Did anyone start big and no regrets?

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SonarBk
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Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:32 am

Hi all -

Noob here. So.... I’ve spent the past year researching and studying. Of course I keep seeing the standard advice for beginners is to start small, go deep with a few modules etc.

I’d like to hear stories from those of you that jumped all the way in without knowing how to swim, especially if you feel good about that choice in retrospect!

After my year of research, leaning towards starting off way bigger than seems to be recommended. Im in my 40s and I’m in a good life situation right now where there is both money and time.

For context, I’m mostly interested in how modular can contribute to music I’m already making. I have very bad RSI issues as a long term instrumentalist and I can’t use a mouse at all, so my current set up is an iPad, a Squarp Pyramid, some Faderfox midi controllers, a Tascam model 24 for mixing and recording, a polysynth and my guitars and violin. The reason I want to get into eurorack is that I want more of a sense of playing with “others” rather than just layering my own tracks. This could mean generative patches but it could also just mean the surprises that come from CV modulation. I know I could make a lot of similar sounds using midi automation and the right software but the no-mouse limit is real.

I’m not sure I care a whole lot about learning synthesis in depth with eurorack but I do care about having fun and feeling inspired. For this purpose, I don’t know if it makes sense to start with rudimentary sounds and get more complex or to start by being able to do a whole lot and drilling down over time.

Thoughts?

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by finalplane » Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:38 am

I started with half of a 9u 84hp case and I’m happy, it’s mostly filled now a few months in. Had a pretty good idea what I wanted tho. One thing I would have done is go even more elemental / General with my module choices - more multifunction serge type cv processing things. But I do a similar thing to what you’re saying - I play along to the modular with my flute / etc, and it is very exciting to me
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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Daisuk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:42 am

I started out relatively big and don't regret it at all. Made the whole thing a lot more flexible and fun. But I didn't get everything at once, it can be wise to get a feel for what you're missing before buying stuff. So my advice would be to get a few things first, see what you miss, get that, then see what you miss etc. Otherwise you might end up with a lot of stuff you find yourself not needing.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by jonne74 » Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:49 am

I started out by filling out half a P9 case with Pittsburgh modules to create a basic 3-oscillator mono. Still have that and then some, but my most used case is a Make Noise CV-bus. It's all based around the Phonogene/Morphagene combo.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Shakespeare » Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:50 am

So here's my thought, having done Euro twice, once back in the very early days when Doepfer was the only manufacturer, and then again in the past three years (after a 15-year break from music due to kids, etc.). And I'm in my late 40s, so similar place in life/career/etc. to you, perhaps.

1. The advice to start with a small number of modules is generally sound.

2. But it also REALLY depends on what sorts of modules you're getting. Starting off with a large assortment of bread-and-butter modules might not be a big deal. Starting off with a similar number of modern digital modules with multiple modes, menu diving, etc. could be *completely* overwhelming.

3. It also really depends on what sort of time you can commit. The learning curve can be steep.

Anyway, what are some modules that are peaking your interest? What are a few you definitely want to start out with? That might help us tell you what to consider as you get started.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by acidbob » Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:59 am

Same as Shakespeare here for me, started many years ago, like hmm.. 13-14 years I think.
The thing that struck me is that things in euro have changed quite a lot regarding the availability and the vast number of options we have today when choosing modules. A few modules have stayed but mostly everything from the beginning has been traded, sold or given away. Something funny is, nothing has ever broken on me, not a single module, everything worked and the remaining still do. I recently decided to scale down due to me not having the time to play as much anymore and just wanting to try something different, I always had a huge setup, and nowadays I kind of like it simple, but I think this is due to that I know what I need and want now, I didnt know that 14 years ago, it's been a playground where I just forgot to sell modules and just kept buying.
I think in order to get some usage out of a modular system it has to be a certain size, this is especially true in the beginning where you find your self stuck with ideas that cant be done because you dont have the modules yet, but this is where you really have to think out of the box and investigate techniques and loopholes with modules you already have

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by blaythe.steuer » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:06 am

honestly if you have the time and money go for it. life is short and you can always resell.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Peng33 » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:07 am

Pushing 50 myself with a 4 year old, got into Eurorack right before the pandemic hit back in March, and currently have a 6U 140 Behringer and a 3U 84 Nifty case...both completely full, and already in overflow mode, to where I removed the Cellz sequencer that came as part of the Nifty Bundle and replaced it with the new Bastl Ikarie filter.

