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How do you write „songs“ on a modular system?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author How do you write „songs“ on a modular system?
Metasepia
Hello. I’d like to create some kind of structured chaos or noise, but I don’t know how to get rid of the monotony of short simple sequences and the like.
What modules, recipes or skills do you need for composing a piece of music on a modular system that has different parts each with it's own distinct character?
witchbutter
To me there are essentially 2 ways to approach it: intentional and algorhythmic

If you want to intentionally create a song with a structure in sort of a piano roll way you choose you need a sequencer that enables you to do it. Ex: eloquencer, squarp hermod, a sequencer midi to cv into your system etc. That sort of assumes that you are using 1v/oct for any pitch info.

Algorhythmic is essentially everything else. You could allow various CV devices to create pitch using say an LFO into a quantizer and the quantizer forces you into scales. You could take an algorhythmic melody generator like TINRS Tuesday or WMD Arpitecht and use gates and triggers to create sequences of 1v/oct information. If you want it to be even less structured you can use a shift register to set frequencies instead of 1v/oct. You can also do cool tricks with a looping delay where you add individual pitches to the loop creating chords. Really it's whatever you can come up with limited by how you choose to patch.
lisa
So you want to create several sections (with different sounds, rhythms and melodies) that you can switch between, yeah? That’s one of the toughest tasks in a fully modular enviroment, imo. Sure, you can throw money at the problem; get a setup where you can make several separate loops and use switches/mixers to go from one to the other.

I usually do a loaded loop with many melodies, record them separately and create the sections in my DAW (sometimes overdubbing to add needed elements after arranging).
GuyaGuy
I'm sure there are a few threads on this but here are some options:

1. Switches let you route CV from one destination to another so you can switch patterns periodically.

2. Mutes let you turn CV (or audio) on/off to switch patterns manually.

3. A VCA or an attenuator is a 1-channel mixer and can be used to bring CV in or out.

4. Live sequencing. You can combine this with muting to prep a sequence that's not ready to play or record.

5. Record to DAW or hardware and mix as audio. (See also the "cheating" thread. wink )
commodorejohn
  1. Make a sound.
  2. Play a note.
  3. Figure out what comes after that.
  4. Repeat.
cptnal
A way of thinking about this might go "how do I make things happen less often?" The tools for that are things like clock dividers, VCAs, sequential switches, VCAs, you can use logic gates to set conditions on when things happen, VCAs, and on and on... (Did I mention VCAs?)

A simple technique is to combine the envelope for your melodic line with a long gate using a VCA or a logic module. Then you only get the melodic line when the gate is high. Or you can use (really) long envelopes to fade parts in and out.

The key is to think of the modules you already have, but in a longer time domain. I recently discovered I can make my Wogglebug run glacially slow with a negative offset patched into the speed jack. There's always something else to find in there.... This is fun!
BenA718
Great thread idea! There are as many ways to do it as there are systems, I suppose.

I like use a combination of BeatStep Pro and SQ-1 when trying to write something with “structured randomness”.

The Drum sequencer is always connected via MIDI from the BSP to my drum machine, but I have it mapped in a way that triggers 7&8 are self contained. This allows me to create trigger events with an independent meter as well as one locked onto the kick and snare.

The BSP can also output cv and gate on Sequencers 1&2, but I usually use MIDI from Sequencer 1 via MIDI for bass lines. That still leaves Sequencer 2 for either cv or gate.

Once all of those triggers are routed to various random voltage, logic, function modules, etc, I can have evolving melodies in time with the drums but not hyper-locked and robotic sounding.

Another way to create structure from randomness is to use delay to create rhythmic patterns from single short gated notes.

Hope this helps!
BenA718
cptnal wrote:
A way of thinking about this might go "how do I make things happen less often?" The tools for that are things like clock dividers, VCAs, sequential switches, VCAs, you can use logic gates to set conditions on when things happen, VCAs, and on and on... (Did I mention VCAs?)

A simple technique is to combine the envelope for your melodic line with a long gate using a VCA or a logic module. Then you only get the melodic line when the gate is high. Or you can use (really) long envelopes to fade parts in and out.

The key is to think of the modules you already have, but in a longer time domain. I recently discovered I can make my Wogglebug run glacially slow with a negative offset patched into the speed jack. There's always something else to find in there.... This is fun!

Some great tips here.

