what if we spoke about electronic music making without using the names of equipment or manufacturers?

can the forum support this kind of conversation? can any forum?

if not, what does that say about the landscape of internet music communities?

say “a looper” vs “an octatrack”
say “an envelope” vs “maths channel 1”
say “a virtual modular” vs “vcv”

maybe we can have some kind of hybrid thread - discussion of the theme of the thread, and also its content.


i’m practicing for an upcoming gig and gassing for an analog drum machine - so i found some samples, loaded them into my sampler and made this

i found an interesting way to spatialize my sound here - the only stereo effect is my spring reverb run fully-wet through a ping pong delay.

i’m also having a lot of fun looping phrases, then shifting them up a third or so, then layering them back on top of themselves for tight guitar-like harmonies :slight_smile:


fully support 100% (and a lovely piece of music too, thanks for sharing that and the process in a way that gives me ideas to try out rather than a desire to buy something else)


I love this! I really think this type of thoughtfulness with language makes a difference. And have tried it here and there. Totally up for participating.

Apart from removing the hook for gear lust, FOMO, Joneses-keeping-up-with, and general material soul voids, it makes the ideas more accessible.

More people will be able to try out techniques or configurations with what they already own, and contribute meaningfully to these discussions. And hopefully spend more time making music than padding the baskets of online commerce.

[weeping, reaches across generic slew limiter for box of ‘Rainforest Mist’-scented Kleenex™️]

I mean, that’s a big part of what we’re all here for, right?

Full disclosure: I really signed up for this forum to join the club of people-who-own-that-pricey-premium-model-module-from-that-manufacturer-with-the-tasteful-graphics-and-powder-coated-finishes.


(Very curious what popped into peoples’ heads after reading that last bit, lol.)


20 characters of “fully here for this” :heart:


Totally wanna echo the above about avoiding gear lust. VCV Rack (with a good MIDI interface for the tactile satisfaction) has free tools to try more than every mechanic I could ever dream of! I try to only namedrop gear as a means of saying “this was useful and would be worth checking out specifically!”

Additionally one of my favorite part of wrapping up and presenting my releases is trying to write “liner notes” that would make sense to my (non-technical, non-musical, poet and essayist) mom. And still remain concrete—enough to re-implement with the right tools. Forcing myself to explain things as if to a grade schooler helps me understand and appreciate things again.


I love this idea. I’m in the middle of some big changes in regards to focus and process and would love to talk about it in a gear agnostic way. I’m pressed for time now, but I’m going to ruminate a bit and then post something that addresses the stuff I’ve been struggling with.


thanks everyone for chiming in with support for this idea! it’s cool to see people show up like that

i’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say, @tehfizzle


One of my best writing teachers gave a similar piece of advice: “Write like you’re telling it to your grandmother.”


As someone who is consciously moving away from chasing expensive devices towards a more DIY and simplified ambition, I’m really interested in this idea. Language is powerful, and I’m curious about how altering the way we talk about music-making might in turn alter the way ideas are received and internalised.


this is something i have tried to do in appropriate spaces. if i’m posting in a thread about _____ instrument, I might as well speak about it directly. to many people, who don’t know an instrument or a device, the cute name doesn’t matter.

I can speak about the appeal of a certain instrument I bought last year in terms of how I saw it: an instrument designed around pattern generation and rhythm, and related sound generation and treatment sources, most importantly a pair of filters, and novel controls.

I described another of my instruments at a gig as “i like pattern generation with a degree of control. I want to be able to capture and manipulate segments of audio and these are two things I’ve been working with consistently for a very long time, and I’m glad I can just buy an instrument or module that does these things for a ~reasonable price and not have to debug it endlessly in software. I like to have two of each section, not identical, but that work with and towards and away from each other.”

I don’t think a wider audience than “thread for this gear” really cares about the names or even has any sense of perceived social value. I say this with a lot of confidence rn bc no one at the two concerts I played in the past month cared about the nameless instrument I just briefly described above. They had not seen it before, they did not think it was something to talk about.

