Starting point for "structured"/sequencing based modular setup

So, I’m slowly, but inevitably, being sucked into the black hole that is modular :slight_smile: Had my first fiddling around with them today at the local modular shop and now I’m looking at figuring out what to start with.
Since there’s such a large amount of experience with all kinds of modular setups here I was hoping for some guidance. I’m a total newbie at this, so I hope I’m not asking any crazy questions :stuck_out_tongue:

I believe the best start is to identify some modular “tracks” that I like that would the direction/kind of possibilities I’m looking for. I think I’m looking for something somewhat structured, i.e. with beats/bars as the starting point with added variations and randomizations.

I quiet like the following examples and would be very happy if I’d be able to create something that’s even remotely like any of these examples. Also, reflecting on these examples myself I think I like the “live” aspect of them quiet a lot. I guess that’s one of the things I’m looking for vs sitting behind a computer screen and clicking the mouse.

Really like this one. Reminds me of decade ago James Holden/Nathan Fake. Would love to be able to make something like this.

A bit Massive Attack like I guess, maybe a bit too much “wall of sound” for me, but still really like it as a more downtempo example

Not a full “track”, but really like the sound of this :slight_smile:

Also I noticed I quiet like euclidean rhythms and the polyrhythms one can make with it.

I don’t know if it makes sense, but the initial question I have is what method/module of sequencing to start with. It feels to me that the sequencing is the start/hearth of the whole thing that’s why I think it makes sense to start there. Not sure if that makes sense though.

Are there any sequencing methods/modules that fit really with for the above examples? Or methods/modules of sequencing that don’t fit at all?
I think I quiet like being able to easily see the pattern in front of me. Tried the Malekko Varigate 8+ but that seemed very opaque to me. The grid with a sequencer or the 1010 Toolbox seem a lot easier to me.

I already have a varibright grid 128, so one of the monome sequencing modules might be a good start? They seem limited to 16 steps though, isn’t that too limiting?
The Teletype seems tempting, but I’m not sure if it’ll be hands-on enough for me or not be too much like using a computer.

I have so many more questions, but I’ll stop here for now :stuck_out_tongue: Hope to get some interesting opinions on these initial questions first.

Any other suggestions are very much welcome of course!

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I’d totally recommend Pamela’s New Workout by ALM for some Euclidean gates / envelopes as a good module to check out. I absolutely love mine.

Yeah, Pamela’s New Workout is one of the modules that’s definitely on my list of interesting/possible modules. The octocontroller was suggested to me by our local guy, but looking at some youtube video’s for it I don’t think I really like it’s UX. PNW, while heavily menu based, seems like it’s a lot easier to understand. Also really like the LEDs for every trigger, makes it very easy to understand/see what’s going on.

Do you use it as your main clock source or in combination with something else? And can you use CV to change for example the euclidean sequencer’s settings (steps, triggers, rotation)?

I’ve also considered Temp’s Utile, but that seems to be a bit more limited, though it also has some nice features (mainly burst and turing and the fact that it’s open-source would be of interest to me).

Yes, it is my main clock source. I’ve not had much luck getting it to slave to Digitakt (the display indicates the clock going in is unstable & it won’t stay in sync properly at any PPQN setting via Dinsync). However, I have the expander arriving next week & by all accounts, using MIDI to sync will be solid.

Re. Your CV question, I believe you can CV pretty much whatever you like via the 2 inputs. It’s a really flexible module & if you have a fairly small system, modules like this & Ornament & Crime can really up the stakes in terms of potential options whilst remaining fairly intuitive to use in my opinion.

Hmm, that’s a pity. Could you post your experiences once you receive the expander? Are you getting the PEXP-1 or the PEXP-2?

Sounds good! And yeah, the amount of functionality and multiple individual outputs was one of the main reasons to consider it, especially in the relatively small form-factor, which as you mentioned is very nice for a small system. I’m probably going to start just a single 104hp row.

Ornament & Crime (or maybe a micro version of it) is also on the list of interesting/possible modules. Though I’m leaning towards trying out one of the monome modules first.