I get a similar result running a slow clock pulse into the Hang input on the Function.
Randy
I throw "random" CVs, usually attenuated, into various places in the patch to add a bit of variety. I also use one of these with a sequential switch to "play" a series of sequences:

http://www.modulargrid.net/e/monome-walk

Randy
alaindusmith
+1 I am a massive fan of random. The wogglebug is great in conjunction with other modules and a scale quantiser
windsongstudio
Metasepia, maybe an example would be helpful to tie together some of the ideas.

https://soundcloud.com/theredhawkproject/shockwave?in=theredhawkprojec t/sets/patch-the-sky

I sequenced the chord progression (Brains + Pressure Points) to a Quadnic, patched a simple drum sequence (Varigate 8 w/Delptronics LDB-2e and 2x), added some samples (TipTop ONE modules: noise + vocal.. which I triggered manually), did a couple of melody lines with doses of random, etc using a BSP, I believe. Then, used channel muting (Mutamix), faders (passive Quad attenuator) and switches (Octal VC Switch) to perform the song.

Last step was bringing the mono recording into Logic, cutting the loop so the end part played before the first part (.. so instead of A->B, I printed it as B->A) and then I added some EQ and reverb. A fun weekend afternoon complete... pull the patch cords and move on smile

Nothing special, but it demonstrates the concepts of turning the different sequences into something that is more like a song. Have fun with your music!
captjrab
I know what you mean about the brutal repetition of sequenced loops.
First u need to define “song”. How long? Whats it about? Does it follow some conventional verse/chorus/bridge formula? Who is it for? What is it for?

Or you could just jam on a sequence, making tweaks, breaking it down and building it up. Sequence your sequencer for transposition. Arrangement? Drum break? Vocals? Samples? Big fuck-off filter sweep with one of those giant clock multiplication stroboscopic fills then silence then back into the chorus tropes?
Dcramer
This thread and others like it got me thinking about ways to create song like pieces from recordings of generative modular patches.
I tried to come up with pretty melodic, rhythmic, material to help make my point but of course the pieces could easily be on the more experimental end of the spectrum.

Here's two threads I created detailing my process:

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2024573&highlight=#2 024573

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2021629&highlight=#2 021629

Cheers w00t
Metasepia
Thanks for all the good ideas, but I guess most of the things I’d like to do are still to advanced for me.
For now I’m gonna stick with the modular piecemeal into DAW approach.
cptnal
Dcramer wrote:
This thread and others like it got me thinking about ways to create song like pieces from recordings of generative modular patches.
I tried to come up with pretty melodic, rhythmic, material to help make my point but of course the pieces could easily be on the more experimental end of the spectrum.

Here's two threads I created detailing my process:

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2024573&highlight=#2 024573

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2021629&highlight=#2 021629

Cheers w00t


Logic!? You, sir, are a fraud and a charlatan. sad banana
Dcramer
cptnal wrote:
Dcramer wrote:
This thread and others like it got me thinking about ways to create song like pieces from recordings of generative modular patches.
I tried to come up with pretty melodic, rhythmic, material to help make my point but of course the pieces could easily be on the more experimental end of the spectrum.

Here's two threads I created detailing my process:

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2024573&highlight=#2 024573

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2021629&highlight=#2 021629

Cheers w00t


Logic!? You, sir, are a fraud and a charlatan. sad banana


lol I can’t help it! It’s mah guilty pleasure! Like eating cheetos and watching Roseanne!
Besides, imma ole schoo, I actually beta tested Logic AUDIO running on an Atari Falcon w00t
buhl89
I've used Hermod to make a midi to cv connection form ableton. This really helps loose the short sequences. Not that anything is wrong with those, but I like to make the melodic parts longer.
Pelsea
I'm a long time synthesis and algorithmic composition teacher, so I've helped a lot of students through this thicket. There are many popular approaches-- their success depends as much on the creativity of the composer as the equipment available. In no particular order:

Random sample & hold. I call this patch the MFA generator. If you write a detailed paper about it you can get a DMA. To make it work, you have to record everything it does (mostly garbage) and pick out the best part, because it'll never happen again.

Minimalist process piece. These can be quite good. You patch some pattern, like circle of fifths, and use it to interact with other patterns like ascending scales. Keep your pattern lengths in prime numbers and it will go a long time without repeating.

Revealed sequence. This requires a voltage driven sequencer. You drive the sequencer with a ramp as per normal, but run the ramp through a VCA controlled by a slow triangle. As the VCA opens up, you get more steps in the sequence. This can also be done with a sequencer that has voltage control of sequence length. The rhythms you get from the two methods are quite different.