Instruments and devices appeal to me not because of their names or the perceived value attached to their designer or popular users. I can describe my synths based on a handful of shared traits that relate to and converse with how I enjoy and sustain my creative practice, and the spaces I am trying to articulate and find expression in.

lastly, as a musician who is also a listener. I don’t really care what you use! if there is something I enjoy in your work that I would like to work with, I trust my ears and my familiarity with my instruments to see how close I can get, and hopefully miss the mark in the best way.


oh heck, this is a fantastic prompt + reframing, thank you @zbs

i was just reflecting about this the other day – how helpful it is to consider the ideas underneath the gear + articulating why (and to which parts of one’s process) a specific product’s representation of those ideas appeals.

especially as somebody who, for the entirety of their first two years making music with electronics, only had a laptop, a cracked copy of a major DAW, and an entry-level 25-key USB keyboard – the ‘okay, but why does my heart start pumping more quickly when i imagine what buying a subharmonic bass synth could potentially help me explore?’ turned out to be both a survival mechanism and a springboard for filling in the gaps of my own education.

it’s funny to consider to what part of my being the current array of tools available, and (to the excellent point of this thread) the way others talk about them, would appeal / overwhelm / excite / stress me the heck out if i were starting now. i often wonder how newcomers (to lines, sure, but also broadly to using electronics to create music) might internalize or reject (or or or) the way music-making objects are discussed. do people come into these conversations seeking themselves, or just seeking to learn more about a product to purchase, or sorta both?

anyway, all to say, the way we model these discussions is (imo) critical. thank you all for stoking this.


I too love this idea, and it’s something I try to do not only on those rare occasions when I discuss my work publicly but in my own notes when composing and designing. There are certain tools/instruments that CAN’T really be described this way - eg a Mangrove isn’t really a VCO nor a traditional Complex Oscillator, and to actually describe the use of it in a piece would require some pretty intense integration of the technology it uses… though I suppose descriptive terms (“increase brittleness but enough to make it painful” ???) could stand in.
But for most of the tools of electronic music, I love the idea of taking the branding and bearishness out of it as much as possible. EG let a 12db LPF be just that.
I think this can also help one to think and talk about what one is doing, and what others are doing, in a deeper way.


i think you’re spot on about a wider audience. no one really knows or cares about all this stuff outside of gearhead internet communities

i feel it’s completely flipped on forums - things gravitate towards the gear instead of techniques… which is fine, of course. gear is easy and fun to talk about, and hey, some gear is really ridiculously inspiring and innovative. i love talking about it. i spend a ton of time on the “this piece of gear” threads here.


Instruments and devices appeal to me not because of their names or the perceived value attached to their designer or popular users. I can describe my synths based on a handful of shared traits that relate to and converse with how I enjoy and sustain my creative practice, and the spaces I am trying to articulate and find expression in.

this totally resonates with me and it’s exactly why i wanted to start this thread. thanks for saying it so clearly!

lastly, as a musician who is also a listener. I don’t really care what you use! if there is something I enjoy in your work that I would like to work with, I trust my ears and my familiarity with my instruments to see how close I can get, and hopefully miss the mark in the best way.

so here’s to missing the mark in the best way <3

e: also, -

(“increase brittleness but enough to make it painful” ???)

@brook - this is a great description of the control you’re talking about. since i know the module i know how the sound could be replicated on other gear.

but if i didn’t, and you had just said the name of the knob, i wouldn’t know how to extrapolate the patch to other gear.

maybe it sounds silly at first, but i believe (as @Matt_Thomas kind of said) that this could really affect a newbie breaking into the synth world


at risk of being only relevance-adjacent

while starting to compose music again in the past few years, i’ve slowly yet naturally started to tend towards describing it agnostically of any specific sounds at all

for example—do i want a drum beat, or an ostinato rhythmic accent? the relationship between squares and rectangles feels very comparable

i like the way distilling common tools and even techniques to their functionalities and employing them as such results in a structure within which any number of materials might ultimately fit

in the spirit of this sort of thing, i have a couple questions for @zbs about the extremely-enjoyable track above…

how did you generate the somewhat-stochastic rhythmic pattern of the main tonal voice, especially in the intro?

also, could you tell us about the subtle variations in the pitch of the noisy percussive sounds? strictly filtering and gating?


I’m glad you liked my track!

The stochastic lead voice is a bank of oscillators tuned at octaves and fifths. they’re each indkvidually strummed/plucked/struck by their individual clock divider. the clock dividers are getting reset once in a while.

all oscillators are getting sent the same simple pitch sequence. the arpeggiation effect is a product of the bank being struck at different rates. then it’s sent through a noise-modulated bandpass

the intro is a loop of the same thing, at half speed.

the noisy percussion is some synth shaker samples being played back (filtered noise). the pitch (and therefore timbre/filter cutoff) and envelopes are being modulated throughout by hand and with p-locks


I’m glad you chimed in - I’ve been thinking about your album (Wilderness and Luxury) as I’ve been dipping my toe in and exploring what I want modular to be for me. I know I’m not the first to mention but your approach to modular has been refreshing in that it would be hard to name just by listening the specific brands and modules you used, you seem to coax another response from them specific to your needs.

