Modular central nervous system

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Tofumaster
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Modular central nervous system

Post by Tofumaster » Sat Dec 28, 2019 9:38 pm

I am hoping to get some input on setting up my first modular rig. I have experience with synthesis and realize the importance of having enough utilities and modulation in a setup. I am looking for some input on what mix of modules to create a functioning central nervous system that I can use to get the most out of whatever sound sources and filters I eventually acquire. One of the areas I am least sure about is cv and gate sequencing. Do I need something like a varigate 4 or 8 and a clock generator/divider, or can something like a pam II do the job? I’d like the rig to be able to generate interesting techno rhythms to record into my DAW. I have two rows of 108hp powered by a TipTop studio bus to work with for now. I also have a Moog mother 32 that will love in the rack until it’s eventually kicked back out. Thanks for the help.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by sierraoskar » Sun Dec 29, 2019 4:00 am

I very much enjoy the Music Thing Turing Machine, with the Pulses and Volts expanders. This gives me 2 related CVs and a range of different rhythmic patterns to work with. I clock mine either direct from Pamela’s New Workout, or sometimes from my Shakmat Time Wizard so I can vary the speed. I have other modules but I think the Turing Machine can very much be the “nervous system” of a lot of patches.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by hewed » Sun Dec 29, 2019 4:34 am

I came from a DAW plus midi-driven hardware background to modular and approached it with DAW/midi-controlled based perceptions. My perceptions were particularly rooted in my early 2000s experience of building a lovely central nervous system environmental in Logic (back when it was owned by emagic, before Apple) and using that to control and rout everything centrally.

One of the most liberating things about getting into modular has been going DAWless and I'd recommend trying that for a while, if you've got a similar mouse-clicking myopia to what I had.

Apologies if I'm reading you wrong and just projecting my own story onto yours.

I've been DAWless for around 12 months now and am only just about to integrate my modular with Ableton because I'm getting a larger home studio space and feel that I need to start using the controller keyboards and Push 2 that have been sitting around unused.

2x108hp is going to be your major constraint for getting a good entirely controllable sequencer (vs controlled randomness like a Turing Machine). I use a Rene 2 through a ADDAC 207 quantiser and, while that's pretty HP hungry, it's worthwhile if you don't want to throw yourself completely into randomness. There's quantisation available at less HP, but the ADDAC 207 does give you 4 lines of quantisation that you can use for both your own dialled in stuff (eg via Rene) and also through controlled randomness (eg via a TM).

EDIT: With your HP constraints, it may be worth looking at an Ornament & Crime. I've replaced the firmware on mine with Hemispheres and only use a few functions, but it's got sequencing, quantising and a host of other functions which you might find useful (if you've got the patience for manual reading), including (I think) the ability to connect up to your DAW via USB if you sacrifice 1hp for a cable gap in your rack.
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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Tofumaster » Sun Dec 29, 2019 9:03 am

I understand what you are saying about liberating yourself from the computer. Eventually I will he recording the outputs and will need to synch timing for that to work, but for now I’m interested in the mix of modules for maximum utility and modulation options. I am interested in some randomness to generate the unexpected rhythmic pattern, and I also need to have pitch correct notes out of the system. I have to run, but I’ll add more about the modules I have in mind to get started. Btw, 2 rows is just what I have started with for now. I can see how this is going to go.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by starthief » Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:28 am

To me one of the nice things about modular is it doesn't necessarily need a "central nervous system" as such -- it can be distributed. Separating timing information from pitch information gives a lot of flexibility, assuming you don't just want a linear piano roll-like progression in the first place (in which case, DAWs are hard to beat).
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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun Dec 29, 2019 1:07 pm

Unless you are particularly fixated on unattended generative music, then you should be the central nervous system of your modular, and acquire assistive modules that are well-suited for you to add your influence. For many folks, a joystick such as Intellijel Planar is a superb such tool. Switches/mutes are really handy too. But there are gobs of options out there and few easy answers.

That doesn’t mean you won’t want sequencers, too, but there are some strong arguments for favoring simpler sequencers rather than try-to-do-it-all in-a-world-of-their-own pitch+gate sequencers. For example, keeping a gate sequencer and a cv/pitch sequencer separate opens up a lot of interesting patching options.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Tofumaster » Sun Dec 29, 2019 3:09 pm

I have not fully considered separate pitch and gate sequencers, so module suggestions are totally appreciated. Generative music is interesting, but it seems more like a novelty to me. I am interested in crafting grooves. That is my approach, so immediate control over pitch and gates is necessary. I like the Malleko varigate modules plus the voltage block for gates. Something like that would be cool in the sequencing dept, but I want to consider different approaches before settling. I watched a video recently of guy with a small Intellijel skiff loaded up with Noise Engineering modules that appear to accomplish most what I am after. He appears to have flexibility as well as quick and creative sequencing. Also, is quantization totally necessary if my VCOs are tuned? Questions within questions.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Just another rookie » Mon Dec 30, 2019 4:09 am

Hopefully this is right!
It’s how I understand things anyway.

