and adjusting the settings so that both kits interact with each other.
- Drum Effects
You can also set each drum sample’s pan, decay, reverb, and pitch in both kits. This is great for creating depth and width. Aside from that, there is an FX panel that gives you access to a repeat, stereo delay, and stereo Phaser. You can morph and cross-fade between effects, too – it is not only limited to the samples in the different kits. This is great because sometimes harsh and sharp sounds can come through and cause unwanted clicking, etc.
- Other Goodies
What about MIDI learn capabilities, you ask? Drumper has you covered with MIDI learn access to all of the faders and knobs on the interface. You can also map the four LFOs to various parameters in Drumper for spontaneous randomization. There are one hundred and twenty-eight customizable presets and twenty drum kits to get you started. However, you can load any of your favorite samples without an issue.
This plugin is available for Windows OS. It comes in VST2 format.
Drumper may not have the most intuitive workflow, but it is capable of an impressive amount. Although, if you can get to know this plugin, it will be of excellent service to your beat creation.
Sugar Bytes Thesys (Pitch Sequencer)
Thesys offers a distinctive workflow, a built-in synthesizer, or the ability to pair it with any other instrument.
Each of the sequencers on the home screen is independent of one another, meaning you can have different loop lengths, start times, and more to create exciting patterns.
- Performance Sequencer
This section allows you to apply transposition, pitch bend, chord harmonies, note rolls, and randomize various parameters per step. However, it could be time-consuming if you wanted to specify all the parameters for each step. There are many presets to choose from, and it’s effortless to apply them so this could be a good choice. However, with the Command Key pressed, you’re able to click through the various preset options for each box quickly. You can also employ the randomization functions to work for you here as another option.
- Three Trigger Modes
The different trigger modes allow you to use a variety of methods to start and stop audio. You can use your ‘host’ application as a trigger mode, ‘note toggle’, which will halt the sequence if you play another note on your keyboard, and ‘note on,’ which means that the sequence is triggered for as long as you hold a note.
- Modulation and MIDI Learn
A modulation engine is a wild machine that will turn your progression into a morphing, evolving, musical phrase. A powerful MIDI learning function is available with Thesys that allows you to connect and integrate many instruments, effects, and more. You can easily map parameters in Thesys to affect some of your chosen instrument’s parameters through MIDI learning.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only) and macOS X 10.7 or higher – Apple Silicon M1 supported (64-bit only). It comes in VST2, AAX, and AU formats.
Thesys has a refreshingly unique workflow that can be heaps of fun to explore and create with. They keep things light on the eye but under the hood, there is a radical machine with the ability to blow your mind.
It feels like Sugar Bytes paid a lot of attention to the workflow and kept it slick, to the point, and user-friendly.
Audiaire Zenith (Customizable Sequencer)
Zenith is here as a bonus because this plugin is just that for numerous reasons.
If you’ve been lucky enough to discover this and get it into your workflow, you’ll probably agree. This plugin is more than adequate for many applications and will certainly suffice as a beat creation tool.
However, one of the predominant features is connecting and controlling almost anything with the customizable interface, MIDI CC, and SysEx functions.
- Customizable Interface
Zenith has a unique workflow and capabilities to create your own ‘device’ within the plugin. With extensive mapping and syncing abilities, you can use these custom interfaces to control your favorite hardware and software devices. From here, you can decide what functions to assign to your new interface and set it up to suit your needs directly. This process could be a bit time-consuming; however, the level of control is unparalleled, and any factors hardly limit the things you can do.
- MIDI CC and SysEx
We’ve looked at various CC functions, but what is SysEx? Well, it’s a form of MIDI instruction that is a little more complex and can handle more instructional data than basic MIDI functions. It’s typically used when communicating with older equipment; however, the SysEx functions are unique to each device, so it’s not always the same. This is one of the reasons that Zenith is so powerful because you can create custom patches and instructions that can communicate with a variety of older equipment. In conjunction, MIDI CC and SysEx can communicate with multiple different hardware and software devices. All-in-all – this plugin stretches far beyond the realms of a general sequencer with the precise level of control you can apply to almost any external or third-party device.
- Sequencer Functions
The sequencer is no less impressive than the features we’ve already touched on. It has LFOs, 24 x 32 step sequences, hundreds of presets, a handful of radical effects, parallel chord generators, predefined maps for over a hundred devices, and much more. Just listing these things here doesn’t do justice for how incredible they are; I’d encourage you to check out this plugin and read about the features in-depth. It’s difficult to comprehend just how much you can do with Zenith.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher (64 bit only). It comes in VST, VST2, and AU formats.
Zenith is by far the most comprehensive device we’ve explored today. Of course, there will be moments where things don’t go according to plan with something as complicated as this, but once you know how to use it, the possibilities are endless. Endless.
FeelYourSound Chordpotion (Chord/MIDI Sequencer)
Chord Potion is a quaint yet powerful tool that is designed in such a way to increase the complexity and depth of your chord progressions, melodies, and riffs.
Picture an ancient druid concocting a variety of magic potions to heal an array of ailments – Chordpotion is similar in that it has a solution to everything.
You send MIDI notes from your instrument channel to Chordpotion, and it uses that information to create more complex patterns based on a weighted probability algorithm.
Chordpotion offers an exceptionally unique workflow backed by an intuitive interface with control over all the critical factors for sequencing and triggering.
