Modular Philosophies

Anything modular synth related that is not format specific.

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proturboplus
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Modular Philosophies

Post by proturboplus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:57 am

You know, modular synth may get very complicated very fast and with all the options you have nowadays, you can get easily lost. :hihi:

That's why I wanted you to ask if you are following any "philosophies" (I want to avoid to say "rules", because it sounds too negative) when building up your modular to restrict yourself?

(Sorry, long post is following...)

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Post by proturboplus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:59 am

To start, here're my philosophies (in no particular order):

1. Basic Modules

I don't want multifunctional modules (e.g. hihats), but always want to synthesize the sound using basic modules. The idea is that can build up something completely new with the basic ones you even might haven't thought of before.

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Post by proturboplus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:02 pm

2. Design

At least a lot of eurorack modules look very individual. You can easily built up a frankensynth, but I want my modules to look consistent, that's why I'm only looking for ones with a silver front panel and replace all knobs.

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Post by proturboplus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:04 pm

3. Build Quality

I want the knobs to be mounted on the front panel. Modular synth are all about user interface and user experience. I don't like a wobble feeling and being afraid of breaking something.

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Post by proturboplus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:05 pm

4. No magic Knobs

I don't want mystic magic parameters that are doing some cool stuff I cannot understand (like some crazy wave shaping whatever). Not that I want to know the detailed circuit diagram, but I want to know what a parameter is doing.

5. No Legacy Modules

I know that's easy to say as the world is moving fast, but I don't want to rely on chips for example, that already out of production.

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Post by proturboplus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:06 pm

6. No Digital Simulations

I like digital modules, but don't want them to simulate the analog world - instead, I like them to do something the analog world cannot do.

7. No External Devices

I want to have all in one box, and not use external fxs or synths. Same argument as for 1.

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Post by proturboplus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:08 pm

And now some former philosophies I've already broken:

a) Only Moog Sound Modules

I started to build my eurorack to generate CV for my Voyager and having all sound produced by the Moog. I skipped that one finally and sold my Voyager to go full modular. :hihi:

b) Only Analog Modules

Yes, already skipped that one (see 6).


I know that opinions are very different (as modular systems are) and I don't want to offend anyone. But I'm interested to hear your philosophies - especially of the manufacturers if they would like to join this discussion!

I've noticed that several manufacturers have design philosophies for their products, but it would be interesting to see them black on white (and compare them)!

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Post by FrankMurder » Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:19 pm

I am kind of new to this but what ever works is always a good.
I to am fetishist fo build quality, I would rather spend more now and be happy for longer...
Also the kiss principle...

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Post by MrNovember » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:20 pm

That all sounds very limiting but I guess that could be what you're looking for. My philosophy is much more along the lines of go with the flow. I'll go for anything if I like how it looks and sounds; be it analog, digital, old, new, external, or modular.

Also, I love dense modules with multiple functions. Like pretty much all of the Mutables line and the Disting. And I'd prefer a 'frankensynth' over something totally unified. That being said, I could only go so far with that; I'm going to need Greyscale panels for anything 4ms I buy.

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Post by Jamesf1 » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:37 pm

Opposite of MrNovember - stick to one manufacturer if possible. Keep things as simple as they can be and do not over complicate unnecessarily. Own a smaller number of modules and know them inside out as opposed to a larger number and perhaps not fully understand any of them.

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Post by MrNovember » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:44 pm

Jamesf1 wrote:Opposite of MrNovember - stick to one manufacturer if possible.
I started that way but I was quickly swayed (literally as soon as I bought my first rack, which was made up of a bunch of modules from different manufacturers, I just couldn't go back)
Jamesf1 wrote: Own a smaller number of modules and know them inside out as opposed to a larger number and perhaps not fully understand any of them.
This one I totally agree with. One of the problems with owning really dense modules is fully learning all of their functions

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Post by noisejockey » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:52 pm

I took the complete opposite approach than the OP on assembling my first modular. It was all about layering of rules and constraints to optimize value, space, and cost. I created "rules of engagement" that allowed me to determine what would add the most value to my existing system, and to remind myself why I made the jump in the first place...i.e., to slow the desire to constantly buy more and more and more. (Notice I said SLOW, not STOP. :hihi: )

DON'TS
- No effects. I have that covered via hardware and software.
- No controllers. Between a DAW, audio interface, MIDI keyboards, USB slider/knob banks, footswitches, and a Ciat Lonbarde Tetrax Organ (pressure sensitive inputs), I have that covered.
- Don't design an analog(ue) monosynth or equivalent. I have that covered with existing hardware.
- No sequencers in the first phase or two. If I play away from the studio, I own Korg Volcas and EHX pedals can drive, or be driven, by Eurorack.
- Don't assume that a wall of modular components will someday replace everything I own and use. I've got solid workflow for mixing and effects in post. Don't revisit this opinion until at least a year or two of experience with modular.

