"Playing" your modular

Anything modular synth related that is not format specific.

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elemental
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"Playing" your modular

Post by elemental » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:05 am

I'm becoming more and more interested in using a modular in a live performance context. I've been gigging with Ableton Live and MIDI controllers for a couple years or so, and soon I'd like to move to a more hardware-based setup, maybe just for occasional gigs.

What I'm finding is that its almost like starting again; like learning an instrument, which it is. Watching that video of Charles Cohen playing the Buchla Music Easel was inspiring. I aspire, one day, to be able to play a modular & sequencer live, possibly as part of a larger group, or solo, with or without drum machine / sampler for drums and other parts.

Obviously the main thing this takes is Practice. My style is more about grooves than noise; some random elements but mostly rhythmic and/or melodic. Its rare to find videos of modular noodlings far beyond just demos, that are actually about playing and expressing... of course its a fine line and subject to taste aswell.

My first task is to become fluent at my current chosen sequencer (Genoqs Nemo) - although for pure modular stuff it would be nice to have CV outs also.

My question to you lot is, are any of you doing this or preparing for it?
Is there any advice you would give?

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MrDys
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Post by MrDys » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:16 am

Have you seen this?

That video opened my eyes a lot in terms of "playing" a modular.

elemental
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Post by elemental » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:48 am

Thanks, yeh thats a cool video, neat setup he's got there.
That is along the lines of what I'm aiming at... but a bit more portable than the Macbeth!

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Post by BananaPlug » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:48 am

Watching that video of Charles Cohen playing the Buchla Music Easel was inspiring.
Yeah, Charles is something else alright. He's had that Easel a long time and knows it like the back of his hand. The less is more approach works if you give it time and focus. It certainly works for Charles. In my case, and I'm not alone, the explorer/tinkerer is always pulling in new distractions. That's fun and has merit but it's not very conducive to prepping yourself for playing out. I keep telling myself it's a necessary step along the way and I'll get over it.

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Post by tragedybysyntax » Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:26 pm

Hey man.... I'm right with you. I'm more into using my modular for grooves as well! I'm in the process of doing the individual out mod for my TR-606. Which will allow me to process each drum thru the modular or pedals then sum back to a stereo pair or mono. It also has 2 outs for the toms that are hot enough to trigger my modular. I'm really into pulse divisions and such as well so that I can have all my shit in time with each other based off of the initial pulse or whatever.

I should send you some clips of the stuff I've been doing lately of my circuit bent HR-16 which is sync'd up to the modular via midi>cv and of course the tr-606. :)

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Post by Kwote » Wed Dec 17, 2008 1:54 pm

I’ve been practicing off and on with a band that has yet to play out and recently the head of the band wanted me to incorporate sequences in his songs.(i normally just scratch with my turntable)

To be honest I’m a bit intimidated because I hadn’t had plans to go live with the modular for atleast another year. However, it’s something that will be practiced and adapted.

I think just playing out is something we could all use more of. I haven’t done so since last February. And that was just a houseparty. I think the main thing to remember is we’re all people and reactions or expectations of the crowd are to be suspended during performances. Sure you can bond with them and feed off their energy. But I think that only happens if you’re comfortable and they’re feeding off you first.

Good luck.
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elemental
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Post by elemental » Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:09 pm

Cheers - Yeh I dont think i'd be ready to play live with a modular for another year either. But - its amazing what u can do when you have a deadline and some motivation!

My first steps are gonna be posting videos of studio sessions, like a few of you do here. Anyone got a camcorder they can recommend? (with audio input!)

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consumed
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Post by consumed » Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:20 pm

'playing' a large format modular is *much* easier than playing an eurorack.
a few of the recordings i used on 'between many spaces' were recorded in an improvisational way, primarily through manipulating threshold on the gated comparator, a little filter cutoff and mod input twiddling, and switching in and out of the delay or flying the aux sends on the mixer to effects.

EDIT
constantly buying/selling modules and rearranging the modular puts a kink in the learning-how-to-play-the-modular thing.

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Post by parasitk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:46 pm

I just played my first show with my modular . It was a joy to use live, but I definitely want more control type things now - joysticks, touch pads, (another) ribbon.

And although I'm not so into using a keyboard with my modular, having a 1 octave touch plate type thing would rock for setting base pitches for drones and such.

I kept it simple this time with a pre-patched setup, but in the future I want to do more live re-patching.

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Post by Kwote » Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:05 pm

elemental wrote:Anyone got a camcorder they can recommend? (with audio input!)
Yeah actually that’s the reason I haven’t made any more videos. No sound input for my digicam(which of course wouldn’t make sense) and too lazy to record to the comp while taking video and sync up later.

If I could just have a solid camcorder with audio in I’d probably be posting vids all the time.
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elemental
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Post by elemental » Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:17 pm

consumed wrote:'playing' a large format modular is *much* easier than playing an eurorack.
interesting... something that does concern me is how often I get bad contacts with mini-jacks. Banana plugs or proper 1/4" jacks seem to be much more reliable.
consumed wrote: constantly buying/selling modules and rearranging the modular puts a kink in the learning-how-to-play-the-modular thing.
defo! but - I think its also important to find what works for you. still, there should be a point where you decide, this is my now my instrument, and keep it as it is, for a while at least.

