Performance, composing and recording strategies

Anything modular synth related that is not format specific.

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Digital Larry
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Performance, composing and recording strategies

Post by Digital Larry » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:27 pm

Starting to make some headway here...

Used the ground loop lifter for my Beatstep Pro, now I can concentrate!

Been using the BS Pro with the following:

Erica Pico VCO
Erica Syncable VCO2
Mutable Braids
2x Erica Pico Drums

Some different EGs and filters and VCAs, most but not all of it from Erica.

I have done a few sequences using the Beatstep Pro and even have a concept of switching from one to the other as sort of a compositional strategy. I can see using all 16 projects as sections of a piece with enough complexity or variation to be interesting.

Also for the first time I put the EGs driving my VCAs into loop mode (I use 2x WMD/SSF ADSRVCA) and saw how it is possible to develop drones or AD loop based rhythms which are a lot more primitive than sequencing notes explicity. Using the different waveforms in the Braids and Pico VCO can create some interesting tonalities that can be further shaped by other EGs or LFOs driving filters - most of these things completely not in sync with each other which is cool too.

I can see possibly combining these two approaches - some drone and some sequence and even interaction between the 2 sides (somehow).

I haven't actually performed with modular and probably never will (it's not a matter of being shy)... but I just ripped all the cables out to get a fresh start and I'm wondering, does anyone approach performance this way? Build each composition up from scratch?

I have used a PC based DAW (SONAR) and MIDI stuff for many years - since the mid to late 80's in fact! I don't feel like composing on a PC much - it just doesn't grab me to mouse click dots in a grid for some reason.

I'm sure one of these days I will want to record some stuff and possibly blend it with other things like electric guitar and bass. There's then the consideration of keeping the VCOs tuned to a standard frequency which in the case of the Pico VCO is a little hard because there's no fine-tune knob.

I can see myself recording bits from the modular and using the DAW to somehow paste and mix it all together.

Anyone else have some perspective or a way of working that makes you feel more productive? I feel a little lost sometimes because while I'd like to record something and build it up and whittle on it, the non-preset nature of modular voicing in general seems to go against that.

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Post by luketeaford » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:14 pm

I often start over at the start of each day throughout the week, working out ideas and quick sketches, and then I try to play something with my favorite ideas on the weekends -- and those patches might last overnight, but usually I have an idea of what I'm doing and it's not a big deal to me to start over.

I like a tip I heard from one of Todd Barton's many excellent videos (I think it was him) to think of composition as a movement from one thing to another. It's easy to just kinda whip up a nice sounding patch and let it do its thing for a few minutes, but a more rewarding recording moves the entire piece somewhere.

I also record scraps of ideas, loops, and samples in case I feel like writing more rock oriented music.

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Post by aokjoey0 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:22 am

If you're not making live performance a priority then starting over after you feel you've gotten all you can out of a particular patch makes sense. I'd like to patch semi-generic live setup, but with a not all filled 10u X 104hp setup, I don't think I could make one that would do everthing I would want.

But, normally I work with a patch until either I have experimented fully, recorded with it, or had a "I do no know what the fuck I was trying to accomplish " moment and vigorously, but respectfully, rip out all the cables and walk away for at least a few minutes, much long if it's been something I have been working on for days.
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Post by Digital Larry » Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:49 pm

Thanks for your responses. I have a mental dichotomy between "patches" (the state of all knobs and cables in the modular synth) and the "composition" which is determined by the sequencer patterns in my Beatstep Pro.

The sequencer patterns can be sent to any VCO with any sort of voice setting and it sounds more or less like the same tune, unless I go crazy and start introducing things which disturb the actual notes being played. So, since the BSP sequencer saves its patterns, I don't consider those volatile.

However, after messing around with the voices and different patterns, I find myself wanting to come back to the original theme and find that pretty difficult because I can't remember exactly what the voice settings were. At the same time I don't really feel like trying to integrate a storage strip or similar which would help to remember voice settings.

