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  1. Martin
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. Saturday, 07 November 2020
Hi fellow synth users,

I'm having some serious trouble with syncing my MODX motion sequencer and arpeggiator to an external device, in this case Ableton Live which is acting as a clock master.
Receiving tempo information from Ableton is working fine as do program changes. So generally MIDI info is being transmitted to the MODX flawlessly.

What I want to achieve: I want to trigger the motion sequencer or arpeggiator and have it synced to my MIDI clock, so the patterns are always on the grid. Therefore it would have to continue running in the background and just be heard when I press down any keys.

The specific problem is: Using the SYNC-OFF function makes the pattern run in the background but then there is a shift in the start point of the arpeggio making it unusable. Even if I start the arpeggio pattern by pressing down a key within the required quantisation range it still seems to be starting at a different point within the pattern each time.

I have put every single setting I found on the MODX and in tutorials and on this forum on "SYNC", yet it still gives me inconsistent results. I've also updated to the latest firmware version 2.51 so that shouldn't be an issue either.

Is there a way to consistently sync my MODX to MIDI clock and if so, HOW??? I've spent roughly 10 hours on the problem already, so it'd be great if someone had an idea how to fix it.

Thanks in advance, cheers!
Responses (3)
Bad Mister
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
What I want to achieve: I want to trigger the motion sequencer or arpeggiator and have it synced to my MIDI clock, so the patterns are always on the grid. Therefore it would have to continue running in the background and just be heard when I press down any keys.
”Arp Hold” has three different settings: On, Off, and Sync-Off.
To gain an understanding of these and Clock Synchronization would be a logical place to start this discussion.

In all cases, the Arp Phrase would be synchronized to Clock. If the “MIDI Sync” parameter is set to MIDI, and (importantly) your DAW is set to Send MIDI Clock to your MODX then the Arp Phrase will reference that external Tempo. Whether we consider it musically useful synchronization will depend on the actual placement of the initial trigger event. In other words, the Arpeggiator will be in sync (guaranteed) whether or not they agree about the actual clock tick that is the *downbeat* will determine its musical usefulness.

The spacing between Notes in an Arp Phrase remains fixed — meaning the length of the Arp Phrase, from start to finish, does not change — making the initial start point (trigger-event placement) a critical thing... particularly, when Arp Hold is On or Arp Hold is Sync-Off.

Trigger event - a note-on used to initially start an Arpeggio
Control event - a subsequent note-on used to change and control the resulting arpeggio phrase (like note adjustments to the chord quality)

Drum Arps, for example, typically, need only the trigger event. This is true when the Arp Phrase is created using the “Fixed” note convert type. Meaning it does not need to adjust to subsequent keyboard information. Once launched properly they remain musically synchronized.

Chordal, melodic, and bass line Arp phrases need both. The *trigger* event to initiate play and the Phrase will adjust notes according to *controlling* input on subsequent note-on events.

_ When Arp Hold = On once the Arp Phrase is triggered the Phrase will continue to play even without notes being held down. The Arp Phrase will always start from the top of the Phrase in response to the initial note-on. And it will continue playing whether or not you continue holding down notes. Accurate start is required.
_ When Arp Hold = Off, once the Arp Phrase is triggered the Phrase will begin to play and play as long as keys are held down. The Arp Phrase will always start from the top of the Phrase, and restart, from the top when all notes are released and new notes are played.
_ When Arp Hold = Sync-Off, it is exactly like Arp Hold = Off with the exception that the Arp Phrase starts from the top on the initial note-on but it does not restart the Phrase on subsequent note-on events. (It is like a hybrid of Arp Hold On and Arp Hold Off. The Phrase maintains its running status, and will sound only when notes are pressed (peek-a-boo). Accurate start is required.

Synchronization of the clocks work like a set of interlocking gears... once the teeth of the gears lock in, they run together and cannot slip out of sync. The “human factor” is that the Arp Phrase does not start automatically, it must be set in motion by an intelligently placed KeyOn event (or a Note-On event sent via MIDI). That ‘event’ must be interpreted to be exactly on-the-beat for musical sync to occur... particularly, in what you are trying to accomplish. Once there is a clean trigger, it will run and remain in musical Sync.

If sending triggering notes in via MIDI ensure they are on the downbeat of the first measure.

If this ‘event’ is early or late, the clocks will sync but early or late by the amount your ‘event’ is before or after the downbeat. However, if the gears are set in motion so that they agree about the downbeat, the sync will make musically useful sense. If, however, your trigger event is late, the Arp Phrase will be offset by that exact amount of time behind the beat... and remain that exact amount off the beat.

(This is one major difference between the Arpeggiator and the ARRANGER keyboard’s Style engine... which always makes you “look good”. The Arp Phrase can be offset on purpose— (Arp Hold = Off) —starting an Arp Phrase 240 clocks (eighth note) late can “turn the groove around”. In fact, real time clock offset is apart of the various Play FX).

