Modular for the visually impaired

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iantrader
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Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Sun May 24, 2020 4:02 pm

Hey Everyone

I have a genetic degenerative eye condition which is a sort of macular degeneration. I can 'see' but not make out detail so the legend on modulars is v. diff/impossible to read.

I'm an old muso :-) and want to get into modular. I had an original Roland 100M system back in the day but all of my recent gear has been in software. As this is increasingly difficult/impossible to use I'm looking at modular which I've been interested in for a long time.

. I thought it would be a good idea to get a Neutro for starters but was soooo disappointed that I really struggled to read the legend. Thought of sending it back - still thinking! - but was inspired by session warrior and some other blind people who are doing modular so though I should at least give it a try!
So I'm going to try to memorise the Neutron's controls and sockets 😱

Before realising that reading the lgend would be so diff, I was planning on a case like the Mantis and stuffing it full of 'clever' modules. I did have a plan to build a system that made 'musical' decisions but I think that was a bit ambitious :-) Even if I could see!

So while I'm trying to get my head around the Neutron, I'm looking for ideas of systems an/or modules that would be suitable for someone who can't see what they're doing! In the main, it wou;d be helpful if each control had only one function. I might mange with a couple but no menu diving and displays nwill be diff going forward.

What am I looking for? Not sure :-) but something a little more than VCO>VCF>VCA., pref with a musial edge.

I'm in the UK so if anyone can recommend any helpful dealers that would also be great.

Hope you can help. Ask any Qs you want.

Thank you,
Ian

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MoogProDG
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by MoogProDG » Sun May 24, 2020 4:18 pm

I know there are a few wigglers here who are visually impaired. Trying to find the one I’ve been in contact with in the past to link the two of you up- I’ll send you a PM shortly.
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by SavageMessiah » Sun May 24, 2020 4:37 pm

Hmm, modules aside, maybe there's things you could do to make things easier. Tons of eurorack modules (the neutron especially) have very uniform control and jack layouts that will make straight memorization a bear. Maybe you could paint the jack nuts and the tops of the knobs in matching colors to help. Apparently this exists, too: https://www.heinakroon.net/Colours_20/p ... 90495.aspx

You could also get some different knobs from someplace like Thonk. Davies clones in particular seem to come in every color under the sun. I imagine it would be a lot easier to remember the big knob, the top green knob, etc, vs the 2nd knob from the left.

If you're getting stuff, for sure stick to simpler single function modules. Generally anything analogue will have only one function per control. I'm trying to think of a manufacturer that is consistently good about panels that would be easier for you but I'm drawing a blank. There are definitely modules out there that avoid (to some degree, at least) the 'row of labeled jacks' and 'grid of knobs' syndrome.

If you're determined, I think you can absolutely have a lot of fun with modular. I'm pretty sure there are some blind folks out there that use them, maybe even on this forum.

I'm not in the UK but I gather Signal Sounds is the dealer of choice for modular stuff.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by a100user » Sun May 24, 2020 4:50 pm

Also worth mentioning that there are couple of guys who make custom replacement faceplate overlays for Neutron and other synths so possible to commission an overlay that would be easier for you to use?
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dragulasbruder
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by dragulasbruder » Sun May 24, 2020 4:59 pm

I know this is the Euro forum and everything but maybe trying out a different format or a hardpatched synth that's more geared towards experimental sounds might be more geared towards your needs?

Working off something like a Serge panel might be a little more legible and the static layout would be way easier to memorize. At a more reasonable price point, maybe a semi-modular synth like a Benjolin or one of Peter B's creations (which aren't labelled at all) might be a fun way to get some truly weird synthesis going on without having to deal with the form factor of Eurorack.

Edit: "Musical edge" isn't really the strong suit of the last two (guessing you mean equal-tempered tuning, harmony, etc). There are some cool standalones like Ants! and Kilpatrick Phenol that allow for modular patching on a fixed control outlay and might be better geared towards traditional tonal music.
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by luketeaford » Sun May 24, 2020 5:05 pm

Welcome, Ian! I think I would recommend going slowly and using a relatively small subset of modules that don't require screens/modes of any kind. I would personally avoid designs that have a field of undifferentiated jacks like the Neutron or the Mother 32 etc (even though they're cool synths, they're not easy to play without looking)

I could play my Make Noise or Serge systems blindfolded without losing too much because I have multiple copies of the same modules and don't move things around often (huge advantage that I have already memorized the panels). The Serge stuff is aligned to a grid, but none of the modules have an identical layout and they are fairly spacious with sturdy knobs that can be touched without moving easily. For this reason, I would recommend Random Source Serge (probably specifically in the eurorack format). It is impossible to put those modules into a condition that can't be felt. I might add a notch of some kind to the knobs to indicate position.

I think the most difficult thing would be debugging why a patch isn't working which happens occasionally. Some modules have push buttons that set modes and the mode can also be set by patching. It is also fairly difficult for me to figure out the entire patch by feel, so as the patch grows it becomes a little harder to change.

Good luck with your journey!

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by thispoison » Sun May 24, 2020 5:20 pm

How familiar were you with your 100M?