If you have an opportunity to try out the octocontroller for a bit in person, you may find as I have that the UX is quite intuitive and easy to change on the fly. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it over PNW but it certainly is much better if you want to play your clock source in real time. I have both and the octo hasn’t been getting much love since I picked up a PNW, but I find myself wishing I could alter channels faster on pams. Curse of the encoder click.

Ok, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll see if I can try it somewhere.

It seems to me Pamela’s New Workout would’ve benefitted from an extra button so the long press isn’t necessary for track access. But I haven’t tried it yet in real life :slight_smile:

I recently got myself the Ansible to pair up with my Grid, and I can’t really think of a better way to control and interact with my sequences. I mainly run Kria, controlling four seperate tracks that I can manipulate on the fly in terms of both triggers and notes etc. I think @n-So has a really good demo of how to run meta sequencing with it, which may go as a work around for your concern about the 16 step limitation.

I find 16 steps to be sufficient as I can always interact with the sequences and change it up. If you already have a Grid I can’t think of any reasons why not to build on that :wink:
At a earlier stage I was looking into the PNW as well, and I think it is a super cool module. I also find Make Noise’ Tempi very interesting as an option to PNW. Really like the idea of tapping the different triggers. That tactile, hands on interaction with the modular is a important aspect for me, and I guess that’s what is so appealing with the Monome eco system to me. My first «sequencer» was the Arturia Keystep, which has a super good sequencer as well as an arpeggiator, but it is obviously limited to run one voice at a time (correct me if I’m wrong). I know the Beatstep Pro is a good alternative, when you want to build several synced sequences. I still keep mine (keystep) and hook it up from time to time if I want to play out some melodies/ideas really fast without having to build a sequence.

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I recently took my main sequencing out of the rack with W grid/Kria. Whilst there are quite a few decent sequencers in Euro now, I found I was spending too much time fiddling about with a little module to get some consistent melody rather than being more creative with the modular.

If I can be absolutely honest, it feels to me like starting with a sequencer is the wrong approach. Modular offers many many different types of workflow, setting a sequencer to be the start of everything feels a bit restrictive.

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Thanks for the info, that sounds very encouraging. The hands on interaction is very important to me as well and the way you describe it seems to match my expectations in that if I’d want to do sequencing using the grid for it is a pretty good choice, both for capabilities and immediacy.
Regarding the 16steps, I’m just not sure, might be that I’m too “stuck” in thinking DAW, where I have infinite steps :wink: Guess I should just give the 16 steps a try first.

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Thanks, that’s very valuable info. It’s my main concern for using something like Pamela’s New Workout as the main sequencer, that it’ll take quiet a bit (because of the menu diving) to setup a decent melody.
Out of interest, what sequencing module(s) did you use before?

Thanks, this kind of feedback was one of the reasons I created this topic, so please do be absolutely honest! :slight_smile:

I guess I’m just starting from something I know, there are already so many things to choose and figure out when starting this. Starting from a thing you know might or might not be a good thing though.

What type(s) of workflow(s) would you suggest instead? Do you have some examples/video’s maybe?

I’m picking up the Pexp-1 - will definitely let you know how this goes.

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I know what you mean regarding the DAW way of thinking. You could always set up some kind of midi to CV type of thing. I’ve been using one of @danielrdehaan M4L-patches to set up voice control with my Push, which then lets you compose endless midi arrangements/sequences that you can easily route to your modular. You will have to aquire a DC coupled interface of some sort. Can be quite fun! Still the Monome stuff really changed everything for me. I’m a fan of the bridge between modular and the computer, and a big part of my system is the ES-8 both for mixing and to send CV and audio from Ableton to my modular. But I find that for me to feel like I can really play and control the music and to be in the presence of it, I need that intuitive, tactile hands-on experience that Grid/Ansible provide. One of the great aspects of the modular for me is the balance between you controlling the technology and the technology controlling you (if that makes any sense). And I like to feel a little bit «superior» in that relationship. It has to be a good and fair fight.

