Advanced ways to use step components

I’ve spent way too much time with the OP-Z and have a ton of tips I’d like to share that really expand its capabilities. I’ll just be describing a few things I’ve found at a time, and feel free to chime in with your own!

Also, I struggle to describe anything on the OP-Z in simple terms and I could share example/template projects if that’d help. Hopefully you find this helpful!

Using Multiply 9 to add more notes per step
Drum tracks can hold two notes per step, and synth tracks can hold four notes per step. Even when a track is set to mono, you can play all of a step’s notes using Multiply 9.

Multiply 9 is “broken chord,” which plays each note on that step in order at a rate of 4x the step length. So if your step length is 4, it plays consecutive 16th notes–i.e., if you have 3 notes on a step, it plays 3 16th notes.

If you adjust the timing, you can add a slight rest before the notes. Adding pulse hold will play the broken chord once and then hold the final note, and adding pulse effectively makes the step an arpeggiator.

  1. Hold down a step and enter, in order, the notes you want to play (up to 2 on drum tracks and up to 4 on synth tracks)
  2. Add a Multiply step component with value 9 (broken chord)
  3. Adjust step length accordingly and add pulse/pulse hold components to your liking

Using Jump to divide your pattern into 4 parts
This is relatively simple but took some time for me to get used to.

  1. Add four Jump step components:
    a. At Step 4 with value 1
    b. At Step 8 with value 2
    c. At Step 12 with value 3
    d. At Step 16 with value 4
  2. Add a component spark to those steps that repeats the first 3 times it’s played (i.e., 4 pressed three times)

This will play the first 4 steps 4 times in a row row before moving to the next group of 4 steps, which divides your pattern into 4 equal parts played in a row. The biggest limitation is you can’t use a parameter spark on steps 4, 8, 12, or 16 because they’re reserved for the jump components.

There are more complicated applications I might get into another time.

Using Multiply 0 to add timing variation to a step
Say you want a snare to be slightly early every other measure, but don’t want to decrease the step length to do it. You can use Multiply 0 (quantize) along with a Parameter Spark to accomplish this.

  1. Select the step in question and press +/- to change the timing. Tip: is halfway(-ish) between the step and the one before it, and +11 is roughly halfway to the next step.
  2. Add a Multiply step component with value 0
  3. Add a Parameter Spark step component with value 2

Now the step is quantized every other time it’s played, so it can come in up to a half step early/late–a convenient way to add some rhythmic variation on a single step.


Cleaned up some older notes. This is less of a “helpful tip” and more of a description of counterintuitive ways Pulse, Pulse Hold, and Multiply interact with each other on the same step.

A basic refresher on the differences:

  • Multiply 1-8 repeats a trigger multiple times evenly across one step–e.g., multiply 3 plays the trigger 3 times at a rate 3 times the step length.
  • Pulse repeats a step a certain number of times
  • Pulse Hold plays the trigger once and holds it for the number of steps specified.

Multiply & Pulse: the easy one

Super straightforward: Multiply determines how many times a trigger is played in the space of one step, and Pulse determines how many times that step is repeated before the sequencer moves on.

So notes are repeated (Multiply) * (Pulse) times in the span of (Pulse) steps… hopefully that makes sense.

Multiply & Pulse Hold: the slightly more complicated one

Multiply determines how many times the trigger is played in the space of one step, and Pulse Hold determines how many times the LAST note(s) played is held.

So notes are repeated (Multiply) times in the span of 1 step, and the last note is held until the step has played for (Pulse Hold) steps.

Pulse & Pulse Hold: why can’t we have nice things?

For a long time I thought these steps worked together in some logical way I didn’t understand. They don’t.

