Phase shift in the style of Steve Reich using sequencer software
Steve Reich invented a phase shift technique using reel-to-reel tape recorders and has applied this technique in his instrumental music too. In this exercise, students are to invent a musical sequence that can be looped, working at a keyboard or using their own instrument.
Goal and output
Understanding the principle underlying Steve Reich's phase shift technique.
Musical texture created and played back using sequencer software.
• Ask students to come up with a sequence of 5 to 10 notes at a keyboard or using their own instrument. All notes should be of the same duration. "Create a sequence of notes that you think sounds attractive!"
• Have the students write down the sequence of notes on music paper.
• Start the computer or tablet and load up the sequencer software. Create a MIDI track in the program if there is not one already.
• Have the students enter the notes in a (MIDI) region on a MIDI track in the sequence software (e.g. GarageBand).
• Make as many copies of the region on the MIDI track as there are notes in the region (n notes).
• The track now contains n regions. Duplicate this track, or copy all the regions to another track.
• On the original track, the regions can follow each other without a break.
• On the second track, introduce a delay as follows: the 1st region begins at the same time as the 1st region on the original track. Move the 2nd region forward by the duration of one note in the sequence. Move the 3rd region forward by the duration of two notes in the sequence. Move the 4th region forward by the duration of three notes in the sequence, and so on.
• For clarity, the tracks should be panned to the opposite edges of the stereo panorama, i.e. track 1 to the far left and track 2 to the far right.
• Listen to the end result via headphones or speakers.
Topics in the assignment
Detailed description of tools
Computer or tablet; headphones.
The maximum group size equals the number of computers or tablets available.
A notation program may be used instead of a sequencer program if it is easy to copy and delay regions in the notation program.
Experience has shown that most students tend to select diatonic pitch collections for their note sequences, and as a result the outcome of this assignment may sound "surprisingly good".
Assignment suitable for further study