Orchestral Tools SEQUIS Acoustic Sequencer – The Synth and Software Review
Can this new instrument do what it says: quickly create looping melodies, dynamic pads, and rhythmic patterns? Kays Alatrakchi gives it a ride on his latest film score.
Is simple always better? In SEQUIS, sample developer Orchestral Tools seeks to get down to the nuts and bolts of virtual instruments by trying to keep the user interface as simple and straightforward as possible.
Does this approach result in an instrument that feels intuitive and fun to play without restricting you to limited customization options? Read on to find out!
SEQUIS is a new Kontakt instrument with a primary focus of creating stylistic rhythmic loops, using sequenced and randomized patterns. Its percussive articulations cover a variety of instruments ranging from traditional orchestral, ethnic, vocals, winds, and more.
There are over 400 presets that offer a variety of sonic options for just about any situation and style. Their Preset Browser is helpfully organized in categories such as Bowed, Flutes, Keys and Mallets, Percussion, Plucked, Vocals, and Textures, etc.
The SEQUIS samples take up right around 4Gb downloaded through NI’s Native Access application. In a field of massive sample collections that can take the better part of a day to download, the instrument was a breeze to install, allowing me to start using it within less than ten minutes.
The SEQUIS user interface is a prime example of how simple and utilitarian a UI can be. Compared to other sample libraries that can seem daunting in their complexity and wealth of options, SEQUIS is a breath of fresh air in its simplicity.
SEQUIS Perform page is where you’ll spend most of the time. It features four concentric circles, each representing an instrument layer, that animate in sequence as the instrument is played.
The Perform mode includes some useful options. One is the ability to change the sequence’s playback speed from half to double the DAW’s tempo. Another is to deactivate the Play Mode Loop so that once the sequence runs its course, playback stops.
You can also control the active layers through the Mod Wheel or through note polyphony. Increasing the number of simultaneously played notes activates layers 1 through 4 in succession. That was a tad too unpredictable for my taste, so I and ended up sticking to Mod Wheel control mode most of the time.
The Edit mode opens up a second page where you can tinker under-the-hood and customize the various instruments.
Initially I wasn’t expecting a particularly deep level of customization from such a siple and spartan UI, but I was surprised by the number of useful options that SEQUIS offers.
Not only can you access volume and pan levels, there are also instrument and articulations assignments and sound FX processing sections for each of the four layers. Furthermore, a swing feel can be added to the sequencer for a more jazzy style — all in all a very impressive arsenal of customization options!
For my first test drive with SEQUIS I wanted to create a simple but driving mid-tempo cue for a film I’m currently working on. This particular scene is for a Western, so I was looking for an acoustic guitar and banjo vibe.
Looking through the browser, I quickly found exactly what I was looking for in the Desert Routine preset, which has a nice jangly rhythmic loop. From there I built the rest of the track with organic percussion presets such as High Latin Percussion and Celebratory Dance, and finally added some low end with the Heavy Breathing Bass and the Bass Suspense presets.
I was pleased at how SEQUIS gave me exactly what I needed for this cue, without needing to add any other sample libraries to fill in the gaps.
Next I wondered how SEQUIS would handle something a bit more moody and electronic. I wasn’t expecting to find a whole lot in the way of ambient and textural presets from such a rhythm-focused library, but once again SEQUIS surprised me with a very versatile range of moody synth selections such as the Aerial Steel, Shifting Clouds and Akureyri Harbor presets.
Lastly, I’m always curious to see just how usable the vocals selections are in a library. Human voices often tend to be a throw-in for many libraries that aren’t specialized choral and vocal collections.
In this scenario SEQUIS again surprised me with some high quality vocal samples in presets such as Departed, Heads Up, and Sequisqatsi (this last one gave my track a definitive Philip Glass vibe that brought a big smile to my face).
Using SEQUIS for this past month, I found it to be an extremely useful sample library and a great addition to my musical palette. Its focus on rhythmic and pulsing elements provides a fast and easy way to add movement to any track.
While I feel that the library is primarily designed to work in concert with other libraries, I was pleased to discover that I was often able to complete an entire track using just it and nothing more. Despite its simple and uncluttered user interface, I was able to tweak and adjust the presets to my liking, often in very drastic ways, while never feeling limited by the available customization options.
Are there any cons to this library? I do wish the FX section was more customizable and had more than just a very basic Filter, Delay, and Reverb. Often I ended up using Native Instruments’ Raum reverb and Replika delay to my signal chain, which improved on the SEQUIS effects. I also found some of the volume adjustments in the Edit page to be a bit touchy, whereas just barely moving the volume slider would make a layer completely disappear from the mix.
Finally, I’m not a fan of the current trend of making the Kontakt UI graphic wider, which in turn takes up precious screen real-estate (an issue when I have several plugins already open in my Logic Pro session). These however are all very minor concerns, and certainly nothing that should dissuade anyone from taking a closer look at what SEQUIS has to offer.
With a simple and intuitive user interface, a versatile and extremely usable collection of curated presets, and an emphasis on high-quality musical samples, I would encourage anyone interested in adding layers of rhythmic activity to their tracks to check out Orchestral Tools’ SEQUIS.
Requirements: Native Instruments Kontakt or Kontakt Player version 6.6.0 or higher. 4.3Gb of drive space.
Available from Native Instruments