- Normal Mode vs. MultiPlay Mode
On the home screen of Chordpotion, you can see four main channels named Chords, Melody 1, Melody 2, and Melody 3, which make up the Normal mode. However, in MultiPlay mode, you’re able to combine numerous instances of these four channels. You do this by applying MultiPlay as an FX on the Chord row. In normal mode, you start by selecting a few options on the chord row, which is essentially the start of the sequence. The melody rows beneath it can also be adjusted independently to achieve mixed results and harmonies. By combining various output options on each channel and setting alternating sequence lengths, you can create interactive harmonic combinations and polyrhythms.
- The Chordpotion Sequencer
The sequencer has a basic design, and it’s accessed by clicking ‘edit’ on the desired row. It brings up an odd-looking view with the step count and a few adjustable parameters such as octaves and transposition. However, there is an additional surprise when you select the blank box above the octave parameter which opens the effects section for the step sequence. It works independently from the main FX parameters on the home screen and has options that determine probability and randomization. You can randomize notes, velocity, octave and, strum – remember that you can access and edit this for every single row in Normal and MulitPlay mode.
- Achieve Human Feel
You can achieve a very realistic human feel by optimizing parameters such as swing, strum, chord changes, timing, and more. Depending on your music, this could be useful because you can set up triggers for all randomizations to react in human ways. If you get the settings right and explore MultiPlay mode, you can create interactive melodies, phrases, and riffs and let them play out over time, evolving in a surprisingly human way.
This plugin is available for Windows Vista or later (32/64 bit) and macOS 10.9 or later (64 bit). It comes in VST and AU formats.
Chordpotion has all the potential to be a trusted tool in your production arsenal as it is so easy to use and gets excellent results. There are tons of tested presets that are bound to get you good results from the get-go.
Additionally, there is a multi-page experimental canvas for your creative explorations, which means that the possibilities are endless.
MMS MIDI Madness 3 (MIDI Sequencer)
MIDI Madness 3 is similar to most sequencer plugins, except it has one unique feature that sets it apart from the rest.
Instead of providing a sound engine or the need to use the sequencer as a generation tool, you can integrate your instruments right into the plugin. This is great for versatility as you can load your favorite synthesizers, drum machines, etc., and not be limited to the plugin itself.
MMS has integrated an outstanding live performance feature that takes matters into its own hands and creates musical phrases based on your dial-in parameters. You can also use MIDI notes to trigger a progression, meaning you just play a note on your keyboard and let the plugin do the rest.
As the name suggests, the randomization functions of this plugin are great and can create some crazy, unanticipated content.
- The Playback Section
This is the first section of the plugin you’ll need to focus on as you need to pick an instrument for sound generation. Simply load your favorite synths, drum machines, and more directly into the Playback Section. Once you’ve made your choice and have got it set up, you have complete autonomy over the chosen instrument and all its parameters. This feature saves a lot of time routing through other tracks and devices, which can be pretty grueling when you have a big session with a lot of synths and sequencers.
- Sequence and Parameter Control
As with any sequencer plugin, you control the basic parameters, such as scale, key, range, velocity, etc. You have up to eight clips that can be employed to initiate different phrases that you save. The parameter section has a unique workflow and lets you toil with the settings in exciting ways. This is primarily due to the probability weighting of the plugin algorithm. You can determine how much of what will be affected by randomization and in what ways. For example, you can set the velocity range to change between specific values, and you can determine a curve shape to vary the results of the velocity changes even further.
- Automate Synthesizer Parameters
You’ll notice a bunch of CC buttons at the bottom of the plugin interface. These are incredibly cool as they let you map to various parameters of your loaded instrument from within the plugin. You can determine the chance that randomization will occur when it receives MIDI data from the chord generator. For example, you can link it to your delay feature on the synth, and when MIDI triggers this feature, it will apply some randomization to the delay on your synth. You can go crazy with this on top of the various sequencer randomization functions to increase variation and interest.
This plug-in is available for Windows Vista or later (32/64 bit) and macOSX Lion 10.7 or later (32/64 bit). It comes in VST and AU formats.
MIDI Madness 3 is a humble device that packs a serious punch. The possibilities are endless for what you create with the versatile capabilities of this plugin.
Furthermore, you can influence a lot of the randomization elements to end up only affecting specific aspects, or you can hand the reigns over to MIDI Madness 3 and enjoy a wild concoction of random interaction.
Harvest Plugins Harvest (MIDI Sequence Generator)
The selling point of Harvest is that you can physically tap in rhythms and melodies using a variety of hardware.
This makes creating sequences a whole lot more interactive and enjoyable as you get to stamp your mark. Aside from this excellent feature, several charming factors might persuade you to give this plugin a try. Some of these features are the piano roll, live mode, and built-in effects.
- Tap Your Rhythm
The most intriguing feature of this device would have to be the interactive and intuitive Rhythm Tap which lets you physically tap the rhythm to generate MIDI data. This feature can be mapped to various hardware for quick and easy interaction – you don’t necessarily have to tap any specific notes and keys as the sequencer settings allow you to set variables for the MIDI generation. Here you have access to the general controls such as scale, key, steps, etc.
- Assorted Effects
The effects available with Harvest are unique and set up interestingly. It’s right in your face as one of the main features on the screen, which is fantastic. You have arpeggiator FX with ascending and descending melody shifts, humanize for some swing, chord spreader to separate notes played at the same time, pitch which is used to shift the phrase up or down by a semitone, and more. These effects are built into the sequencer set-up with some plugins, meaning you need to adjust them accordingly to hear results. However, here you can simply dial them in with a simple click.
