Modular for the visually impaired

Cwejman, Livewire, TipTop Audio, Doepfer etc... Get your euro on!

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KSS
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Thu May 28, 2020 3:40 am

Any semi-modular has normalling. Plenty of synths or modules are distinctive. Neither really changes what I said about the 2600.

Compare an 0coast, or a Phenol. Ocoast has normals, both have distinction. Easy to use without sight? Patch them both up and do the same with a 2600. Which one remains easy to use without sight?

it's *much* more than the normals.

My recommendation for Doepfer followed a similar but different tact. The 5 knob 'standard' for many modules means once you learn where they are in the row or rows, it's easy to navigate without sight to the correct knob. Reasonable patching does not obscure this ability the way the modern euro mishmash frankensynth do. But even the Doepfer fail at the laying on of hands to quickly discern position.

Using some slider modules -like the Dreadbox chromatic series- in a frankensynth could give some similar workflow. Moreso if one added a thin 'divider' strip of something to each module's right edge. Like a Buchla Easel keyboard. For sliding nut cases, this could be a small vinyl tube sliced through one wall to clip over the module edge. Then you can feel where one module begins and ends. Useful for other type modules too. For something like Dreadbox chromatics, it's almost necessary for using without sight.

Not true for the 2600, which for reasons already posted has inherent distinctiveness. The toughest to find there is the VCA's 4 sliders. But it's only a handspan across the Release slider to right mixer slider to quickly sort that out. If you have a 2600 or one of its descendents, try playing it in the dark and you'll see what i mean. Try it with other synths too, but no fair using the LEDs for guidance. It's good practice whether you can clearly see or not.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Thu May 28, 2020 4:10 am

iantrader wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 5:28 pm
For example, a system which gave a probability that a certain chord would follow another. Eg, in the key of C, let's say the first chord is a C, then there might be a 60% probability that the next chord would be a G, 60% it might be an F and a 40% chance it might be Am. Let's say it was Am. Then the chances might be 30% Dm, 30% G, 30% F and 10% C. And so on.

Some modules do have a probability function but thats eems to eb whether or not a particular note will be generated, not based on the current chord.

Hope that explains it :-)
Yes. Very well. Thank you.
In VCV Rack there's a Markov Sequencer which can do that sort of thing. Have I missed something in hardware modules?
There are two distinct paths to solutions. In the first, something like an O_C is programmed to do what you want. Meaning it is set up with a program to have the kind of chord sequencing functions available and you 'play' its four knobs to set probabilities and otherwise interact. Since modules like this are basically computers with knobs, the software decides what is and isn't possible.

An O_C can be the whole solution, or just a part. Like computing the chord branching logic. Or algorithmically setting the probability levels.

The second path is more expensive, but also more expansive. That's to remember that modular synths have their roots in analog computing. And your described 'problem' *can* be solved by analog computing means. :hmm:

Comparators make choices by allowing setpoints. Filters solve functions. Slews are integrators. Fritz or NLC modules can inject some chaotic agitations. Any number of Booleans can be set up and solved. So it's really the same as the 'Markov' or O_C. Program what you want, and enjoy rhe results. One hundred percent possible to do your example -and *many* others- using modular techniques.

The nord G2 demo software -and others, like what Electro-music forum member Bluehell put together- can help 'patch' up and work out solutions. Reading old analog computer manuals another path of learning. But neither of these is required to make use of the techniques! Only need to fully describe the desired result, see your modules in new light as analog computing 'bits' ;) and start patching.

Edit: Although it's possible to do these kinds of patches in *any* format.. Serge is a leading contender due to its inherent 'atomic' capability, patch programability and Bananas ease of multing signals and controls. But *any* format can do this, just a different workflow/edit

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Thu May 28, 2020 5:10 am

deke wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 9:18 pm
Wow so many posts. It’s a drag Arturia does not respond to the Windows accessibility features. It SHOULD. I suppose we could threaten to sue them. I’m half joking, but it is often the only thing that will impact change. Few software companies or developers realize that addressing accessibility early is the way to go, and the costs go up exponentially when they have to retrofit for accessibility, and the solutions are rarely ideal.

