Gestural patching (Meng Qi style) - advice please!

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SonarBk
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Gestural patching (Meng Qi style) - advice please!

Post by SonarBk » Sun Jan 19, 2020 10:23 am

TLDR: I have a Meng Qi one-off passive 10x20 matrix built for gestural patching with touch or magnets. It's incredible. Also I need your help please.

Hello all -

I'm in a unique situation (I think!) and could really use advice. I'm at the very start of getting into modular, using VCV rack and doing lots of research and learning. One of the things that I've heard repeatedly is to think about how you want to control your modular and build from there. That resonates with me - I'm a multi-instrumentalist so I want to be able to play my modular with my hands like an instrument but also I'd like to get away from traditional keyboards.

So then ...I randomly found a Meng Qi controller for sale rather affordably and instantly leaped. Its the only one he made, a 10x20 passive matrix patchbay with the connections made by touch or magnet pin. It has patchpoints for both banana cables and 3.5 mm.

I understand this is pretty weird way to start a journey with modular, doing all patches through a giant passive touch mixer with unpredictable attenuation and crosstalk. BUT I'm deeply drawn to this as an instrument - it feels really right to me. I've started using it with my semi-modular synth and it was immediate joy to use musically and very compatible with the kind of sounds I'm interested in making.

So - I would like to build a modular synth that is specific for this controller. I've been in touch with Meng Qi and he has been very generous in his response. He said to pay attention to which modules I use it with because of how many connections are being made. Basically, I need modules that are designed so that passive mixing would work for all outputs.

What should I look for in order to assess that? Also, what should I be thinking about for dealing with all that attenuation? Can I use scalers to bring CV levels back up as it circles around?

Not doing feedback loops (yet) but any thoughts about introducing those with modular? I know how to do them with guitar pedals and external audio... maybe I should just stick to the old cheap gear for that and not introduce feedback loops to modular??

Thank you all - I know its weird for a newbie to have such an advanced piece of gear but on the other hand I've gone deep with music in other ways so I think I have the focus and dedication to grow with this beautiful instrument.

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dan_k
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Re: Gestural patching (Meng Qi style) - advice please!

Post by dan_k » Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:39 pm

Congrats SonarBk, it's a lovely looking and interesting piece. I'd considered it when it was for sale a couple years ago but ultimately decided against as I already had other gear where I can use those concepts (Vostok pin matrix, Landscape stereo field, and in a more limited capacity the Future sound systems MTX9 matrix)

Starting with a blank slate and and in modular is a great place to be and sounds like this controller inspires you and you have a conceptual idea of what you might want. Rather than focus on module suggestions I encourage you to give careful thought as to what kind of instrument you would like and what is I think the crucial question. It's easy in euro to try and throw in everything and the kitchen sink. Although haven't actually stated what format you want but I'll hazard a guess euro, not that you couldn't build a serge or other banana system.

What kind of sounds are you trying to create? You said you've been using it with your semi-modular. Do you want to use this new system standalone, as a complement to the semi, adding additional synthesis methods, perhaps a sample based system?

What I found in my modular journey was that my cases turned into instruments on their own which can also complement each other. There is always some kind of overarching identity behind why a particular set of modules are together and their interactions for how I use them.
It only need make sense and work for you and allows you to build a very personal instrument and I'm sure my choices would be strange to many. That said it's always fascinating patching friends' systems or having them patch mine to see what they come up with and possible techniques and approaches that I'd never thought of before. Some of which are complex and a new way of looking at things while others are super simple and seem so obvious after the fact!

In your position with a matrix that large I would start thinking about potential standardized layouts. In using the FSS MTX9 matrix I find that I prefer to have a standard so I'm not re-learning and having to second guess each time I patch. Although that's another technique where you can open yourself up to chaos and happy accidents. Something that always appealed to me on the old paperface serge panels where you could lose yourself in it and patch outputs to inputs only by the symbols with no regard as to module function.

Some manufacturers are good for putting attenuation or attenuverters on cv inputs. Makenoise for instance with that design choice allowed a small lunchbox that I have with phonogene and echophon plus a few other bits immensely more playable and controllable. Ultimately though it's modular and you can easily add attenuators. I've built and use lots a bunch of the Thonk AT AT AT, and Fonitronik Cascade modules. Could even be worth building attenuation for each input and output in the Meng Qi matrix. Passive attenuators are cheap and simple to build. Here's a thread: viewtopic.php?t=2065&highlight=attenuator

Also be sure to check out some of the threads here on matrix mixers, and you definitely do explore feedback. You already know what it can do from your pedal setup and it just gets better in modular with the degree of control available.