It's clear that I'm still finding my way into a new way of thinking about music making, and I don't think I've arrived at any hard and fast conclusions yet.

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Post by R.U.Nuts » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:11 pm

I did a few live shows in the past and am planning to do some with new material in summer. My strategy is to set up a patch I like and that gives me a lot of possible variation and then practise playing it. Eventually I won't change the patch for months until I feel I really have full control and am able to reproduce certain elements easily. Sometimes I need to unpatch to dust off the modules :hihi: but until that is neccessary I can remember everything and just plug back all the cables after cleaning.

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Post by Digital Larry » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:35 pm

So, does anyone not use a sequencer at all to create melodies?

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Post by evasporque » Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:22 pm

I like these discussions...gives me a chance to share something about this crazy thing I have been working on for years...playing and improvising minimal techno live without a computer or DAW.

I performed live with no computer several times last summer (3 hour shows) using a Minilogue, mopho keyboard, electribe ESX, MBase 11 kick drum module, a KP3 and a 4 channel DJ mixer with sampler and effects.. (Sunday afternoons afterparty at a club patio)

I had most beats pre-built on the electribe, patterns ranging from downtempo, trip-hop, 4x4, each beat built on a 8 bar 16 step pattern, I would have four pattern variations of each beat sequenced on the electribe ESX-1 using a custom set of 808 and 909 processed drum samples and triggering a Jomox MBase11 kick drum module.

As for bass, leads and pads I made those up on the fly....sampling bass parts and pads as needed with the korg KP3, then playing leads freehand and mixing it using the a DJ mixer, Kp3 and the effects and filters on the electribe.

You need a small side mixer with AUX send and receive to do live sampling with a KP3 of any of the synths you can send the output to one side of a DJ mixer and add something on the other side to assist with transitions between scenes. in my case I used a iPad with Samplr app to keep something going between scene sets.

each "piece" is based on one beat style, I called these scenes and those last between 15-20 minutes...between I would sample a transition between scenes or play a sample loop from my iPad using Samplr app. (I built a few transitions loops just for that)

For this next summer I will doing the same sort of thing only using a small modular setup as one of the synths along with an analog drum machine, the mopho keyboard again, A BeatStep Pro, KP3, effects rack, small mixer and DJ mixer if needed. The plan is to parse my sound down to a deeper minimal downtempo groove that is all analog (except for effects processors)

I wanted to retire the Electribe SX so it stays nice and the BSP is a better sequencer of outboard gear.

I will possibly add Minilogue for pads and chordal stabs (maybe) I sort of want to stay with two multi-oscillator analog monosnyths, adding chords seems to take the music out of the realm I want to play in.

So I will basically build sequences for both synths and drums with variations in each project as needed. I am using the Tom Cat drum machine at this time, but plan to bring the drums onboard in the modular later this year.

The patches on the modular I will use be done so there is a gob of variation possible without a complete rewire. The cool thing about the SV-1 is there are native pathways and simply pulling one wire and change a path dramatically. Like for example having a LFO modding filter cuttoff with neutral attenuation you can modify the sound dramatically by simply turning one knob slightly but if you don't have that LFO patched and ready....you can't use it. Having multiple waveforms and LFO MODs pre-patched with the ability to engage and disengage as needed makes the modular into a performance instrument.

With a variety of sequences and beat variations for each project (scene) I can sample the mopho's sequence, mute the sequence on the BSP and play a free lead with it if I want.

Keep it all a simple as possible and make the complexity come from variations in the sequences (for drums I dropout kick in one pattern etc...). Changing clock division using BSP or synths. Arping the sequences muting and playing something live on the BSP...lots of possibilities and is super fun and challenging.