- Comprehensive Accessibility
The general design of this plugin is intuitive and straightforward, yet it packs a punch. The home screen has everything you can utilize, but it allows you to expand on the piano roll and open it up for closer inspection and tweaking. The shuffle function is also helpful when you’re stuck and can’t come up with something at the moment. It randomizes everything within the initial parameters you set (scale, notes, chords, etc.) – you could also employ this feature from the get-go and make adjustments to the stuff it creates.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 (with SP 1) or later (64 bit) and macOS X 10.7 – macOS 10.15 (64 bit). It comes in VST and AU formats.
This is an intelligent device with a chic design – it provides the opportunity to engage with your music more interactively. It’s an excellent tool for beatmakers who like to get their hands dirty.
This article has explored twenty of the best free and full-paid sequencer options for you to check out in 2023.
Although the concept of a sequencer is pretty universal, each of these devices has its charming factors that set them apart from one another and establish them as the best options for your creative arsenal.
From sequencers with built-in sound engines to sequencers that can integrate with your hardware and software via MIDI learning, an array of valuable plugins can get the job done. It should be evident by now that your decision doesn’t have to be limited because there are so many viable options, nor do you need a big budget to achieve top-quality results.
One of the most influential and widely employed features is the randomization algorithm you can use to do the work for you.
Whether you’re randomizing the entire spectrum of variables or just dialing it in where you need it most, you will encounter some surprising results, which a lot of the time can end up being the secret sauce you needed all along.
Are you looking for sequencers with a built-in sound engine? Look no further than Pigments 3, G8TOR, Consequence, MIDI Madness 3, and Thesys, which all have this feature available.
Perhaps you’re more interested in using sequencers to trigger your favorite synthesizers. If that’s the case, Animation Station, Riffer, Phrasebox, HY-RPE2, Chordpotion, and Harvest would certainly suffice.
Is beat creation or drum programming the name of your game? I’d recommend exploring XO, Playbeat, and Drumper, which are more geared towards this task.
Or, you might be on a budget and prefer to stick to free plugins. If so, check out Gatelab, HY-ESG, Harvest MINI, or B-Sequencer. You’ll save cash without compromising quality. Remember, most of these plugins offer free trials, so you can always try it out before purchasing.
Lastly, if you’re a control freak, like me, you might want to explore Zenith. This plugin is impressive for many reasons, but you can write patches and control yourself, which means you can do anything.
Whether you’re working with drums, synths, bass, or any other instrument, sequencers will have some valuable input for you. You just need to be willing to explore the capabilities of your chosen plugin, and you’ll reap the rewards.
Best Arpeggiator VST Plugins
We’ve heard arpeggios in lots of modern songs, but did you know about these 10 best arpeggiator plugins that make it almost too easy?
Arpeggios have been around for a long time. We can find variations of it in the oldest classical pieces. In fact, Beethoven’s famous Moonlight Sonata is a great example of an arpeggio in classical music.
Contemporary music producers have made arpeggios an even more significant part of modern music, and we can’t deny how exciting and catchy they sound either. And that’s what we’ll talk about today.
This list will cover the best arpeggiators, some in the form of synths and others as midi effects.
Top 10 Arpeggiator VST Plugins 2023 (Best Synths, MIDI Effects & Tools)
1. u-he Hive 2
Going beyond a mere subtractive synthesizer, u-he takes on wavetables and complex modulation with this synth plugin.
Hive 2 is a unique synth featuring an arpeggiator and a sequencer that can create intricate modulations and rhythmic patterns. The plugin features two main oscillators, with a sub-generator each. Furthermore, you can modulate most of the parameters using the 12-unit modulation matrix.
And the wavetable feature is fascinating thanks to its Multi-Table feature. You can split a wavetable into multiple parts (up to 16), each acting as a 2D oscillator.
Hence, if you were to split a wavetable into 3 parts, you can either crossfade between the three parts or use velocity or multi-sampling to wavetable modulation within each of the parts.
Frankly, it’s unfortunate that you cannot create new wavetables inside Hive 2. Anyway, let’s focus on the other aspects of the synth next.
- Arpeggiator And Sequencer
Hive 2 features an excellent arpeggiator section with a 3-octave range, 6 direction options, and 4 orders. You’ll also find a time base, swing, and other features. Similarly, Hive 2 employs a 16-step sequencer where you can assign the gate, transposition, velocity, and modulation per step. Furthermore, you could also use the sequencer only to send out CC data or use the Record Mode to enter notes with your keyboard. Also, you can record the midi into your DAW, which you can then edit further if you want to.
- Shape Sequencer
Build intricate modulations or rhythmic patterns using the Shape Sequencer. There are four Shape Modulator lanes with a time base, trigger, and order controls each. However, you cannot have four shapes for each lane; it’s one shape for all lanes per step, but you get to decide which lanes will modulate at all.
- Effect Processors
Hive 2 features some of the best-sounding effect processors you could find integrated into a synth. There are seven effects: distortion, reverb, chorus, EQ, delay, phaser, and compressor. You can enable/disable each effect and move them up or down in the effects rack. Further, you can modulate each parameter on the FX page.
Hive 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher, macOS 10.9 or higher, and Linux, all of them 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Considering how feature-rich this plugin is, it’s no surprise that Hive 2 has a bit of a learning curve. The UI design might seem stylistic, but they don’t hinder workflow at all. Furthermore, features like four integrated XY Pads for performance and an output scope meter make the plugin a lot of fun.