The nature of chord intelligent Arpeggios is they can adjust the phrase to match note input.

The “change timing” from one Arp Select to the next Arp Select can be executed immediately (Realtime) or at the next measure line (Measure). You can set an Arp Sync Quantize value that will give you a window of time prior to the measure of change. This works provided that input data arrives in a timely fashion and can be interpreted prior to the measure line — you can be anything but late. You can understand this, if you deliver the control note event for the bass line after the downbeat, if the bass line in the Arp Phrase has a note on the downbeat, the previous root note will sound. You must enter the controlling data just prior to the downbeat... ‘anything but late’.

Arp Sync Quantize works to ensure the start of *next* musically manipulated data... the window of time before the measure line where Arp Select information can be entered.

Perception and Synchronization
We will mention that you are attempting to use the Arp “live” - that is, you want to enter the trigger event and the subsequent controlling events while your DAW provides the Master clock. You are opting not to record (document) the Arp Phrases as MIDI Track events— presumably because you need the “chord intelligence” to work in real time. You can do this but you must have a clean start at the top.

The Motion Sequencer always works in real time, as there is no option to record a Motion Sequence as MIDI data. You only trigger the Motion Sequence to start. The Arpeggiator can be recorded (transfer the stored Phrase after it is has been sorted by the Arp data) such that it appears as any other MIDI attack events... or the Arpeggiator can be re-armed and respond in realtime to incoming trigger and control data.

Both Arp Phrases and Motion Sequences must be triggered by some kind of a musical interaction. Unlike a linear Song or looping Pattern sequencer, the Arpeggiator cannot be started by simply pressing a button. Therefore, starting your DAW does not start the Arpeggiators. The ‘musical interaction’ required is a Note-On event triggering a note within a specified range and velocity.*

*In the case of the Motion Sequencer an audio input signal can be used to trigger the Motion Sequencer, or an Arp can trigger it, or there is a button dedicated to [MOTION SEQ TRIGGER]

The specific problem is: Using the SYNC-OFF function makes the pattern run in the background but then there is a shift in the start point of the arpeggio making it unusable. Even if I start the arpeggio pattern by pressing down a key within the required quantisation range it still seems to be starting at a different point within the pattern each time.
When using Arp Hold = Sync Off, you must trigger the initial event on the downbeat (absolutely critical). There is, like when Arp Hold = On, no other opportunity to correct your timing (the gear teeth are locked in but if the timing slot is off beat it will remain offset). If you miss the downbeat originally your Arp Phrase will be offset precisely by the amount of clock ticks you missed landing on the downbeat. The Phrase does not restart with each new chord, it simply only sends data to the Arpeggiator when notes are engaged. When Sync-Off is active, if you lift your hand the Arp Phrase simply does not sound (continues to run unheard in the background).

Without hearing what you are trying to do, it is impossible to tell you exactly why it is not working as you expect. Is it off timing, or are you expecting something other than the peek-a-boo nature of the Sync-Off Phrase play?

For example, assigning a Drum Arp to SYNC-OFF would mean the drums would not sound continuously - it would only do so if a note-on exists. If started on the first downbeat there will be no shift in the Arp Phrase. Whenever a note-on exists it will sound and be on the beat. If you are off the beat on the first initial trigger note, it will stay off the beat from that point on... when a note-on exists it will sound, but it will be off by the number of clocks you were off triggering the initial note event.

The synchronization ‘gears’ will engage at the first hit - if on target, it will be musically in sync. If off target, it will be in sync but offset by the amount the trigger note is offset (musically out-of-sync).

So exactly like with Arp Hold = On, the very first trigger note is critical, because it determines if anything from that time on is going to be musically aligned.

ARP Reset after each pause
Therefore, it is critical that when working with your DAW, each time you press STOP, you must *reset* the Arpeggiator. You can do so by turning the [ARP ON/OFF] Off and then back On. This will re-arm the Arpeggiator... and ensures it will restart properly from the top of the stored Phrase.

There is no SPP (Song Position Pointer) function for Arpeggiators... this means you cannot fast forward and have the Arp drop in where it should musically be... you must reset, rearm, and start from the top. When you have recorded MIDI events to a Track of a linear song, you can fast forward to any location in the composition, and begin playback. This is NOT possible with Arpeggios... you must Reset. The nature of Arpeggio use is based on the initial trigger.

Hope that background helps you solve your issue.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 1
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Hi Martin.

I too have struggled with the way the Montage (or MODX) syncs with external MIDI clock, but I think I have finally found a way to do what we want to do (assuming I understand your requirement).

Although there are a few steps to this, once the key principle is understood, it is quite simple to set up.

