New to modular, system advice needed

mod edit: thread has been closed due to general inactivity and content crossover with Eurorack: ask questions here, which is the Sticky thread for this topic.

i was hoping i might get some advice?

i’m new to the modular game (although i have been making music with analog synths + whatever else for sometime now) and have found myself lusting after Mannequins! - trouble is i’m not exactly sure what they can do, or how useful they would be in my system?

i started off trying to build some kind of crazy percussion machine but i was thinking i should add more modulation / filter capabilities. looking at my system, does it make sense for Three Sisters and Just Friends to be there? and if anyone has any other ideas on how to fill the remaining 5hp (top) and 4hp (bottom) i would be most interested to hear you opinions.

thanks in advance.

Hi

You have no separate VCAs or envelope generators. I think a number of the modules have built in VCAs or work with triggers, so you could get percussive sounds out of this, but I’d suggest that you’d be really limiting your possibilities with a set-up like this.

Hope that helps - not trying to be blunt but there is much more to discover with a few tweaks here.

thanks for the reply, blunt is good! i was thinking about adding a 4hp ADSR, so if i were to follow your advise i could also add a 4hp VCA. would that be adequate? or perhaps a couple of each from 2HP?

I’m not sure, but perhaps @Autogeneric was suggesting you build an entire subtractive synth voice, which would suggest some kind of oscillator as well. Just Friends includes its own oscillators (polyphonic if you add a Teletype), envelopes, and level controls. But they don’t work the way a typical Moog-style subtractive voice works. I don’t think you really have room for both.

i want to avoid building a tradtional subtractive synth which is why the Mannequins modules hold so much appeal. perhaps i should leave Just Friends, and keep Three sisters, then fill the gaps with some bread and butter modules? i am tottaly curious how JF would work with the LIP tho!!

What you have planned now is basically a bunch of smaller synths sitting next to each other but with no or few subtle/interesting ways to modulate or control them (both CV and audio, though they’re essentially the same).

With that system you basically have the two Malekko modules controlling everything. That’s not really a modular. Order the “voice” modules you really want by priority and get them one at a time and add things like VCAs, LFOs/envelopes (things like Function/Maths/MiniSlew/A171-2/etc. are super useful and flexible in that regard).

Also, you have many sound sources but few ways to alter these sounds after they get out of the module. Add some effects, filters, wavefolders, etc. Having a small reverb and delay in a modular can give a lot of depth without relying on external geear, for example.

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thanks for your reply.

i thought the Just Friends module was a good alternative to Maths but with extra voices. is that not adequate? i’ve pretty much settled on my voice choices - if anyone can suggest specific modules to coincide with the LIP/Elements especially using the remaining HP i’d be very interested to hear what you have to say? i’m hoping i can fit a filter alongside a function generator/envelope and vca. will that be possible?

i should point out i have more than enough external synths and plan to use external effects when needed. i will look into the A171-2 - i’m not entirely sure what a slew limiter does.

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What oscillateur said. I wasn’t suggesting building a substractive synth - though Jason, I am naturally inclined to that approach.

An example. Modular synths don’t have a concept of velocity. So from an individual sound source, you’ll get a percussive hit, with it’s dynamic envelope, but with a constant velocity. So you’d need to run it through a second VCA to get a bit of variety in the overall volume of that hit. And then use an attentuated modulator (via your quadratt) into the VCA that already had an offset.

Another example. The BIA (I don’t have one) is famed for it’s performance under modulation. With an additional VCA on the CV and offset on the CV you can pick an small wavetable range to modulate, and then use the VCA to sweep that range up and down for even more variety.

In the example above, what you might want to do is have the wavetable change at every hit. So you’d need to synced staircase voltage using a sample and hold. And also potentially a random value to feed it. So I’d also add a random module.

