Eurorack: Meditations and Ruminations

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The Doepfer A-100 System Power Connectors (source)

Eurorack exploded over the last few years; now most manufacturers make most everything in multiple iterations. I wanted to find a space to pontificate on the format as a whole. Many people seem to have bought in and sold off, occasionally multiple times. We’re now drowing in choice.

I feel like we all have a lot to share about both where we are personally, but also the state of things and where they could still go – or even fade away. Many of the most prominent personalities in the format have branched out into traditional music hardware. The end of 2019, when I’m starting this thread, seems like a good point for reflection.

This thread is for meandering thoughts and feelings about eurorack: the format, your journey, or however it finds you.

I find my system shrinking and consolidating - a general goal, but I’ve also been building a system-as performance instrument unto itself, so it remains mostly patched and changes are a substantial undertaking even as I need to explore specific parts of the system.

I’m a eurorack purist, so everything goes in the rack – not as a judgement call for others, just how I’ve chosen to work to constrain choice. I’ve also sold a lot of modules that I liked along the way. I miss having a system to explore on, so I’m considering a second system. Then again, this format is expensive, and do I really have time for two or more systems, even if I can spare the means?

I wish it was easier to internally normalize connections behind the panel. If semi-modularity had been evolved into the format as an option, my system would feel much more flexible.

One thing that is easy to underestimate, is how much eurorack system design is like collage. You get to a point where you need a smear of ancillary modules to rotate in and out of your system as it breaths. In that way, it can be more expensive than you anticipate or imagine – even if a big system is antithetical to your goals.

I also wish more modules were open source. When dealing with tools, it can be frustrating when a quirk of a particular design becomes a hamstring for your creative workflow.

I appreciate that eurorack lets you experiment with a lot of different people’s ideas without having to build everything from scratch - that’s one of the reasons I got out of Max. Everything turned into tool building and not performance. That’s still kind of true, but eurorack puts hard caps on that, and I’ve built up more confidence in my own creative ability and expression as a result. I am still tempted to take what I’ve learned and implement it all in software, build a controler.

But if I did leave it, I’d miss it. :zap: :control_knobs:

I can see why so many people come and go.

(I went digging for a thread like this and couldn’t find one, so if I just totally missed the obvious, feel free to consoldate this topic – I’m kind of shocked it doesn’t exist?)

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That’s what I do with my system. Most of it remains patched and woven or bundled. Behind the panel would leave the face patch-points free to override, akin to the normalized connections on something like a Mother-32. You could also solder connections and cut traces internally if you didn’t care about resale ever, but that is a bridge too far for me. :grimacing:

The Doepfer standard also includes their System Bus, which some modules take advantage of, but was clearly designed with the ethos of very early modules in mind (one transmitter for gates, one transmitter for CV), rather than, “I always want Pam’s channel 4 patched to the Mimeophon’s clock input as a default.”

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I get further into my experience with eurorack and, specifically, composing almost completely within a 7u system (I do have a palette on the way for an incoming er-301 though). I am completely enamored with eurorack and it never ceases to amaze me in its potential and ability to inspire me. I also feel overwhelmed at times when looking around at what others are making, how they are making it, and then evaluating my system often with the determination that I want to add something or expand in order to achieve some sound or goal I have in my head. I think I’ve done alright at selling/replacing and refining my system to where it is now, and hopefully the 301 will further this process.

I like what @grey said about systems becoming a collage that is in constant flux as I feel like this is the reality of the format. New ideas can likely be achieved with a static set of modules, until they can’t. New modules get swapped in and out to serve new purposes, which is what is becoming appealing to me.

I’m still finding my sound, but right now I’m feeling really inspired by Elinch. In studying his work and his systems, I really like his approach. He’s able to squeeze so much out of a 6u system, and his pieces with his 9u setup are also inspiring, leading me to thinking more about continuing to refine module choice in line with my artistic goals.

I guess all this is to say that so much is possible with eurorack, and the challenge seems to be finding what clicks, and staying there for long enough to really hone in on a sound and approach, but also accepting that there will almost always be energy towards changing up the system.

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My eurorack journey started 2 years ago with careful planning and a certain goal. I was worried seeing all these people spending 10.000e for a system that seems to have no end. For me personally it’s an instrument and it has to have limits and depth. Practicing on it is essential. I only got 1 module wrong which I had to sell: the 4ms SMR which I got for the envelope followers but it was a big disappointment. Currently my system is almost complete. I’m missing a MI Marbles, Maths and some utilities and I’m done!