I also love how the scope displays modulation envelopes, LFO, and so on. Also, if you dislike the look of Hive 2, check out the arctic Izmo skin featured in v2.1.
2. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2
Omnisphere is a behemoth of a synth and obviously features one of the best arpeggiators on the market.
Spectrasonic’s flagship synthesizer is a powerful and versatile instrument capable of producing an enormous variety of sounds that have inspired artists worldwide. It features many forms of synthesis, including wavetables, subtractive, sampling, etc.
Furthermore, its arsenal of effect processors makes it capable of producing fully mixed sounds right out of the box.
Furthermore, Omnisphere is also the first synthesizer to integrate with hardware synths, making this plugin the face of your professional hardware.
Of course, we’ll focus on this feature first. A 32-step arpeggiator with velocity, shuffle, strumming, chord voicing, and pattern settings lets you create intricate parts. This module also includes step modifiers, which are for parameter modulation per step. And lastly, each of the eight Omnisphere sections has an arpeggiator, allowing you to have up to eight different arpeggiators playing within a single plugin.
Omnisphere probably has the largest soundbank in a synth plugin. You’ll find over 14,000 sounds fit for music production, media scoring, and sound design. And with each update, the sound library keeps growing thanks to Spectrasonic’s continued development.
- FX Units
The plugin features 58 effect processors, each with a unique and appealing UI. You’ll find everything ranging from standard reverb, delay, compressor, EQ, chorus, and phaser to guitar amps, limiter, tube slammer, wah-wah, expander, etc.
- The Synth
Each patch can feature up to four layers. In total, you can have up to 20 oscillators, either synth or sample-based. Furthermore, each patch has 8 complex LFOs, over 34 types of filters, 12 envelopes, and more.
Omnisphere 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher, macOS 10.13 or higher, and Linux, all 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
In short, Omnisphere is gigantic. There are so many incredible features that it becomes nigh impossible even to list them all. In this review, I’ve focused on the essential elements that a music producer looking for an arpeggiator might prefer to understand.
However, since it’s a rather expensive plugin, you should make sure you know how deep the synth actually is. Hence, I will leave the following video for you to check out:
3. Tone2 Icarus 2
Discover a vast range of sounds and synthesis with Tone2’s epic magnum opus.
The most prominent features of Icarus 2 must be its synth methods and filters. However, close behind, you’ll find other features like multiple kinds of sequencers, wave-table editors, and more. Despite all that, though, it remains intuitive and sensible, with easy drag-and-drop support for modulators.
Overall, the synth is suitable for DnB, trap, EDM, hip-hop, and similar genres. You’ll find plenty of parameters to modulate and create intricate rhythms and soundscapes.
This power comes with a surprisingly low CPU usage, which is always a massive plus for modern productions.
- Synth Engine
Icarus 2 features an incredible amount of synthesis methods, including wavetables, sample resynthesis, vocoder, additive, subtractive, analog, 6-operator FM, formant, ring-mod, AM, physical-modeling, granular, harmonic-morphing, FFT-filtering, and many more. You’ll find 3 oscillators in the synth, and each synthesis mode gives you many other features like stacking, 3D morphing, and unison. It truly feels limitless.
Tone 2 developed the prestigious FilterBank3 plugin. So, it’s no surprise that Icarus 2 also features a giant collection of filters. In this plugin, you’ll find two filter modules, each featuring several modulation options and 9-mode distortion. Also, each module offers 63 kinds of filters.
- Arpeggiator And Sequencers
Icarus 2 comes with a powerful arpeggiator, where you can input transpositions, modulation, and performance per step. So, you can have a slide, up, down, chords, etc. The plugin’s auto-chord feature is convenient for instant inspiration. Similarly, you’ll also find a drum sequencer in this plugin. It comes with a wide variety of drum sounds, percussions, and waveforms. Furthermore, you can also import audio samples and save the kit. The sequencer itself supports shuffle, swing, effect send, key split, and so on. And finally, Icarus 2 features a glitch sequencer. You can create glitchy, stuttering, or gated synth sounds and also pitch stops. It achieves the effect using 10 effect modules like the gate, tremolo, low-pass, bit-crush, degrade, etc.
Icarus 2 comes with 54 effect processors and a master limiter. These effect processors include reverb, delay, chorus, phaser, flanger, vibrato, compressor, EQ, saturation, micro-tuning, auto-pan, surround encoding, etc. And the effect chain is modular with the function to save and load the chain separately.
The plugin is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.7 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
While synths like Serum and Zebra keep stealing the limelight, Icarus 2 is an unsung legend when it comes to synthesis. Our review barely covers the parts that matter for arpeggiations and sequencing.
It features two multi-state envelopes, four regular envelopes, sixteen sine-wave LFOs, three morphing LFOs, and a step LFO/gate for modulation alone. So, if you are after a new kind of sound, Icarus 2 will not let you down.
4. VPS Avenger
VPS Avenger is a synth workstation that delivers solutions for just about everything in sound design.
Boasting itself as the last synth you’ll ever need, this plugin features a highly capable engine with an extensive library of presets. Avenger has 8 oscillators, each with an array of features and parameters that make it sound like an entire synth on its own.
These include a super-saw with 7 voices, 4 octaves, and a pan spread. Similarly, each oscillator has a separate vibrato, unison, sub-OSC, etc.
Furthermore, you can use OSC Transformation parameters to further shape oscillators. For instance, Xcite bends the waveform, and Formant adds pulse width modulation. Similarly, you can generate noise, perform FM and AM, edit using an FFT filter, and so on.