If you’re trying to do something weird and the values for Pulse and Pulse Hold are not multiples of each other, life is easy:

  • Pulse 8 + Pulse Hold 5 = 8 repeats, with each step held for 5 counts
  • Pulse 3 + Pulse Hold 7 = 3 repeats, with each step held for 7 counts
  • Pulse 2 + Pulse Hold 3 = 2 repeats, with each step held for 3 counts

On the other hand, it’s basically broken if Pulse & Pulse Hold are multiples of each other:

  • If Pulse <= Pulse Hold, the trigger is played once and held for (Pulse Hold) steps. E.g., Pulse 2 and Pulse Hold 6 is just held for 6 steps, and Pulse 4/Hold 8 is held for 8 steps
  • If Pulse > Pulse Hold, the trigger is repeated every (Pulse Hold) steps until (Pulse) steps have been played. E.g., Pulse 9 and Pulse Hold 3 plays 3 total triggers, with each one lasting 3 steps

For a while now I’ve been trying to figure out a workaround. The closest I’ve gotten is using Jump 8 (stay) with a Parameter Spark as a substitute for Pulse, but this complicates things because the final time the trigger is played is shorter than the others since it doesn’t spark the Pulse Hold.


Wow, excellent research! Step components are so deep…keep 'em coming!

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The 5 ways Lil’ Z can mute/skip a step

  1. Trigger Spark
  2. Velocity 9 (mute) + Component Spark
  3. Volume 0 parameter lock + Parameter Spark
  4. Jump + Component Spark + Pulse Hold
  5. Pulse Hold + Jump 9 (align to global)

Quick note: when I say Trigger Spark 8, I mean you press 8 once. When I say Trigger Spark 888, I mean you press 8 three times in a row. Hopefully that makes sense.

The basics

This has been covered by others so I’ll keep it brief. By combining the first three methods I mention, you can play/mute a trigger every (X) passes, where X depends on the step component values. The overlap between these three methods can lead to interesting patterns.

The big limitation: if you want to mute step 5, it will mute step 10 on the next pass. This is problematic if you want to repeat an 8-bar pattern. One workaround is to use spark counter resets, which I describe in the following section.

Using Parameter/Component/Trigger Spark Counter Resets

These are poorly documented and commonly misunderstood but they actually work. Each of these components resets its counter for all tracks at once, and does so regardless of component/trigger sparks. So your best bet is to put the reset components on the longest track in the pattern.

Let’s say I want to make sure the 7th pass of every 8 to be muted. To do this, I:

  1. Add a Velocity 9 (mute) step component with a Component Spark 7
  2. Set the step length to 16 (value key 9) for the longest track in the pattern
  3. Add a Component Spark 0 to steps 1 and 9 on the longest track

Now every 7th pass is muted and every 9th pass resets to 1.

Jump Component leapfrog

This is the messiest way to skip a trigger, and I rarely use it because it requires extra step components and doesn’t work on the first step. If you’re willing to sacrifice a few step components, you can use this to skip over Counter Resets and add more complex logic (not going into that right now).

  1. Add a trigger anywhere–let’s say a Trigger Spark 0 at step 5
  2. Add a Jump 5 component (skip ahead) prior to the step you want to skip (step 4 in this example)
  3. Add a Pulse 2 or Pulse Hold 2 on the step after the step you want to skip (step 6 in this example)
  4. Add a Component Spark to the steps before and after so the sequencer only skips the trigger when you want it to–let’s say Component Spark 444

The first three times, the sequencer will jump past the step in question and will pause/pulse the step afterward to compensate. On the fourth pass, the note will play and the step afterward will be a normal length.

Pulse Hold + Jump 9 (align to global)

This is something I’ve been messing with recently and I think it’s got some potential. Basically, you can use this to mute the next X passes.

When you combine these two, the step that plays the “held” note won’t trigger again until it’s passed the step the number of times specified by the Pulse Hold component. Note that passes with the Component Spark off do not count, so the counter will not advance and the note will retrigger. This means there’s a lot you can do with Pulse Hold + Jump 9 + Component Spark.

  1. Add a Pulse Hold 3 to a trigger
  2. Add Jump 9
  3. Add Component Spark 444

This makes a 1001-type of pattern: pulse hold plays the trigger the first time, mutes the next two passes, and retriggers the step on the fourth pass when the Component Spark is off.


Play a Track 4 Steps at a Time with Jump 0 and Step Length 0

This is a way you can use one track to trigger another track to play a few steps at a time without having to add Jump 0 to every single step. I haven’t used it much but I hope will help others.