Modular has a big learning curve. Add the personal “cost” of finding modules you can work with and/or modifying them is, as the programmers like to say, non trivial. You want to get into things as easily as possible and that is completely understandable. Lots of good suggestions here, but only you will be able to decide what works for you. Don’t give up and keep letting us know what works or doesn’t!
I think quite a lot of the Arturia instruments are quite old. They do update them every now and again but not in a big way.

Shame about Cubase but that will never get upgraded.

Yes, it's all down to me :-) Really appreciate all the suggestions. Hand-on would be best. They've 'eased' the lockdown in the UK and people are congregating like Lemmings... It's v. diff to imagine how I'd manage without trying and, as you say, just dipping the toes is an expense. . I think I may have got off to a bad start with the Neutron and not really sure where to go next. Hey ho...

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Thu May 28, 2020 5:14 am

keef321 wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 4:58 pm
I blind performer called Darkside has recently done a live set using Erica Synths modules. From my understanding Erica Synths even designed one of their sequencers around some of darksides requirements.

Erica Synths seem like a friendly bunch so perhaps contact them. I think their Black Series modules may work well for you, as they are designed to be hands on, and less menu driven.
Awesome! Is it on YouTube?

I think everyone in the modular business is friendly and helpful :-)

I've heard a lot of good stuff about Ereica Synths.

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deke
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Fri May 29, 2020 9:39 pm

If we could find a dealer who would be willing to let off a bit on return charges and/or had any experience with this, that would be ideal.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by keef321 » Sat May 30, 2020 4:25 am

iantrader wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 5:14 am
keef321 wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 4:58 pm
I blind performer called Darkside has recently done a live set using Erica Synths modules. From my understanding Erica Synths even designed one of their sequencers around some of darksides requirements.

Erica Synths seem like a friendly bunch so perhaps contact them. I think their Black Series modules may work well for you, as they are designed to be hands on, and less menu driven.
Awesome! Is it on YouTube?

I think everyone in the modular business is friendly and helpful :-)

I've heard a lot of good stuff about Ereica Synths.

Yes Darkside is on youtube, follow this link https://youtu.be/8R1Dsi0odbs

His performance is on the Ericasyths Youtube Channel, this is the description, enjoy :-)

Darkside is the live techno output of the blind martian synthesist who performed live with his Erica Synths eurorack, Korg SQ-1 sequencer and Synthrotek ribbon controller, Roland Tb-03 driving Korg Monotribe, Arturia DrumBrute Impact for sync and rhythmic side of things and Yamaha ReFace DX for some contrast in sound and at least one thing with keys on it.

''I’m 30 years old and I’m completely blind. I don’t even have the simplest light perception—I’m in complete darkness. Not darkness, actually; I don’t know what darkness is, because I don’t know what light is. I like to joke that I was born this way because I wanted to be able to listen to music without any other distractions. Unfortunately, not only did my eyesight not develop, but I also have some Asperger’s-like tendencies, a developmental difference that puts me somewhat on the Autistic scale. But this actually helps me to learn synthesizers—especially as a blind person.'' -

Hope this helps, Keith

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Sat May 30, 2020 10:42 am

keef321 wrote:
Sat May 30, 2020 4:25 am
Yes Darkside is on youtube, follow this link https://youtu.be/8R1Dsi0odbs
Ah, I think someone else mentioned him. There's an interview with hom on the web.
Amazing!

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Sat May 30, 2020 10:44 am

deke wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 9:39 pm
If we could find a dealer who would be willing to let off a bit on return charges and/or had any experience with this, that would be ideal.
I havr an idea now of the type of modules that will offer easy access. Need to check a few more things then, if I go ahead, comes the task of picking the individual modules :-)

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Pelsea » Sat May 30, 2020 1:44 pm

My wife is totally blind, and always has been. We met in 1975 where she was a graduate composition student and I was the research assistant for the electronic music studios. I was given the job of making the (2) studios accessible to her. We were married two years later, and I have been making things usable for her (and some blind musician friends) ever since.

Distinguish modules.
The first synthesizer we labeled was a 2600. It is actually an ideal instrument for vision impaired folks as many here have pointed out. We used two approaches: First I marked off the "modules" with narrow tape (making the white lines tactile). I used chart tape, which is hard to find these days, but any hobby shop will stock a narrow masking tape that should do the job. That wasn't necessary in the large Moog we tackled next, since the panels have a slight curve at the edge that is easy to feel. You may want to leave a 1hp gap between modules if the edges are hard to find.

