Guitar and Modular Synthesis

Didn’t see any existing thread on this, so thought I’d start this off.

As I get deeper into modular synths, I’m noticing a ton a guitar players who have crossed over. I’m not surprised actually, but as a life long guitar player I’m quite curious about the transition and/or integration for others. What drew you to the synth from guitar? Do you still play guitar? If so, has it hampered your practicing? Has the time spent with synth altered the way you play? Are you trying to combine guitar with synths? What are your challenges?

I thought this could be an interesting topic of conversation. I’d definitely have my own thoughts on this but curious on other peoples’ journey first.


Guitar through modular is pretty much how I spend my time, though for better and worse I’ve gotten better at prioritizing guitar practice over guitar-and-synth practice. This is what I’m running it through, plus a Norns and a Grid:

I’ve yet to make much use of Crow, but I will in time. The Morphagene and a few other things will likely go away to make room for a Zoia Euroburo, though I may go with the standalone version of the Euroburo. I have a Hardwire RV-7 reverb, which I generally put the guitar through before sending it to the modular. I use Walk a lot, with a pair of pedals. I have half a mind to get a second Walk (or Walk-like interface).


Other way round here, went from over a decade of modular craziness (24u of Frac at one stage), to mainly acoustic guitar the last four years or so, and never looked back. Only modular stuff I own now is the Grandmother. I’ve had more musical ideas and finished more tracks in shorter time than I did when doing only electronic music. But of course they can be very complimentary too, no reason not to run you guitar through your modular!

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This is way oversimpllfiying the trajectory, but…

I started playing guitar when I was 11 (learned a lot of Pink Floyd, Blink 182, and Ramones songs) but eventually just felt uninspired by it and started gravitating towards guitar-based ambient and drone in high school. That eventually grew stale and I moved on to noise boxes. Which eventually grew stale and I started with Euro in 2017 — which I’ve binged and purged since. All the while, I’ve continued to play guitar, but mostly just strumming some chords on the couch. I do play guitar in a band, but it’s an “industrial drone” band, so still mostly just strumming chords.

To me, modular is like pedals v2. My approach to pedals was often on my hands and knees twisting knobs. Now I have LFOs and envelopes and slopes and attenuated random and audio-rate sources to do that for me! I have played around a bit with guitar into modular (mainly for waveshaping and some Echophon fun) but I’ve never loved the results. Honestly, I think it’s just because I’m a bad guitar player who falls into the same pentatonic ruts. That said, I’ve really dug feeding guitar into Max/MSP looper and delay patches, so I bet I could get some mileage out of a Morphagene, but just never gone down that road.

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I’ve been playing guitar for 19 years. Modular allows me to explore sounds and ideas that would be difficult to achieve with guitar. I never got into DAWs because being chained to a mouse stinks. I still play guitar and it’s still my main instrument.

I consider my electronic music as a separate line of practice from my guitar-based music. If anything, I’ve been bleeping/blooping less lately because I’m focusing more on writing on guitar. I will say that learning about synthesis helped me refine my new found pedal use for guitar.

I’ve never been interested in running guitar through my modular. To me, it seems like the world’s most expensive and impractical pedal board.

I’m playing guitar to or/and through my eurorack setup. It’s the way I intended to use it when first I started getting into eurorack five years ago. Before that I made similar tunes but more sample and daw based.
I don’t use my modular as a pedal board, the guitar is more like a conductor that sets the tempo with some help from an envelope follower. This way the modular can add a little orchestra to a small and simple guitar based tune.

Here’s an example of that envelope follower thing that is not that good. I’ve deleted most of my videos:


So, I’ve been playing guitar for almost 30 years. Gotten pretty decent at it. Can play a bunch of different genres (blues, rock, country, fingerstyle) but have always been drawn to more ambient/experimental stuff as well. I’ve been into synths for quite a long time too, but didn’t discover eurorack until about 3 years ago. Ever since I made the jump from semi-modular (0-Coast, Mother 32, Mini-Brute) to full modular my guitar playing has fallen by the wayside drastically. I was big into pedals as well but I ended up selling most of my ‘cool’ boutique pedals to buy modular stuff.

I acutally have found that I am way more productive than I have ever been in my musical life since getting into modular. Even though the gear addiction is in some ways worse with euro, I feel like the big difference is this… with pedals, I felt like I’d spend so much time just noodling with a new pedal, to try to hear these really subtle differences in ‘tone’. Fundamentally most guitar pedals just alter the timbre, the don’t actually create any music. In contrast, many of the building blocks of modular are instruments, so every new thing I got would be something that would improve my instrument, and potentially give me more composition tools.