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Back in 1981 as I was graduating from college, I got a Korg MS-20, which I still have… I am still in awe of it, I suspect it is conscious…

About 5 years ago I got a small Pittsburgh Modular System 3 or something like that on the quasi recommendation of a fellow faculty member at Berklee who is incredibly deeply into all aspects of electronic music.

The system was pretty disappointing in terms of what I could make it do (it was just too limited in terms of the functionality), but the format was immediately addictive…

A bit later I got a Mother 32 and started to intermingle the two instruments, which was more enjoyable indeed…

My endless hours of web surfing had led me to the conclusion that if there was such a thing as a west coast orientation, that’s what I had…

Another year or so went by and I put together a Make Noise skiff with some west coast oriented modules, Maths, Wogglebug, Rene 1, DPO and Rosie… At that point my head exploded and I was hopelessly down the rabbit hole :crazy_face:

I discovered Lines and Monome mostly through Stretta (also a Berklee faculty friend) who introduced me to his student @ellips_s, who very kindly spent some face to face time with me showing me his ISMs rig and opening my mind to the incredible potential…

I began putting together a monome/Mannequins case, which is still in progress (oh, Teletype, where are you?)

I also managed to get a Shared System Plus, which I’m dismantling to add a Mimeophon, QPAS and Xpan…

I’m breaking out a separate skiff for controllers, since I’d like to be able to use them with either the MN or the monome/Mannequins rigs…

I now officially have more stuff than I have time to learn quickly, but I’m learning as fast as I can and loving it immensely… I tell folks that it gives me a similar feeling as I had riding my bike as a kid… wheeeee!!!

I’m not worried about releasing anything or gigging, those will come if they’re supposed to…

All in good time, my pretty, all in good time!

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I’m happy to see this thread pop up. A lot of what’s been said would have been incredibly valuable when I was (not all that long ago) getting into the format. Luckily a lot of the ideas are spread out throughout other threads, and I spent a lot of time here after seeing grids mentioned in passing at MW.

This was incredibly fortunate for me. I kind of caved to peer pressure of posts and videos I’d seen of people get grief over their racks that had things I liked. I spent a long time building something that would be “different”, but what does that really mean anyway? I was lead to think a one manufacturer system was wrong in Eurorack and more was better. Something about trying a bit of everything, then you’ll know what you like.

The idea felt like cyclical consumerism to me, and I noticed my thought patterns churning in an unending cycle of suffering under the guise of enabling creativity with the perfect combination. I looked back at the rack I planned, 9u and many thousands of dollars and it didn’t seem to really fit together or even inspire me anymore.

I read something here during that time and can’t remember quite what it was, I hadn’t made an account yet to bookmark little bits of wisdom, but essentially I started to watch videos of music I enjoyed and studied what was being used. I found a common theme on modules I gravitated towards to be Monome/Mannequins. I planned out a small system and cut it in half for a reasonable starting point with room to grow. 6U 60HP case seemed to be enough room to be comfortable but concise enough to let me focus.

It was a good moment, I didn’t feel like I needed to ask if the system worked, I’d seen the modules together in countless demos and videos. I also didn’t feel like I needed approval, this was something I was doing as a creative outlet for my own personal enjoyment not to make someone else approve of how different I was. It should be common sense, it is in almost every other facet of my life, but it wasn’t for me in this instance, for whatever reason. Maybe in part because there’s a small galaxy of options and it’s overwhelming from the outside, plus I was excited and impatient to dive in.

I haven’t had it very long and every time I turn it on it’s a little intimidating, but once I get going it’s pure joy exploring the sounds and learning a little more each time. It’s been relaxing to learn a bit about each piece of my system, rotating through the module that I focus on with each session. Each patch gets a little more interesting and intentional.

There’s still temptation to want a second system so I can try some of the other really inspiring modules out there. But everytime I get that itch, I just turn my system on and get lost in what I already have. The other stuff will always be there and I’m thankful for this community for being a constant reminder of that.

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I loved this video from hainbach and found it very inspiring in terms of not taking any perceived notion of what the eurorack instrument should look like, it’s modular after all! This is something I, and I’m sure many people, already know consciously but it’s good to be reminded because it’s so easy to get trapped into “no system is complete without—” “you need this to do that” etc. A case full of filters and with very little sequencing is evidently perfect for hainbach at this moment, to the point where it’s bleedingly obvious that it would be from his test equipment music but I would have a difficult time imagining how it would work in practice, and even he tried to build a different system first instead of going immediately to what he really wanted.

