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Patching without listening
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion  
Author Patching without listening
Do you ever do this? Quite fun sometimes to just patch up, and see if what you expected to happen, happens. Obviously not too hard with a general mono synth architecture but with more complex patches it can be quite rewarding!
Pretty depressing if that turned into your best track ever... cry hihi

When I was studying art I did that drawing with closed eyes for a while, I´d say it is something you could refine and make or merge into your style, but I found it at least an interesting exercise Guinness ftw!
Often when I patch up a simple mono voice as a starting point, when I press a key to hear it... silence. seriously, i just don't get it Then the hunt is on for the misplaced or missing cable or the improperly set attenuator.
I did a four voice blind patch once, even made a youtube video about it. I seem to recall we might have had some sort of challenge about this sort of thing. The results were... underwhelming, if I recall correctly. The video is gone, I deleted it, it was so lame.
It's pretty much always how I start patching. I have a patch idea in my head ("hey, what if I used the output of x to drive y, and then modulate it with z, controlled by...") and then I try it, and tweak and add to it as I go. Maybe it's my programmer brain, but I can't really imagine another way to do it.
sduck wrote:
I did a four voice blind patch once, even made a youtube video about it. I seem to recall we might have had some sort of challenge about this sort of thing. The results were... underwhelming, if I recall correctly. The video is gone, I deleted it, it was so lame.
I remember that, I know I did a video for it as well . . . I'll see if I can find mine . . . here it is:
This is for The Muff Wigglers group on Facebook. David Lilja posed the following modular synthesizer challenge

1) ‪#NoMorePatchCables
You have to use all your cables and record the result.

2) ‪#PatchWithoutPower
You have to patch with the modular turned off. Knobs tweaks are allowed while patching. Power on, don't touch and simply record your take. Modules which can't be tweaked while powered down, like the soundmachines, can be allowed to tweak when powered on.

More often as I become more experienced and if I have a specific patch in mind. I know that patching A to B gave me a certain result in the past, so I don't need to hear it to know what will happen. In fact when you're patching up something complex from notes, listening to it as you go can be distracting. The downside of this is you might miss something unexpected.

On the other hand if I'm experimenting (which is more often than not) I want to hear what's going on.
I generally set up the basic skeleton of my patch before turning up the feed to the monitors. Then I tune and tweak each voice individually and together and I’m good to go.

Of course I’ve been doing this for 45 years.
I also think that this is actually the 'normal' way of creating a patch, not the exception. But as morgulbee said, it happens that no sound is produced, and you have to chase the missing cable.

And then there's the bug hunting too. For example, yesterday I had a hard time with a simple mini modular, the Volca Modular, just to find out after a lot of head scratching that the patch sockets have no clean contacts, I have to insert the cable several times and wiggle around to make the patch running.

But generally, in modular systems, connections work, so you can set up also complex patches without listening. Prerequisite is of course that your cables and modules are working reliably. With that you can build patches in your head when you're away from the modular, and they will work as intended. Mostly. There's always the unexpected, and human error, that's normal. The more the pleasure when the 'blind' patch is producing sound exactly how you have imagined.
Instead of listening to the sound I sometimes look at the visual (oscilloscope) output. Interesting visual patterns are often related to interesting sounds. Here is an example I made for the aforementioned sduck's 'blind patching' challenge:

I did this at a gig recently. I forgot headphones so I couldnt sound check. I had an idea and visualized something that didnt require a lot of tuning of VCO/Sequencers. It worked out great. Kinda sci-fi textural.
Any way to shake you out of your normal creative process is always worth a shot.
I remember Keith Emerson saying in an interview that he came up with the "Hoedown" patch by plugging in patch chords randomly.
Suffice it to say that I have had much more success patching without listening than I have being married without listening... Mr. Green
Maybe this could be a way of communicating with the Other Side...

Spiritualists sometimes employ automatic Writing - holding pen to paper, closing their eyes, and letting whoever they are channeling write through them.

Maybe in a similar way by patching blind we could channel the sound design capabilities of synthesists no longer with us.

I guess my fear with patching blind is I would end up patching an output to an output., resulting in an other-wordly smell, and not much else.
That is basically how I patch. Then I turn it up and tune it. Maybe add some slow LFO here or there, etc. That way I get a clear idea patched out. If I started with the sound up, I would be distracted from my original idea and start tweaking and patching more than the original thought required.
If I know what I want to do I might as well start blind patching, but usually not for the sake of it. However, when I had just got my first computer it turned out that its soundcard didn't work, but it was possible to burn CDs. So in my frustration, I wrote an elaborate Csound patch and score for some fourty minutes of music that I hoped would be interesting. It turned out to be a boring, slow-paced piece of high pitched sinusoid drones.
The Grump
Pretty much always patch my Euro before listening. I use the O-scope a lot during setup as well. Patching the Coco is almost invariably by ear.
Yes Powder
I tend to patch control voltages before audio, and patch audio to an output as the very last step.
Why would I want a constant "BWAAAAAH" playing when I'm not even set up?
i commonly do not turn on my Euro System, when i'm not in the mood for it. highly recommended^^
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