Getting into modular also coincided with the birth of my son, quitting the last formal rock band I was in, and a shift of listening to way less structured music as well. Modular has really allowed me to create in the moment in a way I never have before. With guitar, I was either practicing technique, learning something new, or writing a song with the intent of it being played by a band. With modular, I usually sit down, build my patch, then record a few takes live, and I’m done. I start over again every time.

I really love this workflow, it works well for my lifestyle right now. But, I’m really trying to figure out ways to reincorporate guitar, because I feel like guitar and synth is a largely unexplored territory (compared to straight synth and or just guitar), and because since I’m much better at guitar I feel like I can react in much quicker and more expressive ways.

My problem is that often when I do try to bring the guitar back in, it does sound and feel a little cheesy, because I have a tendency to go back to over playing a little bit. I’m still trying to figure it out, but one thing that has really inspired me is this:

Trying think of mays to use guitar as more of a controller for synthesis, or trying to change the synthesis to respond more to guitar.

Still an ongoing process for sure.


Yeah this is rad!!!

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There are a couple of more guitar based tunes on that Instagram account, but I must say that I’m not that comfortable in making videos while playing on my stuff. There’s an album of some sorts in the making with this setup. I hope it will be released later this year and I also hope there’s an interest in listening to it too…

Thank you! Super simple patch (if you got the same modules that is :wink:)

Here’s something I did the other day. The sound source is all coming from a guitar loop. There’s a bunch of processing through a filter, Morphagene, Mimeophone and tape as well though.


For those that are running their guitars through modular, what are you doing for an ‘amp’?
Just direct? I’m currenty running the guitar from pedals into the Doepfer A-119, and it sounds really like garbage if it distorts. Also, I’ve always preferred the sound of the real amp, but in my experience playing live with a guitar amp I sometime gets unwanted grounding and noise issues, and its just another thing to carry if I could just go through the pa. Is anyone using any amp/cab sims?

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this is what i wanna know. do you get limited to a good “out” module to mixers only?

The idea in this thread was my original goal but got distracted because i liked the bleeps and blops of everything else too. I over complicated my rack and now its not what i had intended. I never wanted a “pedal board” for my guitar, i wanted a live processing unit with a few tools to accompany my guitar sounds. I loath hunching over messing with pedals. On top of this all,I had hoped to do it in a compact arrangement. I’ve failed miserably! re-evaluating my who setup now and scaling way down.

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I’m mostly doing this with acoustic guitars, but I also use my electric from time to time. When I use an electric guitar through the eurorack setup I normally let it go through the pedals and let one of them with a stereo out go into Ears (from Mutable Instruments) and the other output from the pedal into the amp. But I’ve also miced it up and then into Ears. Whatever rocks your boat I guess :+1:

Ears has enough gain and sounds good?

I use Mutable Veils usually, recently into a Meng Qi Please Exist. I’m going to start experimenting with the gain on a Boss DS-1, curious if that will get me where I want to go–the Veils exp gain is pretty twitchy.

Honestly I feel like the strymon iridium is the perfect companion in this scenario

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Mannequins W/ makes for a great looper.

Depends what I am doing really. Recently my fave “patch” has been my electric guitar into a Fromel Seraph Deluxe (dimensional chorus like the Dimension D SDD-320), then one output of the Seraph goes to my guitar amp (Deluxe Reverb clone) and the other output goes to the input of my Moog Grandmother (filters and spring reverb mainly, although with patching the sky is your oyster), that then goes to a Chandler TG2 pre/DI and then to one of my ATC monitors. Once you get the balance right it’s a super wide stereo image with all kinds of goodness. For recording I can record the DI signal or slap a pair of KM84s on the amp and ATC. The Deluxe Reverb also has a pre-speaker DI out that can be useful if you want some tube sound in the DI. So it depends really, just go wild and experiment.

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I recently sold almost all my guitar gear to get some modules, so at the time I’m just using an ART Tube MP (I also tried the mixer’s preamp alone, but it was not enough) , plugged into my mixer then sent to ears or clouds via the aux buses.
Works good enough for the moment, but I’m thinking about getting a more guitar-oriented preamp.

+1 to Iridium

I either take the output of that through Ears or an external preamp (Golden Age Pre 73 or whatever it’s called), and then often into a filter to get rid of some high-end (there is so much whiny/buzzy electrical interference where I live. My studio spot is literally next to where all the electrical comes into my building).