Arturia Beatstep: First Impressions

So last week my Arturia beatstep arrived and I am only just getting round to having a play with it and testing out it’s capabilities.

As soon as I plugged it in and hooked it up to my DAW of choice (I tried it on Reaper and NI Maschine) I found that it was relatively easy to use as a controller / step sequencer for a single instrument on an individual track. So as far as instant gratification is concerned, box ticked!

Unfortunately, what I had hoped to be able to achieve with the beatstep, notably being able to switch between midi channels quickly and easily and therefore switch between controlling plug-in instruments inserted on different tracks, each receiving midi information from a single midi channel, was not as easy as I thought it might be.

However, after visiting the forums and taking a look at the manuals, I found that what I wanted to achieve was very doable. All it took was a bit of time spent looking at the Arturia Midi Control Center software!

I am now coming to realise that this device is a really powerful and mappable midi controller and I am keen to investigate  the different ways it could be used. One idea I have is to map all the knobs and pads to notes and effect macros in Maschine and create a live dj set using just the beatstep and the Maschine software. As I only have the Maschine mikro hardware and not the full sized version, the beatstep could provide me with a cheap alternative to shelling out for the full sized Maschine hardware… we shall see!

Thus far I have used the Beatstep to sequence drums in an instrumental I have been working on over the last couple of days and I can say that I like the feel of all the knobs and pads. I feel that it is a device that could simplify my workflow… particularly in reaper! Furthermore, it’s build quality is fantastic – it has some nice weight to it.

As I am not a keyboard player it is really helpful to have a mappable 16 channel midi controller that has pads and knobs and no keys… but that might not be for everyone.

The one annoying thing is that if you use the step sequencer to sequence, say, your bass synth, and then change channel to your drum track without clearing the sequence, the sequencer will start triggering your drum sounds. Although this could be a little annoying, it could also be an interesting creative tool if put to good use… maybe.

The sequencer is a single channel sequencer so you can’t simultaneously step sequence  multiple instruments, but for 99 euros it’s still a cracking piece of kit!


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