Kria melodic sequencing sounding "unmusical"

Hi guys, seeking a bit of help with Kria regarding melodic sequencing, and didn’t find a similar question in the forum. The tl;dr would be that my melodic sequences always feel off, regardless of how I go about them. I believe it is not due to failing to understand how the module works, as rhythmically I can come up with complex polyrhyhtms and so on.

So, I am recently new to Kria, but I am struggling to (fully) get what I want out of it, despite following the manual and the video explanations available. I struggle in the doing rather than in understanding, if that makes sense. I have understood all the different parameters and the basic patterning options as well as how to set up looping phrases in differing length, the caveat is I am not getting along with the melodies I can program; the actual notes. Any combination sounds “off”, not unlike quantizing a S&H.

My idea from watching others use Kria was that I could set up complex interacting melodies in a relatively intuitive manner. For example, I planned to use the grid visual cues as a starting point for melodies that I can further tweak to fix the sour notes. But, when drawing a shape in the note page, all of them are sour notes, they just sound off… very unmusical. It doesn’t matter how short the phrase is, if it is slow or fast, or how many voices I set up - even when setting up a single voice, I cannot seem to write an interesting melody. It sounds too close to what I’d get quantizing voltages out of envelopes or sample and holds. I have tried all the combinations of envelopes and scales, but I don’t seem to get it right, and this is honestly frustrating after seeing wonderful examples of Kria sequencing, which I tend to like regardless of how simple the patch is.

Any ideas on how can I get better at it, or solve this? Maybe understanding what note each position in each row of the grid exactly represents in cents? Maybe tweaking the scales section? (been using the default equal temperament one). Maybe I should tune the oscillators in a specific manner? Maybe I am failing to see that most people put a quantizer after Ansible?
The point is, I don’t really know what it is that I am doing wrong, only that I am not doing something right; and without being able to create a simple initial melody I am failing to flesh out a more complex sequence and put to use all of Kria’s complexities.

Thanks in advance!

I would start with setting up a very simple system, like just an oscillator, vca, and envelope with short attack and decay. Then I would go with picking the Ionian (major) scale and then see what happens when you are choosing notes in the sequence. For example, try putting in just a triad once you’ve set the Ionian scale (put notes on the 1, 3, and 5 or on the grid it would be, from the bottom in each column: 2nd pad, 4th pad, 6th pad. Sounds like maybe equal temperament scale could be making it hard…

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Can you check that everything is actually in tune? Maybe there’s something up with the intonation on your Ansible module or your oscillator? I would try first just alternating octaves using the octaves page and making sure that they are actually the right note. (Ideally using a second reference pitch that’s droning on one note and then tune the oscillator that Kria is driving so that it’s bang on, then go up two octaves and see if it’s still in tune.)

I had a similar thought. For me ansible always sounds super musical after just punching in a few notes and octave changes (which almost feels like cheating). Definitely not like a random sample and hold thing.

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I find tuning oscillators to Kira helpful in keeping everything in check.
Just select the first button (2nd pad) on the note page and your 3rd row on the octave page and tune to C3.
Now you should be able to select any notes and you’re god to go!

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I’ve also always had to calibrate my ansible, but I think you should be able to get good results unless it’s really out of whack.

I have found ansible to be particularly musical, although what that means I think is pretty subjective. Needless to say sounds like you might be having intonation issues. Perhaps a video/audio example of what is happening would be useful?

Just to be sure you’re talking about eurorack?
If so, have you tuned your oscillators?

Thanks for the replies!
Yes, it does sound as intonation issues. Additionally I also noticed I am having issues with timing when having more than one track unmuted… So there might be an issue with my ansible. I need to research a bit more on that in the Kria bugs thread to see if this has already been mentioned. Luckily it’s a firmware problem rather than hardware (if there’s a problem).

It’s worth mentioning that my ansible had previous owners, so maybe I should install a new firmware / recalibrate / reset the module? Will get the latest from github and try installing it. Is there a way to troubleshoot wether there’s a problem with the module itself?

@simonvanderveldt, @cosmicsoundexplorer, @SimonKirby Yes, this is eurorack (Dixies, to be exact) Usually I have tuned before patching, but not too good of a tuner. Is there a preferred solution to check tuning across oscillators within a case? A regular tuner would work, right? That’s what I had used. Maybe I was tuning for the wrong notes, I will try the steps @cosmicsoundexplorer mentioned. Regardless, even after tuning I tend to get “sour” notes quite often. Also, is there any diagram that shows the note relation across the grid? I assumed each square were semitones and each row was an octave.
@David_Rothbaum I will try to record an example to see if it’s any use.
@marcus_fischer I was assuming it was a fault from my part (like I was not using the grid “properly” to select notes, or something similar) and hence why I was asking if there’s any way to improve. I had seen your sentiment shared before and I have the same impression by listening to pieces created by Kria users, it hardly ever sounds in the way mine does. Which sets me off because I couldn’t possibly use it for improvising as it is, as most patterns I come up with sound off and require lots of tweaking.