So I’d look at:
VCAs
Voltage controlled Envelope generators (not sure if JF can do everything you want here)
Random module plus S&H - (wogglebug; URA)
And chuck in a Disting as well as that would provide some FX, but also a load of utilities that you don’t know you need at the moment.
This is purely really subjective, and you’ll get a lot of different advice. But I’d be concerned that what you’re proposing is expensive and wouldn’t get you a lot of the fun parts of the modular approach.

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Entirely subjective: I’d scrap Elements and the Percido and add a function (Maths/Rampage/Quadra/Toppobrillo 281/DUSG/whatever), some random generator (Wogglebug/Sapel/URA), a quad VCA (Intellijel, Veils, Tangle quartet).

But my real advice would be: do not buy everything at the same time, because what you plan is most surely not what you’ll want when you start to know it. Modular is known to take you into territories you didn’t know existed before.

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Yeah, going slowly is the best advice you can get :).

If you use an Intellijel case then I really recommend their Noise Tools 1U module. It has white and pink noise, a fixed/random clock generator, a sample and hold/track and hold and a slew limiter (not voltage controlled and with a relatively fast max time but still useful).

I was going to say that. You don’t need two quadratts, and noise tools is handy useful things.

On a train, so typing is hard, but basically +1 to what everyone has said. You have too many sound sources and not enough sound shapers and utilities. And the way to discover what you need there is often incremental - “what this stew needs is”.

I’d also lose Elements and the LIP - they are huge and you don’t have the modulation tools to support them.

I appreciate you don’t want to build “subtractive” voices, so think about this approach - cribbed from Olivier Gillet:

You need a combination of sound sources, sound shapers, modulation sources, amplitude shapers. A sound shaper in the east-coast subtractive model is a filter - but it could also be a folder or resonator or harmonic tool. A modulation source is an LFO or envelope… but could also be a function generator. You can shape amplitude with a VCA or an LPG. You still need the building blocks.

And whilst some modules combine this - Mangrove has its own internal VCA - it is useful and, indeed, modular, to be able to decompose them.

One more note from a tiny keyboard: think about UI. The 2HP stuff is really handy and increasingly diverse; it’s also quite fiddly. If the Env is your only envelope - will that get annoying? Will that stop you using it as much as you might?

Finally - I’ll definitely second gettingrg some kind of dual function generator. It will open your eyes to all manner of things faster than anything else.

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thanks for the reply everybody, so much to chew, it really is appreciated!

ok, point taken, too many voices and not enough tools to manipulate them! I will have a think about which voices to drop, most likely the LIP which will give me a bit more room.

i must be missing something with regards to wrapping my head around what the Just Friends module could do in this system. having read the manual it seems to be similar to Maths but with added voices, yet having judging by the replies here, it seems i’d better off with Maths etc. there’s something i’m not getting.

i’ve just had a little play on modular grid and grabbed modules based on everyones opinions without any much forethought. does this look like a more improved system? thanks again everyone for your time!

I think re: Just Friends and Maths, some people really want to be able to tell the function module, “Ok, it goes up for this long, down for this long, and that’s that,” which Maths is good at. Just Friends has a lot more up its sleeves, but it might take a bit more familiarity to jive with its workflow. I think JF is a really good fit for the system, since you can either use it as a bunch of LFOs, a bunch of envelopes, or an oscillator family. The modulation from JF will just always be inter-related by time and shape. With Maths or similar you can have two truly distinct functions.

But seeing as you’re throwing in a Batumi, I feel like that’s probably plenty of extra! It depends on how you like to set up your modulation; I prefer something like a JF/Batumi, because I’m not always looking for super precise, one:one, or similar modulation.

Honestly I think a system like you’ve laid out will take you to some interesting places.

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One of the reasons I stopped posting “what do you think of my rack?” type things is that I eventually realized that one person’s “you’re doing it wrong” should really be translated to “that’s not how I’d do it”.