The sequencer just sends positive/negative voltage relative to itself. The vco needs to be told where 0v relative to the sequencer is.
Eg. C0 =0v on the sequencer only. It just adds positive or negative voltage to the v/Oct input usually (or cv in).

Check out the wmd Metron.
Can be expanded also to do cv stuff.

It is great! My favourite sequencer used so far.
No stop when loading sold it, then I found out more about it.....it does more than I could ever use.

Klavis dual waves. The oscillator that keeps on giving!
Two years and still not bored.......
It does A LOT! I got almost drum and bass out of it in my effort of a 3module challenge silly thing.
Performer seq, klavis dual and doepfer a-135-1 (v3)

That Klavis, an adsr and an offset module. Add a sequencer of choice.....some type of vca and a mixer.
Boom.
It won’t be long before you work out what else you need!

It’s a mad journey......good luck!

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Tofumaster » Tue Dec 31, 2019 8:35 am

Thanks for all of the help. I think I have a plan now. In addition to modulation, what I have been looking for direction with was sequencing. My plan is a Pam II for a clock, a Mimetic digitalis and a Steppy for sequencing. I’ll be able to produce the kinds of rhythms I am interested in with those and I can clock my daw eventually via a Pam expander. There will be some overlap, but the Pan having a BPM readout is lots and lots of other weird options will be nice. I can build out from here nicely.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by mdoudoroff » Tue Dec 31, 2019 8:45 am

That sounds like a perfectly reasonable plan to me.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Tofumaster » Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:40 pm

It must be a thing in the modular synth world to contract 'selection paralysis'. I don't know what the hell to do. After this thread petered out a couple of weeks ago I am still not quite sure what to do first. I started this thread asking about how to build a Eurorack CNS, an idea I should have expanded on a little more. Some thought I was looking for a brain (which would be good since mine is mostly gone). Sequencing is one aspect, but it's all of the utilities that I am interested in nailing down as well. I have come to notice something in the Eurorack world that is interesting. The original modular systems (Moog, Buchla, etc.) sorted out many utilities and functions that are employed in synthesis, but to be relevant new school module makers (if that is a thing) needed to be clever and cheeky in creating ranges of modules mixing and hybridizing functions until I don't know what the *uck I am looking at. It makes quite confusing to select a few utilities and modulation sources that don't have massive overlap unless one were to go strictly Doefper. I guess if I wanted to simply recreate a Moog modular I would go full Doepfer, but the massive novelty that Eurorack offers propels me toward the boutique and trendy offerings, but like I've already pointed out, except for a few hard to confuse functions like buffered multiplication, I'm having trouble rectifying my choices. In short, can someone point me toward a good ADSR x 4 envelope generator? Is something like the Xaos devices 4 envelope generator worth it? Something like the Intellijel Quadrax seems like its there. Maths?, but it is not really 4 channels. Tides...Aren't all of these versions of one another. Pedestrian envelope generators with the additional ability to get fancy and weird and then cycle as well? I'm sure over time I will get past this threshold, sort of? The one requirement I am sticking to is building out guts for 4 channels/voices to start with. As far as the sequencer issue goes who knows, I think I'll let that issue evolve into place. Steppy/MD combo seems like an accessible place to start, but I've also discovered that Arturia controller which sort of seems like a no brainer for the price, especially with all of the drum trigger outs. Something tactile would be nice because, bloody hell, there are times when I need to hit something.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by xcc » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:37 pm