I’m not really playing similar music to hainbach necessarily, but I think these principles are great to apply to any case (heh). For example, it seems he’s using pressure points as sort of a presets recall rather than a traditional sequencer—something I plan on experimenting more with on teletype. I’ve been re-lurking on this thread which I so enjoyed when I first started looking at lines. I don’t want to overcrowd with modulargrids, but I started getting interested in eurorack because of bastl, and would have invested in a rumburack if their availability and my money had ever matched up—now that I have a few modules and a case and stuff I’ve watched a couple come and go forlornly. But below is an instrument I was thinking of, an adapted rumburack with a rhythm section and a synthesis and loopers section:

adapted rumburack

The case I have already is a 6U 70hp, so I was thinking—how do I adapt what seems so fun and playable about this to what I have? For some reason it doesn’t seem to work—everything I want to add when I expand to 70hp feels like it becomes a less interesting thing, it looses focus. Even if I just add things I already own it doesn’t feel like adding oscillators, for example, adds that much to this set up. Even the infinitely useful triple sloth feels like it muddies the purpose of this imaginary case… I find that to be an interesting phenomenon and something to bear in mind as I go forward. More is not always more sometimes less is a more expressive or experiential instrument.

I’ve been playing a lot recently with manually triggering samples from my bastl grandpa into a w/ destructive loop, building up jittery rhythms and using grandpas granular and pitch shifting capabilities to create different layers. Part of me is like: if this is the type of music I want to make, does it not make more sense to get a bastl microgranny and thyme and do something like this? I’m quite sure at this point I’m not done with other forms of musical synthesis so I’m not taking that leap in the short term but it was interesting to consider, especially because in that formulation grandpa—three sisters low pass—w/ controlled with cold mac I could do in much less hp.

rack I'm working towards


this is mostly what I already have, except the 2hp AI modules, the 2nd W/, tromsø, and contour 1.

This is what I’m working towards at the moment, I will probably not make those additions for a few months, but just to sort of illustrate my goals with Eurorack. I don’t want to go any bigger than this case (and as already illustrated I sometimes wonder if I should have gone with something smaller) and I think teletype really makes this possible. I am far from proficient but it’s capable of filling in so many gaps it kills that feeling of needing something else so effectively. I want to continue using grandpa as a sampler, but I don’t think I need “spa” (which I currently have) and I want to replace it with tromsø because its always seemed appealing and fascinating to me as an effect (analog downsampling? i mean c’mon how cool lol), and it’s got some utilities that can be used separately. Just Type as modulation source and contour 1 as a supplement to that which provides some modulation with patch-programmability that is so appealing about the serge approach (and which I love about cold mac and theoretically tromsø). A 2nd w/ because looping is very inspiring and at this point I find it the most appealing way of creating rhythms with movement (need to experiment more with “delay” and “drunk” in teletype). Some of what I’m thinking about here is inspired by this thread, so here’s some rules or guidelines of my approach based on what I have liked so far:

  1. Analog is more comprehensible for my tiny brain
    1b. (if it’s digital can teletype do it?)
  2. Patch programmability (or analog/menu-less multi-functionality) counts for major real estate in a small case
  3. Random becomes music in a loop
  4. Compression and Feedback; or the Gospel according to Cold Mac—building “effects” in rack is more interesting to me than the thought of lugging around pedals (although I think maybe i can have a little delay as a snack, one day :slight_smile: ) Tromsø for example appeals to me because it’s precisely this type of thing—three modules in one, with normalizations of course but capable of being separated as well.

This is perhaps not an altogether clear or concise rumination, but I’m thinking through things and I was looking at a lot of threads here (including the ones I linked and this one) and I’m so appreciative of what other people shared I hope this is interesting or useful to someone! And I wouldn’t be mad at a revival of this or any of the other threads I linked—the lines backlog is so wonderful, if you’re newer here use the search function for any old things you can think of and random and golden threads will emerge every once in a while :slight_smile:

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Interesting thoughts! My comments after reading:

  • I’ve seen people play farts with a 12U modular systems
  • I’ve seen people playing an hour long amazing sets with a 6U 64hp systems
  • Every module is a tool. Having a lot of tools is good if you can take the time to understand them, and can use them properly and to their full potentials.
  • Making a small system with an idea behind it, using different tools you already have is my personal goal. I would like to stop buying stuff at a certain point, and I do want to make a great collection of high quality and versatile tools. That’s what highly productive artists do.
  • Be creative with the tools you have. If you see something that opens further possibilities and sound worlds, go get it. Don’t believe the hype. Most people are buying and selling. We make music.

Cheers.

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So true—-I did this with guitar a long time ago. Got rid of all my pedals with the goal of creating those sounds or vibes just using a clean guitar. An impossible goal, but one that became an ongoing creative process—-as opposed to a purchasing process.

I’ve sense gotten some eurorack stuff and pedals, but always keep the impossible creative based goals as the main focus.

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