For me, it is not a huge issue having expanded that quickly, as, like someone above said, nearly all of my modules aside from Mob of Emus and the Bitbox are pretty much single function, and thus easy to learn. Still need to fully make use of and explore some utility modules in my setup, but I am okay with 364 HP in about nine months. I got these all one by one, so usually at least a few weeks to a month or so went by before adding the next one. In doing so, I could take what I had, play with it for a bit, and then determine what I needed next.
Last edited by Peng33 on Sat Dec 26, 2020 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Tonefloat01 » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:26 am

I started relatively big myself filling up a Pittsburgh EP-360 almost in almost one go after researching everything.
I have a long history of keyboard synths so having this knowledge helped me from being lost right out of the gate.
Definitely different because you have to patch everything up to make it work instead of just pressing a key to get a sound.
Takes effort to get everything right how you want it but it’s infinitely more flexible and capable of making sounds that traditional synths wouldn’t be able to make (or at least without a good mod matrix). Used to document all my patches before I pulled them in notebooks with every minute detail but would find out later that I had obviously missed something to my dissatisfaction...Now I don’t worry about documenting patches anymore because my experience has grown and that steep learning curve has leveled off a bit but always rises again when I add a new module. I still have modules that I have to refer to the manual or cheat sheets for but I’m at a point now that it is becoming second nature and can confidently patch up something interesting quickly. Not saying I know it all put I’ve definitely have reached a level beyond novice.
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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by sir stony » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:28 am

SonarBk wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:32 am
I have very bad RSI issues as a long term instrumentalist and I can’t use a mouse at all, ...
You better take that into account when picking your modules. Dense, feature-packed modern modules are not much fun during the patching and unpatching process, and also when fiddling with the pots while they are obstructed by bunches of cables.
My mom gave me a bit of her own rheumatism issues, and in long patching sessions I feel the pain and weakness in my hands starting to subdue the fun. In maybe another fifteen or twenty years, I may become unable to use the same densely packed modules at all.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by nangu » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:31 am

Jumping in cold or already having useful experience with something like a Nord Modular are totally different things. Going big seems pretty natural if you’re coming from a Nord background.

Pretty sure Euro wouldn’t have happened like it did without Nord. It might have puttered around as a niche thing, but Nord spun up a whole bunch of people who got serious about hardware modular later on. And already knew they needed lots of VCAs.

I can sort-of imagine other starting points. “This is a monosynth” or “this is an effects processor”. Neither leads to understanding the flexibility of modular like the Nord did.

Pulling utility modules off the menu bar for free leads to experimentation. Paying $80 for an attenuvertor, not so much. I hope we aren’t creating a generation of people who don’t understand the underpinnings of our tools.

Fuck- I sound like an old fart. Maybe I qualify? Still seem to be sounding way older and fartier than I actually am..

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Raindeer » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:34 am

Not sure if I went big quickly compared to others but got to 7U 104hp within 6 months. It’s totally fine to do it however you like... buy 30 modules at once if you can afford it and feel inclined. Just be aware that there is a HUGE amount of choice so naturally you’ll find what combinations work for you through intense trial and error (and expense) rather than evolving into it. You simply cannot figure out your personal workflow from watching DivKid module reviews, however good they are.

A few thoughts:
  • If you’re integrating Eurorack with other gear then figure that out first in terms of sequencing and mixing etc. Mine is pretty straightforward... DAWless with everything MIDI synced but otherwise independent and fed into the same external mixer.
  • figure out what your ‘philosophy’ is with the setup. I wanted to get away from menu-diving so have gone for no screens and (mostly) knob-per-function. Stereo is also important to me so have looked to incorporate good stereo modules.
  • There is a balance for sure. Too much complexity could be stifling.. but equally just a ‘plain’ VCO, VCF, VCA and EG might not inspire you either, or show you what is unique about Eurorack. Maybe fill a 104hp rack with an interesting selection and, if you love it, make another one.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:36 am

finalplane wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:38 am
But I do a similar thing to what you’re saying - I play along to the modular with my flute / etc, and it is very exciting to me
I'd love to hear more about what you have discovered and what is most exciting!
Shakespeare wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:50 am
Anyway, what are some modules that are peaking your interest? What are a few you definitely want to start out with? That might help us tell you what to consider as you get started.
Ah where to start... OK, seems like there are a few categories of modules that I've especially drawn to...

