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A question about intention
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author A question about intention
userfriendly
I find more and more that my best patches....sometimes my only patches, come when I am actively trying to understand a module. Whether it is a new module, or one that I have had that I am trying to understand better. But I have trouble just patching. You know? I can sit down and just play the piano no problem. But I have so much trouble just starting up a patch and just rolling with it.

Why do you think this is?
TemplarK
Maybe not setting out what kind of sound your hoping to make so you don't know where to go?

Not having the right modules, synths are great, but then comparing them to something like a piano that can sit quite well on its own with no real effects or EQ, some synth sounds can be in dire need of delay and reverb (and/or other effects) to give them the life, especially when they are the only instrument or voice playing.

I'm not really sure of course. Maybe the sound you desire isn't modular synth and is something more like a Fairlight CMI or Roland D50 thats kind of synth/digital hybrid and offers more convincing keys?
JohnLRice
userfriendly wrote:
Why do you think this is?
I would guess that it may just simply be that with piano you've practiced the exact same moves over and over for many months or likely years where with modular you do a somewhat different patch each time? hmmm.....

Try this: the next time you come up with a fairly simple patch you like, write it all down and record it. Then unpatch the whole thing and then repatch the same patch, referring to the write up as needed and compare to the recording to make sure you got it right. Then unpatch and repatch as many times as you've practiced a simple piano piece you are fluent at playing. I'm sure after a while you'll be able to quickly patch that patch almost blindfolded! thumbs up
R.U.Nuts
JohnLRice wrote:
userfriendly wrote:
Why do you think this is?
I would guess that it may just simply be that with piano you've practiced the exact same moves over and over for many months or likely years where with modular you do a somewhat different patch each time? hmmm.....

Try this: the next time you come up with a fairly simple patch you like, write it all down and record it. Then unpatch the whole thing and then repatch the same patch, referring to the write up as needed and compare to the recording to make sure you got it right. Then unpatch and repatch as many times as you've practiced a simple piano piece you are fluent at playing. I'm sure after a while you'll be able to quickly patch that patch almost blindfolded! thumbs up


I'd suggest the exact opposite: If you found a patch you like. Keep it and learn to play it. Don't tear out all the cables after each session. Just because you can you don't have to come up with a new patch all the time. I have a 9U System and keep patches for months playing them for maybe every second day.
JohnLRice
R.U.Nuts wrote:
JohnLRice wrote:
userfriendly wrote:
Why do you think this is?
I would guess that it may just simply be that with piano you've practiced the exact same moves over and over for many months or likely years where with modular you do a somewhat different patch each time? hmmm.....

Try this: the next time you come up with a fairly simple patch you like, write it all down and record it. Then unpatch the whole thing and then repatch the same patch, referring to the write up as needed and compare to the recording to make sure you got it right. Then unpatch and repatch as many times as you've practiced a simple piano piece you are fluent at playing. I'm sure after a while you'll be able to quickly patch that patch almost blindfolded! thumbs up


I'd suggest the exact opposite: If you found a patch you like. Keep it and learn to play it. Don't tear out all the cables after each session. Just because you can you don't have to come up with a new patch all the time. I have a 9U System and keep patches for months playing them for maybe every second day.
Sure, that's good to do also but the OP was asking about patching, not playing a patch? hmmm.....
milkshake
userfriendly wrote:
I find more and more that my best patches....sometimes my only patches, come when I am actively trying to understand a module. Whether it is a new module, or one that I have had that I am trying to understand better. But I have trouble just patching. You know? I can sit down and just play the piano no problem. But I have so much trouble just starting up a patch and just rolling with it.

Why do you think this is?


Playing an instrument is quite different from making an instrument.
Both need lots of practice to master.
lisa
I’d do whatever works. If it works well for you when you’re exploring single modules then keep exploring those single modules and the rest will follow sooner och later. Guinness ftw!
cptnal
I get what R.U.Nuts is saying - you're breaking out of your comfort zone and that's usually more interesting. w00t
starthief
I often find my experiments/inquiries turn into something musical -- it can be new gear, but it can also be patch ideas, experiments and "puzzles." Like there's something about getting into an exploration mindset that opens up my musical creativity too.
Pelsea
userfriendly wrote:
I find more and more that my best patches....sometimes my only patches, come when I am actively trying to understand a module. Whether it is a new module, or one that I have had that I am trying to understand better. But I have trouble just patching. You know? I can sit down and just play the piano no problem. But I have so much trouble just starting up a patch and just rolling with it.

Why do you think this is?


