I believe unpatching is an equally important process when unlocking the potential that modular has to offer. There’s always so many happy accidents to be found. I find that there is also something cathartic will unpatching as well, however, this principle is usually subdued as a system grows in size.
I’m a Serge player mainly, and can confirm @jasonw22 earlier comments
For me, with this instrument, leaving things patches feels at odds for how it is played. Each piece is like a building block, and the different relationships is often the composition or performance. When I start a new piece I patch from nothing because each module might play a very different role.
You do learn patterns and techniques through practice, so it’s not that I’m always doing completely different things. But since the modules are so low level, they usually take on quite different roles for each new piece that I work on.
While I’m working on a piece, a related series of pieces, or a performance I might leave it patched for periods of time. Like right now I’m preparing for a short tour and will be using almost the same patch throughout because I’m preparing a set. Each show will be improvised, but with the same starting point. Sometimes I’ll start from nothing live, but for this specific set of performances there’s a suite of sounds that I know I want to work with each night.
I’m assuming pre-patching only refers to patch cables?
I have so many modules that work with other types of connections, have the ability to save presets, or have normalled connections that it leaves a gray area for what it means to be pre-patched.
The Expert Sleepers ES-8 uses an ADAT cable to connect to the ES-6. The ES-6 is only usable with the ES-8 with that cable. The ES-8 is only usable as an audio interface with the USB cable connected.
Orthogonal Devices’ ER-301 is connected to a Monome Teletype via I2C in the back and preset saving is basic functionality for both modules. It’s interesting to think about unpatching a module with presets as wiping the presets before patching.
Pittsburgh Modular Lifeforms SV-1’s connections are normalled by default. So in a weird way it would require intentionally patching dummy cables into it in order for it to be non-pre-patched.
But to answer the question, I always leave the non-patch cables plugged in and remove all the other patch cables. For modules that have normalled connections I start without patch cables so I start with a normalled connection. For modules that have preset saving I start from a new preset, but I don’t wipe out existing presets.
I usually work on a specific patch for a few weeks, then leave it completely patched and spend a few weeks practicing with it, improvising, composing, recording, then - unless it’s the start of a really serious piece - document it, destroy it, and start again.
I used to start from scratch each time, but it was hard to get past that “dabbling” feeling.
I try to think of modular patches, as well as software patches, as “invisible instruments” (or, with modular / hardware, semi-visible or just new instruments) that require practice, learning the subtle and not-so-subtle possibilities, etc.
Thinking instead of the entire modular system as an instrument creates too many possibilities at any given given moment, leading to - in my case, I know it’s not the same for others - somewhat inexpressive playing and noodling for the sake of noodling.
(nothing wrong with noodling of course, just not where i am these days).
I patch, play, possibly record, definitely document, and then unpatch. Tropes and habits definitely find their way through, and I’m more ok with that than sticking with any particular modality.
One advantage of patching from nothing each time is that it is great practice for recreating signal flows quickly. My own aim is to patch from scratch for my live performances (and programme sequences from scratch too). This feels like it provides a more engaging experience for the audience, but needs a lot of practice to get confident (and quick!) at it. It also requires some thought to how to build a patch that sounds good all the way through its own creation, which is interesting in itself. Finally, although repatching basic outputs and effects is kind of tedious after a while, I have started to see it as a kind of ritual helping to create a meditative state for actual performance. (At least, that’s my aim - doesn’t always work!)
I’ve got a small eurorack setup (and a Moog Grandmother since yesterday), but some things in the case do actually tend to stay patched. This is the way I’m using external gear to run my sequencers and process some sounds. The rest is being patched along the way.
I patch, record, unpatch in a single session.
All that stays plugged in are pedals into my ADDAC200PI, and multiples to audio interface inputs to give convenient patch points.
When I had more pedals, I kept them in relatively fixed chains. At the moment I’m down to Tensor and Dark World for the modular, and an Analog Drive on my Reface CS. But once I pick up Mood, it’ll probably be in a chain after Tensor.
Got any suggestions for how to maintain a continuous output signal while repatching? I’ve struggled with this a bit. The need to make something happen right away can lead me to set up a simple patch that I later want to break up to change aspects, but that process usually means I lose that sound…
I usually keep a befaco stmix patched into RIP
At one point I decided it would be fun to make a small number of connections with cables of a certain colour and leave them patched for a long period of time - whilst still unpatching the rest of the system. I guess basically turning the modular into a semi modular.
It actually wasn’t fun though.
I seem to have accumulated a fascinating amount of different mixing devices. And some of them I combined into a fixed routing arrangement with specific cables I usually never remove. All other cables are normally being removed partially or completely after a certain period of time. Sometimes this may take longer, other times only one single shot.
Even though both those points have been mentioned already by several contributions above, I’ll just chime in to give them a little nod and attach some more weight to them. Nothing more, really.
I usually patch in either the 4ms SMR to create a drone (although a “macro” oscillator like Plaits is good for getting a drone up and running quickly too). Or I might start the disting playing back a spoken word sample, and while that’s happening start patching up some oscillators and sequencing. A good trick is to put the first voice through a mult so you can start patching a “copy” of it through effects/filters and then mix that in when it’s ready.
The mult idea is great! I should have thought of that…
If I’m composing melodic lines and I’m focused on actually writing something that isn’t meandering slop, then yes.
If I’m focused on alternatives, rhythm and gate manipulation with random sources, or finding new texture, then no.
I keep a few things often (but not always) pre-patched:
- The clock and run/stop from a mutant brain into Pam’s.
- The bottom 4 outputs of pam’s into the clock-in of a few random modules and LFOs.
- Er-101 track 1 cv-a and cv-b to the a input and mode selection of a quantizer (Argos bleak).
- The final output stages from a mixer, a tapographic delay, and a sewastopol (through a reverb unit) to my soundcard/mixer.
- Sometimes I’ll leave a rubicon/dixie/timber patched together as a “complex oscillator.”
Mostly I do this for cable-management purposes. Being able to braid the “permanent” patch points with cables of just the right length, etc keeps things slightly less cluttered.
There are also weeks where I’ll keep the majority of a patch in place so I can really learn it like an instrument.
The mandala comparison I think is a good one. There’s something about going back to a blank slate every time that seems to open up something new every time. New approaches that I may not have considered before seem to come out of nowhere for me this way.
More than that (for me), about letting go of what you worked for a while to create.
I guess for the sake of deep and detailed exploration it could be worth to keep part structure constant.
Not permanently, no, but sometimes I’ll leave some things patched in and out of my A-138m matrix mixer for several weeks at a time while the rest of the system stays in flux. Especially if I’ve been working on a physical modelling patch or building a sequencer.
I see that as well. There’s something to be said about being fully present during sessions and then letting go of them once they’re finished.
Yeah, I have one small set of connections that are always in place: Erica Synths MIDI-to-Clock connected to an Erica Synths Pico Scale connected to a 4ms Shuffling Clock Multiplier . The MIDI-to-Clock module will not trigger the SCM without a little boost. I’ve checked the specs sheets and found that some modules just require a hotter trigger, and the SCM is one of them.
I used to keep my Maleko Heavy Industries Unity mixer permanently attached to my Vermona TAI-4, but since I’ve added more mixers and stereo FX to the rack, that connection has become a limitation, and it only gets connected that way about half the time.