DO'S
- Integrate with the DAW.
- Optimize for insane modulation options. Uniquely modular and totally not covered via soft synths or existing hardware that I own.
- Integrate with semi-modular kit. I have a few banana-jack semi-modular instruments that are begging for integration into a bigger system.
- Eventually go for a single sampler/resynthesis module. I also play guitar and do a metric ton of field recording, so a modulatable Phonogene or Clouds module is a purchase to plan for in the next wave, along with a solid input module.
- Care about form factor and ergonomics. I agree with the OP on this point: Just being modular isn't enough. Being tactile, responsive, and guessable is really important for immediacy. Balancing that with depth of multi-function modules is an art form for sure!

This led me, as you can imagine, towards EG's, LFOs, digital OSC's/sound sources, MIDI interfaces, utility modules. and the like. Everything else could come later as I figured out my needs in greater detail.

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Post by Fastus » Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:25 pm

Jamesf1 wrote:Opposite of MrNovember - stick to one manufacturer if possible. Keep things as simple as they can be and do not over complicate unnecessarily. Own a smaller number of modules and know them inside out as opposed to a larger number and perhaps not fully understand any of them.
... and me, I say please complicate things - necessarily. It's usually when learning things I have my greatest creative satisfaction - something arises from the newness of the technique - some great sound or the basis of a whole piece. That's why something like the Rene is a favorite - there's a lot of basic stuff that can be done immediately to 'get the job done' - but in figuring out what the job IS... that might well arise from experiments with the advanced logic functions for example.

That's not to say that you shouldn't do your research and be sure that the instrument designer has that complexity under control (the module shouldn't need a firmware update every week, and a manual is always a plus.)

But a module with depth that will reveal its secrets slowly - I wouldn't want anxious restrictions preventing me from exploring such things. I want something that generates possibilities, to be open to accident and serendipity.
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Post by flo » Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:42 pm

Modules must be aligned vertically and have symmetrical HP horizontally :hihi:

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Post by Poldenstein » Mon Feb 02, 2015 3:13 pm

Modules have to sound good/do interesting things, and I don't give a heck to how they look (but prefer alu panels).

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Post by clarke68 » Mon Feb 02, 2015 3:15 pm

Jamesf1 wrote:Own a smaller number of modules and know them inside out as opposed to a larger number and perhaps not fully understand any of them.
Couldn't agree more with this. Some of the most fun I've had with my modular was when I was first getting started with just 3 modules. After that, almost every module I've added had a "Huh? This isn't doing what I expected..." phase that I had to work through. Taking time with every module you add (especially if you do that *instead* of taking time to read about new modules on Muff's) is a great antidote for GAS.
Jamesf1 wrote:Stick to one manufacturer if possible.
When I was first getting started this wasn't really possible with Euro...I think Doepfer may have been the only single company that offered complete systems. As much as I consider (for example) the Make Noise Shared System to be an awesome instrument, I'm kinda glad this wasn't an option for me.
proturboplus wrote:2. Design
At least a lot of eurorack modules look very individual. You can easily built up a frankensynth, but I want my modules to look consistent, that's why I'm only looking for ones with a silver front panel and replace all knobs.
I really can't imagine living with this limitation. Sometimes you just want "a filter", and to think I couldn't add one to my gig rack until I had replaced the knobs or whatever just seems way too fussy.

The main philosophy I would propose is that the goal is to make a musical instrument, that works best to play the music you want to play (that may sound kind of obvious but no one has mentioned music yet in this thread). I play free improv, so I want the ability to be as expressive/responsive as possible in a live environment...to be able to turn on a dime and generate the widest possible range of sounds with minimum effort. So for me, that means controller modules and oscillators, etc. with the broadest range of modulation ability.

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Post by mskala » Mon Feb 02, 2015 4:11 pm

I imagine proturboplus also watches Lars von Trier movies and drinks grain alcohol with rainwater.