A new module is a puzzle to solve, so the scientific method works-- you know, controlled conditions, systematic approach and so on. But that doesn't take you too far in composition. Composition is a craft, and there are as many approaches to it as there are composers. You learn approaches by listening to other composers (even taking lessons if that is convenient). Here's an approach that works most of the time:

Start with a rhythm scheme-- drones, dance, tricky patterns, whatever interests you today. Patch up very basic sounds at this point, just something to get the rhythms across.

Add in a harmonic scheme. Blues, 12 tone, random, anything, as long as you stay with it throughout the piece. Triggers for this will come out of the rhythmic layer-- the sounds should be clearly pitched and be stacked with similar sounds into chords. Avoid the temptation to involve your whole system at this point. A bass line may be all you need, or even simpler use sustained tones for the rhythm part.

Now play with a melodic line. I prefer to improvise these and capture them in my laptop (unless this is for a performance--then I don't bother). This is where the patching gets serious-- you need expression controlled by everything your interface has to offer.

You aren't done yet. Now is the time to go back over the patch and add expression and variety of color. My favorite expression trick is to use the envelope to change (slightly) some parameter on a VCO or filter. You can use a second envelope for this if you have enough modules. (It is possible to have enough VCAs, but there is no such thing as too many envelopes.) Try different modules, envelope settings, etc to see how the piece is changed.

Now you've got an effective patch. It can easily be used for other pieces-- just change control settings. Note that it is in layers, each serving a musical function. These can be can be mixed and matched with layers from other patches, so as you repeat this exercise, you palette will expand exponentially.
captjrab
You are somewhere in your modular development where learning modules and thier interaction is yeilding some interesting music, so its a good place to be. You cant really rush this process. The more pioneering you do, the more methods you discover, the more likely you will forget interesting stuff, like cramming for a test. It just takes time and getting your system together and keeping it coherent. Switching new stuff/pulling old usually sets me back into this phase so its one step forwards two steps back sometimes. Its a long term practice.
Also, once you get comfortable you msy find yourself getting repetetive, so enjoy the explorations.
userfriendly
JohnLRice wrote:
userfriendly wrote:
Why do you think this is?
I would guess that it may just simply be that with piano you've practiced the exact same moves over and over for many months or likely years where with modular you do a somewhat different patch each time? hmmm.....

Try this: the next time you come up with a fairly simple patch you like, write it all down and record it. Then unpatch the whole thing and then repatch the same patch, referring to the write up as needed and compare to the recording to make sure you got it right. Then unpatch and repatch as many times as you've practiced a simple piano piece you are fluent at playing. I'm sure after a while you'll be able to quickly patch that patch almost blindfolded! thumbs up



I really like this idea. Thanks, John.

captjrab wrote:
You are somewhere in your modular development where learning modules and thier interaction is yeilding some interesting music, so its a good place to be. You cant really rush this process. The more pioneering you do, the more methods you discover, the more likely you will forget interesting stuff, like cramming for a test. It just takes time and getting your system together and keeping it coherent. Switching new stuff/pulling old usually sets me back into this phase so its one step forwards two steps back sometimes. Its a long term practice.
Also, once you get comfortable you msy find yourself getting repetetive, so enjoy the explorations.


Thanks for this.



Also, thank you to everyone else who replied. You guys sure are a swell bunch.
wechard
I find it can also help to spend some time just sitting and mentally exploring sound ideas away from the instrument, like visualization but with sounds. This isn’t thinking about patching or specific modules, but just summoning raw sound ideas to awareness. Then when a sonic idea that you find especially attractive presents itself, try to find a way to patch it. That doesn’t quite get to playing the patch yet, but it can help. You can also go back and forth — once you start patching/playing, you can try taking breaks where you go back into sonic imagination, turning down the sound but keeping it in mind and then taking some time to mentally feel out where you want it to go next. This is a lot like what some improvisers practice on other instruments — make sure that you can mentally hear the next thing you want to play before you play it.
vidret
wechard wrote:
I find it can also help to spend some time just sitting and mentally exploring sound ideas away from the instrument, like visualization but with sounds. This isn’t thinking about patching or specific modules, but just summoning raw sound ideas to awareness. Then when a sonic idea that you find especially attractive presents itself, try to find a way to patch it. That doesn’t quite get to playing the patch yet, but it can help. You can also go back and forth — once you start patching/playing, you can try taking breaks where you go back into sonic imagination, turning down the sound but keeping it in mind and then taking some time to mentally feel out where you want it to go next. This is a lot like what some improvisers practice on other instruments — make sure that you can mentally hear the next thing you want to play before you play it.


