Eurorack: discussion, advice, learning, questions

I prefer Function functionally anyway. They’re similar but not identical :slight_smile:

If I were starting over, I’d either go for Maths again or a couple of Contour 1s, and a Stages.

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Not really sure if this is the best thread for it, since it’s more about process, but I’ve noticed I’ve been kind of “stuck” on relatively simple subtractive patches. Now to be fair, I quiet like subtractive synths and their sounds, but I’m wondering if I’m not missing out on a lot of interesting other stuff :slight_smile:

This is my current setup

It does include an ultrafold which I added to try some wavefolding, but so far I’m not really liking the sound. And the same seems to be the case for FM (although I only have dixies so far, I’m not sure if the sound would be a lot different with other oscillators).

I’m starting to wonder if it’s just the inherent sounds of these ways of modulating/changing sound that I don’t like or if I’m maybe missing something (for example more/multiple modulation of the wavefolding/FMing or some cross modulation) since many people seem to be really enthusiastic about things like FM and wavefolding.

Anyway, long post :stuck_out_tongue: I guess my questions would be:

  • Am I missing anything in my evaluation of these more west coast style synthesizing practices?
  • Anyone else have the same experiences? If so, what did you do?
  • Any suggestions to get out of the subtractive patches routine?
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i am not an FM expert but I’ve not been very happy with my Dixie under FM. FM has been most interesting to me with Mangrove (you can modulate formant, air, and barrel which modulate the waveform in more subtle ways than straight FM not sure the technical term for this maybe it’s more like phase modulation? but I’m not certain). I’ve also played around with a couple complex oscillators in shops (DPO and Hertz Donut) and found those really intuitive and exciting ways to build weird sounds and use FM in a slightly more controlled way. My first step looking at your rack would be to trade a dixie or two for different sound sources — samplers maybe or CO.

I think the thing that really would make this set up more fun though is more modulation. I see you’ve got pams and o_c but, especially with crow in there, i would recommend just friends! Maybe this is a good middle ground between an option which gives you more modulation, a different flavor sound source, and it plays well with a new toy so you’ll want to engage with it! Other modulation—I also really like sloths to mix in some sort of chaotic (repetitious) randomness, and personally just like modulation that’s a bit more tactile than those screen options (I imagine you might be using at least one of those dixies in LFO mode now that I think about it). lastly i’d say ditch things you feel like you “need to have” but don’t feel excited about and use the things that make you excited. It can sometimes be hard to tell what this means but there’s no better barometer for what’s gonna be interesting to you than what you instinctually think will be interesting :stuck_out_tongue: hope that doesn’t come off sounding too silly!

PS I’m biased by my own limited personal experience so please salt to taste :slight_smile:

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Ah, good point. I’m in the US, but I find it cheaper to import Doepfer modules from Schneidersladen. They charge 25 for shipping though, so it only makes sense if you’re ordering three or four modules.

I think you mostly go for subtractive patches because it’s the most obvious way to control sound in your rack. To break out of that I’d look at some modules that don’t necessarily require a filter:

  • Rings - it’s a complete voice or a weird filter with its own distinct sound
  • If your Supercell has parasites firmware try experimenting with resonator mode
  • Plaits - I’d change one of Dixie’s for it. It’s like a Swiss army knife of an oscillator and also a complete voice with built in LPG and timbre controls:slight_smile:
  • I’d also look at filter that has LP, BP and HP outputs so you can use it as a crossfader, resulting in more range of sounds. I personally like 3 sisters and Qpas for this.
  • and I definitely second recommendation for Just Friends. I think it’s best eurorack module :slight_smile: it might need some attenuation though. Depending if your modules have built in or not
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Ive had a similar experience with modular…
so my post is from my personal experience, as Im still inexperienced in modular.
(loads of experience here on lines, I’m sure they’ll chime in - I look forward to hear them too)

I think it’s a pretty natural phase to go thru, as many of use are drawn to the familiar and go down familiar paths.

For me, familiarity meant, I loved the subtractive synth sound, thick with a prominent filter,
and even worst, I was so used to big lush pads sounds - which I wasn’t going to get from my (small) modular.
I knew that wasn’t what i was going for with modular, but I think it meant i found it difficult to stray from that path. so, I’ve had to fight my natural inclinations, but means Im still a bit of a reverb junkie :wink:

To me, your rack looks well balanced, (I assume you use O&C as a modulation source)
I don’t think you need anything new.
I found the temptation is to think I was missing something, so kept adding new modules looking for inspiration.but I think you start making progress when you are kind of ‘bored’ with what you have… that stage where you know what it can do - thats when you start experimenting, to find something new in what you have.

FM, I found can be difficult… as small changes can result in big changes in sound.
but you have the basis of a 3op voice - so perhaps mess with feedback, and small changes.

