Freedom from choice

Continuing the discussion from How to make a sound:

i’m a big believer in constraints. but also flexibility.

teletype has a very limited syntax. it’s easy to learn. and the fact that it’s easy and small means creating scripted interactions can be fun and explorative in much the same way that patching typically doesn’t require heavy concentration.

teletype has (what i consider to be) a rare quality which is easy entry and usefulness, but also incredibly complex possibilities if you choose to go that far.

what other instruments/modules/etc are out there that are intuitive to approach but also have deeper engagement?

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Rene can be quite simple, especially in snake mode, but once you start using the Mod Ins and the Fun page it can get quite complex. It also marries very nicely with TT as it has knobs…

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I’ve found the Elektron MachineDrum to be the this way as well – very immediately awarding (using preset drumkits and basic drum sequences) but an incredibly deep machine (especially once you get into the synthesis/samplers/LFO routing).

First piece of (non-guitar/pedal) hardware I bought, ~6 years ago now. Still things to learn and internalize about it.

Imagine other Elektron gear is similar!

The Roli Seaboard is intuitive to understand, but difficult to master, much like a traditional acoustic instrument. I imagine the same would apply to the other Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression instruments (Haken Continuum, Linnstrument, Eigenharp).

Dolores Catherino does a great job of demonstrating the difference between the Seaboard and the Continuum in this video, then goes on to coin a term for microtonal music: “polychromatic”. The reason for the new term becomes clear as she explains her color-augmented traditional notation system. Again, intuitive to grasp, but it would take a lifetime to master the concepts she’s talking about.

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I think I’ve built maybe two scenes for the Teletype and maybe three for the Aleph that I use constantly. I my approach to these open boxes is to design little systems that fit what I want and then treat them like any other “closed” module. Then when I want to switch things up I can code something new instead of buying something new. You can do the same with Max etc on a computer, but for some reason there’s a bigger psychological block. maybe it’s just learning curve.


don’t forget the Soundplane in this lineup!


Absolutely! The omission was entirely unintentional.

Was Earthsea tuning inspired by Soundplane? It is as easy to get a handle on as Grid/Earthsea? I thought I would struggle with the grid but I have managed better than expected…

I have two kids under 5 and a full time job so I can relate to being very restricted in terms of time. But I’ve found the TT very quick to learn and the possibilities it offers give me a lot of inspiration. Working at a computer all day I’m very keen to not use a computer in music making if I can help it, the TT opens up a range of generative functions that make this much more possible.

But it does have limits, some of which I’m looking forward to seeing change when v2.0 is ready, it doesn’t feel like a bottomless pit - more like a flexible and useful goo.


drums are usually very limited in scope upon first inspection…especially a single hand drum
our voices

those are my two favs because they are intuitive/accessible yet infinitely deep


all my personal biases are showing thru but i must add

a mixer


I remain convinced that all music (even the most synthetic inhuman computer music) relates back to our voice in one way or another.


I think I’d say voice or drum. We may have been banging on things even before we started to sing.

however speech and language existed before tools and musical instruments (drums)

i’m inclined to believe songs came first


it is the most perfect instrument…i was just ruminating the other day about how crude and limited cv and triggers are in comparison to the similarly electronic pulses which control the muscles when singing


Mr. Patel here seems to agree with you:

Specifically, I proposed the “vocal learning and rhythmic synchronization hypothesis” (henceforth, “vocal learning hypothesis”), which suggests that the capacity to synchronize with a musical beat resulted from changes in brain structure driven by the evolution of complex vocal learning. Complex vocal learning is learning to produce complex vocal signals based on auditory experience and sensory feedback.


We’re straying a bit off topic here… but one of my fav Autechre interview moments:

Q: have you developed any personal theories as to what music actually is?

A: yeah music = speech - text

at least roughly - i reckon it’s a kind of super-developed version of the pitch and intonation parts of speech (the aural bit that doesn’t contain textual info)


Those guys are the best ^^

This primacy of the voice is one reason I’m interested in software that pulls digital data out of audio signals. Many variations on this idea exist, but I am drawn to the UI in this app:

But the challenge will always be pulling enough resolution in to live up to the acoustic reality. But such tools are useful in a number of ways (learning/analysis, transposition, etc).


Haven’t tried it, but I’m told the pitch tracker on the disting works really well.