Designing a screenless jam setup - aka that OTHER setup

Most my work relies heavily on looking at screens.

It also includes hooking up lots of gear. .


Sometimes in the evening I would love to do some jamming with headphones. Mostly for my own sanity and well-being, but also to spark ideas, record loops for later compositions etc.

Therefore I would love to design a (mostly) screenless home setup for jamming / improvising. Has anyone done this? How is it working out for you? Any gems / problem solvers that became important to you? I am thinking probably eurorack as this is something I am already using, but I am getting seriously lost in the choice of modules.


In the studio I use Ableton Live, Max, PD, eurorack, guitars, pedals.

Requirements/thoughts:

  • It should be mostly screenless.
  • I already have some eurorack in my studio and can use some of this for the build.
  • Should be easy to record. I don’t need more than a stereo recording of this. Mostly for capuring ideas, making samples/loops. I was thinking of maybe adding a 4MS wav recorder on the end.
  • Shouldn’t be so big that I don’t like having it at home. It will also be used at my home office desk, so it shouldn’t be to hard to pack away (or just move temporarily) when I have to work on something else/have Zoom meeting etc.
  • Have to be easy to turn on / short time between wanting to play, and ready to play. If not I would have just put up a screenless Ableton Live / Max based setup.
  • My music sounds like this.

What does your small jamming setup look like?

2 Likes

What is your goal for being able to save the jams?

If you don’t particularly care to do so, even a tiny eurorack rig, like a Palette, could provide years of fun discovering…

Heck, you can even get small modules that record audio to drop in there…

What is your goal for being able to save the jams?

I don’t need to save anything other than a stereo recording.

Added some more info now. (Actually I was supposed to have that there from the beginning but accidentally hit the enter button and posted the post half written.

1 Like

[=“KristofferLislegaard, post:1, topic:40330”]
In the studio I use Ableton Live, Max, PD, eurorack, guitars, pedals.
[/quote]

All of those things can be used screenless.
Get a midi controller and map all your useful parameters to it. Hit record and cover your screen.

If you want it more simple that that just get the 4ms wav recorder and stick to just modular and pedals + guitar. That’s pretty much how I make all of my recordings of long form improv stuff. If you have one of the Listen mixers from 4ms you can normal the wav recorder to it through jumpers on the back. It works like a dream.

3 Likes

All of those things can be used screenless.
Get a midi controller and map all your useful parameters to it. Hit record and cover your screen.

Yeah I know, that is how I use it when I play live (2 x Mac Mini, no screen, custom mapping / controller system with multiple controllers). I think I am maybe in search of something that just feels a bit different then using computers.

If you have one of the Listen mixers from 4ms you can normal the wav recorder to it through jumpers on the back.

This I did not know. Great tip!

1 Like

I have a Zoom H2N I often hook up straight to my Intellijel Mixup and just record random patches for sample and Morphagene fodder. Works great and Mixup has enough attenuation for it not to go to red with modular levels, and still be usable as end-of-chain mixer. It’s of course one piece more you need to hook up and move, but it has pretty nice battery life, you can monitor through it with headphones and it’s painless to set up and just hit record whenever you feel like it.

2 Likes

You can join me in my quest to build a screen-less sound design travel synth. Here’s a prototype demo, which I made in a tent.

Kind of sounds like it could be similar to your music goals. It’s a composition of several tracks I recorded onto that little Reloop Tape recorder. So I jammed and recorded in the tent and mixed the audio together on the iPad in Cubasis 2, when I wanted to look at a screen again.

I’ve since made a proper housing for the synth. Here’s the Axoloti thread about it with more info:

… also a thread on Muffwiggler with lots of other, off-the-shelf options directly in the first post:
https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=237221

4 Likes

What about something like the 1010music Bluebox? It can manage stereo inputs across multiple instruments and also record in stereo to an SD card. Seems to have some basic FX/mixing/compression built-in, and has an incredibly small form factor.

That said, it sort of flies in the face of being “screenless” since half the unit is a big touchscreen.

Teenage Engineering was working on this journey when they followed the screenful OP-1

with the to screenless OP-Z

Interview with them might be interesting, and/or people who have had both devices. They also put a lot good work into the OP-1 visuals (the cow synth etc), and then turned away from the screen almost entirely for OP-Z, except also not because the app for sound control and the Photomatic and VideoLab features are part of the product vision. There could be some lessons to learn about losing the screen in that design story.

Personally I was screenless (OP-Z, and both of my POs have a cracked screens) until norns, which without controllers and with the visual concepts tends to often but not always get very screeny.

1 Like

I love Axoloti for this purpose, and there’s even Akso now, a smaller more powerful version of it. The only problem is I never quite settle on what I want my axoloti to be. Sometimes it’s a looper, sometimes it’s an fm synth or sequencer. So i’ve never settled on a proper enclosure.

This is some fantastic inspiration of what can be achieved with Axoloti

Norns/Norns shield (while screened) make for excellent self contained music boxes. I have a Fates, but have been strongly considering getting another so one can function as sequencer/synth and the other looper/fx.

I don’t have experience with it but I love the idea of the gecho loop synth. I’m not sure why I keep putting off grabbing one. Tons of features, and the hardware is so beautifully considered, the designer truly cares about the design of this instrument.
http://gechologic.com/shop/

btw love the sound of your music! To fit your style, which is ambient/cinematic I feel like Plinky could be a good fit. I’ve also been intrigued by the Elmyra which is a kind of low cost alternative to the Lyra-8

Tbh some of the most fun I’ve had in recent weeks is with a looper and my Korg Volca FM. Especially with some custom patches from Dexed, you can spend hours playing around. Sound wonderful with a couple of fx pedals.

2 Likes

i find it really helpful to take the elektron boxes away from my desk and work on them alone, like when im at work or something. each one can do a lot on their own and are very deep. so you get an opportunity to learn them well, as instruments in themselves. and you have time for sound design, or even more simple melody and pattern composition. whenever i do that and then get back to my desk and my entire setup, it always make producing a million times easier. i usually do it with the digitone, model:cycles, and now mostly with the analog four. but i should probably do it with the octatrack at some point so i can learn how to use it aside from as the central hub/brain of my setup with everything connected to it

but they do have screens

1 Like

I have an Akai MPC-1000 that I record loops of modular synth into and then layer, edit, loop, transpose, effect, etc.
Although it does have a screen, it feels very different to making music on a computer.
I’ve realised that it’s not screens I dislike but the mouse as an input device.

4 Likes

Good point. I feel this in the difference between using an iPad, which is a screen I love versus a laptop, which is a screen I tolerate.

i recently unearthed an mpc 1000 that i found at a pawn shop many years ago and finally decided to learn how to use it. it is a total revelation. i love how tactile and functional it is. with JJOS there is so much it can do and i’ve barely scratched the surface. i love chopping up longer recordings of tonal drone passages and playing them back across the pads. there is a whole world in 128mb or ram.
(my only complaint would be wanting more destinations for the after touch and q-link sliders… but other than that love it)

2 Likes