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Explaining to guests how to use modular rig?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion  
Author Explaining to guests how to use modular rig?
My modular synth is the centerpiece of my apartment. As such, anyone who comes in wants to mess with it. I am a terrible teacher, which is why I don't teach for a living, and thus more or less tell how each module reacts with all the others. By the time Im done, they found that more or less I had given them an impossible to unwind web and have to work through me as an interpreter between them and the modular synth.

Have any of you found a way to bridge the gap between guest and modular rig? I'd love to hear about it! Thanks in advance!
I think you could talk about it all day and really nobody will understand until they try it.

I often say "This thing makes sounds (oscillator, noise), this other thing modified sounds (filter, delay), this thing produces a series of signals when requested (sequencers, envelopes) and this thing here triggers events in other modules (like trigger sequencers or touchpads)"

If their eyes glaze over I usually stop. If the guest continues to be curious I could demonstrate the patching of a simple synth voice.
'These things make sounds, these things change the sounds, these things make things happen, like changing pitch or starting/stopping the sound.'

Or I'm a serial killer.
I'm like this...

Nobody asks me. grin But if they did I guess I’d just turn it on and the volume up to play them whatever I had patched at that time. I think that’s more interesting than the technicalities, to most people.
i answer questions if they have any, you can see pretty quick how fast it melts their brains so i try to not go into details unless requested xD
I did this once. Using whatever patch was already in place, I just wiggled a few knobs or moved a few patch cords that made obvious changes, such as oscillator pitch, filter sweep, change an osc from square to sine, etc. Tried to avoid jargon and didn't explain anything in detail, just let them listen. Less than a minute, nobody got bored, and the response was "that looks like a lot of fun".
I'd tell 'em "Give me a deposit of $xx,xxx and have at it!" thumbs up
If they're interested in synthesis, I walk them through a very simple patch:
- Osc -> out (explain that the Osc is just a sound source, no volume control)
- Beatstep/keystep pitch -> Osc (so they can play it)
- BSP/KS gate -> VCA (sweet relief!)
- gate to ADSR (let them play with knobs)
- add in filter (let them play with knobs)
- add in LFO to filter (or amp or pitch), let them play with LFO depth and rate

That's the basics of synthesis, and most people stay interested to that point.

If they're not interested in synthesis, then just show them a whole patch, with lots of control. BSP/KS sequences and direct playing, touch sensor modules (FSR module into a filter is awesome), step sequencers, joysticks. And also point out which knobs are most fun to mess with: filter cutoffs, pitch, envelope parameters, delay wet/dry, time and feedbacks, wavetable selectors, etc. Feel free to re-patch bits if you want, while they're playing, and tell them what you're doing (what effect it will have on the sound).

I've only had one person come away from it gagging for more, but I've never had anyone come away from it not thinking it was cool and interesting (even though they mostly weren't personally interested in using it more, and were often a bit overwhelmed by the technical depth of it all).
I usually start with a fresh patch. First, oscillator only to the output so they can hear the nonstop raw sound. Then create a simple patch explaining what each module contributes. The only modulation being an envelope opening and closing the vca. Then I sweep the filter. Then I add a little lfo or something. Then I tell them to start playing! Then hook up a sequencer or something. I only let trustworthy and respectful friends into my studio so I don’t mind if the use it.

Yes, unless they are already a synth person they’re lost but they have fun. I’ll build patches and they play. Or I tell them what to patch where and let them plug in the cables if they want.
Fog Door
What lovely accommodating hosts you all are. After reading this thread I feel so guilty and I must be evil - In my domain, non-synth guests get a Microkorg XL+ to play with twisted
Fog Door wrote:
What lovely accommodating hosts you all are. After reading this thread I feel so guilty and I must be evil - In my domain, non-synth guests get a Microkorg XL+ to play with twisted

If it makes you feel better, I put away my good guitar and don’t let them play that. hihi

I don’t let my disrespectful friends come over either!
Fog Door wrote:
What lovely accommodating hosts you all are. After reading this thread I feel so guilty and I must be evil - In my domain, non-synth guests get a Microkorg XL+ to play with twisted

Behringer Neutron with a 50€ MIDI keyboard for me, both cheaper and better for pedagogical purposes IMHO twisted
Bugbrand makes it easy for beginners with color coded jacks.

I got my kids patching as toddlers with the following:

Red goes to blue or yellow.
Green goes to yellow or blue.
Make sure at least one green goes to a mixer.
Dieter from Doepfer has an excellent video
Is explanation is simple and easy to understand i
It's so hard to explain! Every now and then there is a modular meet here in Gothenburg, which is great fun. A lot of beginners and people interested in modular usually show up and ask me about my rig, and I - who usually is really good in explaining things - ends up confusing these poor people.

I think it is best to just let them play around on what ever is patched. But then they start to ask questions and then everything goes confusing again.
Well if I randomly wiggle with most of my patches, things suddenly disappear and it takes me a while to work out why. Observer wiggling must be a nightmare!!! I find it easier to explain that it’s not easy to explain.

That said, I’ve never had any musician friends never mind non musos even care beyond “ what the f##k is all that”.
Most of my friends are musicians so I usually try to relate it to an instrument they're familiar with. For guitarists, I equate each module with something that's found on a pedalboard... VCAs = volume pedals, VCF = wahs, etc. Everyone is really intimidated by it though and scared they'd break something so no one every plays it.
I love doing this. In fact, I end up bringing my synths to holiday get-togethers etc. just so I can do it more often. I find the keystep and Phenol are really good for beginners who really want to understand, but the Koma Komplex and eurorack 12u is great for those who just want to play wiggle or watch. Actually, the only reason I haven't sold the Phenol is because it is such a good educational instrument.
'Do not touch this Resonance knob at any time. It is fine where it is.'
I've found that it's quite rare for anyone to want to mess with the knobs at all, they normally insist that I do it when I tell them they can.
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