Hopefully these thoughts are helpful. I look forward to seeing how your journey continues!

SonarBk
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Re: Gestural patching (Meng Qi style) - advice please!

Post by SonarBk » Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:14 am

dan_k wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:39 pm
I'd considered it when it was for sale a couple years ago
Wow I'm so lucky to run into you!
dan_k wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:39 pm
What I found in my modular journey was that my cases turned into instruments on their own which can also complement each other. There is always some kind of overarching identity behind why a particular set of modules are together and their interactions for how I use them.
Yes that's my hope for myself as well! Outside of modular I'm really drawn to synths that have their own coherent and distinct identity (I have a Plumbutter for instance). My aspiration with a case is for it to be very specific, and eventually several that interact as you mentioned.
dan_k wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:39 pm
In your position with a matrix that large I would start thinking about potential standardized layouts.
That occurred to me but I wasn't sure if it made sense - that's great to hear you suggest it. It seems like the way to go for deeply learning how to play the matrix. Plus its big enough I could have several patchpoints saved for surprises anyhow!
dan_k wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:39 pm
Could even be worth building attenuation for each input and output in the Meng Qi matrix.
Yeahhh also occurred to me but I thought I was nuts so thanks for the thought! And maybe scalers for some of them too?

The thing I'm most confused about is how attenuation works in a matrix like this. I know in a passive mixer it ends up being quite a bit, but I'm wondering if its the same when you are using pins/touch to make temporary connections rather than pots. I haven't used more than 1/4 of it at a time yet, so I don't know what it will do when fully patched! Also confused about if CV attenuates the same as audio and what happens if you are working with both.

Do you have any links to sounds you are making with your set up? I'd love to hear what you are doing in the gestural patching realm.

thanks again for the help

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dan_k
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Re: Gestural patching (Meng Qi style) - advice please!

Post by dan_k » Thu Jan 23, 2020 1:07 am

SonarBk wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:14 am

Yes that's my hope for myself as well! Outside of modular I'm really drawn to synths that have their own coherent and distinct identity (I have a Plumbutter for instance). My aspiration with a case is for it to be very specific, and eventually several that interact as you mentioned.
What form might you see this case taking? Do you want it to be compatible with the plumbutter?
SonarBk wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:14 am
That occurred to me but I wasn't sure if it made sense - that's great to hear you suggest it. It seems like the way to go for deeply learning how to play the matrix. Plus its big enough I could have several patchpoints saved for surprises anyhow!
I may have been premature to say that you start planning them. A better suggestion may be to be aware of that possibility but as the system develops see what natural inclinations you have for those links and let the standardized setup be defined over time by how you end up using it. Which in practice may be very different then you might envision from the outset.
SonarBk wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:14 am
Yeahhh also occurred to me but I thought I was nuts so thanks for the thought! And maybe scalers for some of them too?

The thing I'm most confused about is how attenuation works in a matrix like this. I know in a passive mixer it ends up being quite a bit, but I'm wondering if its the same when you are using pins/touch to make temporary connections rather than pots. I haven't used more than 1/4 of it at a time yet, so I don't know what it will do when fully patched! Also confused about if CV attenuates the same as audio and what happens if you are working with both.
The best bet would be to experiment and try, you can always start with some attenuation and scaling modules on a limited basis versus for each column and row and see what you favour. I'm unsure too of how that passive matrix will perform as all the ones I have are active.
SonarBk wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:14 am
Do you have any links to sounds you are making with your set up? I'd love to hear what you are doing in the gestural patching realm.
Nothing that I think specifically embodies something unique due to the gestural patching. I'm also terrible with finishing and posting stuff.. but I'll keep these thoughts and see what I come up with in the near future.

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eclectics
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Re: Gestural patching (Meng Qi style) - advice please!

Post by eclectics » Thu Feb 06, 2020 9:24 pm

If you have a dc-coupled audio interface you could use it with VCV rack to see what works for you. And the VCV rack scope is useful to see what's happening with voltage levels.

One thing that may be a consideration is amplification-- many VCAs don't actually amplify, they just attenuate, and you may want a way to boost signals as well as attenuate them?

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