1. Modules like Acid Rain Maestro, Live Stock Maze that have a convenience and performance focus maybe at the expense of building something from smaller components ... if I understand correctly, these might be the opposite of the Serge ethos?? Even as a beginner, I feel like there's a ton I could do with both of these right off the bat and then I'm sure it just grows from there.
2. Full voice modules that are sonically lovely - Grendel Drone Commander and 4MS Ensemble Oscillator are two that I really like
3. Modules that do a specific musical task and *could* very easily be computer software - Instruo Lubadh and Arbhar, Bitbox, Rainmaker, Erbe Verb etc

Again, I understand that this is less of a synthesist's approach and more of a trying-to-build-my-chamber-ensemble approach. That's fine with me!

And then, on the other hand....

4. The Mannequins stuff which I understand is NOT that easy for beginners (but turns out people have made wonderful tutorials on GitHub) but I particularly love the sound and seems like a fascinating deep dive in doing the opposite of what I described above :omg:
5. Modules that just blow my mind based on demos - a good example is the ADDAC Stochastic Function Generator demo on the ADDAC site. I feel like it would be worth it to get the module, bang my head against the wall, hire a tutor or whatever it takes to learn

I understand the need for plenty VCA and utilities and I plan to do all my sequencing on the iPad or Pyramid so I will do midi to CV conversion and not try to get into eurorack sequencers.
blaythe.steuer wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:06 am
honestly if you have the time and money go for it. life is short and you can always resell.
Thanks for the moral support!!!! I also feel like life is short and if I can stumble into something might as well.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:37 am

sir stony wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:28 am
SonarBk wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:32 am
I have very bad RSI issues as a long term instrumentalist and I can’t use a mouse at all, ...
You better take that into account when picking your modules.
oooooh I didn't think about that. Thanks for the heads up. Im sorry to hear about your struggles with it.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Flounderguts » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:43 am

sir stony wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:28 am
SonarBk wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:32 am
I have very bad RSI issues as a long term instrumentalist and I can’t use a mouse at all, ...
You better take that into account when picking your modules. Dense, feature-packed modern modules are not much fun during the patching and unpatching process, and also when fiddling with the pots while they are obstructed by bunches of cables.
My mom gave me a bit of her own rheumatism issues, and in long patching sessions I feel the pain and weakness in my hands starting to subdue the fun. In maybe another fifteen or twenty years, I may become unable to use the same densely packed modules at all.
This is good advice for other reasons, too.

I love some of my modules that do everything, but the truth is that I only started to use them long after I had mastered the rest of my rack. When you're a noob (I'm still a noob at patching) the visual process and understanding is far easier and more fun when each module has a function. Once function.
Once you know your way around all of that, it's fun to throw in a multi-operator module to do the things you've imagined. I mean, I totally recommend modules like Maths and Clouds and Yarns and Ornament and Crime and 4MS SWN...but I think they are more useful AFTER you get your patch on.
One of my issues is my rapidly degenerating eyesight, which has taken a turn for the worse as I push 50. Tiny little OLED screens with 6 point font can be pretty hard to decipher. I don't mind menu-diving, but I can't see the screens on eurorack from a few feet away, and I end up leaning into the rack to see stuff...and my belly is big enough to disrupt the groove sometimes.

Huh. I wonder if that's why I'm gravitating toward desktop stuff.
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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:47 am

nangu wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:31 am
Pretty sure Euro wouldn’t have happened like it did without Nord. It might have puttered around as a niche thing, but Nord spun up a whole bunch of people who got serious about hardware modular later on. And already knew they needed lots of VCAs.
That makes sense. I think for those of us who didn't use Nord, VCV Rack and now MI Rack really helps with this too. I'm grateful that MI rack exists given my injuries - I can use a touch screen just not a mouse - so I've been able to get my feet wet there, and use unlimited utilities!