Here’s an example of how you could set up your Lead track to play a 4-step pattern every 4 bars:

  1. Set the Lead track’s Step Length to 0 (advance on gate)
  2. Add a Jump 0 (gate) component to steps 1-3, 5-7, 9-11, and 13-15 on the Lead track. This way every time the track receives a gate it will play four steps at a time.
  3. Set the Chord track’s Step Length to 4
  4. Add a Jump 0 component to steps 1, 5, 9, and 13 on the Chord track

If you want another track to play at the same time as the lead track you would set its Step Length to 0 but wouldn’t add the Jump 0 components–otherwise the gate will advance too fast.

Note for Future Me to explore: can you use multiple tracks with Jump 0 and Component Sparks to play the steps at different speeds on different passes?


Running the sequencer backward every 4th pass

In some posts, like this one, I’ll just describe one application instead of a broad concept. Here’s how you’d set up a track so it plays three times through then plays backward for the fourth pass:

  1. Add two step components to steps 2-15: Jump 6 (previous step) and Component Spark 4 (step component only every 4 passes)
  2. Add three step components to step 16: Jump 6, Pulse 2 (or Pulse Hold 2), and Component Spark 3
  3. Add two step components to step 1: Pulse 2 (or Pulse Hold 2) and Component Spark 4.

The sequencer runs normally until it reaches step 16 on its 3rd pass, at which point it plays for two steps (to keep time) and reverses. The Jump 6 components will cause the sequencer to continue in reverse until it hits step 1, which also plays for two steps to keep time.


Pretty smart to reverse sequences like this - makes me think why they didn’t create a dedicated step component for direction change, this would be so useful…


Thanks! And good point that a dedicated reverse step component could be useful. It seems like TE sacrificed straightforwardness for flexibility which I would find very frustrating if I didn’t love exploring this stuff as much as I do.

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Quick note: I’d appreciate some feedback if you have a minute. Is this actually helpful? Can you follow the examples, and is it easy to figure out how you might modify them for your own purposes? Should I stick to concepts instead of applications and examples? Just looking for honest guidance on making sure this thread is helpful.

OP-Z Shorthand 1: Bass Lines

Calling this “series” shorthand because it feels like using abbreviations on the OP-Z, which is what I really hope to master with the device.

I’m starting with the Bass track since I recently took a workshop on writing bass guitar lines for common chord progressions. The instructor covered a lot, but a few of the basics (bass-ics?) are easy to replicate using step components:

  1. Mostly emphasize beats 1 and 3 (note: this includes lines that play around beats 1 and 3)
    a. Step Length 8 and Pulse 2
    b. Step Length 9 and Multiply 2
    c. Step Length 4, Pulse 4, and Trigger Spark 22.
  2. Stick with the root, fifth, and octave (occasionally the third) unless you’re playing a bass fill.
    a. This matches the values of Ramp Up, Ramp Down, and Random: where 1 is the octave and root, 2 is the octave, 5th, and root, and 3 is the octave, 5th, root, and 3rd.
    b. First word of caution: Random and Ramp Down will play the appropriate notes, though randomness doesn’t always sound great in a bassline and Ramp Down starts two octaves up so you may want to adjust the octave for that trigger accordingly.
    c. A second word of caution: including the 3rd can sound really awful unless the OP-Z has correctly identified the key and chord of the song (which rarely happens in my experience).
  3. Alternating between ascending and descending patterns creates movement in your chord progression.
    a. In other words, using a combination of the above options can help keep a bassline interesting throughout.

Alright, a basic example. This is on the Bass track with step length 8 and step count 4. I’ll use the chord progression C Am F G, so the first four steps are C, A, F (octave low), and G.