I found subtly is a big part in all of this, its why I like modules with built in attenuators,
perhaps a little FM , or a little wavefolding thats being modulated subtly might be more to your taste.

also I deliberately tried to find things I could not do on my others (traditional) synths,
eg. I really like to do audio rate modulation of the filter, or introduce unusual feedback loops.

west coast - I could never really emulate, but it was fun to try, so I created complex waveforms via fm, a bit of folding then use a LP filters as a low pass gate… also pinging filters, which seem to work better on some filters than others.
in the end I wasn’t trying to emulate, rather just experiment to see what new sounds I could make, and find out if i liked them or not.

anyway, I think I’d just keep experimenting with what you have, once you find a direction thats working… that might be a time to think if another module might be more suitable.


(*) random tip, I like to watch youtube videos on modules I already have… to see what more talented people can do with them… that usually makes me realise Ive not explored their potential yet :wink:

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Thanks for the comments/suggestions!

These two points are probably a large part of it: since I like and am more familiar with subtractive synths this was also pretty much what guided the module choices which makes the current setup pretty subtractive focused which then reinforces only doing subtractive patches :slight_smile:

This seems like a good suggestion. I should probably sit down and experiment some more with my current setup, especially the subtle modulation part. I’ve never been very good at determining which modulation works for what, some more studying/learning seems like a good move.
It would also allow a gradual shift away from/on top of the subtractive patches which probably suits me better than trying out a full west coast approach in one go.

No, this sounds like a good point to me :slight_smile: I do this for fun and there are definitely some modules that don’t make me excited. I should probably get rid of them, not replace them immediately and learn more about the modules that remain and their interactions.

What did you not like about FMing your dixie?
And yeah, some other oscillators instead of dixies probably won’t hurt :slight_smile: It’s a bit too much of the same like this I think. Complex oscillators I’m not sure about, they are all rather large and rather expensive. Not sure if I’d want to commit to that especially since I’m not sure yet I even like the sounds they produce. Might be a good idea to try some out in a shop (or at a meetup) as you mentioned.

I’m slightly wary of what @TheTechnobear mentioned: Buying new stuff in hopes of that it changes everything/is going to be the inspiration I’m looking for. How do you handle that?
But this doesn’t mean the suggestions aren’t valid of course :slight_smile:

I’ve had Just Friends and Plaits on my potential modules list for a bit and especially in combination with crow Just Friends seems like a rather appealing module. It is slightly difficult to fully comprehend the possibilities as a non-user to be honest, but from the videos I’ve seen it seems like I definitely like the synthesis option so I guess I’ll just look a the (probably very awesome) rest as icing on the cake :slight_smile:

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Definitely wasn’t pushing you into buying anything :slight_smile:
It’s also difficult to advise not knowing what you want to achieve with your modular, sounds for samples or full compositions.
I am advising from a latter point of view.

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Oh, no problem, I didn’t perceive it as such at all :slight_smile:
Very grateful you took the time to suggest some things to help me out :slight_smile:

Good point regarding purpose: I’m going for full compositions, more specifically I’d like to work towards being able to do a 45 minute to an hour liveset. Was planning ±4 voices for this + drums.

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dixie is my only non-mangrove oscillator, but basically sending anything into linear FM input with the attenuator I feel like that little pot goes from 0 to 100 real quick and I have a hard time getting anything too interesting with it as the carrier. I’ve definitely had more success using both flavors of sync, or using at as the modulator. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong though and overstating it since so many people regard it as a bread and butter oscillator :stuck_out_tongue: I should probably experiment more!

definitely the technobear is right about avoiding the instinct that you’re missing something. something like the CO — when I tried it it was very much a “this is so cool! Also, now I know I don’t need it right now”. Sometimes paring down, like what i said about only keeping what’s interesting, even if it’s temporary and you don’t sell the things right away can help — like, okay I’ve got 6 modules left here what’s the connection I haven’t done before, what’s the weirdest thing I can do, and build from there. Along these lines 3 module challenges can be fun and inspiring sometimes :slight_smile: not necessarily musical but can push you out of the box towards a deeper understanding of your system.

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Also what do you want to control as part of performance and what are you ok with just running in background?
4 voices mean you need 4 trigger sources and 4 envelopes? Do you want to CV the envelopes? Do you want them to be related (Just Friends) or all separate (Stages for example).

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I think this is one of those “you don’t know what you don’t know” situations for me.
Naively I would say I’d want to control all four voices (I was planning on extending Kria on norns to support 7 tracks (4 pitch+trigger from Ansible + 3 trigger from crow) and using microcell for texture as well as filler during transitions. But there might be better/easier/more interesting approaches that I’m not aware of.

My initial feeling on envelopes would be separate since I was planning on four separate voices but I have no experience with related envelopes so can’t really say if that would work better/if I would like that more.

What would you suggest/what have been your experiences?

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not sure about whats possible with crow (I’m sure it’s similar, but most examples I’ve seen have had JF in sound mode), but with teletype you can control JF in shape mode and control them individually or have groups of related envelopes :slight_smile: They’re never completely independent because the shape and time that you set for them is related based on the knob settings. Related envelopes can be cool for polyrhythmic stuff or having things going in rhythm but different clock divisions (or in a subtractive synth set up opening and closing a vca and filter at the same time).