In a nut shell start with a skeleton of a scene and build skills of playing it back and live mixing with traditional DJ effect mixing techniques, to build and release tension, live leads and sampling on the fly and the bulk of sound coming from instruments it takes it beyond DJing and it becomes a live electronic performance.

my YouTube videos demonstrate some of the techniques I have used, old and new, one going back to 2012 was sort of a break through session for me.

edited for errors
Last edited by evasporque on Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by evasporque » Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:43 pm

As another note, Though I can get all the functionality into a modular rack that I need to perform live, It won't have the same ergonomics. The Korg KP3 is one of the best and easiest performance phrase samplers for electronic music ever made. It is very easy to use and has large friendly buttons and the lite touch screen tells what is going on with motion recorded effect sequences.

Many modular samplers and modules have tiny knobs that can be difficult to find much less artfully manipulate quickly and in time. Plus I need a small quality keyboard to jam a bass or lead on. The DSI mopho keyboard has an incredible good, small keyboard.

I am also surprised how playable the BSP is.

so as I am building my modular rig it so is geared for playability, repeatability and maximum variation with minimal re-patching.

good luck...it is all super fun.

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Post by mutierend » Mon May 01, 2017 10:01 pm

First I choose a scale for my composition. My latest work is in my F minor. I tune the oscillators to notes on that scale. Then I dial in the melody on my Koma Komplex and plan out transpositions, also on the Koma. On my latest piece, I'm using the Sputnik Dual Oscillator to provide a bass drone that swells and recedes via the Quad Function Generator. Once I have that stuff kind of dialed in, I hit record and start the sequences.

Then I create a new recording of the piece and start modulating until it matches what I have in mind.

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Post by Ramases » Tue May 02, 2017 1:04 pm

Digital Larry wrote:So, does anyone not use a sequencer at all to create melodies?
If I'm looking for melodies I prefer to use a random CV source of some description, limit the range of it to whatever degree I feel works and then put it through a quantizer.

I'm not hugely into sequencers although I do have a couple. They tend to get used as patch state machines, not melody generation. So each step kicks out some CV that changes the nature of the patch in some way, subtle or not so subtle. I usually trigger steps manually rather than off a clock.

In terms of workflow, I usually record lots of variations of a patch into my computer and then chop/arrange/layer etc. My computer basically replaces a tape recorder.

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Post by cftbl » Fri May 05, 2017 1:59 am

Digital Larry wrote:So, does anyone not use a sequencer at all to create melodies?
I don't much. I find that a couple of thel traditional methods I learned long ago still work for me. I do now and then find sequences to be a fine way to record and play back ostinati and melodic fragments.

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Post by junglll » Sat May 06, 2017 11:06 pm

Digital Larry wrote:So, does anyone not use a sequencer at all to create melodies?
yeah, I've never been able to use a sequencer to create a convincing, prominent melody. Of course it can be done, but I mainly use them for ostinati

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Post by Outtatune » Sun May 07, 2017 12:06 am

junglll wrote:
Digital Larry wrote:So, does anyone not use a sequencer at all to create melodies?
yeah, I've never been able to use a sequencer to create a convincing, prominent melody. Of course it can be done, but I mainly use them for ostinati
I had to look that up. It is the plural form of ostinato. Once again reading Muffs makes me a smarter person! From Wikipedia:

In music, an ostinato [ostiˈnaːto] (derived from Italian: stubborn, compare English, from Latin: 'obstinate') is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include both classical compositions such as Ravel's Boléro and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977) and The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997).
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Post by witchbutter » Sun May 07, 2017 1:03 am

Thus far I feel really limited by modular sequencers. I really prefer to sequence with a computer and run that out via es-8. When I've done live modular sets it's been improvised with the beat step pro or a keyboard that triggers something algorithmic. Live is definitely not my focus though, I'm much more interested in composition and what the modular really enables is a more unique hands on experience that lends it self to discovery much more so than dragging a mouse in a hugely complex soft synth would.