Labeling
The next step was labels. (We have labeled thousands of things over the years). My wife reads braille and we have tried every method out there to make labels-- none beats the good old slate and stylus using clear Dymo tape. Since you are not a braille user (This would be a good way to get started) I suggest Brother P-touch labels, which have high contrast and are available in many colors and sizes. Both the 2600 and the Moog had plenty of space for labels, but we occasionally had to get creative with abbreviations and cutting labels to fit tight spaces.

Knobs
There's been a lot of suggestions about knobs and I recommend you buy a bunch in all shapes and sizes. My colleague Gordon Mumma is famous for never using the same knob twice on a single piece of gear. He wants everything identifiable by touch, and even makes knobs out of odds and ends like toothpaste caps. Knobs can be made in an ordinary drill press, although if you want to make several hundred like I did for the synth in my avatar, a lathe is a better approach. You can also hack knobs to make them unique. If you file notches across the top, you not only get a knob you can identify, you have a tactile indicator of which way it points. But most often I mark knobs by inserting tiny screws. An m2 screw down tight leaves a nice bump slightly bigger than a braille dot. They are easy to apply, just make a 1.5mm hole with a drill in a pin vise and screw it in. You can experiment to find patterns that are easy to distinguish. (I often put the screws in a panel if we are marking something with a pointer, like a toaster control.)

Jacks
Jacks are pretty hard to label when they are jammed together, so I suggest you keep that in mind when you buy modules. I've discovered that labels stick best when I loosen the nut a bit and slide the label underneath. You can also mark them with colored plastic tape. First remove the nut. Punch a hole in the tape with an ordinary paper punch, then cut an appropriate sized chunk off with scissors. Drop the tape over the jack and replace the nut. Finally, trim any excess tape with an X-Acto knife.

Paint
High quality acrylic paint will stick to anything on a synthesizer. I use the sort that comes in tubes and splash it around liberally. Even people with good vision like to quickly identify controls. I'm not particularly neat about it, but you can be if you want to.

Eurorack
I haven't tried labeling a Euro system (my wife currently has a MIDI studio, which is a whole other story), but I imagine it would be a challenge (MOTU or Serge would be a piece of cake). I'd use the techniques I've described, but I'd also put in blank panels to hold extra labeling. A 4hp panel on each side of a module would provide room for plenty of information, so plan on getting an 8hp panel ($5.00 or less) with each module. (Adjust to your own needs, of course.) It means you will need a bigger case for the same collection, but that's the kind of compromise we often have to make for accessibility.
Books and tutorials on modular synthesis at http://peterelsea.com
Patch responsibly-
pqe

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Sat May 30, 2020 2:16 pm

Pelsea wrote:
Sat May 30, 2020 1:44 pm
I haven't tried labeling a Euro system (my wife currently has a MIDI studio, which is a whole other story), but I imagine it would be a challenge (MOTU or Serge would be a piece of cake). I'd use the techniques I've described, but I'd also put in blank panels to hold extra labeling. A 4hp panel on each side of a module would provide room for plenty of information, so plan on getting an 8hp panel ($5.00 or less) with each module. (Adjust to your own needs, of course.) It means you will need a bigger case for the same collection, but that's the kind of compromise we often have to make for accessibility.
Ah... That is so inspiring. Does your wife have any videos on YouTube?

This is so helpful. So much to think about, though, going forward.

I think I may have said elsewhere that the 2600 was top of my Wush List back in the day but totally unaffordable. YT demos by Korg have since cured me :-) although I do think it's rather overpriced. Had it been more reasonable I may have succumbed. But just thinking how much Eurorack I could get for one of those... :-)



Do all Eurorack modules use the same type of knob - are they all interchangeable?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Pelsea » Sat May 30, 2020 3:33 pm

iantrader wrote:
Sat May 30, 2020 2:16 pm
Ah... That is so inspiring. Does your wife have any videos on YouTube?
A search for Veronica Elsea on YouTube brings up some of her stuff. She's also on iTunes etc. Her studio is Laurel Creek Music Designs. (The technical description of her studio is way out of date. She uses Radar and a Yamaha DM1000 for tracking these days. I wrote code to make that stuff talk.)
Do all Eurorack modules use the same type of knob - are they all interchangeable?
There are a lot of shaft sizes, but the most common pots seem to be 6mm or 1/4". The shape can be round, D (flat on the side opposite the pointer), or split with teeth (knurled). A 6mm round knob with a set screw will fit any of these shapes. You may need to hunt a bit to match some oddballs.
Here's a good resource.
Books and tutorials on modular synthesis at http://peterelsea.com
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Sun May 31, 2020 2:40 pm