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@simonvanderveldt
an area I’ve struggled with/still exploring is balancing the number of voices with creating interest.
I bought quite a few ‘voices’ , but the issue is for every voice, I found to make them more interesting, I needed lfo’s, env’s, vca’s… and potentially attenuators, and mixers. these all take up valuable rack space.
(then there are other interesting modular items like cv switches which might be fun)

imagine a desktop (mono) synth that just had one envelope and one lfo… it be considered pretty light on modulation… many these days will have at least a couple of each.

so the concern in my rack, is that id end up with lots of voices, but they might end up quite sterile.

in fairness, my rack is focused around MI modules, which contain built-in attenuators and vcas…
but still I realised that to get the most out of these modules, I want to be modulating them…
(clouds/microcell is an example that I really like quite a bit of modulation on )

I’ve also started exploring mixing CV modulation signals to create more interesting shapes, but again, that needs more vcas/mixers.

now this is very personal, but for me, its seems this is where modular is different, you have so many modulation possibilities, and thats an area I enjoy playing with.

thats not to say this is necessarily relevant to you/your rack, you have quite a lot of modulation source, but 4 voices might require a lot of modulation/control.

I guess at the end of the day, we all have to balance rack space and what we want / need :slight_smile:

a kind of general question… of canvasing of thoughts here…
my feeling is that modular voices take up quite a bit of ‘space’ and are often a bit more ‘complex’ that traditional voices, so you don’t need to have that many to create some nice pieces.
so perhaps you can get away with fewer voices?

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I’ve found analog FM to only really be useful in combination with wavefolding. Wavefolders really latch onto complexity in a waveform and bring out all the overtones you’d expect to hear from FM that you can’t get in analog without the carrier beginning to detune.

@simonvanderveldt I think you should ask yourself whether you like “west coast” sounds in other people’s music rather than what you see other people get excited about using. Make the sounds you like hearing.
I think you could put on pretty much any song that would make you go “that’s a damn good synth sound, I wanna sound like that” and be able to replicate it on your system.

I’ll throw in one more technique that people haven’t mentioned yet, which is amplitude modulation. AM sounds great in combination with wavefolding, filtering, sync sweeps (Rossum came out with a huge expensive module based around just this concept). Lots of fun.

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As a bit of context, I mostly do ambient evolving stuff. What I found out is that the faster something moves, changes, the more control and precision I need. But as a creative I tend to get better results when I’m curating modular, I don’t like programming stuff in and don’t get good results from trying to achieve something specific.
At first I got Stages for envelopes, but since getting Just Friends I use stages as harmonic oscillator exclusively. It lets me quickly change the feel of the patch, without trying to control individual voices.
Most of the time I use 2 oscillators for bass and melody and derive everything else from there. The key for me is to have initial sounds to be rich.
@TheTechnobear is right about needing a lot of modulation, I’d also add that having different effects helps

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I might suggest Warps – it’s a relatively small and inexpensive way to dip your toes into “complex oscillator” territory, since you can use its internal sine VCO (with TZFM) and wavefolder at the same time. It also will do ring modulation, vocoding etc. and if nothing else, you could just use it as a basic crossfader, VCA or extra VCO.

Warps was my introduction to West Coast sounds. I only let go of mine once I had a larger setup with a Hertz Donut and a uFold.

Another choice might be a SynthTech E352 or an IME Piston Honda. Both are excellent wavetable VCOs which support TZFM. Lots of sound possibilities there!

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In regards to wave folding - I’ve had several different wave folders and they’ve each had their own sound. The Ultafold sounds quite different than the uFold which sounds different from the Doepfer a-137-1 etc. I went through several and have settled on the Toppobrillo Triple Wave Folder, both for its sound and it’s flexibility. It might turn out that you don’t like wave folders, but it could be that you don’t like the sound of the Ultrafold and might fall in love with something else.

You probably already know this, but just in case you don’t I’ll mention it anyway - wave folding works best with sine and triangle waves. They do have an effect on saw waves but it will sound pretty distorted (too many harmonics); they won’t do much of anything to a square wave. Also, pay attention to your input level; it can have a huge effect.

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i was just about to write everything that @hinterlands said :slight_smile:

i have the uFold and really like it’s sound. i attenuate the sine osc (out of atlantis) quite a bit before running it into the wavefolder.

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Good advice above regarding wavefolding. You can also try to subtly introduce it into traditional subtractive patches. For example send a very short envelope to the fold cv when you trigger a vca on a new note so that the folding only occurs very briefly at the beginning of your vca envelope before the note rings out in the decay or release stage (or alternately fade the folding in as the release fades the note out, etc), use a folded sine as an fm modulator (as always, attenuation is your buddy), run your folded signal into a different filter and keep it low in the mix… you can also have some fun running LFOs through your folder.

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