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Post by coffeeshopped » Mon May 08, 2017 3:24 pm

I'm just a few months into using my modular, but I moved towards it specifically to be more productive/prolific than I've been with synths/laptops/controllers. I also sequence with a Beatstep Pro, and just have a 6u/108hp setup right now.

I start from scratch in just about every session that I do at home. I have an 8-channel mixer that I can run my outs to, and I have a Zoom digital recorder hooked up to that. So I just sit down, start developing a patch, and once it gets to a place where I have something I can do a 3-minute or so performance on, I hit record on the Zoom and do 3-5 takes.

Sometimes I re-use a saved set of patterns on the Beatstep from a previous session, and sometimes I make new ones. I like how using an old sequence on a new patch can sound similar or totally different from how the sequence was used on another patch.

I've been tempted to move sequencing to my laptop, so I can get more involved with that side of it, but right now I fear that will just lead me down a programming hole in Max/MSP that will stop me from making music. My current setup has me recording more ideas more quickly than I have in the past, and I just try to embrace the nature of the modular in that it's hard to exactly reproduce a previous patch. I just sort of have faith that over time I'll develop my techniques that I can re-build pretty quickly when I want to use them!

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Post by R.U.Nuts » Mon May 08, 2017 3:47 pm

coffeeshopped wrote:I'm just a few months into using my modular, but I moved towards it specifically to be more productive/prolific than I've been with synths/laptops/controllers. I also sequence with a Beatstep Pro, and just have a 6u/108hp setup right now.

I start from scratch in just about every session that I do at home. I have an 8-channel mixer that I can run my outs to, and I have a Zoom digital recorder hooked up to that. So I just sit down, start developing a patch, and once it gets to a place where I have something I can do a 3-minute or so performance on, I hit record on the Zoom and do 3-5 takes.

Sometimes I re-use a saved set of patterns on the Beatstep from a previous session, and sometimes I make new ones. I like how using an old sequence on a new patch can sound similar or totally different from how the sequence was used on another patch.

I've been tempted to move sequencing to my laptop, so I can get more involved with that side of it, but right now I fear that will just lead me down a programming hole in Max/MSP that will stop me from making music. My current setup has me recording more ideas more quickly than I have in the past, and I just try to embrace the nature of the modular in that it's hard to exactly reproduce a previous patch. I just sort of have faith that over time I'll develop my techniques that I can re-build pretty quickly when I want to use them!
I don't have a sequencer in my rack that has memory, and I didn't like the beatstep when I tested it for a few days but the Idea of using a saved sequence on different patches and the probably totally different results you can get from this approach sounds very fun to me. -even though I like the limitation of not being able to save sequences...

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Post by Final_Instrument » Tue May 09, 2017 2:43 pm

Record everything while patching, may find some cool things in there. I record into ableton, save a few clips, find a bpm to work in and get to chopppng. I like finding odd sounds and resampling then I can through into the MPC and play out notes and whatnot.

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Post by noeticsound » Fri May 12, 2017 11:25 am

Final_Instrument wrote:Record everything while patching, may find some cool things in there. I record into ableton, save a few clips, find a bpm to work in and get to chopppng. I like finding odd sounds and resampling then I can through into the MPC and play out notes and whatnot.
I should be doing more of this, as it resembles my non-modular workflow (recording in my guitars, keys, percussion, vox improves, and found sounds in Ableton; chopping; assembling weird drum kits, fx, multisamples, and transitions from the resultant samples; creating compositions with these new components; maybe playing in some new stuff on top).

I'm still very new to modular, having jumped in earlier this year for the first time (other than Max/MSP, which is less a sibling than a second cousin once removed to modular synthesis). So far, I've built up patches deliberately and carefully and tried getting to know them intimately before recording. It's not entirely unproductive, but it might be nice to mix in some less precious - less strictly musical - sessions...just throwing some stuff up, twisting some knobs towards extremes, and seeing what ancient spirits respond to the summoning, all the while rolling tape.

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