Newbie Question - Clocks

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ISZebra
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Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by ISZebra » Mon Feb 24, 2020 12:28 am

Hi,

First post here and taking some modular baby steps. This is not a “what modules do I get/need” question and I have not found it through search if it has been answered elsewhere then please point me to it. It is in some ways a stupid question and I have worked out half the answer but would appreciate some pointers.

So, to describe the situation. The modular set up is linked to a Mac running Ableton. Some elements are sequenced in Ableton and played by soft synths while other will be sequenced but played through the modular.

I have a midi/cv interface. However, as I understand it, this simply takes midi information (note on/off etc) and converts to CV. What it does not do is carry any timing information. I.e., if I am running a song at 120 Bpm then the modular system has no means of knowing this. One think I would want to do is to ensure that LFOs operate in time with the sequencer. This is easy enough (Hz = BPM/60). However, it seems to me that I will need some form of clock on the modular system which is fair enough as Hz is Hz and should be the same whatever the source. So (finally) to the question......

Is the above correct? If so, are there any material differences between available clocks for modular or are they all rock solid on timing?

The reason I ask, is that I once sat in the central electricity dispatch room of an East European country and watched the Hz clock veer wildly between 49.5 and 50.5.

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smithjohn
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by smithjohn » Mon Feb 24, 2020 1:06 am

Which MIDI to CV interface do you have? Some of them do have clock and start/stop outs as well. For tempo synced modulations you would need a special module such as Pamela's New workout.

Some Lfos have a reset input but that just resets the LFO, instead of making one cycle equal e.g. one bar.

ISZebra
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by ISZebra » Mon Feb 24, 2020 1:11 am

Thanks. I am using a Doepfer 190-5 which is pretty nice and carries a bit more than note on/off but no clock data.

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hamildad
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by hamildad » Mon Feb 24, 2020 7:56 am

Pro TIp: buy Pamelas new Workout.

its great... and is a very useful utility for all clock and tempo synced needs.

I dont have a Eurorack system anymore, but when I did. Pamelas Workout was one of my most treasured modules.
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ISZebra
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by ISZebra » Mon Feb 24, 2020 10:00 am

Thanks. It’s certainly on my list. Would I need to find a module to clock/sync to the DAW or is it reliable and stable enough to run independently without huge timing discrepancies?

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Graham Hinton
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by Graham Hinton » Mon Feb 24, 2020 3:26 pm

ISZebra wrote:
Mon Feb 24, 2020 12:28 am
However, it seems to me that I will need some form of clock on the modular system which is fair enough as Hz is Hz and should be the same whatever the source. So (finally) to the question......

Is the above correct? If so, are there any material differences between available clocks for modular or are they all rock solid on timing?
Hz isn't Hz and bpm isn't bpm. What you are not considering is phase, resolution and accuracy.

Most tempo clocks have a three digit display, but the actual clock may not be exactly that integer rate. To have a tempo accurate over the length of a typical song you need three decimal places of resolution and accuracy. Even then two identical free running clocks set to the same rate will vary against each other just like two watches.

MIDI timing on modern computers will jitter by several ms. The only way to have clocking in sync with a DAW is to use an audio track so that it is sample locked.

There is an online application called wavtones that generates x24 tone files for use with my Gearbox module. See Gearbox Applications. The files are very accurate and always end on a zero crossing so that you can have a file, say, two bars long and repeat them butted together along a track. Note that any glitch in a master tone track will move the clocking so you have to be careful with editing the track and plugging in the output.

ISZebra
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by ISZebra » Tue Feb 25, 2020 12:15 am

Many thanks, Graham. That is rather what I suspected so I will need to ensure that clock data is driven by the DAW. From what I understand from your link, the midi over USB might be sloppy with timing. However, if I use Gearbox then I will need to convert from USB-midi to 5-pin Midi whichever direction I sync in. Does that conversion not remove any advantages of using Gearbox in this mode?

However, if I take calibrated audio output from my interface (sourced from Ableton) and then feed that into Gearbox then that would sync perfectly?

