BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

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BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by bchampion96 » Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:00 pm

Hi everyone,

If you are a beginner in the world of modular now (or if you can remember when you were just starting out) when watching/reading tutorials, what did you always find to be poorly explained? I'm embarking on a few 'Modular 101' videos for my local synth community and, while I already have a list of topics to cover, I was wondering if there was anything that frustrated you early on that could do with a bit of a closer look when I'm scripting these videos.

Cheers!

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by kossoff87 » Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:14 pm

Hello - first post but long time lurker!

I've just put together enough modules to have a functioning system and, as silly as this might sound, I wanted to see more videos of people just making patches. Someone showing a basic patch with where they would put the envelope, where they put the filter in the chain and why etc. Then in a different video, with a new patch, show me where else it might go.

One of the most useful videos I've seen is Lightbath doing a patch. I also found White Noise videos really useful in that regard because they talk through modules and functions from a performance perspective. I find a lot of videos are gear oriented and most of that goes over my head as a noob.

I'd love to hear if there's any more channels that fit the description!

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by KSS » Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:34 pm

A question I've seen beginners ask over and over is why does 'everyone' say you can never have enough VCAs. They've gotten the audio level basic patch, but don't yet see past it to where VCAs are more than that.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by bchampion96 » Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:08 pm

kossoff87 wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:14 pm
Hello - first post but long time lurker!

I've just put together enough modules to have a functioning system and, as silly as this might sound, I wanted to see more videos of people just making patches. Someone showing a basic patch with where they would put the envelope, where they put the filter in the chain and why etc. Then in a different video, with a new patch, show me where else it might go.

One of the most useful videos I've seen is Lightbath doing a patch. I also found White Noise videos really useful in that regard because they talk through modules and functions from a performance perspective. I find a lot of videos are gear oriented and most of that goes over my head as a noob.

I'd love to hear if there's any more channels that fit the description!
I've heard this request a few places before, so I might use that to round off the series! I don't know any myself, but I'll post here when these videos come out, so feel free to subscribe to the topic :)

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by bchampion96 » Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:09 pm

KSS wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:34 pm
A question I've seen beginners ask over and over is why does 'everyone' say you can never have enough VCAs. They've gotten the audio level basic patch, but don't yet see past it to where VCAs are more than that.
Good shout! Modulating your modulators will definitely be a good video.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by KSS » Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:42 pm

Here's another. Nearly every synth manual talks 'forever' about basic WFs, and why they're shaped the way they are. But that doesn't matter nearly as much IMO as what follows.

Mixing, or why every famous modular has at least one mixer with offset capability.

Start with simple full strength mixing of VCO waveforms, like they'd see on a typical polysynth with buttons only to mix WFs. Then noting that ARPs -and some others- have 0-10V saw square and pulse, and -/+5v triangle and sine. Compare that with the simple mixing of WFs where all are -/+5V. Still no -additional- offsets -or levels- discussed or applied.

Then speak about how straight mixing of waveforms of similar p-p voltage level doesn't account for their relative perceived loudness. Using that to move into level adjusted mixing. Noting how much attenuation the louder perceived WFs need to match the softer ones.

Finally introducing level offsets AKA bias into the mix. How taking the now adjusted for equal loudness WFs change when an offset or offsets are appllied. Applying negative and positive offset-bias to *both* the WFs being used as inputs, and also to the mixed WF output before it goes to the next part of the patch.
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Later you can show how this affects a filter in a standard subtractive patch. And how VCAs can replace the knobs of the mixers. Along with how they can replace or adjust the offsets-bias. The difference between level and offset, and the diference in their effect.
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Tie that basic WF mixing back into the VCA discussion by noting the differences between a 3 hole VCA and the more full-featured types like the moog 902 and the 4019 VCA on the ARP 2600 -and TTSH. Because few beginners realize the power of a really full featured VCA. One with *both* negative and positive inputs, combined with normal and inverted outputs. Or the value of multiple control inputs on the 902, for going places you can't get with stack cables.
The power and difference between the lin-expo switch on the 902, and the lin-expo *inputs* of the 4019.

Let them see how the 'hidden' mixers in these kinds of dual input-output VCAs can be pushed to do major work in a patch.
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Then how a mixer with offset-bias can allow the same result of all of the above to be sent in related but wildly different transforms to multiple other parts of the patch.

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Using all of this to show the importance of the utilities between the *major* source, control and modifier modules.

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I wouldn't say beginners don't understand this as much as I see it not being taught at all. We tend to jump them right past all this basic useful information into fancy modules. And then wonder why or how they're not seeing the value of the interconnects and basics.