It’s so much easier to talk about “how do I achieve a particular effect?” or something along those lines. “Rate my rack” just seems to lead to mutual disgruntlement, IMHO. It’s too bad. It’d be nice to be able to have more constructive conversations along those lines. But eurorack lends itself to so many different approaches that the possibility space just gets overwhelming and the written language just seems to fall down on the job.

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I dont really know the modules you are suggesting, but I can give you experience of 5 years building up my 6U.

Start slowly, some of my happiest times were just having a handful of modules and really wringing the best out of them…

you will soon realise where you want your (modular) music/sound composition to go, and that should inform your module choice… this is 100% more important than anything on the internet for telling you what to get.

where a module is overtly digital, think about where you could use a plug-in/pedal to achieve the same, does it need to be CV controllable?

Utilities, Utilities, Utilities. they might be quite Vanilla, but they allow you to focus into a single element of a patch and fine tune the modulation or vary the outputs in an interesting way.

Multiples
Attenuators
switches
S/H & T/H
ring Mods
Noise sources

hope this helps you and anyone else reading this…

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as far as confirmation bias goes this is exactly what i wanted to hear! :0
i should probably switch the Batumi for an ASDR tho. i forgot about that!

agreed, it’s good to start small and work your way inch by inch. the trouble is, understanding the utility aspect and figuring out what modules do to radically transform a system. understanding how a VCA will affect sound drastically is something i won’t know until i try one first hand.

i’m finding it helpful to throw a rack of ideas out there as it gives me some inkling as to how i should think about the space i have to play with. everyones opinions are very helpful thus far even if they differ tremendously.

In some ways a VCA is the easiest module to understand. It’s an amplifier. Controls amplitude. Basically, a volume control, but not only for audio signals, you can also control the amplitude of control voltage signals. Modulating a VCA with an envelope is how you can simulate the decay of a percussive sound, for example. Or you can use a VCA to make the depth of an LFO less extreme (or more extreme). etc.

Does that help? I really wish there was a module library so you could check modules out and try them before buying. Words really are pretty limited for getting at this stuff. Youtube can be really helpful too. Just type the name of any module you’re curious about into the search and watch as many videos as you have time for. I find a video to be worth thousands of words.

That being said, I do highly recommend giving vcvrack.com a try. It’s a free highly realistic simulation of a modular synthesizer, and it features a lot of well known digital modules. I use it all the time. Somebody just made a wiki page collecting all the modules people have published so far:
https://github.com/vcvrack/rack/wiki/list-of-plugins

Good intro video:

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thanks, that’s really helpful!!

what’s confusing me, is i assumed using an attenuator/ attenuverter would be doing exactly how you describe with a VCA. but having listened to everyones feedback, it seems that there’s a difference?

it does make me laugh - so often i will watch an in-depth tutorial on a specific module and to a laymen such as myself all i hear is sputtering noise. then i read the comments section and people wax lyrical about the module being the best thing since sliced bread and how this was an awesome demonstration. please don’t take this as me being negative, but i’m starting to realise it’s the process / journey that led to the end result that people are applauding, and that is what makes it so exciting. it’s going to take a long while before i can watch these videos and understand what is truly happening. its more like watching scientific experiments in real time imo

Some people do a more thorough job than others with explaining what’s going on. I’m fond of DivKid for doing well with this. Unfortunately there are plenty of modules he hasn’t gotten around to yet.

An attenuverter can attenuate (synonym for diminish) or invert (make negative if positive, or make positive if negative) a signal. An amplifier can amplify a signal (change its amplitude). There are overlaps in the functionality, but not total overlap (as in many things in modular). Another thing you can do with signals is offset them (increase or decrease the voltage of the entire signal. This is different from amplification because it moves low voltages with high voltages, rather than pushing low voltages further away from high voltages). Finally, there is mixing of multiple signals.

Understanding voltage control is key to understanding modular. Then there’s the next level, which is recognizing ways in which voltage is similar/different from audio, and why you’d want to treat them the same/different depending on your goal.

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