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How Many Oscillators...
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author How Many Oscillators...
langley
A single oscillator can be lovely (OSC303) and two is often nicer. I believe bass duties on The Human League's Dare (which I like) were handled by the System 700 which has lots of oscillators (9?) and Devo used two minimoogs (6 oscillators) for much of their 3rd and 4th albums.

Does anyone have any feeelings as to when VCO overload kicks in? (I mean for fattness whatever that is).
nrdvrgr
I´d say it is all about the filters, not the OSC´s...
And speaking as a true euro-crackwhore - you can never have enough.
Fnord
I've got 18 with 2 more on the way.
Yeah, I'm a junkie, but the hours are great.
fac
I rarely use more than 2 oscillators in a single sound (not counting LFO's). I do tend to use lots of 1-osc sounds, though. I do like having much more VCO's for polyphonic sequences.

My 5U system currently has 6 VCO's. I plan to add another two in a few months, and I also plan to start a euro system, so by the end of the year I might end up with 10 VCO's, plus a few dedicated LFO's, plus a bunch of self-oscillating filters (Q107/Q150/FilterFactory/Mankato/DeltaVCF).
doctorvague
Everyone has different tastes here, but a lot of times when you see systems with a lot of oscillators, it isn't necessarily to stack them all and get one giant voice. They get used for more than one voice, or some as modulators in an FM patch, some as LFO's, to hard or soft sync to, etc. I many times use my 7 oscillators to create up to 4 separate voices and have never stacked them all into one monophonic sound. After about 3 or 4 stacked oscillators it gets pretty academic to me, but it depends on what you're after of course.

If you're really after a huge stacked-sounding monophonic line then I would look into something like a sawtooth animator or MOTM's cloud generator (or something similar) rather than tying up 8 oscillators.
Christopher Winkels
My system only has four oscillators (there are also dedicated LFOs that can do audio rate signals, but I don't use them as such), but I can't say I've ever wished for more. That would probably change if I felt the need to play something polyphonically or to recreate a DX-7 patch in the analogue domain.

What I do wish is for a little more variety in Dotcom format.
robotmakers
As in all things modular, the limit is your imagination. In defiance of reason and good taste, I recently put together a sample set for Kontakt with 18 VCOs + saw animator. We all secretly know that most listeners wouldn't care if they were hearing a freeware VST or the holy grail of analogs, but that's not the point. Make your music your own. No rules apply. Enjoy.

Cheers,
Roger
giorgio
I often use just 1 oscillator in a patch or sound on my modular, and love the sound of the single VCO h-101 as well. lets see, I have 4 single oscillators in my modular and a double (hertz donut!!!!) sometimes it is nice to stack 2 of the same for a detuned thing, or at different octaves is nice, but most often just 1 per "voice". I've not really focused on how many, but what kind of oscillators do I have: the digital pair is like a weird modern buchla-ish clone, i have a plan b model 15 which is supposed to be like an old buchla, triangle core. then I've got an 303 VCO clone (in the mail actually), and a wiard/malekko pair, just cause they are crazy and cool in their own musical way.
sduck
I have 3 MOTM 300's that are indispensable for when you want that huge fat generic analog synth sound. Adding anything else to those 3 doesn't really add much to the sound, but taking one away is very noticeable. That's just for one kind of sound though - often just one of these through the right filter and/or the Doomsday Machine will get you where you want to be.

And as nrdvrgr noted, quite often the right filter can have a huge effect on the sound. I have 5 "traditional" filters, and quite a few less than traditional filter like items - experimentation can lead to great sounds!

Besides these I have 3 other VCO's - a motm 310, a DoubleDekka, and a Teezer. Also several vc'able pitched sources - miniwave, morphing terrrarium, and VCS, and several filters that track vc really accurately. I also have pcb's for several other vco like items - most notably JH's Living VCO's.

Overkill? I think not!
negativspace
I rarely use more than 2 VCOs in a single sound but I also rarely use my entire modular to make a single sound. Sometimes I'm getting 5 or 6 different timbres out of the thing at once. I have 4 VCOs and a VCLFO, along with 3 LFOs that can achieve audio rates. I definitely need more. (I've got at least 2 more coming as soon as J3RK's 258 PCBs are ready!)
vav
I have 3.

5 if you count the Sub-Outs.

8 if you count the uLFOs.

10 if you count the Filters.

