Structured Modular Synth Improvisation: review wanted

Thanks for your replies. Relevant stuff.

I actually like the crazy short time constraint? But shorter is way better; that’s a long event as is. It won’t work for everyone, but if you know you have 10 minutes going in, you can practice for that. People definitely need to be more familair with what their live rig can do, but I’d be much more inclined to go to an event like this with a shorter time table. Especially accounting for inevitable downtime due to random technical hiccups.

The nice thing about 10 minutes is you can fail super hard, and it’s no big deal. You’ll have another shot in a short while.


Thanks. That is exactly why I opt for 10 minutes. The art/jazz improv’s I did were all 17 minutes. I found that a bit too streched most of the times.

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I’ve got a regular improv session with a guitarist with a goal of creating finished tracks. We started out just hitting record at the start of the jam and hitting stop 45 min to an hour later. It was a real pain to find the good parts and edit with a session that long. Never quite as many good parts as you’d hope. So we switched to 5 min recording blocks. It can feel a bit short at times but if we like what’s happening, one of us gives a nod and we keep playing.

A couple years ago I was participating in a completely unstructured jam in LA called sound shoppe. It could be a lot of fun but much depended on the number and mix of people. Fewer people was better in my opinion. Easier to listen and respond. It still happens monthly for anyone looking for an activity. I think it’s been going on for years if not over a decade. Organized by a real nice guy, Joe Potts I believe.

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To best honest I would not count on it. From my observations people treat concerts as social situations so the more the people the more the chance that there will be talking :wink:

If everything will be already connected etc. then I don’t think that 10 minutes will be too short especially that there will be a lot of others duos playing etc. I think that between 10-20 minutes is good. We have an event here where people are grouped into trios etc on the spot by lottery as in your idea and we have 20 minutes limit on performances.

And I really like @ether advice to "encourage people to collaborate by listening to each other and responding. a lot of modular cats have a tendency to fire up giant walls of sound and try and dominate (which is fun in its own way). ". That is one of the reasons why I stopped going to more traditional jams because almost every time it ended in bunch of local guitarists playing never ending solo. My ideal jam would be where people create songs on the spot and I think that encouraging people to collaborate is a good way to achieve that.

Also some extra: if possible try to invite some VJs to the improv or take into account lightning in the space that you will be playing to create some ambience. I think that I can really change the perception of music especially if it is more abstract as modular music tends to be.

Edit: and about “Prepare for a mass modular improv orchestra”: from my experience it is good to have someone that will act as a conductor in such orchestra. Musicians that I met have tendency to play all the time and it can get really out of hand if more than 4-5 people are playing.


Soooo. Here’s a little update. The event has been scheduled. The aimed for amount of 8 people have signed up to participate. That’ll be the max for this edition. I have brought the original idea back to this:

  • 8 participants.
  • participants will do 4 improv jams of 10 minutes each. Twice as duo, Twice as trio.
  • duos and trios will be randomly matched by blind draw.
  • bpm will be provided by blind draw (range 70-135bpm).
  • we’ll provide central clock and reset signal.
  • venue is awesome. A bar on the top floor, overlooking the main square of the city.

Event here on FB:

Thanks for all the replies and tips so far! :slight_smile:


We had the event today and it is was great. We had 8 musicians, who participated in a total of 12 improvs of 10 min each (8 duo’s and 4 trio’s). Pictures and video’s here at our Insta:



i’m cooking up a structured improv concept of my own that is similar to yours in many ways. how did your first event go? what worked/didn’t? will you be doing it again?

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Cool! Glad to share my experiences:

  • Duo improvs proved to be more fun than trio improvs. I’ll drop the trios next time.
  • Working with a central clock and reset signal and setting this up prior to the start of the event made change-over smoothless.
  • Sending out a clear briefing to all participants beforehand ensured they understood the concept and the practicalities of the venue/parking/etc. (I’d be happy to translate and send it to you. Please let me know).
  • Doing the draw of the duo’s and bpm in the room with full audience is exciting and fun. This emphasized the improvisational character and felt…for a lack of a better word…imminent/live/real.
  • The audience could sit around the performers/participants. Very often they changed seats during change-over. This kept people interested as they could observe and listen from various angles.
  • The audience was VERY QUIET and concentrated during improvs. 10 minutes proved to be a good length in that respect too.
  • I recorded all improvs and shared the recordings with the participants afterwards. A few appeared online on their private SoundClouds. Participants were very excited about the concept and the results. :slight_smile:
  • I will for sure do this again and am now negotiating two new dates for May and June. New people contacted me to tell they want to participate.

Please keep me up to date on your activities. It’d be awesome if this concept brings joy to other members of the community.


thank you for the detailed reponse! i love the duo drawings idea, and the shared BPM seems like a must-have for modular improv.

i’m still working out some of the details for my improv concept, but i’ll let you know if i have any other questions! keep an eye out for a similar thread soon.

Cheers man! I will keep an eye out.

Second modular improv event coming up:

@barnjazz here’s the (google translate) English version of the PDF that I sent out to participants. Has technical and practical info. So people know what to expect. Worked very well for the 1st edition. This one is the slightly updated version for the upcoming edition of May 19th. Maybe such a document could be an idea for your event too? Square Wave | English info participants (May 2019).pdf (188.1 KB)


love this! much much nicer than the cluttered google doc that i have everything saved in at the moment.

i’ve been crazy busy with non-music commitments lately but i’m hoping to get a group together for Cowboy Jazz in the next month or two.

thank you so much for your feedback and inspiration as i’ve gotten my performance idea together!

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You’re very welcome. Great your hear you’re on a roll to get the group together!

Short update. The 2nd edition of this improv event happened and again it was great. 3rd edition is already scheduled and fully booked for June 16th.

Here’s some pics of the 2nd edition. Find video at our Insta. Link is in my profile.


That looks awesome! Totally missed the previous ones but definitely want to visit the next one.
Thanks for organizing this!

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Great Simon! You are very welcome.

Reading back through this thread it seems the being able to keep things in sync between different participants is effectively solved by using a common/shared clock.

Similar to the clock I was wondering how the participants make sure the notes/pitches are related to each other? I don’t assume there’s a shared quantizer, so wondering what the approaches to a shared scale for example have been.

No restriction/directions for pitch. Follow your ears. :wink:

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