So maybe some nameless questions for ya. :slight_smile:

Do you have a definable approach to getting these gear to push past their initial boundaries? Do you even start with the “typical use/sound” modules and then go “okay now let’s make it mine”?

How much of this is patching related? Can you high-level describe any of these patch approaches?



describes my entire artistic trajectory for at least 20 years now.


TL:DR scroll to the gif. no promises as to whether I answered anything but I hope there is some insight here and I’m more interested in a dialogue than a concrete statement.

I think you should hold on to “specific to your [my] needs.” like, literally any reverb does not overlap with my needs. I’m not going to spend time there. there are thousands of accounts ready to tell you what you should buy. I’m not them. I don’t know if I have a “definable approach” mostly because I haven’t worked to define it with language so maybe here we go?

because I have been working in a more or less modular workflow for a very long time (most of what I look for in hardware these days originates in software tools I built or modified), I understand that a single instrument’s performance for me is not based solely on that instrument or section. the ___ should work because I have a place for its initial palette and (basic) understanding of its interface, and can move other materials around to accommodate, express, expand. I understand that I can make a “typical use” module “mine” by locating it within my larger palette and my practice. I read the manual, not thoroughly, but are there openings for me?

I have some basic things I like to do with control structures - to interpret and obscure and distribute and try to bring back together as something coherent, expressive - I tend towards time-based instruments for this: buffers, granulators (not so much delay). my use of ____ doesn’t “sound like” _____ because I use it as part of a larger relationship within the instrument. functions are often duplicated: there are two pattern generators, two modulation generators, two voices, two filters, etc. Wilderness And Luxury is almost all modules you know from reading threads and I recorded most of it on headphones sitting on the floor in our bedroom while my child did “chill out time.”

very few modules or instruments get sold within the first year - I want to honor my intention/inspiration and thought and trust myself a little. this is also how ____ doesn’t “sound like” _____. I don’t have a clean and quiet studio and undisturbed time to be like “oh yeah well this was a mistake bye” within a week. I’m also not trying to make a {insert genre} album for release on {cool label} in the next year.

I tend to build a system and I practice. I spend maybe 2-3 weeks determining if the selection is close enough. I practice. that’s right:

I tend to leave patches in place for a while. I find where relationships are happening and let them do their thing.

I think I’ve been doing more or less the same thing for phew a while, I think 10 years ago the brother of a musician I was performing with a lot said “you always seem to be bringing the same sounds and approaches when everyone else always has something new.”

when I was I think in 2nd grade an art teacher said “don’t come to me and tell me you are finished” which is a lot for an 8 year old but it has totally stuck with me and I’ve come to understand it as, “this is the time you have to work on this art, use the time. it is not ‘better’ because you are done faster. the point of the class time is not to finish, but to work.” yeah I’m doing this for you, the listener, but I’m also doing this for me. we do have the experience together, and I put a real premium on enjoying the work I do for that.


Ooh, I want to play. Lately I’ve been obsessed with a certain patching technique to get euclidean-style rhythms (the rhythms are actually a superset of Euclidean, but many of them have a Euclidean “feel”). I’ve now tried it on a variety of equipment, from software to hardware, so it feels good for this kind of thread. This is also a way of getting euclidean rhythms without any kind of computer, in all-analog.

Start with a clock that’ll be your finest division of rhythm. Divide it using your favorite clock division technique to get a measure (counter-based or uninterruptable-envelope based). Now patch the “measure” clock into the reset of an LFO oscillator with a hard reset, with frequency set somewhere between your finest division clock and your measure. The frequency of it will set your “euclidean fill”.

Now you need to “quantize” the LFO to the rhythm. To do this, you can patch the LFO (through an optional comparator) into the Reset input of an SR latch, and the original clock to the Set input. The output of the latch will be your rhythm, use it in health.

If you’re without a handy SR latch, you can attempt to patch one up (I have had mixed success with this), or you can make sure the original clock is narrow triggers and gate that (or AND it) with the (bipolar) LFO, which won’t be as euclidean-like, but will still be good. If you’re doing that, experimenting with different LFO shapes will give you somewhat different rhythms.

No recording offhand right now, I am out traveling.


This thread makes total sense, especially when considering the gap between discussions about electronic music practice and those for any other instrument which are usually pretty nameless.
You don’t need to read Stratocaster when learning about bends and hammer-ons or Stingray when learning slap.