Controltablism: Sequence Cue Points With MIDI Sequencers

What if you took a MIDI-sending hardware sequencer and used to re-trigger cue points in time with your DJ set? Today’s post is from Italian competitive DJ John Type, and he’s sharing how cue point sequencing works in his sets. John’s calling it turntablism combined with controllerism – or “controltablism”.

Cue Point Sequencing = Controltablism?

First off – this is one of the first examples of this style of routine that we’ve seen done well. If you know of someone else who also deserves recognition alongside John Type pioneering this concept, please share in the comments at the end of this article.

Here’s John’s original video, showing off the controltablism / cue sequencing concept:

How To Start Sequencing Cue Points

We asked John to share a bit more about this concept and DJTT readers could do the same for themselves. Keep reading for his own perspective:

“Controltablism” is the fusion of controllerism and turntablism. In the video above, I reveal for the first time “Cue Sequencing”, a technique I used in 2011 in a live show, to control Serato Video with the Korg ESX-1. The main idea is trigger hot cues with a sequencer, to use the DVS decks like a sampler, with the advantage of having our samples on the turntable so we can also scratch it.

Settings + Requirements

  • You’ll need a sequencer – in this demo, I use the sequencer on a drum machine, the Korg ElecTribe SX (ESX-1)
  • The drum machine is connected to the computer with a MIDI / USB interface to communicate with Serato.
  • Each drum part of the drum machine corresponds to a hot cue.
  • To assign hot cue to each drum part, use Serato’s own MIDI mapping
  • As the sequencer triggers the drum parts, it will trigger the cue points
  • Hot cues become recordable / programmable using the sequencer

MIDI Routing

In Serato, the MIDI setup is pretty simple:

  • Set the first hot cue at the beginning of the point we wish to to loop and sequence
  • Set additional hot cues, such as snare, hi-hat, and so on


On the sequencer:

  • Set the length to a 1 bar loop (this means 1 bar corresponds to 16 of the step sequencer buttons)
  • Set the same bpm of the track on the Serato deck (on some hardware, you might be able to have this automatically get MIDI clock via USB)
  • Write the Cue 1 in the first step of the sequencer and press play
  • Cue 1 is triggered repeatedly to form a loop
  • Adjust the BPM of the drum machine and the turntable speed to create a perfect loop
  • Once the turntables and sequencer are in sync, you can begin to modify the sequence.
  • Create a new variation on the step sequencer, and combine it with elements of scratching.
  • The roll / note repeat function is activated by using the arpeggiator function on the ESX-1

Do It Yourself

In this video I used:

  • Hardware Sequencer: Korg Esx-1
  • MIDI interface: Roland Um-One
  • Mixer: Pioneer DJM-S9
  • Turntables: Technics 1210 MkII & Vestax Pdx 3000

If you want to do it yourself, you’ll need any hardware sequencer with MIDI Out or MIDI via USB. The sequencers are usually integrated in grooveboxes, drum machines and samplers (and also on the new Roland DJ-808)
• The best choice are the 16 step-sequencer like Roland TR-Style, for a direct control of the sequences.

Standalone Step-sequencer with MIDI out:
Akai: Rhythm Wolf, Tom Cat
Elektron: Machinedrum, Monomachine, Octatrack
Korg: Electribe Series
Novation: Circuit
Roland: Tr-8, Tr-09
Yamaha: Tenori-on, Rs7000, Rmx1

Standalone Step-sequencer with MIDI out also via USB:
Akai: Mpd323
Arturia: Beatstep Pro, Drumbrute
Dave Instruments: Tempest
M-Audio: Trigger Finger Pro
Misa Digital: Nsc-32
Sequentix: Cirklon
Squarp Instruments: Pyramid


Final Recommendations

In general a standalone sequencer is better since it frees up both CPU power so you keep your DJ software at minimum latency and you won’t need to use your computer’s screen to know what’s going on other but if you got the juice Maschine and Push 2 are really great software based options.

Drum machines are the most suitable since the drum parts and layout easily relate to hotcues on your DJ software, having a sequencer with more parts means that you’ll be able to control more hotcues so when shopping try to get something that has 8 or more slots available. Each steps sends a MIDI command which you can easily map to your software of choice so you aren’t really limited to mapping just the cues. Possibilities are endless!

