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Motherboard Patch theories
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author Motherboard Patch theories
Hi everyone !

I thought it could be interesting to share our theories about modular patches.

One that's been for me an obsession for the last few month: Motherboard's melody from Daft Punk. (I looped it and slowed it down a bit here)

It is really musical, smooth, but quite random and "resonancy" at the same time, it sounds simple, but when you pay attention to the details, there's a lot of little chaotic things happening.

My guess is that there are different layers or groups of oscillators, going in different filters, maybe slight different envellopes too, may be the left hand and the right hand are played separately and mixed together after.

I noticed other things:

- There is a random noisy sound in the back ground that make the illusion that the melody is "bathing" in something.

- Some notes, three or 4 in total during the whole loop, have a delay on it.

-The very first note, is really low and raw sounding, it comes again at the half of the melody and is a completely diferent patch than the main arp.

-The enveloppe is really nice, the attack is clear, but it is really creamy at the same time, I don't know if enveloppes are applying to filters, maybe just to VCAs.

-Filters, they sounds amazing, maybe Multimode 12db, layered with some 24db/oct moog 904A filters? Not a lot of resonance, exept some layers maybe.

-Stereo phaser, or filters? When you seperate the left and right of the audio, the sound is really different in shape and a bit in tone from left to right.

-The last thing, effects, reverb of course, maybe some delay, but just so it's smooth enough without actually earing that delay.

They used a big Modcan A series, here it is :

List of the modules :

They said in an interview that there is NO sequencing in the recording of the album, everything is played by hand.

So, what are your theories ?

Michael O.
I'd take what they say with a grain of salt- wasn't there some absurd rumor that there was no compression used on the album either? On cursory listen the elements sure sound sequenced to me, or played over one another and simply looped a la an in-phase Steve Reich. The stereo panning and phasing/comb filtering adds a lot of the movement and variation. The reverb sounds like a light touch of plate.
Yes maybe played live, looped with the CV Recorder, and some overdubs?

For the compression, the album have a lot of it, but in parallel in most case, but yes they wanted to have a lot of dynamics (compared to most of the actual music, wich is overcompressed, just to sound loud)
Not a lot of reactions, anyway another point:

The background atmosphere, the "Efxy", noisy sound where the melody is "bathing in"

I think you don't really notice what it is, but this is really important, it make all the layers sound as a "whole" and fill the gaps between the melody's notes.

It accentuate the stereo imaging too I guess, I don't know what it is tho, some noise and oscillators, with filter and maybe Flanger or Frequency shifter modulation.

The actual moment of the song not looped and played at real speed :

Another cool part of the song :
For those who enjoyed their system, here is a new picture of it, we can see some more modules on the top, 3 16x4 Sequencers, filters etc :
Could you link to or specify that interview? I did some searches and dind't find it. I wouldn't be surprised if the press "edited" or "summarized" a statement like "we didn't use a DAW for sequencing, we just let the modular run by itself and tweaked parameters by hand" (meaning: while the modular probably had a clock, pulse dividers, looped envelopes, S&Hs and shift registers going on, doing LOTS of automation... even IF they didn't use the two analog sequencers shown in the pic above) into "they didn't sequence anything and played by hand".

That would be the typical nonlinear distortion device of a journalist not knowing the subject their nerdy interview partners talk about. Both parties' are at fault in such situations, of course.
Uh, not to mention the 17A Sequencer, Cynthia Gate Sequencer, CV Recorder and Cynthia Gate Programmer IN the main system frame below the large sequencers. Just saw those on the MG page. That is certainly enough to create some simple but complete tracks.
Yeah I think you are right, it meant "no computer for sequencing" may be

you can see it here : ets-of-new-album-20130413
"The only electronics come in the form of a massive, custom-built modular synthesizer that Daft Punk played live"

And here :,97155.php
"Vous n'avez donc eu recours à aucun sample ?
T.B. : Il y en a deux sur la dernière chanson de l'album : un enregistrement de la Nasa et une boucle empruntée à un groupe de rock australien, The Sherbs. Autrement, tout est joué : guitares, batteries, basses, synthés…"

And I've read this in a magazine interview too, but yeah it feels like there is sequences or analogue automations on Motherboard !

I've tried some stuff with my Modcan, for the main melody, with 2 osc a bit detune from each other into the multimode filter, a bit of lfo and an envellope on the VCA out I'm really close. The right hand and the left one are not played by the same sound, left is low, filter more closed, less detuned osc, the righ hand is crazier, more open, detuned a bit.

But the noisy/weird/"random" part is still a mystery, there is a lot of thick material around the melody, a windy thing that mooves a lot but it is discrete enough to be hard to ear precisly !

And some other sounds like the very first note, and another one in the middle of the loop, really thick and low that doesn't sound like the rest, plus some layered notes here and there with delay on it (you have to focus to ear those one)
I found a really cool video that made me think about how Motherboard could have been done, with programmers and gate sequencers :
I tried some stuff with my Modcan, I just think the melody from Motherboard is played with a LOT of voices (oscillators, filter, envelope, lfos etc) almost one or two per note.

The illusion that there is a lot of movement comes from the fact that, each times a note plays, it is a new voice you ear, so the filter, envelope, osc, lfo, some with delay etc, is almost never the same.

Some layering on top of that, to accentuate some notes.

And the stereo effect is maybe made like that, with mixers: all the voices are panned differently, the left and right goes in two different filters, with diferent settings and lfos.

Here is my theory ! That's what I love about this track, I could listen to it all days and still discover a new way to listen to it!
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