Step 1 components:

  • Pulse 2 (so it plays on 1 and 3)
  • Ramp Up 1 (so it alternates between the root and the octave)

Step 2 components:

  • Pulse 2
  • Multiply 2 (so it plays two triggers per pulse—in other words, quarter notes)
  • Ramp Up 2 (so it plays the root, fifth, and octave)

Step 3 components:

  • Pulse 2
  • Multiply 2
  • Ramp Down 2

Step 4 components:

  • Timing: 40 (hold the trigger and press + 5 times–syncopates the bass)
  • Pulse 2
  • Multiply 4 (to play 8th notes)

This isn’t some amazing bassline or anything, but I don’t always want to sequence every note and rhythmic variation so this feels like a huge shortcut to me.


its very helpful. thank you for sharing.


Thank you! I was just feeling a bit insecure about posting so much as a newer member of the community, especially in a thread I started.

I’d like to correct something from my last post, as I’m just starting to understand how overlapping steps work.

+48 seems to actually be the right timing for syncopation, but this causes the end of the fourth step to play at the beginning of the pattern. One workaround is to change step count to 5 and add a Jump 1 component to the fourth step, which keeps the pattern the same length but ensures the fourth step doesn’t overlap with the first.

OP-Z Shorthand 2: Chords

I often make mistakes while copying and pasting triggers, so I like putting one chord on each step and changing the rhythm and timing using step components.

I usually set the step length to 4 because it feels like the “right” amount of resolution for the Chords track. I like one step per chord, so the step count is 4 for this 4-chord example.

  1. Add one chord to each step (C Am F G is my go-to when testing things)
  2. Add a Pulse 4 to each step

Now we have a simple progression where each chord is played once per quarter note. Let’s change the Pulse values on the first two steps to make the timing more interesting:

Step 1: Pulse 6
Step 2: Pulse 2

If you want each chord held for the whole duration you can use the same values with Pulse Hold instead of Pulse.

I used Pulse for my example because we can use Pulse Hold to divide each pulse and Multiply to add retriggers to each pulse:

Step 1: Pulse 6; Pulse Hold 3
Step 2: Pulse 2; Pulse Hold 1; Multiply 2
Step 3: Pulse 4; Pulse Hold 2
Step 4: Pulse 4; Multiply 2

So step 1 is two dotted half notes, step 2 is four eighth notes, step 3 is two half notes, and step 4 is eight eighth notes. Again, not an award-winning song but hopefully it illustrates how you can play with your rhythm without having to move around every step each time.

Side note: I use Pulse Hold 1 on Step 2 because the track is still set to the default note length and Pulse Hold 1 holds the trigger for the full duration of the step.

Shorthand Benefits & Limitations
Basically, this “shorthand” approach sacrifices flexibility and variety for speed and brevity.

Some of the benefits:

  • It’s quicker to swap out a chord: you only need to change 1 trigger instead of changing, say, 8 8th note triggers. It’s also quicker to rearrange the steps since you have to copy and paste fewer triggers.
  • Once you get the hang of it, it takes seconds to sketch out a chord progression and adjust the rhythm
  • Teaser for the future: by using Jump components, you can fit two to three sections in the same pattern. For example, one pattern could contain the verse, pre-chorus and chorus.

Some huge limitations:

  • When you use step components to adjust the length of a trigger, you lose the ability to use Component Sparks for variety. If you try to transpose a trigger by a 5th every other pass (Tonality 4 + Component Spark 2), the Component Spark will also ignore the Pulse and Pulse Hold, shortening the trigger length and removing all rhythmic components every other pass.
  • Trigger and Parameter Sparks are evaluated per pass–not per pulse–which means you can’t do something like “only play every other pulse on this step.” Either the trigger plays for every pulse or it’s silent for every pulse on that pass.
  • If you record automation, it will just save the last parameter value for each trigger as a parameter lock. So if you recorded yourself gradually increasing the filter during playback, you’d just end up with big jumps in the filter value between each trigger instead of a smooth change. This is a general weakness of the OP-Z, but it gets worse when you use fewer steps.

Alright, that’s a lot for one post.