Absolutely wonderful. Love the stuioo description even if it is out of date :-)

Thanks, too, for the knobs link - very helpdul.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:34 pm

KSS wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 4:10 am
There are two distinct paths to solutions. In the first, something like an O_C is programmed to do what you want. Meaning it is set up with a program to have the kind of chord sequencing functions available and you 'play' its four knobs to set probabilities and otherwise interact. Since modules like this are basically computers with knobs, the software decides what is and isn't possible.

Apologies for dumb newbie Q but what' s an O_C?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:41 pm

Ornament and Crimes. You may see why I prefer the abreviated version O_C. It's a DIY, computer behind a panel do all kinds of stuff design. There are builders for those who don't DIY. It's a popular module for good reason.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Mon Jun 01, 2020 4:54 pm

KSS wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:41 pm
Ornament and Crimes. You may see why I prefer the abreviated version O_C. It's a DIY, computer behind a panel do all kinds of stuff design. There are builders for those who don't DIY. It's a popular module for good reason.
Interesting, thanks.

Great name though :-)

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by tom » Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:47 am

I'd just suggest to use big synths with space for labeling, less spaghettis and bigger jacks than Eurorack's.
To my mind comes:
Serge with Banana mixing the knobs,
Bugbrand with Banana,
Buchla Easel, as it is very intuitive and it's layout is very clear, maybe with a different keyboard?
Future Retro XS is cheaper, well laid out, can sound from modern to big, if you change the knobs, but not Westcoast,
Vermona Monolancet or PERfourMER,
Macbeth M5 is huge
Moog Modular.

As digital synth I would suggest the Korg MS2000R or the Radias with changed knobs, as they have many knobs and you can use them without menu diving.

And I would also think about effects, probably pedals,
and mixing and multitracking, too.
Pelsea wrote:
Sat May 30, 2020 1:44 pm
my wife currently has a MIDI studio
This is interesting! Which sequencer does she use?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by Pelsea » Mon Jun 08, 2020 11:24 pm

Sonar 6, with Window-eyes 6 on an XP machine. Feature creep makes life difficult for visually impaired folks.
That’s not her oldest system though. She’s still using code I wrote for System 9 to provide speech for her Kurzweil and mixer & a few other things. (An OSX replacement Is in beta.)
She tracks on a Radar 24 with a laptop rigged to provide speech and remote control (more code by me).
Books and tutorials on modular synthesis at http://peterelsea.com
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:57 am

tom wrote:
Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:47 am
I'd just suggest to use big synths with space for labeling, less spaghettis and bigger jacks than Eurorack's.
To my mind comes:
Serge with Banana mixing the knobs,
Bugbrand with Banana,
Buchla Easel, as it is very intuitive and it's layout is very clear, maybe with a different keyboard?
Future Retro XS is cheaper, well laid out, can sound from modern to big, if you change the knobs, but not Westcoast,
Vermona Monolancet or PERfourMER,
Macbeth M5 is huge
Moog Modular.

As digital synth I would suggest the Korg MS2000R or the Radias with changed knobs, as they have many knobs and you can use them without menu diving.

And I would also think about effects, probably pedals,
and mixing and multitracking, too.
That's a great list of gear, thank you. I'm checking them all out as I'm not familiar with them all.

I did think about larger instruments but, for several reasons, I think Eurorack is the way to go. I have spoken to two musician who are totally blind who use Eurorack and, as long as they are careful with module selection, they manage incredibly well.Very ins[iring!

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:03 pm

Keep us updated. I’m really hopeful you will find the right set up for yourself!

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:47 am

deke wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:03 pm
Keep us updated. I’m really hopeful you will find the right set up for yourself!
Thank you, I will although it may take a while :-)



I'm in touch with a couple of totally blind modulare users who have been very helpful.

Part of the problem, of course - which everyone has - is the sheer number of modules out there!

I will probably post more Qs in other threads.

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