Studio As Instrument (+ Modular)

It’s relatively straightforward to find experience reports on using a modular system as an instrument for live performance (whether actually live or recording in the studio). I’ve had a big personal revelation with the setup of my small studio where I instead have started using the Eurorack as outboard gear. I write something live or by editing MIDI in Logic for some synth (Prophet VS, Little Phatty, whatever) and then use my Eurorack stuff to transform the sound into something more interesting. While I could of course use the existing plugins, over the past year I’ve become familiar with a whole range of synthesis techniques as well as an intimate feeling for the sound of my Eurorack modules. Nothing is going to sound quite like a QPAS, Roland 505, Erbe-Verb, Mimeophon, Serge VCM, etc.

So I’m just wondering if other people are doing this and have tips, tricks, ideas to share. One thing I’ve tried that’s simply wonderful is making a Eurorack StepFX. StepFX was/is a Camel Audio plugin now directly integrated into Logic that allows you to add animation to a track via a variety of processors at each step - great for drums, synths, etc.

Instead of using StepFX, I bus some audio (live or recorded) to my modular. I have a Korg SQ-1 clock synced via MIDI that I then use to apply some CV voltage to whatever modules I care about at whatever step I like. For example I pass bussed audio to the QPAS and use the step to change the cutoff or the resonance and then pass the stereo outs to Mimeophon (which is taking tempo from the SQ-1) and then back into my audio interface. Because the Korg SQ-1 starts when I hit record, it’s simple for me to do multiple takes where I fiddle with the CV settings until I get a result I like for the part that I’m currently working on.

Another cool one was pushing some Logic software instrument horn audio through the middle section of a Random*Source Serge VCM. This adds distortion which would make it seem unusable, but again passing this through QPAS produces a delicious rich sound - I have a feeling this is due to Harmonic distortion

Other things people are excited about and willing to share?

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This is how I use my modular most of the time. Either as an outboard system for mixing/effecting a track I’m working on, or as a weird ecosystem of effects that I can play my keyboard synths into. That was actually my original draw to eurorack, since control and audio signals are the same thing I could produce all sorts of effects and events based on the incoming sound of what I’m playing, or the stems running through it. It took me a long time to warm up to using the modular for actual sound generation since you can’t save patches and it takes a long time to shape something nice sounding, but I use it for generating sound as much as my other instruments now.

One of the main things I like doing with my system is using it for dynamic mixing. I can send it up to 4 tracks out of my interface and I use a Steiner-Parker filter and Three Sisters with side-chain-compressor style patches to get different parts of a mix carving away at each other’s frequencies, or to do interesting things with panning portions of their frequency spectrums.

I also love trying to imitate the behavior of other equipment I read about in general, figuring out how to put together a nice sounding compressor, or harmonic exciter, or fuzz, or building a simple reverb out of delays and filters.

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Sometimes I like to make simple little songs (like a 16 bar loop or some drums), just to bounce them back out of my DAW and into the modular. Mostly trying to use my own sounds as sample sources.

I started making music with sampling, and always found that making my own samples lacked a certain “je ne sais quoi”, but using this method, I’ve gotten closer to the results I’m looking for.

Recently been getting into tape-resampling too. Just to give the “sample” some character, and its awesome!

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