A short list of future writeup topics for my own sake:

  • Using Jump components to create an ABAC pattern
  • Arp track shorthand
  • Drum track shorthand
  • Using overlapping triggers for shorthand
  • Using uneven step counts to expand what Jump can do

A short list of things I have no answer for yet:

  • Is there any use for Pulse 1 and Multiply 1?
  • What does Tonality 8-0 do? TE and Synthdawg say it’s quantize but, in the few tests I’ve done, it seems like it doesn’t quantize but sometimes changes which notes are played.
  • Is Sweep actually usable? Right now it seems like it lasts too long and the values are too extreme for my purposes.

Dude, this is the step component bible that I’ve been waiting for :wink:

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This forum is so godsent! Your knowledge of the Z is astounding.

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Wow, thanks! I’m feeling encouraged by your feedback.

My s/o is out of town for the weekend and I’m enjoying writing extensively about this niche topic nobody in my life cares about so I’d like this thread to be about step components in general and not just the advanced applications. Is it a faux pas to change the title? Hmm.

Also the more complicated topics are taking forever to fully figure out and it’s nice to write out the things I know for sure.

Feel free to add, share, edit, reformat, reorganize, ask questions, etc. I may share this on Reddit too but I don’t know.

How to Use the Step Components You'll Probably Use Most Often

Here’s a list of the step components I think you’d want to know first, in the order they appear in this chart. Note that I’ve skipped rows and values that I didn’t learn until later.

Pulse Hold 1
Multiply 2 3 4 9 0
Velocity 1-9
Ramp Up 1 2 3
Random 1 2
Portamento 1-8
Tonality 3 4 7 8
Parameter Spark 1-8
Component Spark 1-8
Trigger Spark 1-8

At first I used Trigger Spark almost exclusively. It’s the easiest to understand and apply and, unlike nearly all of the others, doesn’t need to be paired with anything else. I still use it the most often, especially on drum tracks.

I’d suggest you take the same path and get to know Trigger Spark well first. If you do, you’ll already know how to use Parameter Spark and Component Spark. Parameter Spark gives you another level of variation through parameter locks, and Component Spark is what you’ll probably want to pair with literally any other non-Spark components since most of them aren’t things you want every time a note is played.

I’ve loosely organized these components into three groups, and within those groups I list the components in the order I would hypothetically teach them to someone (feedback welcome on the way I’ve organized them):

Conditionals - basic on/off components

Trigger Spark 1-0* changes the passes on which the trigger will play.
Parameter Spark 1-0* changes the passes on which parameter locks are applied.
Component Spark 1-0* changes the passes on which the step components apply.
Velocity 9 changes the passes on which the trigger’s velocity will be 0 (muted note). When combined with Component Spark 1-0*, it can mute the trigger on certain passes. This works well when combined with a Trigger Spark.

Trigger characteristics - components that add variation to a trigger without changing the note

Pulse Hold 1 changes the note to fit exactly one step. Whether your note length is 0.4 or a drone, it will be sustained for one full step.
Multiply 9 triggers each note on a step and plays them evenly across one step length.
Velocity 1-8 changes the note loudness. 5 is the default value, so use 4-1 to make it quiet/quieter, and use 6-8 to make it loud/louder. I like using this to adjust a step’s velocity because I’m scared I’ll break Lil Z in half if I use the pitch bend button.
Portamento 1-8 starts the trigger pitch at the last note played and slides to the note on the trigger. The value determines how much of the step it takes to glide (I think). It’s helpful because portamento is a track setting, which can’t otherwise be sequenced.
Multiply 0 this quantizes the step, which lets you vary the timing between passes as I’ve described above.

Note characteristics - components that change the note(s) on that trigger

Tonality 3 4 7 8 transposes the note based on the OP-Z’s chord recognition. I recommend using 3 and 4 for synth tracks, since 3 transposes an octave and 4 tranposes a 5th, which are relatively “safe” variations. 7 and 8 transpose by a semitone, which is helpful for drum tracks since similar sounds are often placed on adjacent keys.
Multiply 2 3 4 retriggers the note/step 2, 3, or 4 times.
Ramp Up 1 2 3 each step or retrigger will cycle through an ascending arpeggio based on the note and the OP-Z’s chord recognition. 1 = Note/Octave; 2 = Note/Fifth/Octave; 3 = Note/Third/Fifth/Octave.
Random 1 2 each step or retrigger will randomly play a note from the arpeggio using the same values as Ramp Up.