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It’s kind of hard to explain:

  • You can sequence stuff
  • You can use combinations of function generators and gates to create self playing patches
  • You can take a sound source and simply explore the textures of that in combination with others
  • You can bring external audio into the modular and derive something from that
  • You can create drones
  • You can use external inputs - midi keyboards, any other stuff - to create live improvisations

That’s the point really, there are kind of infinite different starting off points and if your perspective is: I’ll start with a sequence, that’s great. It’s perfectly valid. But it’s not the only thing you can do.

I started off with the Doepfer basic 2 System, and deliberate got a midi module because I assumed I’d be sequencing the Modular from my computer. I rarely use it.

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What you’re describing is one of the big challenges, but also interesting/tempting aspects, of modular for me.

There are so many options and since I have no experience with the majority of them I’m leaning towards starting with something I know (sequencing) in hopes to be able to create something that sounds good/musical to me not purely by accident. And then go from there and experience/grow into other ways of creating sounds/music.
Maybe this approach will limit my learning experience?

@simonvanderveldt have you tried playing with VCV Rack? Whenever I get tempted to go back into modular, I play with it to scratch the itch…

Yeah, I have, and it’s been very nice to be able to get some feel for how it all works, especially with some of the monome modules now also being available, I could even use it with my grid, super nice!

I do have the feeling the use of a mouse vs vs physical knobs makes it difficult to experience the differences slight changes/nuances can make.

Also, one kind of surprising thing to me, when I first saw/used some modules in real life they were quiet a bit smaller than I expected them to be from how I experienced them in VCV/from photos/videos :smiley:

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Most likely not, I just felt it worthwhile to point out that a sequencer would be one possible tool in your toolbox, as opposed to the starting point for everything…

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re: starting with a sequencer vs. other approaches - I think it comes down to what sort of music/work you want to make. If you want to make music with a strong sequenced melody element, then starting with a sequencer (and something that makes sound, of course) does make sense to me, and using a modular to do it still allows as much (or as little) chance/unpredictability to be added in, and in a hands on/tangible way. I don’t have a grid, but if I did, I’d definitely start with Ansible. The various CV/gate outputs could act as modulation sources to use in many other ways besides melodies, too.

On the topic of 16-step limitations, this is a cool example of how one can mix up a simple melody with some basic modular elements (in this case, a CV sequence, track (sample) & hold, something to trigger the S&H, and two VCOs. It’s all based on a linear 16-step sequence, but is a lot more interesting. You could do the same thing with any two VCOs, any sequencer, something that spits out gates at different timings than the main sequence (both of those could come from Ansible), and any track & hold or sample & hold (would give a slightly different result, but same idea) module.

Hopefully this isn’t to situation-specific, just meant as an idea of how a simple sequence can be changed dramatically with some simple additional elements. Add in some way to transpose the sequence, such as using a precision adder to combine two or more sequences (both from Kria, say), and you could have a crazy amount of variation still within a 16-step maximum, and potentially still with a compact setup.

Do you already have any sort of drum machine with some sort of analog sync? Since your examples include some drum elements, I’ve had a lot of fun with a Volca Beats synced to my modular (via Pamela’s Workout in my case, either Pam’s or Volca can be master).

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This sounds encouraging, judging by the responses so far I think it makes sense to start with an Ansible and see/experience how well I’ll get on with it :slight_smile:

These are super-interesting and helpful suggestions! Thank you very much. I’ll be honest, without any real experience with modular synths it’s somewhat hard to get my head around it, but I think I understand :slight_smile: Basically the two VCO’s play the same pattern, but one of them has a randomized pitch.
Where in this case the pitch isn’t really random, but sampled from the pattern that the other VCO’s pitch is following. Is that correct?

These ways of thinking about possibilities for variations it totally new to me and I find it really interesting/tempting :slight_smile: Will have to figure out what kind of modules I’d need for these kinds of CV/trigger variations.
The video from mylar melodies about logic modules also touches upon different ways to randomize CV/triggers.

No, I don’t have any hardware synths at the moment, was all computer based with MIDI controllers so far.

Whilst I’d like to synthesize drums at some point for now I’m considering starting with something like the pico drums (http://ericasynths.lv/en/shop/eurorack-modules/by-series/pico-series/pico-drums/). I tried that in the shop and it way quiet easy to work with, has some randomization features of itself and sounded pretty ok to me.