Next, let’s talk about the other vital features of this synth, but please note that there are several more worth talking about for every feature I list.
Each oscillator features the following generators: classic VA, single cycle waveform, freeform (hand-drawn waveform), wavetable, resample, multi-sampler, drumkit, granular, FM, feedback, and guitar player. Avenger comes with thousands of single-cycle waveforms, over 600 wavetables (128-shape resolution), over 1000 multi-samples, 160 drum kits, etc.
- Arpeggiator And Sequencer
You can add up to 8 arpeggiator and 8 sequencer modules in an instance of Avenger. The 32-step arpeggiator has four sub-patterns, which let you create complex melodies with up to four polyphonies. Arpeggiator modes include up, down, random, and poly modes. Moreover, you can also edit the note length, transposition, and velocity per step.
Similarly, the sequencer module features contour, decay, gate, and velocity per step. You can use it to modulate parameters and create effects like trance gates.
Avenger features 8 modulation envelopes, 8 pitch envelopes, 4 amp envelopes, 4 filter envelopes, and 4 LFO modules. The first two feature unlimited points/nodes. And the amp envelopes are for the oscillators, should you wish to control some separately. Similarly, the filter envelopes control the 47 kinds of filters available in the plugin.
- FX Busses
Avenger employs four FX racks, one send-FX rack, and one master FX rack. Each rack features 8 FX slots, where you can add from the 30 effect processors included with the plugin: reverb, delay, Impulse Response, flanger, chorus, phaser, bit-crusher, fuzz, EQ, limiter, etc.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
VPS Avenger is a masterpiece of a synthesizer. Featuring a vector-based resizable GUI, you can use this on any screen size, although larger is better. Furthermore, it features 16 external outputs, which come in handy for drum sequencing. Similarly,
I also like its drag-and-drop support for modulation. Overall, it’s an extremely vast synthesizer that necessitates a try before you can believe, justifying the moderately high price.
5. Arturia ARP2600 V
Bring Alan R. Pearlman’s 1972 icon ARP 2600 back to life with Arturia’s deep hardware emulation.
Arturia’s ARP2600 V is a semi-modular synth that shares the UI design almost precisely with the original hardware. It features three oscillators and one filter with multiple types featured in the ARP 2500 hardware synth. It has 2 to 32-voice polyphony.
These idiosyncrasies do make Arturia’s plugin have a much more comprehensive range of sounds.
However, thanks to the modular approach, beginners may not find it the easiest synth to use. Still, it features over 500 presets and in-app tutorials, making the learning and user experience a lot more intuitive.
- Synth Engine
As I mentioned earlier, three oscillators release these signals: triangle, sine, saw, square, and rectangle waveforms. There is also a noise module, ring modulator, a sample/hold module, and a mixer. You can pass these to a 24 dB/oct low-pass or a 12 dB multi-mode (LP, HP, BP, notch) filter.
You’ll find two envelopes: an ADSR for the low-pass filters and an AR filter for the amplifier. And, unlike the original hardware’s OSC 2 used as an LFO, ARP 2600 V employs a separate LFO, which is pre-routed for vibrato. But you can also route it to anywhere else, of course.
On top of the reverberation already present in the original instrument, the effects section allows you to add a Stereo Delay and Chorus to your sound. These effects give much more depth and a contemporary vibe to the sound.
You’ll find an emulation of the ARP model 1601 sequencer in this plugin. The design may catch you off guard, but it’s pretty easy to use. The top row of faders lets you select which “bus” outputs the signal per step (a gate). And you can choose transposition or modulation in the faders below. So, you could use this sequencer for note arpeggiation or modulation.
ARP 2600 V is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you don’t already own a modular synth plugin, you should give ARP 2600 V a try to understand the concept. It’s quite easy to use as all of the modules are on the UI.
Furthermore, you’ll love it if you enjoy the analog sound, which Arturia is renowned for recreating. You can also consider their V-Collection, which includes this instrument. However, it does require a reasonably fast CPU to operate well.
6. Kirnu Interactive Cream
If performing with an arpeggiator is your thing, Kirnu Cream is a must-have.
Cream isn’t merely a MIDI arpeggiator; it also features several additional functions that make composition and performance convenient and quicker. It also has plenty of presets that can inspire creativity instantly. And finally, it boasts a sample-accurate performance at negligible CPU usage.
You can create up to 12 patterns per track (out of 4). Each pattern features 9 various parameters for you to tweak, including length, gate, accent, transposition, and CC data. The latter is useful for modulation instead of merely playing noes. So, you can combine Cream’s power with your favorite synth/sampler. Other features include global transposition, rate, scales, etc.
Cream has a feature called “Chord Memory” that essentially stores chord notes that you can recall using only a note. Furthermore, it can also create chord inversions with the click of a button. These features make Cream excellent for live performance.
ARP 2600 V is available for Windows 2000 or higher and macOS 10.5 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and LPX MIDI FX formats.
Cream is super simple to use, but it can create an astounding level of complexity simply with the sheer number of control data it can modulate simultaneously.
Furthermore, you can also use the Pattern Sequencer to create a “playlist” of the patterns you have made. Overall, it contributes a lot to music production.
Welcome the classic yet slightly lesser-known Roland SH-101 to the digital world through TAL’s excellent emulation.
While it can function monophonically like its hardware inspiration, the TAL-BassLine-101 is a polyphonic bass synth with a vintage analog flavor.
