Why are subdivisions called "ratcheting" and when the hell did that happen?


i don’t think that its an Elektron thing…ive just seen it used in posts a lot recently and i think “Wait, do you mean 32nd notes? 64ths?” I guess in the Elektron world its called “retrigs”…but its just basic musical subdivisions…
why the new name?


I think it’s from step sequencers.


Because of Aphex Twin. He’s an audio mechanician.


Yeah I heard that Aphex was working in the garage when Laughable Butane Bob hit his head on the Hangable Auto Bulb causing him to be startled that he dropped the ratchet wrench he was holding, as he went to catch it he grasped at the socket end causing the handle to spin downwards, it made that distinctive sound as it twisted and they came up with the name from that, a real lightbulb moment.


true story


Apparently they were working on the car owned by Edgar Froese who overheard the conversation, and it has also been attributed to his band Tangerine Dream, as they used the phrase quite liberally in interviews.


Yeah it always makes me think of Tangerine Dream.


I had assumed it was because “Ratchet” is kinda another word for “Trap” and that’s the place loads of people know the re-trigged snare rolls from?

but maybe I assumed wrong!




And I thought subdivisions were named after the Rush song!




yeah, as far as I know it comes from the modular world. I feel like it started becoming more common terminology on Muffwiggler with the release of the Ryk M-185-inspired Intellijel Metropolis

previous to Metropolis release/popularity the term was generally used mainly to refer to particular types of sequencing patches where you would use switches/logic/clocks to replace what would have been a single gate or trigger at a slow clock division with a fast subdivision of that clock so there are multiple repeated gates/trigs for that step

I feel using the term ‘ratcheting’ is loosely referencing the mechanistic nature of the patch (brings to my mind interlocking gears, and changing gear sizes (switches), etc.) while simultaneously being onomatopoetic (trap hats = ratchet wrench sound), so it really makes quite a bit of sense from that perspective, although I never use the term myself


Yes. From the modular world. Like the Buchla compatible Pendulum/Ratchet and later things like ALM Busy Circuits Pamela’s Workout, etc.

I need to read up on these new jack swing modules like the Metropolis.


Eurorack moves so fast that Metropolis might as well be vintage now :joy:


As far as I know ratcheting was added in an update for Metropolis not too long ago. In the beginning it only had repeats


yes, I know that, but that was when the term really started getting tossed around (I think I remember some people confusing ‘step repeats’ with ‘ratcheting’ around the time of Metropolis release, before it had ‘proper’ ratcheting)


Tell me about it! I love hardware modular, but I can’t keep up with it. I’m glad that I got into Serge Modular back when I did, and equally glad I got out of it alive when I did.


I find the fancier the modules get these days the less I’m interested in them. What I like about modular is conjuring emergent behaviors from a complex system composed of relatively simple component functionality - which is where a technique/concept like ‘ratcheting’ becomes very exciting. When functionality that would normally need to be patched together gets re-packaged as just another sequencer function implemented in software it quickly begins to lose the ‘modular spirit’, becoming much more immediately useful for deterministic music making, but at a cost. If I want to compromise the modularity and just make some music there is always a ‘better’ and more efficient software (DAW) or dedicated hardware (Elektron, MPC, etc.) solution - but different users prefer to operate at different levels of the spectrum


Totally agreed. I still have a large collection of banana plugs to remind me that patch-programming with the fundamental building blocks is where the magic happens. That and lots of juicy electricity.


I associate it with “berlin school” of electronic music, and yeah someone already mentioned Tangerine Dream.
So no, it’s nothing new. And no it’s not referring to trap music.


You’re all wrong.
It’s onomatopoeiac and therefore much much better than a purely technical or musical term.
You’re all welcome.
Carry on.