Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?
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Old 25-01-2018, 06:32 AM   #1
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Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

AHYYOWDY whats up everybody, its been a loooong time since my last post!
I have been building some pretty rad photography/videography timelapse material up and I want to start doing some ambient film scores. I still have 90% of the home studio I once had and a much faster computer, but I want to avoid doing so much ableton DAW stuff.

I enjoy watching/listening to Colin Benders and look mum no computer on youtube during my lunchbreaks lately and It dawned on me that back in my hardware synth days I did not pay much attention to modular synthesis. I really love how you can build a set of patches with no way to save/store your progress, moving on to a new groove means unplugging and starting over from scratch. I would really like to get into this but honestly Im not sure where people normally start. Dont get me wrong, I am by no means anti ableton, or whatever else I need to use to supplement missing components of a full modular workstation, but looking at these rigs, Richard Devine for instance, and you see some daunting shit out there on another level probably worth the value of a new families house. Im willing to shell out over time but I like to do my homework on stuff so that wont be a big deal, but can anyone recommend a good foundation unit to start with?

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Old 25-01-2018, 06:50 AM   #2
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

I don’t know a ton, so maybe someone will pop in here. You say recommend a good foundation unit to start with? That sentence is very grammatically singular. The very least to get started will some kind of case, a powersource, an oscillator, a filter, an envelop generator et al. Basically all the seperate componants of a monosynth.

Unless maybe you are asking for a pre-built system or semi-modular synth?

That’s about the extent of my knowledge really, but I have a feeling someone who actually knows more than I do would end up asking you to be more specific as well : )

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Old 25-01-2018, 06:58 AM   #3
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

Two bean tins and a piece of string?


Seriously, all joking aside, there's a couple of threads on this topic already, that you might find useful..

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..and, even though you seem hell bent of not using software, you still might want to check out the following..even if it is only to educate yourself on other options open to you. - [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


Last of all, don't forget to check out the posts over in [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
, as you're bound to find something there relating to this subject.

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Old 25-01-2018, 08:03 AM   #4
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

As I said in the second of AM's threads there, you go for modular for the cool weird stuff, because you can get basic oscillators in software for comparably little money. The problem is it's expensive and time consuming to build the hardware infrastructure to do anything with the cool weird units.

I think VCV is hands down the most hardware-like modular emulator, and it's free, so it's a great place to start. It also has emulations of a lot of the really cool hardware units, which is nice. Whatever you end up doing, download and play with it.

The next stop for software would probably be Reaktor. It's big and complex but it'll let you thread things together that are even too complex for hardware. Lots of user patches and interactions, and soooo many cool things you can make.

But if you're bound and determined to sacrifice your wallet to the hardware gods, you're going to need to educate yourself and make some decisions up front. First and foremost is format: Eurorack or MU mostly. And you'll need a power supply and a case to keep it all in. Doepfer, Tiptop and Hinton are good places to start.

If you don't already, you need to get your head around how synthesis works and how control voltages work, because that's going to inform your purchases. As Relic said, you'll need some sort of VCO, VCF, VCA, probably an envelope of some sort, and a mixer, as well as the cabling to route all the CV. You'll also need MIDI/CV units if you want to be able to route into and out of your DAW (Expert Sleepers makes some good ones). That's just to make some reasonable noise. I'd expect to spend in the ballpark of $400-500 just to make sound, before you get into any of the crazy and interesting bits. The cool thing is that you can just keep adding bits and bobs and routing through it, but the barrier of initial entry is high.

You can also greatly cut the cost down by building your own units if you're mechanically and electronically inclined. The interwebs are chock full of schematics from everything from the most basic VCOs all the way to Buchla schematics. Of course, there's time and effort and parts and fabrication to consider, and unless you're also a programmer you can forget about digital effects like grain samplers and whatnot. Still, it's a fun and educational hobby and can get you into the game cheaper. Muffwiggler and GroupDIY would be my first stops for learning about making your own stuff.

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Old 25-01-2018, 12:42 PM   #5
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

As mentioned before, maybe try VCV Rack, so what sounds you can get then look for the real world equivalent of those modules.
Or maybe start with a semi-modular unit, like the Make Noise 0-Coast and take it from there.

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Old 26-01-2018, 11:53 PM   #6
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

Hey OP, state your musical/sounds goal before anything. It has to be specific. Do you care about timbres? Do you care about complex sequencing? Granular synthesis? Scales? West Coast/East Coast?

Once you can answer that question, they you can figure out how to get started with modular.

I have about 460hp total, and I know exactly that I'm going for. Granular mangling / glitching and evolving sounds with slow attacks and slow releases. I have zero sequencers in my rig, and I quantize nothing. All of that gets done in the box. What I care about is being able to make sounds that would be nearly impossible to make in the box, while also finding weird ways to interact with my synth boxes.

So, yeah, what are you interested in?

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Old 27-01-2018, 06:53 PM   #7
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

Hi,

I have never done anything related to granular synthesis. But it is well explained in this book:

Interactive Composition: Strategies Using Ableton Live and Max for Live:
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It is a very good introduction to GS - among others used by Monolake or Hugh Le Caine. If you are Ableton user, you can download Max for Live and use Granulator II.

Here is the link to a book (just check it out and then buy)

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Old 02-02-2018, 12:10 PM   #8
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

is this thread about modular synthesis or granular synthesis? I clicked on it cause i am interested in hardware modular synthesisers, but i see you are talking about granular synthesis and software. Is that a mistake or am i missing something?
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Old 02-02-2018, 01:56 PM   #9
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by monopanic View Post
is this thread about modular synthesis or granular synthesis? I clicked on it cause i am interested in hardware modular synthesisers, but i see you are talking about granular synthesis and software. Is that a mistake or am i missing something?
Modular Synthesis..it seems somebody mentioned granular synthesis in passing, and [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
went off on a slight tangential derail there, with that well-meaning and useful post.

But, yeah..this thread is about Modular Synthesis.

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Old 21-02-2018, 02:54 AM   #10
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Re: Modular Synthesis -Where to Start?

Make sure you buy the biggest case possible, have lots of money and............................................... .....








I went missing down the rabbit hole for 6 years, but I'm finally making music again now.

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