The user interface is intuitive and straightforward, making it far more accessible than its hardware. It uses its precisely calibrated engine to produce familiar sounds in any kind of setting. BassLine includes a 24dB/oct low-pass filter that sounds as smooth as hardware counterparts.
- Hardware Emulation
As with Roland’s original design, you’ll find a VCO, a VCF, and an LFO. It also employs an envelope to control the amplifier. Unlike the original hardware, it can generate up to the 6-voice polyphonic sound. So, you could use it as a key-style synth too. However, what makes the synth iconic is its smooth filter, which sounds even smoother when modulated and pushed.
The built-in arpeggiator/sequencer employs a maximum of 96 steps with a recording option. Of course, there are standard features like swing, arpeggio modes, rate, etc. After creating your pattern, you can also drag and drop the midi straight to your DAW software.
TAL-BassLine-101 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
While the plugin does rather basic work, compared to other synths, devotees of the Roland original will love the similarity in sound and design.
Furthermore, the 300 included presets demonstrate what the plugin is capable of doing. I would suggest giving it a try and seeing if you enjoy the workflow before making a purchase decision.
8. XFer Cthulhu
Give your composition skills a boost using this arpeggiation and chord playing tool.
Xfer has packed two kinds of tools in one in Cthulhu. The first is the Chords Module, which features a large library of factory chords and allows you to record new ones.
The second is the Arp Module that contains a sequencer for manipulating incoming notes or chords generated by the previous module. Of course, you could also disable either of the modules if you don’t need it. Let’s have a look at these two in more detail:
- Chords Module
Cthulu includes over 150 chord-presets that you could use out of the box instantly or for inspiration. Furthermore, the module can also detect the notes you input and suggest various chord sorting options like Chromatic, Low Notes, Circle of Fifths, etc. All of these chords can then be triggered using a single note on your keyboard, which is particularly handy for live performance.
- Arp Module
After you have your chord patterns ready, manipulate their rhythm and melody using the Arp Module. You can modify the note, randomization, octave, pitch, velocity, gate, latency, and harmony. You can create up to 8 of such patterns. And each of the patterns can function on its own length, opening doors for even polyrhythmic patterns.
Cthulu is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Cthulu is an interesting approach to arpeggiation. Instead of merely allowing you to sequence notes, it also lets you create chord patterns. The feature and the inspiring presets can undoubtedly come in handy if you struggle to come up with new ideas.
Furthermore, the polyrhythmic features make it suitable for advanced users too. And finally, if you need some random fun, try the blatant but accurate “WTF?” button.
9. Venomode Phrasebox
Get creative with this plugin’s piano roll-like sequencer to create custom arpeggio patterns and even complete melodies.
Phrasebox functions based on the pattern and various criteria you set in the plugin’s grid. The chords you play via midi are translated into the plugin’s patterns, and then you hear the performance.
In the image below, you’ll notice eight rows on the grid labeled 1 through 8. These are the notes of the chord you’re inputting.
Suppose you play a C major chord. The C note is mapped to 1, the E note to 2, and the G to 3. You could create a pattern involving the three notes or more in any form you like, and it will translate perfectly into any chord.
- Special Rows
I’ve described the eight simple rows, but the rows above them work differently. You’ll notice that some of them are pairs of opposites. Let’s go from the top down:
First, ‘All’ plays every note you’re inputting simultaneously, which is excellent for creating synth stabs.
Second, ‘High’ and ‘Low’ play the highest and lowest note you input. Then, the ‘First’ and ‘Last’ are self-explanatory, and so are ‘Loud’ and ‘Quiet,’ which work based on velocity. You can control the low and high-velocity levels on the left panel.
And we reach ‘Fixed,’ which is a fixed note, also selectable in the left panel. Finally, we have a ‘Random’ note, which plays a random note from the notes you’re inputting.
Another control you can assign is the Chance value, which changes the probability of a note sounding each time the pattern plays. It’s excellent for adding humanization to your performance.
Other than notes, you can also send up to 8 MIDI CC data using Phrasebox. You’ll have a linear curve editor, where you can create any shape you like to automate synths, pitch bend, etc. Abusing this feature can make your patterns sound much more intricate and well-designed.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit, macOS 10.12 or higher 64-bit, and Linux (Ubuntu 18.04 or higher). It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Phrasebox can turn any simple chord progression into a dynamic and expressive performance. While synth arpeggios and the like go without saying, it works exceptionally well to create background piano parts. Introducing extra features like CC data modulation and transposition can make the pattern sound even more dynamic.
Furthermore, you can lock your pattern to a scale to force transpositions to always remain in key.
10. Sugar Bytes Consequence
Consequence is an arpeggiator that features sounds as well as the option to act as a midi effect.
The plugin uses notes you input to create its sequences. At the center of the interface, you’ll find the grid where you can create patterns. The various controls are labeled on the right end of the interface. You’ll find modulation, octave, glide, tie, mode, trigger, gate, and chord.
Similarly, on the left, you’ll find options regarding the controls I mentioned above. For example, you’ll find the glide time and the modulation target selector in this section. Let’s get deeper into the instrument.
- Sound Engine
Consequence features 3 oscillators, each of which can load an instrument from its 800 MB sound library with 222 presets. Each oscillator features an amp envelope and two effects: age and crush.
At the bottom, you’ll find a keyboard and a row of numbers from 1 through 16. Each represents a chord. You can either create your own chords or use a bank from the Chord Bank on the left.