1. If you are using motion sequencing, make sure the lanes you are using are set to Sync to Arp.
2. Create parts on slots that contain the arpeggios or motion sequences you want to use.
3. Turn on the slot arpeggios.
4. Make sure all arpeggio Hold functions are set to On. This will keep them all in sync with each other.
5. Create another part on one of the slots that uses an arpeggio, but set the arpeggio to Mute 4/4 so no sound will be heard.
6. Turn on arpeggio on this part.
7. IMPORTANT: Make sure that keyboard is not enabled on this silent part. This will mean that the arpeggio can be triggered via MIDI, but not by the synth keyboard.
8. Press the Part Common button to take focus away from individual parts.
8. Turn on the master arpeggio function.
9. Use your DAW or sequencer (I use a Pyramid) to send a note on the MIDI channel for this silent arpeggio at the beginning of the bar (so if the silent trigger is on part 2, send to the synth on MIDI channel 2).

This starts the silent arpeggio, but also starts the 'global' sync of all the arpeggios.
Playing notes on the synth, or via MIDI if the slot is set to keyboard = off will 'join in' with this sync, getting the desired effect.

BTW, you can also send MS Trigger messages (CC 89) to reset the Motion Sequences if you need to, although Sync to Arp usually does the job.

Please let me know if this is useful to you or if I have completely misunderstood the issue.

It has taken me quite a while to figure this out. If only there had been a Sync to MIDI Start Message option, it would have been much simpler.


  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 2
Bad Mister
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
We’ll try to put together an article with more in depth details... Motion Sequencing is a deep end of the pool feature - but so much fun to play with!

Arpeggios and Motion Sequences are not directly affected by the MIDI command FA (hexadecimal representation of MIDI Start) nor do they necessarily respond to FB, FC... which are commands for Continue and Stop, respectively. Arp’s and MotionSequences are started by a musical interaction, not a Transport control.

Where you place that “trigger event” is musically important. Both Arps and MSeqs, must be cued to start precisely... with the same precision that a musician places any note. Because the phrase length of each is fixed, hitting that trigger event on time is musically important and totally separate from the transport Start/Stop. If you offset the trigger event by precisely an eighth note, the phrase will remain offset by precisely that amount. Sync is maintained (like two gears interlocking) if on the beat that is where it remains, if offset off the beat, that too, is where it will remain. This is by design... and can be quite useful.

It is important to reset/rearm the Master Arp On/Off button, and the Motion Sequencer On/Off buttons every time you stop the DAW, because of the nature of how they work when you trigger them live. Your external device must be cued to a measure that is a multiple of the Phrase Lengths. You cannot just fast forward your DAW to just any measure (in all cases) and begin. You must be mindful of how you have setup to trigger them and whether it makes sense.

In other words, there is no Song Position Pointer, if your Arp or Motion Seq is an 8-measure ’phase’... that ‘phrase’, when triggered, will start from top... of course, starting from the top will work at measure 1,... but fast forwarding to measure 23 would be a problem. A drum Arp would think that’s where you want to begin - if there is a crash cymbal that defines measure 1 at the beginning of the Arp Phrase, you want to consider starting at measure 9, or 17, or 25 these would match as a phrase start point similar to measure 1

A Motion Sequence must be triggered - this can be via a Note-on event (triggering a Key on the keyboard of a designated Part or sent in via MIDI) or it can be triggered by its dedicated [MOTION SEQ TRIGGER] button or cc89 via MIDI by default.

Using an Arp to trigger the Motion Sequence (Sync = Arp) would be preferred if/when you wish to additionally define a Note Limit and Velocity Limit to the Notes that will act as the trigger. You can designate a specific note and velocity to act as the trigger.
Using the “Sync Part” (1-16) will generally start the Motion Sequence as soon as that designated Part is triggered.

Which method you use is dependent on what works for your project. Say you want to start a Motion Sequence when you hit the last note of flourish that ends a rubato introduction. Or only when you trigger a certain note at a specific Velocity...

If “Sync Part” is utilized, you can hide the trigger using KBD CTRL set to inactive. When you recall a Scene with the Sync Part active, the next KeyOn will trigger the Motion Sequence.

Motion Sequences, like Arpeggios, are very often used in the Loop mode, but remember both can be used to play their assigned ‘phrase’ just once. This is useful musically in executing multiple changes during transitions between segments of your compositions. A difficult run that you want to automate, maybe to play a counter melody to what you are playing, etc., any time you need like ten or more hands to make all the changes you need to make. You can think of them as programmable automation.

Motion Sequences are modifiers — and like the Modulator in an FM engine, you cannot hear them alone. They are manifest only when applied to a sound. If the Modulator in FM is the violin players left hand applying vibrato to the string, you cannot hear this modulation unless the right hand/bow is causing the string (Carrier) to generate sound. Vibrato alone is silent, not heard. You hear its influence when the string is sounding (Carrier).

If you set a Motion Sequence to Loop, once triggered it will continue forever. If you setup a Motion Sequence to run once for 24 measures, it continues running until it completes its task. Whether or not your DAW transport is running.

Stopping your DAW does not stop the Motion Sequence from running.
Toggling the Master Motion Seq button, does!
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 3
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