And 2 more on the way grin

I think Osc's are more important than filters, personally.
ndkent
You can always get a Memorymoog and put it in mono mode for a an instant 18 CEM VCOs all in one go.

I guess Tomita eventually tried thirty six 100M VCOs on "Grand Canyon Suite" in unison but that might have been overkill as he didn't continue doing that as far as I can tell. Then again he was sidetracked by digital gear in that era...

P.S. imho sub-outs don't count since they can't be detuned, it's more like an extra waveshape option rather than a separate VCO. In my book LFOs and VCFs are fair game as potential though limited VCOs though of course you use them as VCOs and that's one less of whatever it was before you called it a VCO.
Just me
I have 4 OSC. 5 LFO's, a wavefolder and 3 filters that can also act as oscillators. I rarely use more than 2 OSC per voice/sound. (I do like to use multiple waves from the same OSC)
nerdware
ISTR Tomita used the 36 VCO 100M system on the Burmuda Triangle album, but I'm relying on my memory of the vinyl sleeve notes. I don't know how he actually used them on that album, but my guess is 6 voices with 6 VCOs each, controlled by the MC-8.

Does anyone know how he used his 901 VCOs to get his wonderfully lush string sound? He had 10 of them...
ndkent
nerdware wrote:
ISTR Tomita used the 36 VCO 100M system on the Burmuda Triangle album, but I'm relying on my memory of the vinyl sleeve notes. I don't know how he actually used them on that album, but my guess is 6 voices with 6 VCOs each, controlled by the MC-8.

Does anyone know how he used his 901 VCOs to get his wonderfully lush string sound? He had 10 of them...


On Grand Canyon he mention the 36 VCOs. While he did get gear early and he might have had them in time for Bermuda Triangle, I don't see 100M on the gear list for Bermuda Triangle or the next album "Daphnis et Chloe".

I'm sure he used MC-8 and he says he does, but it would probably be for more unusual material and anything that sound metronomic.

On Sound Creature as far as I've figured out he talks about doing the string sections with an actual overdub for each part, as many as 60 times, but he had a really clever technique to lay things down fast. He'd record a gate track manually to a conductor click track as audio channel to get the articulation feel way better than a programmed sequence. Then he'd extract his gate track to step his Moog sequencer (rather than program step lengths) and fire the envelopes. So it would play his own phrased articulation right back on the money over and over with the correct notes so long as the sequencer was parked at the start when he started up his multitrack. That would leave his hands free to tweak things and make sure the overdubs each were a little different. He'd bounce a lot of it down but keep maybe 3 discrete channels of his ensemble parts so he had stereo options in the mix.
megaohm
A baker's dozen.
Bananallama!
nerdware
Thanks, ndkent. I remember the Burmuda Triangle vinyl back cover giving equipment details, including something about JVC helping him with the 5-channel mix...Now I wish I hadn't given it to a friend! The CD version is far less helpful. d'oh!

I have the Japanese version of the Sound Creature album, and I can't read the text. Mr. Green The diagrams are intriguing, however.

BTW, I'm pretty sure he used the MC-8 on one track on Kosmos, Hora Stoccata, because the sleeve notes mention that specifically, and a little about his optimism regarding computers.

His sequencer trick sounds interesting. I use something a little like that when I'm layering, except I use a computer for the sequencing/recording. I've only used a few layers so far - nothing as dense as 60!

Anyway, thanks for the info. thumbs up Sorry for hijacking the thread, everyone. oops

Ummm...When I had 4 VCOs in my Digisound 80, I felt that was enough. The VCLFOs could also go into the audio range, but I rarely used them for that. I found the difference between 3 and 4 VCOs much smaller than 2 and 3, so I found more interesting ways of stacking them, like feeding them into the dual RM module, or mixing 3 of them and RMing the mix with the 4th VCO, or using the 4th VCO to FM a filter at audio rates. I never felt much like I needed more VCOs, altho I was intrigued by the DVCO module.