Details matter.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by wuff_miggler » Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:11 pm

i dont know if anyone cares about this topic - but as someone who got into modular through a "lead synth" performance angle...
can you talk about tuning modulars, and getting all your modules in tune :) I'm finding having to move my modular next to a PC to use a tuning app with actual hz read outs to be a pain in the ass - and i cant see working with modular without an oscilloscope viable at all. (if you're trying to really use the system to its full capacity and really understand what you're doing).

a particularly annoying stumbling block i'm coming across is - finely tuning a fully featured oscillator (Doepfer A-111-2) to play across 2 octaves on a ribbon controller....all good...then - i want to tweak an FM knob on the oscillator....there goes my tuning...what do the pros do about this? (quantizers quantize BEFORE going into an oscillator)...

that would be sweet to have explained....!

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by bchampion96 » Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:40 pm

wuff_miggler wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:11 pm
i dont know if anyone cares about this topic - but as someone who got into modular through a "lead synth" performance angle...
can you talk about tuning modulars, and getting all your modules in tune :) I'm finding having to move my modular next to a PC to use a tuning app with actual hz read outs to be a pain in the ass - and i cant see working with modular without an oscilloscope viable at all. (if you're trying to really use the system to its full capacity and really understand what you're doing).

a particularly annoying stumbling block i'm coming across is - finely tuning a fully featured oscillator (Doepfer A-111-2) to play across 2 octaves on a ribbon controller....all good...then - i want to tweak an FM knob on the oscillator....there goes my tuning...what do the pros do about this? (quantizers quantize BEFORE going into an oscillator)...

that would be sweet to have explained....!
A good point! I use a Boss TU-3 and it works great. As for the FM thing, it depends on the oscillator's design and how the FM input is implemented, but most I've used, I set the fm amount I want and then tune it. Doesn't work so great if you want a lot of modulation of FM amount though

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by wuff_miggler » Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:47 pm

^thx bchamp

see the shitty thing about this - is...there arent many people using ribbon controllers. hence - the amount of people talking about these issues is next to none :P

i guess i'll put up a post later once i've delved into the nature of the problem a bit more...but i guess my main topic i think you should talk about is definatelt tuning - i never even considered it before i sat down and played my system - but its CLEAR - the modular needs to be tuned -just as you would a guitar - every time you play...just like a guitarist would.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by Flounderguts » Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:47 pm

All the tutorials I have seen fall into one of two camps:

1. Here are all the functions of the things, now put them together!
or
2. (REALLY FAST)
Takethisoutandplugitintothisok?nowoutfromthisholetothisoverherecallediteritasandmoditthroughthisfmtothemixerandyoucanOHhowaboutthisinstead.

No one explains their patches, or their workflow. Frustrating for a beginner.
----------------------

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by Dave Peck » Fri Jun 12, 2020 8:59 pm

1. Understanding the basic concepts of subtractive analog synthesis: audio waveform generators, control signal generators, signal modifiers. The differences between them and how they can be used together (patched).

2. The basic concept of MODULATION. What it means, what it does.

3. The relationship between an audio signal's waveshape, it's harmonic content, and what it SOUNDS like, and WHY. And how to use the info from #1 and #2 above to affect that waveshape/harmonic content/sound.

Once I understood these three basic concepts, that was plenty to keep me busy patching for years.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by JonoVizion » Fri Jun 12, 2020 9:31 pm

Flounderguts wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:47 pm
All the tutorials I have seen fall into one of two camps:

1. Here are all the functions of the things, now put them together!
or
2. (REALLY FAST)
Takethisoutandplugitintothisok?nowoutfromthisholetothisoverherecallediteritasandmoditthroughthisfmtothemixerandyoucanOHhowaboutthisinstead.

No one explains their patches, or their workflow. Frustrating for a beginner.
This.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by Scott » Fri Jun 12, 2020 9:45 pm

Offset. I get it. But at the same time, I don't. How do I know I need to offset? I guess I need to write down every module situation in which an offset is needed. Is there a rule of thumb to knowing without having to get out the manual for every module in every situation?

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by dubonaire » Fri Jun 12, 2020 9:55 pm

You should search for all the help me threads on this forum.

I think beginners could do with more discussion on the difference between triggers and gates, the different types of basic envelopes including how ADSR length is related to gate length, the difference between unipolar and bipolar signals, how 10 volts is a massive ten octaves, a basic primer on Boolean logic, how voltages are added, subtracted or multiplied in signal paths and the utility of attenuverters and switches and related, to do the kinds of things they are used to doing in a DAW or hardware synth they will need a lot more modules than they realized, how clock division works.

Not necessarily in that order, but these are the things that spring to mind based on what people ask here.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by voidshell » Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:09 pm

Make Noise panels 😂

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by KSS » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:07 am

Scott wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 9:45 pm
Offset. I get it. But at the same time, I don't. How do I know I need to offset? I guess I need to write down every module situation in which an offset is needed. Is there a rule of thumb to knowing without having to get out the manual for every module in every situation?
Try running through the outline I wrote above. you'll have a better understanding of offset after.

Then just try applying it wherever and pay attention to what happens. Don't need a scope, don't need to know ahead of time. Use your ears and don't forget it's called 'playing' a synth.