Alternate sequences. You need a voltage controlled analog switch for this one, and a three row sequencer. Patch the sequencer A and B through the switch so your VCO is controlled by A when the CV is low and B when it is high. Set the knobs on C so all are various levels above half way, then use C to control the switch via a VCA driven by a triangle. When the VCA is off, row A is in charge, when the VCA is full on, the pattern comes from B. In between you'll get some A, some B. A variation on this patch can control the firing of an envelope generator for tricky rhythms.

Sequenced drone. Patch as many oscillators as your sequencer can control and tune each stage to an interesting chord. Then patch in slew limiters and run the sequence very slowly. Its important to set the slew limiters so the oscillators reach the tuned values before the sequencers step.

All of these techniques produce defined sections of music. (Obviously, their length depends on tempo and size of sequencer.) To make a song, you need to control the start and stop of sections. There are several approaches to this "meta control" of the sections. Again, in no particular order:

The wall 'o modules approach. Everything is patched up at once and taken to a mixer. The composer uses the mixer to create the structure. Lends itself to live performance.

Transformation of parameters. If your modules have enough control points, you can set up a sequencer to control things like clock period, envelope shape, VCO waveform and filters to create patches that have several alternate sounds. Voltage controlled analog switches can also produce variations on a patch.

Record each part on the DAW. If it's good enough for Karlheinz or Wendy, it's good enough for us. Pay particular attention to intonation and tempo as you do this.

Jam and trigger. Perform along with the patch on the instrument/contraption of your choice. Use foot pedals or *magic notes* to move the synth from one section to another.

Generate controls and sequences in a laptop. This is the approach I am exploring in my under construction setup. I'm an experienced Max/MSP coder, so I built a 20 channel control bridge to a mantis case with enough modules to give me 4 voices. (I'm told expert sleepers has a good handle on this.) I can Max up any number of sequencers, probability generators, fractal generators and fuzzy logic constructions as I need. Since it's What I'm Doing Now, I'm very enthusiastic about it. Some time in the future I'll post results.
cptnal
Pelsea wrote:
I'm a long time synthesis and algorithmic composition teacher, so I've helped a lot of students through this thicket. There are many popular approaches-- their success depends as much on the creativity of the composer as the equipment available. In no particular order:

Random sample & hold. I call this patch the MFA generator. If you write a detailed paper about it you can get a DMA. To make it work, you have to record everything it does (mostly garbage) and pick out the best part, because it'll never happen again.

Minimalist process piece. These can be quite good. You patch some pattern, like circle of fifths, and use it to interact with other patterns like ascending scales. Keep your pattern lengths in prime numbers and it will go a long time without repeating.

Revealed sequence. This requires a voltage driven sequencer. You drive the sequencer with a ramp as per normal, but run the ramp through a VCA controlled by a slow triangle. As the VCA opens up, you get more steps in the sequence. This can also be done with a sequencer that has voltage control of sequence length. The rhythms you get from the two methods are quite different.

Alternate sequences. You need a voltage controlled analog switch for this one, and a three row sequencer. Patch the sequencer A and B through the switch so your VCO is controlled by A when the CV is low and B when it is high. Set the knobs on C so all are various levels above half way, then use C to control the switch via a VCA driven by a triangle. When the VCA is off, row A is in charge, when the VCA is full on, the pattern comes from B. In between you'll get some A, some B. A variation on this patch can control the firing of an envelope generator for tricky rhythms.

Sequenced drone. Patch as many oscillators as your sequencer can control and tune each stage to an interesting chord. Then patch in slew limiters and run the sequence very slowly. Its important to set the slew limiters so the oscillators reach the tuned values before the sequencers step.

All of these techniques produce defined sections of music. (Obviously, their length depends on tempo and size of sequencer.) To make a song, you need to control the start and stop of sections. There are several approaches to this "meta control" of the sections. Again, in no particular order:

The wall 'o modules approach. Everything is patched up at once and taken to a mixer. The composer uses the mixer to create the structure. Lends itself to live performance.

Transformation of parameters. If your modules have enough control points, you can set up a sequencer to control things like clock period, envelope shape, VCO waveform and filters to create patches that have several alternate sounds. Voltage controlled analog switches can also produce variations on a patch.

Record each part on the DAW. If it's good enough for Karlheinz or Wendy, it's good enough for us. Pay particular attention to intonation and tempo as you do this.

Jam and trigger. Perform along with the patch on the instrument/contraption of your choice. Use foot pedals or *magic notes* to move the synth from one section to another.

Generate controls and sequences in a laptop. This is the approach I am exploring in my under construction setup. I'm an experienced Max/MSP coder, so I built a 20 channel control bridge to a mantis case with enough modules to give me 4 voices. (I'm told expert sleepers has a good handle on this.) I can Max up any number of sequencers, probability generators, fractal generators and fuzzy logic constructions as I need. Since it's What I'm Doing Now, I'm very enthusiastic about it. Some time in the future I'll post results.


