Looking for something to teach subtractive synthesis

Anything modular synth related that is not format specific.

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DJFonzi
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Looking for something to teach subtractive synthesis

Post by DJFonzi » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:17 pm

I've got synths, and a decent-sized MU rig. My modular is currently boxed up, and it's not remarkably practical in the first place.
My kid and a buddy at work have expressed interest in synths. The buddy and I were at GC the other day, and I was trying to explain some basics to him using the Grandmother, but the damn normalization is quite a hindrance when trying to show a straight-up noob.
I'd been looking at stuff like the Moogs, Boogs, Neutrons, etc., even the MS-20, but they've all got normalled connections. Outside of starting a Euro rig (which I'm not 100% opposed to), the only thing I've found that's all-in-one, but NOT normalled, is the Teenage Engineering modular 400.
I'm here seeking guidance. Is there another unit I should look at? a patchable synth WITHOUT internal connections?

Thanks in advance!

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Post by lisa » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:27 pm

Hm, why would normalizations be an issue? Use any synth with many knobs, start from an init patch ("BEEEEEEEEEEEP") and just go from section to section, shaping the sound as you go along. That would be a good place to start, wouldn't it? Or do you want to show them complex patching?

I would have used my Alesis Ion for this task.
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Post by DJFonzi » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:31 pm

Because it's way easier when a user can visualize a control going from A to B when there's actually a visible connection from A to B.
It's totally not NECESSARY. It just makes the process much, much simpler.

This was super clear the other day when we had the Grandmother. The envelope controlling filter cutoff was confounding until I showed him a patch from the envelope to the pitch input of OSC 2 (he's a Styx fan. I knew he'd get the sync-sweep.)

I've certainly got boxes we could sit down with, and go through each section, but having been through this many times in the past few decades, I prefer the blank slate method.

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Post by lisa » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:39 pm

I'm not sure it'll be so much clearer for someone new to synths if you patch a bunch of cables compared to if you just point where the sound goes next but perhaps you are right.

VCV Rack? :hihi:
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Post by mt3 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:43 pm

Vanilla Doepfer Beauty Case filled with their most vanilla Doepfer modules (VCO, VCF, VCA).

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Post by DJFonzi » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:47 pm

lisa wrote: VCV Rack? :hihi:
Yeah, a little less hands-on, but the thought did cross my mind.

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Post by naught101 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:17 pm

DJFonzi wrote:Because it's way easier when a user can visualize a control going from A to B when there's actually a visible connection from A to B.
It's totally not NECESSARY. It just makes the process much, much simpler.

This was super clear the other day when we had the Grandmother. The envelope controlling filter cutoff was confounding until I showed him a patch from the envelope to the pitch input of OSC 2 (he's a Styx fan. I knew he'd get the sync-sweep.)

I've certainly got boxes we could sit down with, and go through each section, but having been through this many times in the past few decades, I prefer the blank slate method.
Plug the cable going to your mixer directly into Osc output. Then add the vca in to the chain, etc. Use cables to duplicate normalled connections if it helps. Use dummy cables to break normalled connections, if necessary.

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Post by DJFonzi » Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:33 pm

I appreciate the recommendations, folks.

I'm very specifically wondering if there's something else like the TE Modular. A self-contained unit with typical components of a subtractive synth, but not internally patched.
Or if there's been a super-cheap line of Eurorack modules introduced in the past several years, so I could put a system together for a few hundred dollars, I'd be interested in that as well.

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Post by Blairio » Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:37 pm

Perhaps buy a set of ladik modules that cover the basics, and then give them to your kid once the lessons are over? Ladik kit is great value new, and even better 2nd hand.

vco
filter
Envelope Generator
lfo
vca

+

used case of some description

<Blair edit> you will also need some kind of midi to cv/gate converter, and a sequencer would be cool. How about a (used) Microbrute + some modules?

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Post by diophantine » Fri Jul 26, 2019 7:32 pm

As suggested above, with a few "dummy cables" (i.e. just the plug one end of a cable into the normalled jack) things should be ok on the Grandmother. (Of course, at GC this may not be possible.) But I've taught the basics on an MS-10 , and it works fine. You may have to teach "backwards" starting with the VCA.

Of course it ultimately depends on your audience. But get what seems interesting to you, and we're all happy to help with how to best teach from it. And most likely that'll involve dummy cables, unless you want to start a small Eurorack system with Doepfer & 2hp modules, or something similar.

JohnLRice

Re: Looking for something to teach subtractive synthesis

Post by JohnLRice » Fri Jul 26, 2019 9:07 pm

DJFonzi wrote:I've got synths, and a decent-sized MU rig. My modular is currently boxed up, and it's not remarkably practical in the first place.
If your MU is too big, why not pick up a small MU case that will hold just the basics? Like maybe a Synthesizers.com Box11 or similar if your modules aren't too deep. You can always take the modules back out and put them in your large MU system any time you want. I can't think of any system better suited to teaching beginners about subtractive synthesis than a small 5U system! :tu: And a Box11 type case will likely cost your less (if you use the modules you already have) then buying some other complete small system.

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Post by electricanada » Fri Jul 26, 2019 11:45 pm

DJFonzi wrote:I appreciate the recommendations, folks.

I'm very specifically wondering if there's something else like the TE Modular. A self-contained unit with typical components of a subtractive synth, but not internally patched.
Or if there's been a super-cheap line of Eurorack modules introduced in the past several years, so I could put a system together for a few hundred dollars, I'd be interested in that as well.
There is AE modular, but I personally would much rather put that money towards some used Doepfer or Ladik.
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Post by mt3 » Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:59 am

For a self contained semi-modular module, I liked Pittsburgh Modular's Synth Box/Block. Though it has some normalizations, they shouldn't be an impediment or obstacle to learning.