So much this
Parnelli
It can be frustrating, can't it? I mean I can play a number of different instruments, I'm a fairly fast learner, and I've studied electronics which helps immensely.

Bleeps and bloops for a year or more... practicing... learning.... building... and then I started to understand something that had evaded me; I have essentially invented a musical instrument different from any other that exists. It is, like me, truly unique and perhaps a bit hard to understand.

I adapted a new mindset after I realized this, and knew that much of what I understood about all the other instruments I play was meaningless with this new creation; there were no keys, there was no mouth piece, there were no strings, there were no membranes, only dials, jacks, buttons, and switches, all things which none of my other (traditional) instruments had!

I didn't abandon everything I knew, but I did stop referencing it so often. Instead I tried to think outside of the box, starting with how will I initiate an event on this machine? I have a midi module and can make noise with a keyboard, but it seems to limit me as I do a lot of ambient drones.

Next I thought drum triggers/pads for a percussive approach which I would still like to do but have not pursued yet.

I settled on sequencers and timing to run everything for the time being with my only human machine interface being my fingers turning knobs and flicking switches, and I'm having a riot with it since I've begun to approach this wild new instrument I've created in this manner.

I often start out with some low droning note and build from that, but sometimes I'll just put together a rhythm section, add some bass, and it takes off from there. If I have a patch I really like I'll leave it up for a while and change various facets of it like the drums and record another version of it, I think this is one of the things that has helped me to understand how to manipulate a patch into something I want to hear it produce.

I think the biggest thing for me was to realize that this synth didn't fit in anywhere in my past musical experiences so I had to come up with a whole new way to approach music from those ways which I was taught originally.

Hope that helps! thumbs up
userfriendly
vidret wrote:
wechard wrote:
I find it can also help to spend some time just sitting and mentally exploring sound ideas away from the instrument, like visualization but with sounds. This isn’t thinking about patching or specific modules, but just summoning raw sound ideas to awareness. Then when a sonic idea that you find especially attractive presents itself, try to find a way to patch it. That doesn’t quite get to playing the patch yet, but it can help. You can also go back and forth — once you start patching/playing, you can try taking breaks where you go back into sonic imagination, turning down the sound but keeping it in mind and then taking some time to mentally feel out where you want it to go next. This is a lot like what some improvisers practice on other instruments — make sure that you can mentally hear the next thing you want to play before you play it.


So much this


Huh. What a strange idea. I've never heard of or thought of this. So like, rather than "I'm gonna try and patch up something that sounds like water drips in a cave" you would instead just sit there and think up some abstract sound and then try to bring it into reality?
wechard
I don’t go about it like that all the time, but yes, sometimes I like to just meditate on sound and then try to patch those sound impressions into reality. It isn’t always abstract though — sometimes what comes to mind might be a cave-dripping noise cool Comparing to what I practice on guitar or keyboards, it’s like thinking about the sound of a melody or chord progression without at first worrying about playing it, and then finding which keys/frets will work to actually play it. One thing this helps with is getting away from always doing the same thing because of motor habits, or in the case of patching, because of tending to fall back on patterns that are especially encouraged by the layout of the hardware.
Pelsea
userfriendly wrote:
vidret wrote:
wechard wrote:
I find it can also help to spend some time just sitting and mentally exploring sound ideas away from the instrument, like visualization but with sounds. This isn’t thinking about patching or specific modules, but just summoning raw sound ideas to awareness. Then when a sonic idea that you find especially attractive presents itself, try to find a way to patch it. That doesn’t quite get to playing the patch yet, but it can help. You can also go back and forth — once you start patching/playing, you can try taking breaks where you go back into sonic imagination, turning down the sound but keeping it in mind and then taking some time to mentally feel out where you want it to go next. This is a lot like what some improvisers practice on other instruments — make sure that you can mentally hear the next thing you want to play before you play it.


So much this


Huh. What a strange idea. I've never heard of or thought of this. So like, rather than "I'm gonna try and patch up something that sounds like water drips in a cave" you would instead just sit there and think up some abstract sound and then try to bring it into reality?


Yep-- Mort Subotnick once told me he wrote sitting on airplanes.
slick8086
For me it is because I don't know WTF I'm doing. It is because despite have been playing music since I was a small child, I really never understood sound synthesis until I started looking into Eurorack stuff.

Now I think I have a good understanding of subtractive synthesis, and I know what a lot of effects do, and so on but I still have a ton of stuff to learn. I'm using VCV Rack to learn as much as I can. Currently I'm trying to get my basic understanding of FM synthesis functioning but I'm running into trouble overcoming what I don't know.