Today, building a new modular one module at a time, I'm pretty happy with just 3 VCOs. Most of the time I just use only 2 of them for audio and the 3rd for FM etc. Mind you, this synth is relatively small. I don't have a dedicated mixer module yet! So my Digisound 80 experience may be more relevant here, even if that synth stopped expanding in the 80s. hihi
dogoftears
the fattest basses i've ever made have been with ONE big juicy oscillator. unison patches are dumb, i've never understood the appeal, and they eat up the whole mix. i think fat bass is way more about enveloping and filter. the only synth i make unison patches with is the SEM, because it has a special gorgeous quality to it when you filter sweep across unison or slightly detuned oscillators.

more often then not the 2nd oscillator in the patch is for audio-rate FM... i find VCA's a lot more useful then VCO's... i could make lots of music w/ just self-oscillating filters (and have)... the fattest kick in my entire synth arsenal is still the self-oscillating filter on my pro one (w/ the P1 envelopes perfectly tuned). YMMV but VCO's have never been my fave part of modular-land smile

but i've got a few... Cwejman VCO-2RM (surgeons tool), Anti-Osc (malpractice suit) Blacet VCO (very unique west coast quality), plus my patch-point SEM, Pro One, and Evolver, which all have unique oscillators of their own. i used to have a Model 15 and am proud to say i *didnt like it very much*... yes it was fat but i couldn't sync it for shit and it's huge and it has way too many FM inputs... waste of space.
BrotherTheo
To paraphrase the guy from Beyond Thunderdome, "Sound cometh from oscillators" we're not worthy
The more the merrier. Or phatter. Rule of thumb: you can never have enough oscillators. I mean filters. Er, modules.

I should make an oscillator module, just so I can have 20 of them in my system.
cbm
Speaking as someone from the Buchla camp, what are oscillators? Do you mean half of a waveform generator? :-)
emdot_ambient
I think there's probably a reason that the real classic analog synths of the late 70s and early 80s usually stopped at 3 Osc per voice...I mean apart from huge unison patches, which I agree are pretty dumb and DO eat up a mix in a hurry...and that's because beyond that you're not getting a lot of bang for the buck.

For the vast majority of all serviceable patches, 1 to 3 is plenty...PER VOICE. Back when my Minimoog was still working I used to try and try and try to get 3 Osc patches that worked, but usually even they became too much for most mixes. That's why I think Dr. Moog decided to not add dedicated LFOs and just use Osc 3 for modulation. And the consensus seems to be the Mini's the king of monosynths.

So...I'd say 3 is max per voice. But in the modular world, more is more. And VCOs are so useful for many other things, as already mentioned. So it's up to you to decide how many is enough for your music.

Rule of thumb: less than 3 is probably not enough, while more than 9 is probably going a bit overboard (unless you've got endless room for all the other support modules that would be needed to make use of more).

Personally: I'm starting with 4, but have a Living VCOs PCB to eventually add 3 more. Albeit my Living VCOs are probably going in a stand alone synth modeled somewhat (i.e. very loosely) on the VCS3 or AKS.
vav
I use my multitude to make multiple patches within the same "sound." i guess i use my modular multi-timbrally, which is why i like having so many VCO's. I also like that if i get bored with a sound, i'll swap VCO's and try again, sometimes that makes all the difference.
cbm
I would say that two to three oscillators in the audio range is probably enough for playing "notes," with a "normal" synth voice. Depending upon what other modulation stuff you may want to do, add a few more in a low frequency range.

I don't usually use my stuff that way, instead making drones and other odd sounds where I might use a handful of oscillators and gobs of modulators.
spinach_pizza
How many oscillators for each voice . . . it really depends on what kind of music you are making. Sometimes one oscillator is perfect. Sometimes numerous overdubs are required (not the same thing as unison). Your ears (rather than some strict rule) ought to be able to tell you what's right.


nerdware wrote:
ISTR Tomita used the 36 VCO 100M system on the Burmuda Triangle album, but I'm relying on my memory of the vinyl sleeve notes. I don't know how he actually used them on that album, but my guess is 6 voices with 6 VCOs each, controlled by the MC-8.

Does anyone know how he used his 901 VCOs to get his wonderfully lush string sound? He had 10 of them...


He also used a mellotron.
nerdware
spinach_pizza wrote:
He also used a mellotron.

Yes, very useful for choir, organ and flute. lol

BTW, I get very good results by multitracking a single VCO. While drifting is very obvious when I use 2 VCOs, just 1 multitracked is very stable. I don't know why this is or if it's normal or not, but it works for me. I should try that with more than 2 layers someday. I also find that layering by multitracking helps mask the drifting, creating a much thicker sound. This technique also works well with detuning.

Obviously this is no substitute for a mass of VCOs, which would make it trivial to give each VCO its own detuning, but it'll be a while before I'll want to add more VCOs. Ok, maybe just one...
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