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:50 am

Flounderguts wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:43 am
One of my issues is my rapidly degenerating eyesight, which has taken a turn for the worse as I push 50. Tiny little OLED screens with 6 point font can be pretty hard to decipher.
oh dear. me too and I also didn't think of that.

Maybe some of us should start an Ergonomics sticky :)

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Flounderguts » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:03 pm

5U :sb:
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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Hyberus » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:05 pm

I would have done, if I could have afforded to . . .
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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:05 pm

Flounderguts wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:03 pm
5U :sb:
for ergonomic reasons? but then don't you run unto another set of problems in terms of reach?

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:06 pm

Hyberus wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:05 pm
I would have done, if I could have afforded to . . .
Want to share more about your reasons for that, and what your current goals are?

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by SonarBk » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:08 pm

Daisuk wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:42 am
I started out relatively big and don't regret it at all. Made the whole thing a lot more flexible and fun. But I didn't get everything at once, it can be wise to get a feel for what you're missing before buying stuff. So my advice would be to get a few things first, see what you miss, get that, then see what you miss etc. Otherwise you might end up with a lot of stuff you find yourself not needing.
what was your first case size?

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by Back Down the Path » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:28 pm

If you start big you'll figure out how you want to work, and what you want to get out of modular and what you don't, relatively quickly. The only regret you'll have is the difference between the used price you get for the modules you don't connect with and what you paid for them initially.

I started off relatively small back in 2013 and picked back up this year and went significantly bigger. I sold a lot of other hardware after deciding I'd get the most out of my time spent enjoying gear and recording things by working with a DAW + modular only. I found that I was spending too much time connecting and reconnecting and rearranging and organizing. This way I turn on my two cases, open up my DAW and...that's it.

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by wrecksmoondee » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:31 pm

I jumped in this week with a 9u case (almost) filled with Doepfer modules. No regrets.. but they haven't arrived yet and the credit card balance hasn't been updated to reflect the purchase, so it's still the calm before the storm. :rastanana:

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Re: Did anyone start big and no regrets?

Post by pines » Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:44 pm

I guess I started big. I bought a Make Noise Shared System as my first foray into Euro. I do have a lot of experience with synthesis though as I’ve been using modular’s since the early 70s. Most of that experience was on Moog type systems though… basically subtractive. The Make Noise system was counter to that, so took a while of patching around in its more Serge/Buchla type of environment. There was enough complexity in patch programming that it made it really interesting. And not much menu diving or many button combination things to remember. After several months with that system I put together a small 6U 84HP utility case with extra stuff that I felt was missing in the Make Noise universe. That was helpful as I learned a bit about euro as far as voltage and trigger gate inconsistencies among manufacturers. It turns out, at least for me, that some modules did not play well with others. I’m glad that I didn’t just buy a huge box of bits from different manufacturers just starting out. My next move was to buy a very complete Sputnik system to get something close to an old school Buchla experience. Then I bought a couple of skiffs to fill out the missing links to connect and rationalize all the parts I had assembled. The extra case and skiffs do have quite a few modules from different manufacturers and a number of them do have screens, menus, button presses, etc. i’m not particularly fond of that type of module, but they are quite powerful and useful. It was better to buy them when I actually knew what I wanted them for. I only have one module sitting in a box unused (MIDI interface), and I never flipped anything.
I’m up to 31U at the moment and I’m pretty sure that this set up will do whatever I need. Barring some must have, as yet non-existing, module I’m not looking to add anything.

So I guess my advice is to buy a big enough system that allows you to make some music. Consider buying a lot of modules from a single manufacturer that you like. For me it was a tossup between Verbos and Make Noise. I could’ve gone either way and I would’ve been happy. Nowadays, there are a lot more options for a single manufacturer system to start with. Particularly interesting to me are offerings from R*S serge, Mannikins/Monome, ADDAC, Instruo, and Frap Tools. Some folks are quite fond of the Mutable Instruments line as well... really great and well designed stuff, but somehow I don’t vibe with the workflow.

All that said, this year I’m going to build a Buchla or Serge system.

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