Mod Squad: Malekko Varigate 4

A gate sequencer that provides more than four on the floor
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A gate sequencer that provides more than four on the floor
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Agate sequencer is one of the most useful utility modules you can have in a modular system. Malekko, however, kicks the concept up a notch with the Varigate 4 ($229), a flexible 4-channel, 8-step sequencer that is affordable, skiff-friendly and, best of all, easy to use.

The Malekko Varigate 4 is a 4-channel, 8-step gate sequencer that allows you to build complex patterns quickly, alter them on the fly, then save four of your favorite setups. The Varigate 4 provides three independent variables for every step in a sequence for each channel—Probability, Repeat, and Delay: Probability sets the likelihood that that step will send a gate signal; Repeat sends 1 to 8 evenlyspaced pulses per step; and Delay adds a time offset to the gate to create swing or further rhythmic variety. The 8-segment bar graph shows the slider level as you’re editing, as well as which steps you’ve altered in each mode for a selected channel—a handy way to keep track of your programming.

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Above each output is a button to select the channel you want to program. For example, to set the probabilities for each step of channel A’s sequence, push the button above A, then press the PRB button. (The buttons light up when pressed.) Now you can use the sliders to adjust the individual probability amount for each step; the top slider controls step 1, the second slider is for step 2, and so on. To set the Repeat and Delay levels for each step of channel A, press their associated button when A’s button is lit. This system allows you to create sophisticated or stuttering rhythms simply by increasing the repeat level and setting a moderate delay time for a given step.

You can spice things up further using the module’s randomization function. Press the Probability and Repeat buttons simultaneously and the sliders now set the max number of repeats for each step, with the number of repeats chosen randomly. Pressing Probability and Delay at the same time lets you similarly randomize the amount of delay for each step on every channel.

Using the Varigate 4’s Global editing mode (by pressing A and B simultaneously), you can further increase rhythmic complexity by changing the number of steps in each channel’s sequence, as well as assigning each sequence a different clock division (from a factor of 1 to 8).

Global mode is also where you set the tempo of the internal clock (using coarse and fine controls) and adjust the gate length (20- to 80-percent pulse length). The Varigate 4 can be controlled from an external clock source, and a 5V gate patched to the Reset input will cause all four channels to begin at the first step each time the input voltage is high.

The Varigate 4 has four memory slots, and saving and recalling sequence presets couldn’t be easier: Press a channel button (A-D) for one second to save the preset to that slot; double-tap the same button to recall the preset. The channel light blinks to show the preset is active.

All told, the features in the Varigate 4 are well implemented and easy to remember, resulting in a performance-oriented module that invites improvisation. You can easily vary the patterns to set up sophisticated polyrhythms, and introduce variation to any degree of subtlety you want using the module’s randomization and probability functions. If you’re interested in playing your rhythmic patches in real-time, the Varigate 4 gives you a fine set of tools with which to do it.