Controllerismcontroltablismdjingmidi sequencersequencing cue pointsturntablism
Comments (23)
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  • Fernando Midi

  • StoneCold

    I got this to work using an ipad connected to my mac via the musicio app. I used the DM! drum app to do the sequencing as you can midi map the DM1 drum pads to the Serato cue points. It works reasonably well, although I would like to do some tweaking on the duration that the cue point is played for.
    In an ideal world I would like to use Maschine’s step mode as the sequencer, but I am having no luck getting the midi from Maschine to Serato. Does anyone know if this is even possible?

  • Robert Wulfman

    I had this idea I think around when the twister came out but I forgot to make a thing about it. good to see coverage of the concept, should probably just send my ideas to you guys in the future :p

  • Najrock

    Ricci Tucker has been doing this for a long time. Also Vekked does this with the sequencer on the akai mpk

    • najrock


      apologies was typing on an iphone

  • djfreesoul

    I thought I was a smart guy, but I didnt understand this at all. Read it three times now.
    A step by step or routine breakdown would be very appreciated. Its often easier to see a video than just reading.

    • Dubby Labby

      He’s using cue as triggered “samples” from the electribe.
      Electribe sends note for each part so if you link the note with the cues you could sequence these cues as “samples” with the electribe. It could be done with other host/slaves of course but doing it with DVS program gives you the chance to scratch sequences (like Flip) and sync samples (like Remix decks) side by side with your own sequences in the groovebox.

      It’s the dj808 lowcost path. 😉

      Extra for diy tinkerers:
      A even cheaper solution will be volca beats/sample (midi out modded) as I pointed some many times at Serato forums before left them.
      It will be also possible sync other external stuff and even make Serato be the master for midi clock using korg link audio signal inside a deck/sampler to control the volca. Midi out mod will be useful to make this side we are viewing in the video “cue sequence triggering” giving the user a cheap but powerful tool without needing dj808 or midi clock from Serato.

  • signaturex

    i dont think pioneering is the best description of this process.

  • Simon Morrier

    I’m 17 and have been doing this with a TriggerFinger Pro for probably over a year now. Can also sequence effects or interesting loops.

  • Denis Lederhas

    I have a cue point sequencer for Lemur in traktor if someone wants it ?

    Regards Denis

  • Boom Ananga

    How about just doing away with the Fakie Turntables? Seriously. Why not take your (“any sequencer”) sequencer, as is touted by the writer of this article, and trigger the cue points willy-nilly as you please?

  • Me-High-Low

    There’s a video of a guy doing this with a MPC some 4-5 years ago. Not sure if its the same guy from this post.There were some syncing problems, but right now not sure if there is a need for this as Serato users have Serato Flip.
    On the other hand, i did this type of sequencing few years ago of Traktor cuepoints on Ableton – sending midi from from Traktor cuepoints, recording them in Ableton as midi notes in clips, and re-triggering them on various ways depending on the recorded notes.

  • Dubby Labby

    Turntable groovebox I was expecting fron SeRolatond but they come with dj808.

    This is not really new… some other contributions could be Traxus interactive or DigitalWarrior (yes the original remix deck sequencers before midi twister…) but I supose it doesn’t matters.

    About Controlltablism… well why not Tooltablism?

  • CUSP

    Really trying to be constructive here…

    The video included in this article has some rather unwanted pauses in the performance and should probably be redone to show how sequencing can flow instead of jack hammering commands over a groove.

    I tried doing stuff like this when I first started using a controller (with Ableton Live), but found it was too difficult to use (ironically enough) Live.

    I’m sure most of us have cue points, and some of us even label those cue points, but can you imagine using a generic label for each cue point so you can use a sequencer to trigger your cues like this?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to automate some more advanced transitions, but this just isn’t very practical. I’m thinking that transitions like this need to be done inside the DJ app, and no one does that yet, not even The One or Deckadance.

    • Spacecamp

      Hi CUSP – great constructive feedback. I agree with a lot of your points – and have realized since publishing this that really what’s needed is a good controller or advanced sequencer mapping for Serato Flip. Now that would be super-innovative!