* = When selecting a value for this component, the flashing number indicates the pass(es) on which the trigger will be active. Multiple presses of the same value cycles through different options for all Spark components.


I’ll give a progressively more complicated example on the Lead track (step length 4; step count 16) using the following notes (numbers indicate which OP-Z key I’m referring to, not the octave of the note):

Step 1: C2
Step 4: E1
Step 5: A2
Step 9: F2
Step 12: A2
Step 13: G2
Step 16: F2

Add Trigger Sparks

This basic melody gets old quickly, so let’s vary when the notes at beat 4 are triggered.

Steps 4 12: Trigger Spark 2*
Step 16: Trigger Spark 44 (press 4 two times)

* = Note: this is the default value for Trigger Spark. I wrote 2 to be consistent since we want the first iteration of value 2, but you don’t need to press a value key in this case.

Add Trigger Characteristic Components

This is already a little more interesting: passes 1 and 3 only have the notes on the 1 of each measure, and step 16 only triggers on the first of every four passes.

Since passes 1 and 3 are more sparse, let’s emphasize that contrast with components on steps 1, 5, 9, and 13. Specifically, I’ll make it so that these notes are louder and longer during passes 2 and 4 by using Velocity.

Let’s also add some Portamento to the notes that land on the 4 of measures 1 and 3.

Steps 1 5 9 13: Velocity 6, Pulse Hold 1, Component Spark 2
Steps 4 12: Portamento 4

Add Note Characteristic Components

Now that we have a dynamic contrast, let’s add variation on some of the notes. This is where I take the fewest risks unless I’m on the Arp track.

We’ll make it so that, on the first three of every four passes, step 4 is raised an octave and step 12 is raised a fifth. Because these triggers are only played on every second pass, they’ll apply to every other time we hear these notes.

Steps 4 12: Component Spark 444
Step 4: Tonality 3
Step 12: Tonality 4

Again, not a masterpiece but hopefully it illustrates my points.


I’ve used Lil Z for probably 1-2 hours on average per day since I got it 5 months ago. Problem solving, testing things, and learning about them is something I enjoy and am pretty good at so I’ve spent at least half of that time just running tests with step components to figure them out.

Even then it took me probably three months to really understand how to actually use them to compose quickly, and I hope to help other people get more out of the device without having to spend as much time with it as I have.

The OP-Z really opened up for me when I started to get the hang of problem-solving with step components, but I’ll bet a lot of people got frustrated or confused before then which is a bit of a shame.

tl;dr: I’ve solved everything from “play the first 8 steps twice then the second 8 steps twice” to the absurd things I’ve documented here like “play the sequence 3 times forward and 1 time backward” so I’ll happily provide an example of using step components to solve any specific issue anyone has.


Terrific! My biggest problem with SC is that they are hard to remember, especially what the values mean for each of them (hello happy accidents). I also never remember which one is which for the last three.

Not sure if this is something you thought about, but a video demonstrating your knowledge would be amazing!

I’ve considered that but I always get stuck on the planning phase. This weekend is a great time to give it a try, though, so maybe that’ll be my project for today.

Unless someone has a better idea, I’ll just record myself talking as I make a Kick/Snare/Hi Hat pattern using step components.

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Looking forward to it!

Alright so I didn’t realize how low quality my webcam was. If this is helpful I’ll consider getting a nicer one before making another video.

First, here’s a real-time demonstration with no talking. I started with a blank project, picked out the tempo and bass, and recorded my process for five minutes (when my hard drive ran out of space). Might be annoying/boring, as a warning.

Here I talk about some general speed tips: Navigating and Organizing the OP-Z

And here I talk about step components for drum tracks: Using Step Components on OP-Z Drum Tracks

Let me know if I can clarify anything. Hope this helps!


Great insights, thanks for sharing. Do you mind if I post a link to this thread on the elektronauts forum? A lot of op-z users there who would benefit.

Yeah, go right ahead! I’m glad you found it helpful. I’ll try to improve my production and will hopefully record more soon.