The General ... FM?!?

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Naive Teen Idol
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The General ... FM?!?

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Tue Dec 31, 2019 1:26 am

Os, this is less of a question than an idea for a module inspired by the GCV:

“The General FM.”

For a variety of reasons, there aren’t a ton of FM synthesis options in Eurorack. There’s one based on a four-operator Yamaha chip (Akemie’s Castle), another that is sort of a 4OP version of FM8 (Quad Operator), and a bunch of smaller 2OP options. All very cool but all are pretty much patch from scratch – none really give you any option to mangle a fully developed sound or present modes which give users a new way of approaching those sounds. Which wasn’t something I really cared about in Eurorack until the General CV came along and opened my eyes and ears to the idea and all the possibilities with General MIDI ROMpler soundsets.

Bringing this approach to FM would be equally powerful – in partly because with FM you have pretty extensive timbral options based on parameters like velocity sensitivity, algorithm switching, envelopes and multiple waveforms.

To tide me over, I’ve started controlling some FM VSTi’s using the GCV as a 9-input CV—>MIDI converter – modulating things like ratios and operator levels with LPGs, envelopes and audio rate modulation. The results have been really promising.

It makes me think a General FM could be very similar to the GCV – using new old stock Yamaha chips or the like. Most of the existing GCV modes would translate effectively – CV-to-MIDI, VCO (where you gate the sound for a continuous sound source but FM sounds can be modulated in real time), Chords/Arpeggiator, Drums, Drum 9 (could use FM percussion presets instead of GCV samples), Additive (with FM modulation!), and Programmable obviously. You could have Free and Clocked MIDI playback as well chock full of your favorite Sega games. I’ve already experimented with a lot of these modes already, forwarding the MIDI I’m generating to FM VSTi’s on my computer – Granular in particular is amazing using FM.

Might something like this interest you, Os? I’d like to think that designing and building something like this wouldn’t be as challenging as the GCV in that you’ve already built a template for so much of this. But it would extend a product you’ve already built to breathe new life another neglected form of sound synthesis, one that may be the most powerful of them all.

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Re: The General ... FM?!?

Post by os » Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:54 am

You know ALM have an FM module?

Naive Teen Idol
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Re: The General ... FM?!?

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:34 pm

Yes -- that's one of the ones I mentioned (Akemie's Castle) and it looks terrific. However, like most of the FM modules out there beyond individual oscillators with linear FM, it is enormous and enormously expensive. They also don't really allow for the user to work with sophisticated FM sound design -- in fairness, dialing in 6 operators all with different envelopes is pretty tricky to pull off in modular.

That would be the advantage of a smaller General CV-size module that takes that module’s approach to controlling a complete synth under the hood, using modes that exploit various aspects of the engine instead of trying to make all of them accessible at once.

Since my original post, I've been doing a bunch of experiments with a couple of different FM VSTi's controlled by the General CV in various modes forwarding the MIDI to my DAW (these are all pretty short):

Cascade Rene (FM4/Programmable)
Drums 9 (Dexed)
Granular (FM4)
Oompa Sequence (FM4/Programmable)
Risset Shepherd (FM4)
Single Note GCV Programmable

The Granular and the Risset/Shepherd modes are my favorites but two things stuck out to me about these:

1. What you came up with for the GCV really allows for some impressive modulation when you swap out ROMpler sounds for FM -- a General FM would sound really good, I think, and be pretty unique in modular.

2. These would be even better inside the modular (as opposed to simply being controlled by the modular).

At any rate, apologies for the long post -- I know you're digging through a bunch of things after the holidays. But as I said above, FM--much like General MIDI--is kind of an untapped thing in general and certainly in modular -- at the bare minimum, nobody has really developed a way to get more than really messy sounds out of it in the latter (which are in themselves pretty fun ... tho maybe not "30+ HP/$500 fun"). I just think there's an opportunity here.

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