Instant harmonic companions

Speed is key. I produce my most satisfying work when I’m able to build and make decisions in fast improvisations. It’s important I have options for on-the-fly, reliable expansion or contraction at my fingertips wherever possible.

Lately, the approach I take involves generous amounts of time shift, time warp, or pitch shift applied to a sound source to generate harmonically and texturally related companions that build into full orchestrations. Nothing revolutionary, but it was a big step forward for me when I started achieving this in real time using some Eurorack gear. I try to get a signal flowing through Qu-bit Nebulae v2, MN Morphagene, Strymon Magneto, and Mutable Clouds and build all my other “parts” along that path, further processing and transforming the results as they part ways and become their own entity.

I don’t have much in the way of a music-making background, so this workflow has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’d love to explore more methods in this genre.

What are your favorite tools for rapidly growing musical parts from a single seed in real time?


Marbles is nice for this – feed it your melody line and let it play counterpoint.

Red Panda Tensor can do this well also. Sometimes it feels like it’s accompanying me improvisationnally. Shifting in pitch and time, reversing and randomly jumping but also synching itself to the rhythm.


2 square wave lfos and a gate delay patched into each other…maybe get an envelope in there too

I’ve really been digging Marbles, but only as a starting point. Are you referring to the external scale functionality? Haven’t touched it yet myself, but that sounds like an ideal way to widen pitch option. Will certainly be giving it a try, thanks for the reminder/tip!

Saw a video on the Tensor awhile back and looks interesting and fun as well. That’s precisely what I’m looking for AI-approximate accompaniment.

This happens to me sometimes with the Echophon. Can be wonderfully surprising.

My music partner and I have been developing a similar approach, working with very simple synth and drum loops and then using effects to add texture and harmony. We’re currently mostly using guitar pedals (EHX Hog and Ring Thing are current faves), but I’m looking into some modules to replicate the effects and make things more compact. Currently looking at the Erica Black Hole DSP and the TipTop Z-DSP, which has several cards that feature pitch shifting.

The sampling input. If you clock it separately and set the X mode to green, x1 is basically just a quantizer, and x2 and x3 are shift-register versions of x1. But if you let it clock from the t section and/or start messing with Deja Vu, it will rearrange the values it samples.

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Brilliant. Definitely going to have to give that a go - can’t believe it’s taken this long but I appreciate the motivation and reminder to try it!

Can you elaborate? Its kind of on the tip of my tongue but I’m not quite there.
I’m trying to patch something like @pATCHES is contemplating in the ER 301 as a kind of variable backwards delay with speed being modulated to pitch shift to harmonise.

I think i can do all this but what should i modulate?

Yes yes yes, and also square waves patched into pitch control – I’ve found that, especially with some delay or reverb, basically any strobing pitch modulation adds an incredible amount of scale to a sound. It’s even better when the modulation gets close to audio rate and the two separate notes start to sound simultaneous.

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I use this as a “sequencer” so with this simple setup I have all the cv outs triggering a bunch of “voices” like envelopes controlling filters and vcas etc etc. Idea is to have the lfos interconnected so one affects the other in a circle…then u play around with them and generate really neat machine grooves. You can also then use these same signals mixed together to modulate pitch to get melodies. If you check out the Buchla 281 quad function gen then its pretty much that vibe in a much more vanilla setup


Sounds right up my alley, I’ll definitely have to have a go at this. I could see dedicating my o_c’s quadrature mode to this sort of thing to great effect.

Do you have any recorded examples of your own output using this technique?

I usually have 3-4 voices, some or all tracking the same 1v/Oct source, and then I just manually mix their levels and timbres. Funny enough I made an example of this yesterday on instagram:


I’ve gotten a lot of luck with this kind of workflow by carefully choosing primitive waveforms and using touches of wavefolding or distortion to bring out certain harmonics relative to the fundamental. Automating or CVing those distortions can give you very easy compositional control on top of the simple melodies you’ve already got going on.


just a small cut of a recent jam…this bits pretty funky

ya quadrature sounds cool id love to try me one of those soon


Really great mentality. I’ve been discovering this slowly but surely with the help of Mangrove and Cold Mac. Can end up not-so-simple pretty fast, of course, but it’s been a healthy path for me to set myself out on.

Good tip!

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Excellent, definitely lives up to your descriptions, thanks for sharing!

Sounds swung at many points, is that strictly by dint of the overlapping points of the square waves’ cycles? Are there any types of logic (XOR, AND, etc.) you’ve tried feeding them through that yielded particularly interesting results?

Love the serendipity involved here!

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Cheers man!

Yeah its just 2 lfos and a gate delay thats moving everything. Where one lfo is retriggering the other and they are running at different rates.

Pulse waves and PWM are also great as LFOs in this kind of patch.

I find things get much more interesting and fresh when you treat your entire system as the sequencer. I read an autechre interview where they said for them the lines between synth and sequencer are blurred and back when i read it i was confused but now im happy to finally be in a similar space.

About logic yeah ive not used it proper but ive had good fun with a maths on a friends euro system and that is absolutely great for this kinda patching. On the maths I would use the OR SUM and INV outs.

Whatever you can do to manipulate timing is bound to make things interestings. Just gotta find that balance as you increase the complexity and interconnectedness.

When I patch I usually make my timing and cv connections first to set up a good reactive system and then focus on the groove and timbre. Melody and harmony usually finds its own way out somehow.

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@dspk talked about using Aleph to similar effect in this set of posts a few years ago, totally blew my mind.

My favorite version of this kind of approach was a PD patch that had two delay lines that could go really long and could feed into each other. Send a guitar or a synth into it, play with the length of the delay, feed into each other. Good good fun.