After you have your chords ready, you are prepared to begin creating your arpeggio pattern. You’ll generally want to start from the bottom up. Start with the Chord row, where you can select which chord is triggered in each of the 32 steps. The Gate row shows the velocity of each step. You can choose to play the next, previous, or the same note in the Mode row. The rest are pretty self-explanatory.
- MIDI Out
Finally, you can use the MIDI Out feature to connect Consequence to another synth plugin to control it. Remember to use Consequence as a midi effect or place it before the instrument plugin, depending on the DAW you use. Furthermore, you can also save the performance as a midi file.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you’re only after a midi arpeggiator without any built-in sound, the price of this plugin may not be very appealing. However, I must say that the sound library can come in handy, especially if you make hip-hop and trap. Still, it may seem limited compared to using a full-fledged synth. In terms of the arpeggiator itself, though, Consequence is undoubtedly rich and capable.
The 4 Best Free Arpeggiator Plugins 2023
1. u-he Podolski
One of the older synths created by u-he, Podolski, is a virtual analog synthesizer.
In essence, Podolski has one oscillator, one filter, one envelope, and an arpeggiator. The oscillator has a variable shape ranging from saw to triangle (PWM). The user interface is resizable and skin-able, so you’ll also find a couple of UI skins in your download. Furthermore, there are over 300 presets that show the capabilities of this synth.
Podolski features a 16-step arpeggiator, where you can control the step mode, gate, length, transpositions, and modulation. Furthermore, you can also enable glide to make the arpeggio sound smoother. It’s quite simplistic but works well.
- Multi-Mode Filter
The plugin features a single multi-mode filter that has low-pass, band-pass, and high-pass filter curves. It also features drive, FM, and key follow. Modulation plays a big role in creating good arpeggio parts, and the filter does support modulation from the arpeggiator.
Podolski features one envelope with the following modes: ADSR/HDSR, Linear, or Exponential. The sustain parameter features a fall/rise control too. Furthermore, the plugin has a straightforward but efficient LFO.
At the bottom of the interface, you’ll find a delay and a chorus/flanger. While they don’t fulfill everything necessary for mixing, you can use them for widening the sound and adding interest to the arpeggio parts.
Podolski is available for Windows 7 or higher, macOS 10.9 or higher, and Linux, all of them 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
As with all u-he plugins, despite being a free plugin, Podolski sounds phenomenal. The filter is extremely smooth and doesn’t create artifacts despite heavy modulation. The arpeggiator is simple but works well. Overall, I think it’s a great synth.
2. VSTZone Eclipsis
Eclipsis boasts a sleek interface and hides a lot of power up its sleeves.
The plugin is a hybrid wavetable synthesizer. It employs three oscillators with 118 wave shapes. Furthermore, the oscillators include three tools to adjust the wave shapes.
Each oscillator also features output routing, detuning, phase, amp envelope, and smoothing control (6 dB/oct low-pass). Another critical feature is FM modulation with a selectable input source (frequency, pitch, or velocity).
The plugin features two filters. And each of them employs 17 types of filters. These include low-pass, band-pass, high-pass, and notch types. Some of them also emulate hardware synths like the famed Roland 303.
Eclipsis features 9 modulation input sources and 39 targets. There are 6 LFOs and an arpeggiator/gate module. The arpeggiator features 32 steps in total, but you can divide it to get two 16-step patterns too. It features playback control, rate, transposition (±5 octaves), etc.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit only. It comes in VST 2 format.
While I think Eclipsis is a very capable synth, the workflow may not suit everyone. It uses an almost modular approach to synthesis, which can cause some learning curves for beginners. However, it does have a large number of presets alongside a randomizer. These come in handy to get started without having learned much.
3. Mucoder Hypercyclic
Hypercyclic is a midi arpeggiator that keeps LFO modulation at its heart.
On top of that, Hypercyclic can also function as a gate effect and a step sequencer for manipulating inputted chords. Thanks to its unconventional option to modulate the sequencer size itself, it also has a reputation for being an experimental tool. It’s helpful for creating modern stuttering and chaos effects.
The LFO panel on the right of the interface lets you create various shapes to either arpeggiate your notes or send midi CC signals. I like using the LFO as a ducking effect on synth pads.
At the bottom left of the interface, you’ll find the arpeggio panel. This panel features a parameter called Arp Mask. This parameter lets you choose which notes to play. So, suppose you choose Note 1, then only the first note of your chord will be triggered by the engine. Hence, you need to click on the modulation icon (a sine icon) and use the LFO to trigger various notes in patterns resembling a traditional arpeggiator. The benefit of this approach is that you can create chaotic effects, but it lengthens the process of achieving simple arpeggios.
The groove parameter can create a humanization effect by either slowing down or speeding up the rhythm. The effect ranges from half a beat early to half a beat late. Furthermore, you can also modulate this parameter to make the effect random and dynamic.
Hypercyclic is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit, macOS 10.9 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit, and Linux 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
The plugin is a complex midi effect. However, it also features a basic built-in synth to help you learn how it affects the sound.
If you only intend to create traditional arpeggio patterns, I would recommend you stay away from Hypercyclic. However, if chaotic experiments are your thing, this plugin is probably the best in business.
4. CodeFN42 RandARP
A little randomness goes a long way with CodeFN42’s exciting arpeggiator plugin.
RandARP is a straightforward arpeggiator with all the standard features. However, it’s different because it offers you a randomization feature for several parameters that can help make your sequences more humanized and unpredictable.