Use the following explanation if needed:
Normalization - the normal state and behaviour when no cables are patched into a jack

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Post by DJFonzi » Sun Jul 28, 2019 10:11 am

Looks like the Phenol ticks all the boxes.
Now I've just got to find a small, appropriate scope.
Thanks all!

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Post by Umcorps » Mon Jul 29, 2019 1:46 am

Why get stuck on hardware?

VCV is a great teaching resource. The Fundamentals pack contains everything you need to get across the basics of subtractive synthesis - including the scope.

I use it a lot for demos and explainers. Also has the advantage that you can do it remotely and the people you are working with can carry on with their own exploration at their own speed.

Personally, I'd start with that and move to hardware afterwards.

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Post by dubonaire » Mon Jul 29, 2019 2:52 am

The benefit of software in teaching subtractive synthesis is you can visually show how the basis is waveforms rich in harmonics and a filter that removes partials and has resonance at the filter cutoff frequency.

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Post by ayruos » Mon Jul 29, 2019 5:07 am

I've done this with both Max and Pure Data. Probably the best of all worlds, transparent enough to explain different sections well and powerful enough to quickly being able to hook up a voice and more. + having tables/scopes/etc and being able to patch them in to any section of the "patch" really helps in visualising what's going on. Can't get smaller building blocks like these two platforms - each module may have it's own quirks whereas on something like Pd or Max, you can go from the absolute basics without having to worry about differences between ladder filters and sallen-key filters, etc, among other things.

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Post by dubonaire » Mon Jul 29, 2019 5:25 am

ayruos wrote:I've done this with both Max and Pure Data. Probably the best of all worlds, transparent enough to explain different sections well and powerful enough to quickly being able to hook up a voice and more. + having tables/scopes/etc and being able to patch them in to any section of the "patch" really helps in visualising what's going on. Can't get smaller building blocks like these two platforms - each module may have it's own quirks whereas on something like Pd or Max, you can go from the absolute basics without having to worry about differences between ladder filters and sallen-key filters, etc, among other things.
While I respect your view, I can't imagine anything more confusing than Max or PD for teaching basic synthesis. It's take new Max users a week just to work out how to get a sound.

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Post by ayruos » Mon Jul 29, 2019 5:55 am

dubonaire wrote:
ayruos wrote:I've done this with both Max and Pure Data. Probably the best of all worlds, transparent enough to explain different sections well and powerful enough to quickly being able to hook up a voice and more. + having tables/scopes/etc and being able to patch them in to any section of the "patch" really helps in visualising what's going on. Can't get smaller building blocks like these two platforms - each module may have it's own quirks whereas on something like Pd or Max, you can go from the absolute basics without having to worry about differences between ladder filters and sallen-key filters, etc, among other things.
While I respect your view, I can't imagine anything more confusing than Max or PD for teaching basic synthesis. It's take new Max users a week just to work out how to get a sound.
Ah, no, I'm not teaching Max. Or Pd. I'm teaching synthesis. Signal flow. What each module or operation does. Just using Max as a medium, as any questions that may arise can be very quickly answered (usually) which may not be possible on other systems due to lack of a particular module or CV source or whatever.


Now how the participants want to practise it - on Max or Pd itself, on a VST plugin, on a hardware synth, whatever, it's totally up to them - but being able to break it down on Max/Pd has helped them get an understanding of how to go about when working with any synth as they've understood what each core component does.

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Post by electricanada » Mon Jul 29, 2019 6:02 am

Automatonism makes PD very easy, even easier than vcv rack.
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Post by Pelsea » Mon Jul 29, 2019 9:32 am

I used PAIA 9700 systems in the first year labs at UCSC. They have some normalling, but it is well labeled and makes sense.
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Post by DJFonzi » Mon Jul 29, 2019 9:34 am

I prefer hands-on to mouse-over. We all have plenty of screen time in our lives.
But thanks for the suggestions!

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Post by Dilibob » Mon Jul 29, 2019 7:34 pm

The most crazy flexible small system is something like vcvrack <> es-8 in small euro rack box with 5 to 10 basic modules that include a couple of filters and oscillators (i am a huge fan of using analog filters to show subtraction, the problem is some of the critical analog filters are huge and expensive, thus when explaining things like subtractive delay filters - run that through the es-8 for the soft filter. Also in eurorack most of the fancy subtractive filters are digital anyway with pretty non-intuitive menu systems).


[es-8 is non-normal]

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Post by dubonaire » Mon Jul 29, 2019 7:46 pm

DJFonzi wrote:I prefer hands-on to mouse-over. We all have plenty of screen time in our lives.
But thanks for the suggestions!
That's fair enough. When I make music I prefer hands on as well.

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Re: Looking for something to teach subtractive synthesis

Post by hamildad » Tue Jul 30, 2019 6:50 am

JohnLRice wrote:If your MU is too big, why not pick up a small MU case that will hold just the basics? Like maybe a Synthesizers.com Box11 or similar if your modules aren't too deep.
Personally I think this is the best idea...

remember a Phenol has only bipolar signals so pitch/envelope CV acts different than many synthesisers... its a really nice synth though...

If you want an easy way to tech someone synthesis on system you are comfortable with, then Box11& 5U.

if you want a cool little system and a toe dip into Eurorack then Doepfer case and modules.

If you want to buy a nice synth thats a bit different and you can share the patchign process, phenol.

If you want to teach someone subtractive synthesis in a valuable and comprehensive way. Arp 2600 and its manual....
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