I wonder what you first computer based MIDI sequencer was? The one that turned me on to the possibility of using a computer to make music was C-Lab Creator/Notator on the Atari ST. I had previously been smitten by a Roland MC500 MKII midi sequencer that looked a little like a cash register, but it was rock solid and fantastic for live work.
Then in the mid 80s computers started to drop in price and MIDI sequencing with computers began to go mainstream. When in 1985 Atari created the ST with built in MIDI ports, this made things a lot easier and soon it seemed everyone was using either an Atari ST or a Mac based MIDI sequencer.
Around the same time, many manufacturers were selling low priced multi-timbral sound generators like the Roland MT32, the Yamaha FB01 and the at the end of the 80s the EMU Proteus. With a relatively low cost of entry (for the time) one could have a computer, MIDI controller and multi-timbral sound generator - it was heaven!
As I say, my weapon of choice was C-Lab, others chose the Steinberg software, but for me Creator was simply amazing.
Some of the highlights were the ability to create patterns quickly using different loop lengths, for example; one could create a one bar loop of hi-hats, a two bar loop of kick, an eight bar loop of bass and so on. Each track in the part could have different quantize values, groove, compression and more. Routing the tracks to various instruments was a cinch.
Once the patterns were created they could then be arranged into a song in a simple list view; one could also see the arrange window in a timeline view and also in this timeline one could then include additional parts that didn't fit into the pattern loop based format.
20 years later and not a lot seems to have changed to the core sequencer part of DAWs.
Perhaps there is not a lot to change, but when DAW creators announce new features to their DAW such as arrange, or loop based pattern creation as if they've just discovered fire then one has to wonder if we've come that far in the last few decades?
I'm not talking about the amazing plug-ins we can use to recreate our favourite synths or samplers but the core sequencing part.
If I have a gripe about modern MIDI sequencing is how much bloatware there is, and yet some of the fundamental issues don't get resolved. For example timing - perhaps I'm looking back with rose-tinted spectacles, but I recall that the Atari ST had rock solid timing.
As I researched this article I did find myself considering a purchase of an Atari ST and Creator from eBay - but perhaps it's nothing more than reckless nostalgia, a bit like wondering what your high school love is doing these days.
What was your first computer based MIDI sequencer and do you think the MIDI sequencing element of modern DAWs has improved? What would you like to see, how do you think things could be improved?