As with most standard arpeggiators, you can control the rate, note direction, octave, and velocity mode. However, it also features random modes in many of these standard options too. For example, you can set the octave order to change randomly using the drop-down menu.
- Other Randomization
There are seven knobs at the top of the UI. And five of them have Random knobs below them. So, you can randomize the corresponding parameter using these knobs. A small amount of randomization on velocity, gate, and swing makes it sound humanized, whereas a large amount of randomization on everything sounds chaotic.
RandARP is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 format.
If you are after a simple arpeggiator plugin, you’ve hit the right spot. RandARP is a complete success as a traditional arpeggiator that can add a small amount of humanization and also as a chaotic machine.
Also, enabling the Latch mode and disabling the Restart can be helpful for live performance.
Imagine by Expressive E
Create novel acoustic instruments unheard-of from a synth before.
Imagine is a synthesizer based on physical modeling. It models the sound of various instruments that are struck with different kinds of mallets. The combination of these two creates a unique instrument layer. You can have up to two layers per session of the plugin.
Since it generates sounds similar to bells or string plucks, it ends up becoming an excellent tool for arpeggio patterns. Furthermore, you can modulate many parameters of the synth and effect processors, making the arpeggiation even more exciting.
- Physical Model
The plugin features several atypical acoustic bodies. These include tubes, bars, skin, and strings. You can combine two of these (or use one twice) to create your instrument layer. Since there are two layers, you could essentially use all of them together to create an instrument that sounds natural yet unheard of.
Since the models are merely bodies, you will need an “excitator” or a mallet to create sound. It can be a mallet, noise, or a sequencer. With a mallet, you can adjust the instrument’s timbre, striking position, etc. You can use noise to excite the instruments continuously (like a synth pad/lead). Conversely, the sequencer features two arpeggiators, which we will discuss next.
The plugin’s sequencer features two arpeggiators. You can have both of them play together or control the balance between them. The arpeggiator lets you create unique patterns by allowing you to choose from these arp orders: up, down, up&down, up&down2, and chords. It features a 16-step grid, where you can enable or disable the steps to create rhythms. You can also make it play patterns up to 3 octaves higher, lower, or both.
Imagine features a modular FX page shared by both instrument layers. You’ll find a vibrato/frequency shifter, EQ/compressor, stereo delay, plate reverb, and an Expressive FX module. The last module features effects like distortion, filters, chorus, phaser, etc.
Imagine is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
Imagine is quite capable of creating a variety of sounds. It can sound ethereal and happy, or it can be downright creepy and weird. However, the sounds may not be appropriate everywhere. For example, you’ll probably want to stick to a regular synth for electronic dance music.
Still, thanks to its 300 instrument-presets and 250 arpeggio-presets, this plugin is an excellent way to introduce different vibes (no pun intended) to your music.
What Is Arpeggiator In Music?
An arpeggiator is a midi tool that plays inputted notes in a sequence at a specific rate. Some arpeggiators can also include notes higher or lower than the inputted notes using various commands. The word comes from the musical term arpeggio, which describes the same action performed by instrument players.
What Is The Purpose Of Arpeggios?
You can use arpeggios to add exciting passages of instruments as background or sometimes even as melodies. Similarly, arpeggios make great pieces as the introductory part of a song. Other times, you might use them to add harmonic excitement during the bridge/chorus part of your song.
How Do You Use An Arpeggiator?
An arpeggiator is often integrated into a synth. If it isn’t, use a separate arpeggiator plugin, which you place before the synth or sampler plugin, as it’s a MIDI effect. Some DAWs like Cubase also feature specific effect slots for such plugins. Once done, try inputting chord triads or inversions.
How Do You Make Arpeggiated Sound?
Short, accented sounds represent the rhythm in an arpeggio passage well. Hence, articulations like pizzicato or spiccato in real instruments and plucky sounds with a little attack in synths are the best choices for arpeggios. For example, try a saw wave with no attack or sustain and short decay and release.
What Is The Difference Between A Sequencer And An Arpeggiator?
A sequencer is a midi tool that lets you compose a passage of melody over a time grid, where you select each note manually. In contrast, an arpeggiator automatically plays the inputted notes in a selected sequence at a specified rate. So, it works based on a pre-determined algorithm.
An arpeggiator could be an integrated part of a synthesizer, an external MIDI effect, or even a hybrid. If you are looking to use an arpeggiator on a synth you already own, you should look for an external MIDI effect, which is also the cheapest.
However, if you don’t have a synth yet, I suggest choosing one based on your requirements and budget.
For example, Omnisphere 2 and VPS Avenger are incredible, but they may not even be necessary for many people. Suppose you create mostly EDM or hip-hop. Since you are more likely to modulate parameters and show your creativity through traditional synths, you could probably benefit from u-he Hive 2 or Tone2 Icarus 2 instead.
That isn’t to say that Omniphere or Avenger would be useless for you, but it correlates to your budget and priorities.
If you don’t have a spending budget yet, try the free u-he Podolski. It’s also massively capable. And the free Hypercyclic and RandARP are excellent as well. If you own a synth and only miss an arpeggiation module, you don’t have to think twice about getting RandARP.
Finally, if you want some inspiration and assistance in composing itself, you should give Xfer Cthulhu a try. Its Chord module is handy for creating chord cycles. And with that, we’ve reached the end of this article. I hope you’ve discovered a few new plugins you want to try out. Happy music-making!
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
Headphones & Studio Monitors:
MIDI & Synths:
I’m an audio enthusiast, electronic music producer, label co-director, and sound engineer from Cape Town.