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Post by fluxmonkey » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:18 pm

i've been playing out live quite a bit, especially in the last year. all improvised textural stuff, mostly in either a noize/rock or free jazz context.

i used to lug a large setup, 5 frac-racks in a big coffin case, and still do occasionally... i generally only wind up using a 3rd of the modules, but i'm usually not sure in advance which 3rd and so that leaves lots of options for spontaneity.

more recently, i've gotten a 6u portable case and load it up w/ 2fracs worth of modules, swapping specific modules in/out for each gig... this enforces a certain discipline and planning which is both freeing (less to worry about) and purposely constraining (there's always ONE MORE module that i want to use and don't have room for). all of the modules come from my larger setup, and i'm very familiar with them individually, so it's not such a leap to familiarize myself with th specific instrument or voice i assemble for a particular gig

i mostly control things w/ the actual module knobs, but i've also used a doepfer ribbon controller which is cool. i've not had any trouble with the formfactor, but i build/maintain it myself so the jacks are kept pretty reliable, and i'm just used to it... dense patches do get a little tangled towards the end, but i'm typically making small adjustments and deliberate gestures by that point in the performance, so that's ok. my 5u rack would easily be twice the size for the same functionality as my typical frac instrument.

i don't use much sequencing at all in my work, but i'd think it would limit the situation w/ other musicians in that they'd have to keep time w/ your sequencer clock? i suppose that's true for non-modular sequence based musics as well, eh?

i'm finding it both challenging and rewarding, and the response from both audience and fellow musicians has been good.

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Kwote
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Post by Kwote » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:19 pm

fluxmonkey wrote:i don't use much sequencing at all in my work, but i'd think it would limit the situation w/ other musicians in that they'd have to keep time w/ your sequencer clock? i suppose that's true for non-modular sequence based musics as well, eh?
I agree. I’m hoping that after a couple sessions this will dawn on the bandleader. Especially considering the rest of the band is comprised of no programming whatsoever. An electric bassist, keyboardist, drummer and turntablist(that’s me).

What I’m hoping to convince him of is that bringing out random tones, noise and also processing my turntable will be a more rewarding use of the modular.

Of course I could just out and out refuse to do the sequencing thing but I’m curious to see if it floats at all. Which is weird considering I secretly hope it tanks. :lol:
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Post by parasitk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:25 pm

I'm working on getting the sequencing to follow the live music. Experimenting with ideas, nothing concrete yet, but I think that would open a lot of things up for my band situation. They're not opposed to occasionally playing to a click/clock but I'd prefer the sequencer follow the musicians, not the other way around!

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Post by dkcg » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:29 pm

Kwote wrote:
fluxmonkey wrote:i don't use much sequencing at all in my work, but i'd think it would limit the situation w/ other musicians in that they'd have to keep time w/ your sequencer clock? i suppose that's true for non-modular sequence based musics as well, eh?
I agree. I’m hoping that after a couple sessions this will dawn on the bandleader. Especially considering the rest of the band is comprised of no programming whatsoever. An electric bassist, keyboardist, drummer and turntablist(that’s me).

What I’m hoping to convince him of is that bringing out random tones, noise and also processing my turntable will be a more rewarding use of the modular.

Of course I could just out and out refuse to do the sequencing thing but I’m curious to see if it floats at all. Which is weird considering I secretly hope it tanks. :lol:
Just play On The Run over n over n over n over and maybe they'll want something textural and more about sound design, noise maker.

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Post by Cat-A-Tonic » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:50 pm

On the topic of locking the Seq. clock to the band...

Recently I have been experimenting with using a microphone into the I/O to send gate signals to the sequencer
so that it only steps on each beat (when beat boxing or tapping the mic).

You could do the same thing by splitting the output of your drummer's kick drum mic
(or upright slap bassists fingerboard transducer) to control your Seq clock as well as spitting audio.

I personally find it incredibly fun to BE or PLAY the clock source.

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Post by parasitk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:58 pm

Yep, exactly! :sb:

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Post by tragedybysyntax » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:46 am

Yeah soon... the modular gets moved into the drum room to start clocking the sequencer modules off a kick drum or some other piezo I set up. If nothing else... to jam on drums to drones I make thru an orange tiny terror!!!! ;)

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Post by Kwote » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:38 pm

werd but these sequences need to be ongoing and have multiple changes so gating would just break things up too much.

there's no upright. he plays electric bass.

it's all good man. hopefully something worthwhile will come out of it all.

i think we'll have enough going that sequencing will just clutter things anyway but one thing we won't have is crazy random noise. so i'm gonna try to convince him that the modular is better suited for filling that gap.
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Kwote
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Post by Kwote » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:40 pm

dkcg wrote:
Kwote wrote:
fluxmonkey wrote:i don't use much sequencing at all in my work, but i'd think it would limit the situation w/ other musicians in that they'd have to keep time w/ your sequencer clock? i suppose that's true for non-modular sequence based musics as well, eh?
I agree. I’m hoping that after a couple sessions this will dawn on the bandleader. Especially considering the rest of the band is comprised of no programming whatsoever. An electric bassist, keyboardist, drummer and turntablist(that’s me).

What I’m hoping to convince him of is that bringing out random tones, noise and also processing my turntable will be a more rewarding use of the modular.

Of course I could just out and out refuse to do the sequencing thing but I’m curious to see if it floats at all. Which is weird considering I secretly hope it tanks. :lol:
Just play On The Run over n over n over n over and maybe they'll want something textural and more about sound design, noise maker.
lol. actually the songs he wrote are what he wants to program into the HEXZONE. the backing parts anyway.
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