Tofumaster wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:40 pm
It must be a thing in the modular synth world to contract 'selection paralysis'. I don't know what the hell to do. After this thread petered out a couple of weeks ago I am still not quite sure what to do first. I started this thread asking about how to build a Eurorack CNS, an idea I should have expanded on a little more. Some thought I was looking for a brain (which would be good since mine is mostly gone). Sequencing is one aspect, but it's all of the utilities that I am interested in nailing down as well. I have come to notice something in the Eurorack world that is interesting. The original modular systems (Moog, Buchla, etc.) sorted out many utilities and functions that are employed in synthesis, but to be relevant new school module makers (if that is a thing) needed to be clever and cheeky in creating ranges of modules mixing and hybridizing functions until I don't know what the *uck I am looking at. It makes quite confusing to select a few utilities and modulation sources that don't have massive overlap unless one were to go strictly Doefper. I guess if I wanted to simply recreate a Moog modular I would go full Doepfer, but the massive novelty that Eurorack offers propels me toward the boutique and trendy offerings, but like I've already pointed out, except for a few hard to confuse functions like buffered multiplication, I'm having trouble rectifying my choices. In short, can someone point me toward a good ADSR x 4 envelope generator? Is something like the Xaos devices 4 envelope generator worth it? Something like the Intellijel Quadrax seems like its there. Maths?, but it is not really 4 channels. Tides...Aren't all of these versions of one another. Pedestrian envelope generators with the additional ability to get fancy and weird and then cycle as well? I'm sure over time I will get past this threshold, sort of? The one requirement I am sticking to is building out guts for 4 channels/voices to start with. As far as the sequencer issue goes who knows, I think I'll let that issue evolve into place. Steppy/MD combo seems like an accessible place to start, but I've also discovered that Arturia controller which sort of seems like a no brainer for the price, especially with all of the drum trigger outs. Something tactile would be nice because, bloody hell, there are times when I need to hit something.
I’d say start slow with a few modules you know you’ll use. You say you wanna make beats, so the Steppy would be a good move. I’d recommend a central time brain that also can handle modulation like Pamela’s New Workout (would also keep your beats in sync it’s the Moog). Then a drum module like Erica Synths Drums or a used Mutable Peaks. I’d also look at a VCA/mixer like the a Intellijel Quad VCA.

Play with something like that for a week or two and see how you feel. Anyway, that’s what I would tell me if I were you.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by electricanada » Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:16 pm

If you really want an organic modular experience, one that more closely resembles a machine’s central nervous system, then don’t get any sequencer at all just yet. Instead, make your own using your utility modules. Here are some recipes:

—Several lfo square waves (from Pam?) into a mixer
—clock divider into a mixer (Pam works for this too)
—several gate sequencer outputs into a mixer
—any kind of cv into a quantizer
—combinations of the above

This approach is a lot more fun for me. Some of the results can be very “experimental” sounding. You need to let the machine do its thing. But learning how to tame that wildness into a beat is really fun. You’ll need a vca....
Eléctrica (electric) Nāda (the yoga of sound).

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Tofumaster » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:42 pm

Sober advice, thanks. I've been looking at Pam since I have a friend named Pam who is the human version of that module, but I'm not sure. The M32 has a clock out and a Steppy has swing for variation, and with a clock divider I could do more. Just thinking out loud. Thanks for the help.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Tofumaster » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:59 pm

electricanada wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:16 pm
If you really want an organic modular experience, one that more closely resembles a machine’s central nervous system, then don’t get any sequencer at all just yet. Instead, make your own using your utility modules. Here are some recipes:

—Several lfo square waves (from Pam?) into a mixer
—clock divider into a mixer (Pam works for this too)
—several gate sequencer outputs into a mixer
—any kind of cv into a quantizer
—combinations of the above

This approach is a lot more fun for me. Some of the results can be very “experimental” sounding. You need to let the machine do its thing. But learning how to tame that wildness into a beat is really fun. You’ll need a vca....
I didn't see your post before I responded...Yes, this! Thanks for another perspective. This is more like patch programming than sequencing, and I think part of why I'm hesitant about making a serious decision and layout out too much cash for gear that won't work for me. I'm learning and sensing possibilities, so thanks for turning a light on for me.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by evileye0702 » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:34 pm

[
Tofumaster wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:40 pm
In short, can someone point me toward a good ADSR x 4 envelope generator? Is something like the Xaos devices 4 envelope generator worth it? Something like the Intellijel Quadrax seems like its there. Maths?, but it is not really 4 channels. Tides...Aren't all of these versions of one another.
Quadrax is a great option or even a used Quandra with the expander. Although I use many envelope generators, this is the one I use the most.

Just go about things slow and realize you'll probably end up selling some modules as your vision evolves and becomes clearer. That's why I highly recommend buying used to start. There are plenty of good deals out there and if you don't like a module you can often sell it for minimal loss.

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Arneb » Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:49 pm

Tofumaster wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:40 pm
Is something like the Xaos devices 4 envelope generator worth it?
The XAOC Zadar, you mean? It's great value for your money if you like the workflow, which is pretty unique, more like a sampler than an ADSR in some respects. Do you have the possibility of trying one out at a brick-and-mortar store or something?

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Agawell » Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:58 pm

Another quad adsr to look at is the Malekko Quad Envelope

and if you decide on a Varigate - you get pattern saving for it too!