My own philosophy is that the modular synthesizer is a toy, and I want it to be fun to play with. That actually brings me close to proturboplus on one point - all my modules so far have anodized natural aluminum faceplates with a minimum of lightning-bolt foolishness, because I like the way they look. I wouldn't rule out getting a module that did not meet that description, though, if there were such a module that I wanted to have for whatever reason.

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Post by sduck » Mon Feb 02, 2015 4:26 pm

The only "philosophy" I have is that all (or rather, most) of my modules are built by me. I've conceded to one particularly nice midi>cv module (MOTM 650) and a handful of euro modules that were manufactured, but everything else, cases, power supply and all is made here by me. I even extended that to patch cables for a long time, but that got a little maddening - they take too long to make, so bought a pile of them.

To the OP - with just a few seconds of copy and pasting, you could condense all those posts above into one (the first) post, and then one of the mods could delete the extra ones. Just a suggestion.

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Post by calaveras » Mon Feb 02, 2015 7:12 pm

I've really only got one rule as far as modular and that is;
Unless there isn't an easily available equivalent I'm trying to build all my stuff from kits or PCB+Panel type of things.
I've got terrible impulse control and I could easily spend way too much money snatching up all kinds of shiny modular objects if I did not give myself some ground rules.
I do have a couple of preferences in addition to this. Whenever possible I choose an analog equivalent. And for certain things I am going to insist that it be an analog circuit. Non obvious things like voltage controlled LFO's come to mind.
I also hate super psychedelic freakout graphics that make it difficult to read when light is low and cables are existing in the vicinity. (cough... Makenoise). I am trying to stick with only black or silver/metal faced units. I want my rig to look like a dentists office or a science lab. That is a plus, not a negative.

I also, like the OP prefer to make my patch from scratch. I don't like patch in a can kind of modules. Except I do own a couple tiptop drum modules to augment a very old drum machine with trigger outs! I will eventually pick up a beauty case or small skiff for those anyway. They don't really end up involved in any patches, they just draw power from the Eurorack rig but interface with drum machines.

I've been kind of going the opposite direction than most folks with my modular stuff. I own a few Doepfer Dark Energy boxes, and assorted other patchable synths and noisemakers. So I have been focusing on mundane utility stuff like sequencer, gate, clocks etc for a while now. I'm only just getting around to VCO's and VCFs in the last couple of weeks.
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Post by ETP » Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:59 am

my philosophy: no philosophy

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Post by Adminius » Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:30 am

My philosophy?

A left-to-right workflow (whenever possible), and a Frankensynth is OK with me, just so long as the module does it's stuff without any fuss.

I prefer analogue to digital modules any day of the week, and if I do employ a digital module it really should do something unique that can't be emulated by an analogue circuit.

I'm also a big fan of modules which have a single function and remain unimpressed by the esoteric (cough... MakeNoise, although I do plan eventually to employ a MN Pressure Points/Brains combo).

There are some modules I covet that break these rules, however, but only by a small margin (i.e. Expert Sleepers Disting, ALM Pamela's Workout, etc).

...

I think you'll find there are almost as many philosophies as there are modular synthesists.
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Post by ETP » Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:50 am

if one avoids digital then logic, clock dividers, bitcrushers, quantizers, tv etc. are to avoid. and vegans shouldn´t wear fur or leather

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Post by proturboplus » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:07 am

MrNovember wrote:That all sounds very limiting but I guess that could be what you're looking for.
Yes, it is limiting, but that was my aim: the idea was to keep the system restricted and simple, because it will get complicated when patching anyway very soon... ;-)

And my philosophies are not static: for example, if I see a module some day that's really interesting and doesn't match my "design philosophy", I might rethink it. But as long as I have a choice...

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Post by proturboplus » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:09 am

flo wrote:Modules must be aligned vertically and have symmetrical HP horizontally :hihi:
Oh, well - you should watch me using modulargrid.net! :lol:

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Post by proturboplus » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:13 am

mskala wrote:I imagine proturboplus also watches Lars von Trier movies and drinks grain alcohol with rainwater.
:lol: :lol: :yay:

Good one! Actually, I don't know Lars von Trier and never watched some of his movies, but just thinking about it: maybe watching a movie from him while drinking grain alcohol does the trick! (Whereas, I usually prefer other drinks... :guinness: )

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