If it was a set-up you understood well, perhaps the Behringer System 100 might fit your needs?

Different scale of course, but might work?
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Kroggel » Sun May 24, 2020 5:48 pm

Also Modules with Light indicators schould work well. Take Make Noise Tempi for example. Or look at Rene Mk2, almost everything that happens is coded in lights, same with morphagene.

Also Big Knob Modules could work. Think of Verbos Oscillators or the Belgrad Filter.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by onthebandwagon » Sun May 24, 2020 5:52 pm

Could you print out an enlarged or augmented version of the front panel of the neutron? Not the most elegant solution but it might be helpful...
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Sun May 24, 2020 6:13 pm

Stevie Wonder made good use of a 2600.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by sackley » Sun May 24, 2020 6:18 pm

luketeaford wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 5:05 pm
Welcome, Ian! I think I would recommend going slowly and using a relatively small subset of modules that don't require screens/modes of any kind. I would personally avoid designs that have a field of undifferentiated jacks like the Neutron or the Mother 32 etc (even though they're cool synths, they're not easy to play without looking)

I could play my Make Noise or Serge systems blindfolded without losing too much because I have multiple copies of the same modules and don't move things around often (huge advantage that I have already memorized the panels). The Serge stuff is aligned to a grid, but none of the modules have an identical layout and they are fairly spacious with sturdy knobs that can be touched without moving easily. For this reason, I would recommend Random Source Serge (probably specifically in the eurorack format). It is impossible to put those modules into a condition that can't be felt. I might add a notch of some kind to the knobs to indicate position.

I think the most difficult thing would be debugging why a patch isn't working which happens occasionally. Some modules have push buttons that set modes and the mode can also be set by patching. It is also fairly difficult for me to figure out the entire patch by feel, so as the patch grows it becomes a little harder to change.

Good luck with your journey!
I was about to suggest the same thing. Using a static setup with a memorable layout and easy to discern jacks and controls. The random source knobs sound like a good idea. Also, any modes being indicated by LEDs should work well. Once you have a layout that works I would get a large poster sized print out of the modular grid image made and hung above it for easy reference.

Best of luck! I think you’re going to have a great time with it once you navigate the initial challenge of getting started.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Sun May 24, 2020 6:36 pm

If you're going to stay in Euro, I'd focus on building a Doepfer system. Don't let anyone tell you it's low quality, low performance or too vanilla. There's enough scope in the Doepfer range to keep anyone busy for a lifetime, regardless of musical/noise preference.

The light colored panels, clear legending, and rational layouts which are not so clustered as some Euro all add up to a visibilty and memorizability well suited to ailing eyesight. Add to that they are inexpensive, robust, and Dieter is a repsonsive mfr if you need support.

Second choice, Blacet Frac. Lerge lettering, again uncluttered layouts, flexible and deep designs. Black panels not so good, but the layouts and audio abilities make up for it.

Behringer's 100M modules are not so varied as you might eventually want or need, but their design is well-suited to use where visual issues are a concern. Cheap as chips, you could build up a system with multiples of each type and add a few helper 'color' modules to round out the scope.

Mutable would be another good choice. Light colored panels for high contrast, large display, color coding of knobs, and fine audio results to complement the others above.
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The Stevie Wonder 2600 comment was not made in jest. The layout of a 2600 -or TTSH- is easily learned and remembered. Although it seems at first glance to be only a subtractive monosynth, it is capable of far more. Especially if partnered with a few of the above modules.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Sun May 24, 2020 8:54 pm

I don’t have specific answers, but the advice here about modules without screens and modes is a good start. I think there are so many modules for different functions that you could put together a rack that will be accessible. I’m trying to think which of my modules would be best suited, but i need to think about this. Somewhat on topic Ray Kurzweil invented the flat bed scanner and optical character recognition way back in the 1970s. He also had one of the first commercially available text to speech engines. However he had no idea what to do with them until he met a man who was blind, on a plane, who told him how difficult it was to get books or magazines on tape. He put everything together and made the first reading machine for people who are blind. The Kurzweil Reader could scan then speak almost any printer material. Stevie Wonder was his first customer. This same technology is still used today, but with so much content as digital, the scanner part is not needed so much. So, there is some history here and so much of our innovative technology has its roots in technology for people with disabilities. There was a guy here who edited Mutable Instrument firmware to change LED settings from red and green to colors more accessible colors for people with color blindness. I’m on my phone now, but will try to find that post later. I will bookmark this and come back. Hopefully the other poster will find others who can share their experience!

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deke
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Sun May 24, 2020 8:58 pm

PS here’s an article about a synthesist who is completely blind. http://www.electronicbeats.net/aleksei- ... ture-2017/

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by moremagic » Sun May 24, 2020 9:07 pm

i put my modular together so i can play it by touch. i have changed around some of the knobs so that its easier to feel whats what.
but what ive found most helpful is playing larger modules. theyre much easier to get my fingers used to without having to look carefully

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by greyscales » Sun May 24, 2020 9:41 pm

Knob choice can definitely be a big help, even for those who just play in low-light settings. Smaller ones for attenuators, biggest ones for pitch/cutoff/etc, medium knobs for others. I think the style used with Mutable and Make Noise (Rogan knobs) are nice because they are not perfectly smooth, there's a piece that sticks out where the pointer is. Could be worth replacing some knobs on your modules for ease of navigation.