Sometimes people get scared or too cerebral and miss the fact that it's hard to hurt a modular permanently by patching. Try things.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by aragorn23 » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:14 am

Thru-zero hurt my head for a bit. Most of the discussions are highly technical and it took me a while to kind of get it.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by cptnal » Sat Jun 13, 2020 8:29 am

As a perpetual beginner I believe the onus is on me to educate myself. If someone doesn't explain something in a way that makes sense to me I'll look for a different explanation somewhere else. None of this is secret, especially around here where people are so generous with their knowledge.
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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by stepvhen » Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:03 am

Howdy friends. I figure this is as good a place as any to make my first post.

FM Synthesis. I've watched a number of videos that point out some module or synth has FM capability, and then they say "Now, FM Synthesis is a deep and complex topic so I'm not going to get into it here.." and go on to demonstrate vibrato and crazy-go-nuts noise stuff. It would be nice to get a holistic view of why FM is great and cool, rather than just pointing it out as great and cool.

On a more basic level, why some oscillators or why some filters are better or different than others. In a quick rundown, you'll hear about Moog's "24dB per octave 4-pole ladder filter" which means nothing to somebody just starting out. Why is the dB per octave thing important? Why is that design better than others? Why is Buchla's vactrol (which isn't always explained) design different? Regarding oscillators, I can buy a Doepfer, an STO, WMD or a bunch of others, but I don't have any sense of why I would choose one over another. Like, im still not 100% sure on how different oscillators can sound, if they are all just producing a saw wave (for example)

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by m12386 » Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:49 am

Highly recommend watching the Learning Modular series

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by authorless » Sat Jun 13, 2020 11:41 am

stepvhen wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:03 am
Howdy friends. I figure this is as good a place as any to make my first post.

FM Synthesis. I've watched a number of videos that point out some module or synth has FM capability, and then they say "Now, FM Synthesis is a deep and complex topic so I'm not going to get into it here.." and go on to demonstrate vibrato and crazy-go-nuts noise stuff. It would be nice to get a holistic view of why FM is great and cool, rather than just pointing it out as great and cool.

On a more basic level, why some oscillators or why some filters are better or different than others. In a quick rundown, you'll hear about Moog's "24dB per octave 4-pole ladder filter" which means nothing to somebody just starting out. Why is the dB per octave thing important? Why is that design better than others? Why is Buchla's vactrol (which isn't always explained) design different? Regarding oscillators, I can buy a Doepfer, an STO, WMD or a bunch of others, but I don't have any sense of why I would choose one over another. Like, im still not 100% sure on how different oscillators can sound, if they are all just producing a saw wave (for example)
There is a lot in that. How comprehensive of an answer do you want?

There are things that give filters and oscillators different characteristics. In oscillators, tracking: stability, how they handle frequency modulation, the kind of frequency modulation inputs they have (linear, logarithmic, through-zero). Analog oscillators also only generate one waveform (triangle or saw) and use wave shapers to create the other waveforms. The waveforms are not strictly like their idealized drawings.

If you set a filter to a cutoff frequency of 100Hz that doesn't mean everything above 100Hz is completely removed from the signal. A single passive analog filter (one pole) has a cutoff slope of 6dB per octave (approximately, if we want to be pedantic). The more poles you have in a filter increase the cutoff slope by 6dB per octave, meaning more of the signal above the cutoff frequency is attenuated. Four pole and 24dB/Octave are different ways to say the same thing. There are different filter topologies. That is to say there are different ways to combine electronic components to design filters. The Moog transistor ladder filter is a ladder filter (another ladder filter is the EMS filter that uses diodes). The Buchla lopass gate uses a two pole Sallen-Key topology. That isn't super important, they will just have some different characteristics. The thing that makes the Buchla lopass gate kind of special is the use of a vactrol, which is a light emitting diode and a light dependent resistor in a light-tight package. the control voltage fed into the filter controls the LED which changes the resistance of the LDR to control the cutoff frequency. Other things that that can affect a filter are how it clips if the input is overdriven, how it resonates, how it handles modulation, upper cutoff frequency, lower cutoff frequency. There is more, but...
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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by synth.void » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:17 pm

Filters are a topic everyone's excited about, but I couldn't get my head around (even still owning a bunch of them). Why filters are so important? How to appreciate them and use them more in the patch?

Also, evolving melody and rhythm before it gets boring. How to go past a basic sequencer patch?

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by Scories » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:33 pm

I think too much stuff is being explained these days. It's nice to discover things by yourself.

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by kossoff87 » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:42 pm

Scories wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:33 pm
I think too much stuff is being explained these days. It's nice to discover things by yourself.
I'm sorry, but this is gatekeeping nonsense. If you like to discover things by yourself, then don't look. Why stop other people?

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Re: BEGINNERS - What have you always found to be poorly explained?

Post by dBVelocity » Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:09 pm

An often overlooked topic is power supply. How to calculate needs and having enough headroom. Another is the modular versus line level output.

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