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Graham Hinton
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by Graham Hinton » Tue Feb 25, 2020 8:05 am

ISZebra wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 12:15 am
From what I understand from your link, the midi over USB might be sloppy with timing. However, if I use Gearbox then I will need to convert from USB-midi to 5-pin Midi whichever direction I sync in. Does that conversion not remove any advantages of using Gearbox in this mode?
Gearbox can drive MIDI devices from analogue or DIN-Sync or vice versa. If that MIDI device is a personal computer with a USB interface the timing will not be good, not just because of the USB link, but due to the way an asynchronous event is handled in the OS software too. Standalone dedicated hardware won't suffer the same problem.
However, if I take calibrated audio output from my interface (sourced from Ableton) and then feed that into Gearbox then that would sync perfectly?
The analogue clocks and DIN-Sync will be sample accurate. The MIDI Clocks will have a 0.32ms transmission delay after leaving Gearbox which you might have to compensate for by shifting the tone track, it won't be jittering though. Don't forget that different devices have different response times to clocks too, but if you record the audio outputs back in your DAW you will see which are a problem and which aren't.

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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by jorg » Tue Feb 25, 2020 11:19 am

If you simply want your modular to play notes from the soft sequencer, MIDI clock won't add any accuracy.

If you want your modular to, say, generate beats which might not align note-for-note with a sequence, yet still be accurately aligned with the bars and beats of the song, you'll need a MIDI to CV module which extracts the clock. A-190-4 would be one example (I have it and like it). You can run it in parallel with the A190-5; take MIDI Thru of one module and send it to MIDI In on the other (but not both ways!).

By the way, the accuracy of the mains frequency is not relevant.

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Graham Hinton
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by Graham Hinton » Tue Feb 25, 2020 1:50 pm

jorg wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 11:19 am
If you want your modular to, say, generate beats which might not align note-for-note with a sequence, yet still be accurately aligned with the bars and beats of the song, you'll need a MIDI to CV module which extracts the clock.
No MIDI or USB converter can extract a clock that is sample locked to DAW audio tracks, because the DAW MIDI output is not sample locked and will jitter.
There are various solutions to this that use audio tracks to get around the fact that neither Microsoft nor Apple are going to rewrite their OSes to give MIDI the high priority it needs.

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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by Schlumpfhut » Tue Feb 25, 2020 1:55 pm

To get the clock information from abelton (or any other DAW) to your modular the missing link might be a great option

http://circuithappy.com/themissinglink/

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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by jorg » Tue Feb 25, 2020 3:11 pm

Graham Hinton wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 1:50 pm
No MIDI or USB converter can extract a clock that is sample locked to DAW audio tracks...
Well, I certainly wasn't thinking in terms of sample-locked. That's way more finicky than I could ever be. :hihi: And yes, it would be nice if the OS on computers and tablets could be music-friendly, but I won't hold my breath for that. :confused:

ISZebra
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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by ISZebra » Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:22 am

Thanks all. There’s some great information here and thanks for bringing me up the learning curve.

I think, though, that the way I am syncing requires only a simple solution. The modular system will be driven by quite simple sequencing patterns from Ableton at c. 100 -120 bpm. The main role for the clock is simply to move the LFOs driving VCA/filter in some sort of consistency with the software instruments playing in Ableton. In this context, I can probably live with a few timing inaccuracies.

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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by Mikeyg3k » Mon Mar 02, 2020 1:38 am

It’s not complicated once you get a few modules in a rack and start - basically whatever your source is (a master clock module, a module converting midi into analog clock, a drum machine, whatever) you begin with one signal which many consider to be a master. A lot of people use a 1/16th or 4ppqn time for this. Then you divide that down or multiply it to send timing to other modules. Your chosen LFo can absolutely be clocked this way.
Again and I can’t stress this enough - the best way to understand this is to get some modules and start patching so you can see it for yourself. Try not to get too caught up in all the technical details because these instruments really lend themselves to being played and manipulated and finessed into doing what you want with simple or creative patching

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Re: Newbie Question - Clocks

Post by XXXEsq » Wed Mar 04, 2020 2:48 pm

I would suggest you look at the Encore Expressionist. It's a stand alone rack mountable device that does 8 channels of midi>CV+Trigs, and has (syncable) internal LFOs. It also extracts midi clock and outputs clock pulses at programmable divisions.
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