Control layout can also be important. Some manufacturers use almost the same layout for all of their modules that can be hard to discern just on touch (Doepfer being a prime example) so I wouldn't recommend those unless you just have one or two that don't live close together.
I find the more "creative" the layout, the easier it is to develop muscle memory.

I would avoid anything below 4hp, maybe even 6hp.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by oranginafiend » Sun May 24, 2020 9:50 pm

i don't really have an answer, but i just wanted to chime in and say that after owning an odyssey for ~4 years i could close my eyes and be just as agile on it as with eyes open. should be the same for any static synth. if you're set on modular i would buy something that's a complete system. constantly changing out modules will probably be more of a pain. (and in my experience it's not worth it anyways, just get a system and make sounds on it)
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Voltcontrol » Sun May 24, 2020 10:06 pm

Get modules that are clearly layed out and have their knobs spaced to sit near their respective in- & outputs.

Prime example = Verbos.
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by obmuc » Sun May 24, 2020 11:09 pm

Thinking about the way my wife, who is blind, has set up our appliances and electronics... here's a few suggestions:
  • There's a company, Grayscale (https://grayscale.info/), that makes replacement panels for many Euro modules. If there are modules you want that have panels that are hard to read (Make Noise comes to mind...), you might look to see if they have a replacement that would help.
  • Many people replace knobs on modules... seems easy to do. You might think about getting a variety of knobs that feel different... might aid you with quick identification.
  • If you get modules with panels that are less crowded (knobs and jacks are more spread out) you may be able to add some extra labeling to help - maybe even tactile labels. Probably best to avoid modules that try to pack a lot into a small space.
  • In general, purely analog modules are probably going to be more friendly than digital, since each control will typically only have one purpose.
As for specific euro modules... here's a few manufacturers that I think have fairly clean panels/layouts:
  • Random*Source
  • Hinton Instruments
  • Intellijel
  • Vermona
  • Verbos
  • L-1
  • Waldorf
Hope that help.
Last edited by obmuc on Sun May 24, 2020 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by blakeq » Sun May 24, 2020 11:21 pm

I think a kilpatrick phenol is a great idea.

Other suggestions for single manufacturer systems with single use modules is also spot on (doepfer, ladik, behringer clones etc)

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Arneb » Mon May 25, 2020 3:17 am

obmuc wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 11:09 pm
Thinking about the way my wife, who is blind, has set up our appliances and electronics... here's a few suggestions:
  • There's a company, Grayscale (https://grayscale.info/), that makes replacement panels for many Euro modules. If there are modules you want that have panels that are hard to read (Make Noise comes to mind...), you might look to see if they have a replacement that would help.
    [...]
  • If you get modules with panels that are less crowded (knobs and jacks are more spread out) you may be able to add some extra labeling to help - maybe even tactile labels. Probably best to avoid modules that try to pack a lot into a small space.
In your experience, would Braille replacement panels help or are even the more ergonomic Eurorack panels too small for this?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Mon May 25, 2020 12:56 pm

Wow! Thanks everyone.

That's going to take a while to process :-) Kits to think about.

Really appreciate all your comments and input.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Severed head » Mon May 25, 2020 1:02 pm

Maybe do what someone suggested about printing labels, maybe one of them label maker embossing deals

And A larger format 5U maybe?
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Severed head » Mon May 25, 2020 1:14 pm

KSS wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 6:36 pm
I'd focus on building a Doepfer system. Don't let anyone tell you it's low quality, low performance or too vanilla.
Do people say that?
This is what a hipster just buy a rack for the sack of eurorack being cool or trendy would say...

Or someone who’s never owned a doepfer module purely because they don’t look cool enough.
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Doepfer in My opinion is something like a gold standard or eurorack. They set the bar in the beginning and set it high. The modules might not be the flashy MN/MI designs but they laid down to me what is a high quality module at a fair price. There’s a lot of modules out there that have features doepfer doesn’t and vise versa. But they are quality builds with a quality sounds and perfect elements for the structural necessities or getting bizarre weirdness and texture. If someone knows how to use them.
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Mon May 25, 2020 8:58 pm

I’ve been thinking about this. Along with having clear layouts you also have to deal with what we all suffer with - what do you want to do? As we all know the choices are endless. Many people start with semi mod and that’s what you are doing with the neutron, but it sounds like you don’t like it. I would listen to that voice in your head and return it. I’ve been looking at other semi mods and many have the same kind of layout. For example the Mother 32 knobs and labels are better laid out, though still small type, but the patch bay is way too cramped. I have had mine for a couple years and still get messed up with the labels. Lots of people complain about Make Noise panels, but you might actually like something like the 0-Coast. Weird fonts, but the various jacks are distributed with various controls in a logical flow. I am thinking you might like the SQ-1’as a sequencer. Simple controls, lights, and very playable. All this is pure conjecture. I think what would be best is hands on with all kinds of things to see if it is both playable and something you like. Any luck finding a local store or club?

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