For me the problem seems like sort of language barrier. I've also been a computer nerd since I was a kid too. From a programming perspective, I know that computers don't do what you WANT them to do, rather they do what you TELL them to do. If a computer isn't doing what you want it is because you aren't telling it correctly. You have to speak the computers language. So bringing this back to my struggles with FM synthesis, I think I understand the basics of, carrier, operator, envelopes, etc from the tutorials I've watched, but when I try to make a set of (for example) FM-OP modules by Bogaudio into an algorithm it doesn't work like I expect it to. I don't understand the language (controle interface) of the FM-OP modules well enough to TELL them what I WANT them to do.

For me I guess that's what it boils down to. I can have all the INTENTIONS I want, but until I learn to speak the language of the particular module I'm trying to work with I can't TELL it my intentions, and this is assuming I understand the modules capabilities and limitations in the first place. (I can't even look at anything from Mutable Instruments, I'm completely clueless.)

I can pick up most conventional musical instruments and pretty much understand their language enough to make some proper sounds come out. I can program a computer in several different languages. But when it comes to modular synthesis it feels like I'm still at the "Dada Mama, give cookie" stage.
cptnal
starthief wrote:
I often find my experiments/inquiries turn into something musical -- it can be new gear, but it can also be patch ideas, experiments and "puzzles." Like there's something about getting into an exploration mindset that opens up my musical creativity too.


I agree!

Most of my patching time involves exploring modules/combinations of modules/bigger patch ideas, and a lot of the time I get carried away and try to take it into the territory of music. For that to succeed you need to have done it lots of times to have a library of other techniques to draw on. Today's R&D is tomorrow's music.
vrfats
Recently I've had a similar experience being an idiot and forgetting my guitar was in a different tuning while writing some stuff by ear with my band. When I realized I'd was in dadfad I kind of resorted back to the same habits etc but the bars I wrote before knowing what was happening were interesting enough to merit retuning to play the song.

I guess there is always an excitement about improvisation since maybe it's the first time you're hearing something. I'm also always much more excited to patch into a new module. Someone suggested documenting and recreating what you like about these patches. My process of writing music often involves improvising and exploring then recreating, rehearsing, memorizing and distilling ideas that might result from the manic frenzied barrage of garbage and experimentation. I guess it's important to remember that there might be more excitement in the air the first time you hear something but in many cases it might be other peoples fist time hearing something you've practiced 1000 times.
naos
userfriendly wrote:
I find more and more that my best patches....sometimes my only patches, come when I am actively trying to understand a module. Whether it is a new module, or one that I have had that I am trying to understand better. But I have trouble just patching. You know? I can sit down and just play the piano no problem. But I have so much trouble just starting up a patch and just rolling with it.

Why do you think this is?

couple that with trying to understand some little thing about music theory at the same time, and you've got a killer track. it worked for me
don'thavefun
Once I get going on a patch I sort of go on autopilot but I have trouble starting new patches a lot too. I feel like i just run out of tricks too quickly and get deterred when I can't get the modules to make the sounds I want them to. I find i have the best results with new patches when i'm not looking for something in particular and just messing around with the technology versus trying to flesh out a musical idea.
sir stony
I found that often great, intense sounds come from patches that are focused on single or very few modules at a time, and it can keep you entertained and diving into it for hours each time. I usually have a recording device at hand to make samples from the more interesting results.

Then again, creating patches intended for use as a musical instrument is completely different. These generally follow an established synthesis concept. FM is among the most difficult of those, because miniscule detuning can make the whole difference whether the result is musically playable or totally not, and analogue modular systems are the least suited of all to keep up with these demands.
So, for musical use, I usually avoid true fm sounds, or else use a stable digital vcos for these.

What I often do is when I'm out for a walk somewhere, or on the road, I pick up sounds around me, like a distant rumbling, a little waterfall, some birdsong, an engine noise, and so on. And in my mind I start analyzing how that specific sound could be synthesized, or at least, what modulations define the unique character of that sound.
I don't run back home and start patching each time afterwards, though, but thinking about these things gives you more ideas and inspirations for when you actually do make a patch next time, even if it is completely different from the sound that originally inspired it.
WisdomWriter
One thing that i tend to do is listen to artists who make things that I like to make and I will listen to these sounds with a critical ear a curious ear and an open ear. I’ll ponder what went into making the time, the shape, and the character. I’ll ponder till I feel I have a rough idea of what it is, then I’ll keep that in mind the next time I start aboactj and see how close I can get. Sometimes I get close sometimes I create something totally unexpected.
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