Phew! Started off thinking "TL:DR". Ending up thinking, "well, that's the next month's wiggling taken care of!"

Many, many thanks for posting all that. we're not worthy
kindredlost
Thank you Pelsea. That was very charitable. I think it would be worthwhile to try each and every one of these ideas.

As a matter of fact it would be a cool thread all in its own. People trying them (they could be numbered), and posting the results to the thread.

You have instantly provided a way for me to never be scratching for the basis of a patch again. Will it guarantee good results? Not at all, but it certainly is a great way to begin.
slyfocks
This isn't a fully modular solution, but I sequence my modular setup with TidalCycles for precise control over instruments/note changes.
Homepage Englisch
This is what I do:

Program the sequencer with three different patterns. Start the sequencer with a pattern 1, play it for a while while slowly evolving the sound sculpting, such is filter (that's part A). After a while, sequencer is muted and I start noodling with drone (not necessarily with keyboard, could be a simple knob running into quantizer (part B). After a while, I start sequencer again with pattern 3 - that CV/gates are rooted to different set of modules, so that's part C of the song. That was muted while parts A and B were playing. After a while, I switch back to pattern 1 (back to part A), but this time I will slowly start increasing the volume of modules associated with pattern 2 (which is harmonically related to pattern 1, either fifths or diatonic intervals or counterpoint or some polyrhythmic overlap) for the some sort of climax. At some point, drone from part 2 also get into the mix, if still in tune.

On top of all that, there's some sparse on/off percussion driven by sequencer clock out. And all of the above mentioned parts go through the mixer and same effect (such is Clouds) for atmospheric coherence of the track. It usually ends with a) drone fade out or b) excessive amount of reverb/delay turning into feedback/noise.

It might be a cliche, but I like it. And it's manageable. And voila, if gods of modularity are merciful, there's a 30:00 track that's not boring.
Jasonic
I have been using a combination of BeatStep Pro, and the Wall o modules approach. The BSP is nice for having changing parts. Like a A to B part for a bass sound and a drum part. I also use the WMD performance mixer to mix together lots of layers on the fly. Bringing parts in and out.

I also will find variations on certain sounds. For example. I might have a bass line coming from Bassimilus, and that is running into the Wasp filter. However, part A the wasp filter will be fully open LPF (not much but the dry signal being heard), then the B part, I will pull the filter cutoff down, and bring in the wogglebug on the CV2 input. So part B will have a woggly filtered feel vs the smooth non woggly sound of Part A. This will work with anything that you are running your audio through to change the sound.

One nice change in sound that I like is with chord progressions. So your chords are moving along at 1 chord per bar (part A). Then, the change is 1 chord every 4 bars (part B).

To me its all about contrast. I am always thinking about contrast when I am going to jump from one part to another. Part A might have a short kick and a hihat, part B has a Ride and a long kick. As a drummer, I have always switched between ride and hihat to accentuate a part change. The verse will be on the Hihat, and the chorus will be on the Ride cymbal. I find that if I keep contrast in mind, I will find myself coming up with new ways to patch changes.
R.U.Nuts
I record everything played live in one take. Patch wise I use a mix of generative techniques and hands-on wiggling / playing lines on René and a Keystep and looping with my DLD. But the most important thing for me is the mindset: I practise my playing and wiggling like with any other instrument. If I practised enough and want to record something I do it like I'm playing in front of an imaginary audience. I get off my chair and stand in front f my setup and try to be totally focused.
This way I rehearse for live gigs at the same time.
This approach is something I always wanted to do on an electronic instrument and never got to until I went modular.

Here's an example of such a recording where I pretty much nailed it for almost half an hour (yeah I know shameless self promo):

[s]https://soundcloud.com/asafoetida/altai[/s]
Dave Peck
After re-reading the OP's original question a few times, it seems to me that he is wanting to get away from patches that are basically repeating sequences of notes/events/sounds, and is essentially asking the very broad question "What are the techniques and processes I need to know about and then use in order to compose non-tonal music (using a modular synthesizer)?"

So the answer is pretty broad, too. If you want to learn to compose, rather than just making a sequencer patch and letting it repeat, you need to study the basic concepts of "Music Composition", perhaps with an extra emphasis on non-western, non-tonal music since the OP seems especially interested in that. The fact that the sound source is going to be a synthesizer is almost irrelevant. It seems that he's not asking about how to patch the synth, he's asking about how to approach the task of composing a piece of music.
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