I wouldn't worry about getting all the utility modules that you'll ever need up front - just get them as you discover you need them

if in doubt and you desperately need to buy some utilities then try Mutable Links and Kinks

throw in a Disting mk4 for good measure

add Maths

add Stages

add a matrix mixer

add a sequential switch

etc etc etc etc etc

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by electricanada » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:22 pm

Tofumaster wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:40 pm
The one requirement I am sticking to is building out guts for 4 channels/voices to start with.
That’s the one requirement you should drop for the time being. What you will find is that a single modular voice can take up a huge amount of sonic space. Radical eq is necessary to get multiple voices to work together without flooding the zone.
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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Arneb » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:39 pm

Agawell wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:58 pm
throw in a Disting mk4 for good measure
Second that. Disting is basically the module for the functionality you (OP) don't yet know you need - it's not as good at a single task as a specialized module is, but it replaces every "just in case" buy.

(Edit: Don't try to memorize the functionality. Have a printout handy for when you have a patch idea but lack a specific module for it.)

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by medium Rob » Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:43 pm

how does the Turing machine compare to the random voltage/looping feature on PNW? is it more immediate / playable? is the functionality similar? really interested in the Turing machine, but wondering if it might be redundant (at all) with Pamela's NEW workout... any thoughts are appreciated

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by 3hands » Tue Jan 14, 2020 8:59 am

Hi,

I’m using my modular for both rhythm’s and melodic sounds and the central nervous system of my modular is the following..

Make Noise Maths (because it’s a logic based function generator and the possibilities with are are truly endless.

A 4ms Rotating Clock Divider with breakout box. This thing is incredible as you can divide clocks down from divide by 2 to divide by 8, and then you can feed it a rotate cv and it changes the divisions. You can get some serious Venetian Snares sort of things going on with it, or you can make it incredibly subtle. It can also spit out gates or triggers and it’s a fantastic utility module.

A Doepfer A151 sequential switch. Another great tool. You can build up multiple ideas using oscs, filters, sequencers, and switch between them.

I also use a Wogglebug for random stepping and smooth voltages.

And I clock either from a BSP or a Bubblesound uLFO (probably the nicest and most feature packed LFO ever.

Keep in mind, this is my personal system and I’ve chosen these modules based on my personal style, workflow, etc.

Hope that helps!
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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Agawell » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:23 pm

medium Rob wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:43 pm
how does the Turing machine compare to the random voltage/looping feature on PNW? is it more immediate / playable? is the functionality similar? really interested in the Turing machine, but wondering if it might be redundant (at all) with Pamela's NEW workout... any thoughts are appreciated
i'd watch some videos on you tube and read the manuals if I were you

Personally I'd think of Pams as for clocks and modulation, turing machine for melody, but I have neither - I do have a 2hp TM/Tune and Marbles - which is effectively a mash up of 3 quantized turing machines and a grids - both are incredibly easy to use

The things I would look at are: how easy on Pams it is to generate a random loop, constrain it's output to x octaves, and how easy it is to fix that loop and then add (small) degrees of randomization to the loop - maybe if you already have Pams and a quantizer you could have a play around with it and see if this functionality is simple enough to use - and then think how much easier it would be in a dedicated module

I wouldn't worry about redundancy in modular synthesis too much though, as your synthesizer grows any redundancy will be assimilated into the whole - you really can never have too much of any type of module (once you have at least one of each of the basics), more likely too little and a random stepped voltage can always come in useful

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Agawell » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:30 pm

Tofumaster wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:59 pm
I think part of why I'm hesitant about making a serious decision and layout out too much cash for gear that won't work for me. I'm learning and sensing possibilities
Here's another possibility - if you want to try something out and are hesitant to spend money in case you don't like what you are buying - buy used - if you don't like it resell it - you'll probably get about the same you paid for it - so it'll just cost you the postage

Another good bit of advice is to stay away from places like this and modulargrid for a while

Spend that time seriously thinking what you want from a modular synthesizer - possibly in both the long and the short terms - what type of music you want to create, how you can do that, what your workflow might be, rather than spending all that time drooling over new modules

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Re: Modular central nervous system

Post by Agawell » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:38 pm

electricanada wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:22 pm
Tofumaster wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:40 pm
The one requirement I am sticking to is building out guts for 4 channels/voices to start with.
That’s the one requirement you should drop for the time being. What you will find is that a single modular voice can take up a huge amount of sonic space. Radical eq is necessary to get multiple voices to work together without flooding the zone.
Completely agree - if you think you want a 4 voice synthesizer, start with 1 voice, play that, expand the utilities you have to cope with 2nd voice, repeat for voices 3 and 4 - at some point you will want a filter or 4 (Radical EQ)

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