@Whatwetalkabout Thank you for both your replies. I will try the Ionian scale method you mentioned. What do you mean about “always having to calibrate” your ansible? I haven’t found info on this on the monome docs.

Perhaps there’s a way to format it back to default? This way I could check if the issue persisted.

Sorry for the length and bringing even more questions. I am trying to research it on my own across lines and the docs, but don’t seem to have much luck. Appreciate you guys

Any tuner should be fine (I use an app on my phone sitting next to the speaker). But note that if this is an intonation problem (which it sure sounds like) then you’ll need to tune it first at one octave and then check it an octave or two higher to see if it’s still in tune. Just light up all the buttons on the trigger page, leave all the buttons on the note page at the bottom and lighting up different rows in the octave page.

You should also try different modes on the ansible and see if the problem is the same. Earthsea is particularly handy for this sort of thing because you can simply try different notes by pressing a button. You should be able to tell within seconds if it sounds in tune or not.

Even without a tuner, you should be able to tell easily if you have two oscillators droning away. Just tune them so they are in and then change the note on one of them with ansible. It’ll be immediately obvious if they end up going out of tune once one of them is a couple of octaves higher than the other.

One final point to remember… if you are using analog oscillators, you can expect intonation to be a wee bit out when they are cold. Finally, even with a digital oscillator you may find intonation not to be perfect over more than a few octaves. This is because modular synthesisers use analog voltage to carry pitch information and so even digital modules have to convert between a precise pitch and a continuous voltage and the circuits that do this vary in how good they are. This is true both for the oscillator receiving the control voltage and the module sending the control voltage (in this case, Ansible). In my own experience, Ansible and Teletype are pretty good but not perfect - you can hear that they are out over about 4 octaves or so, and different sockets on each module will vary differently. They are better than other digital modules I’ve had, but not as good as others (my Distings, for example, are incredibly precise). I do find it a bit frustrating, but such is the nature of electrical components, I guess. Ansible does have a procedure for tweaking the intonation, but I’ve not find mine to be out enough for me to bother with it. I wish Teletype also had such a procedure, but that’s a debate for another day :slight_smile:

If you do find that intonation is badly out, I would check with a different voltage source to see if you have the same issue (to ensure it’s not your oscillator). If you’re convinced it’s Ansible that’s causing an issue, then get in touch with monome because it may be a hardware issue. Their customer support is legendary!

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Ok, it hadn’t occured to me to check with the rest of the modes as well. I’d say my problem doesn’t sound like the oscillator is tracking badly over octaves, but more like no two notes ever work well together (if that makes sense?), it sounds as if scales were being switched constantly, even with simple short patterns. Since discovering this other problem I mentioned in my last post (this problem with fluctuating gates when all channels are unmuted), I have played a bit more with it and this certainly seems to aggravate the problem as the clock freezing affects the pitches and thus, the perception. When the clock lag occurs, notes sound as if they had slight glide applied and as if the sequence swinging, and this is only monitoring one track output. I will post an example of this clocking behavior in bugs or at this point I’m considering contacting monome directly. Just to be clear I will try updating ansible’s firmware before doing so, and see if this solves both problems.

If you don’t have a good tuner you can also just tune by ear, you can hear the phasing. Or use a phone app they are good enough as well.
As @SimonKirby said check with different octaves. And as a general tip always tune with the sequencer connected to the v/oct, otherwise it’ll be off once you plug it in.

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I’d reflash the firmware before doing anything else, personally. It sounds like a previous owner might have borked something with ansible’s tuning.

If that doesn’t fix it, calibration might be needed.

But also, just for kicks, could you post a photo of the scale you’ve got dialed in?

If all else fails, your Ansible might need a quick trip back to HQ.

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Yeah, as I said, that’s what I will do. Probably should’ve done it first thing after getting the module… I guess impostor syndrome came so hard that I was assuming the module was going over my head instead that something was not working, and forgot to check the technicalities of it. But now with the clock being off I am pretty sure something is up.

I will come back to report if the firmware change solved anything at all or not :crystal_ball:

Edit: The ansible turned out to be running quite an old firmware version and upon updating it it became obvious that something was weird in its config - the quality of the light displayed in my grid was different (contrasts were more clear), and the lagging clock was somewhat fixed (still get it on fast clocks), but there’s still something off which I need to solve, so I’ll take it to more pro hands.
Anyways, thanks so much for the replies and ideas; it’s nice to learn that it wasn’t me who didn’t “get” how to be musical with Kria…