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Building a Modular Synth for ambient soundscapes
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author Building a Modular Synth for ambient soundscapes
Crimson
Hi everyone, like many others, I'm very interested in plunging into the world of Modular Synthesis! Mr. Green

I am aware of a few starting solutions such as the following:

    Expert Sleeper software to hardware solution

    a n a l o g u e h a v e n (Happy Ending Kit)

    synthesizers.com

    PAiA

    Doepfer

    MFOS

    And a few other etc...

I don't have a large budget at the moment, in fact I'm not in the best situation to buy a starting kit, however any suggestions for the future can't help. Mr. Green 8_)

What I want to emphasize is if anyone has suggestions for someone wanting to build a modular synthesizer for a particular sound?

The type of sound I'm looking for is something that can create ambient soundscapes. Beautiful and etherial and I'm also into the darker drone kind of sound and drone in general.

I've been interested in the SoundLab Ultimate, and it's only about $600 pre-built (from someone else).

Here is an example of what I'm after (this being the SoundLab Ultimate)



I'm seriously considering getting this modular analog synth since I personally think it would be a great gateway for me to understand the fundamentals of synthesis and I also love the sound of it in general. But any other recommendations are more than welcome. thumbs up

There is also a particular artist who uses a minimoog voyager. I am not overly impressed with the demos for this synth but the particular sounds he makes with his never ceases to impress me.

I'm wondering if it's possible to build a synth that can make the kind of sound found in this video from 6:46 to 7:15



(One of my favorite bands if I might add! SlayerBadger! Mr. Green )

Or it may be better for me to simply save up for a voyager?

Anyway, thank you in advance for any helpful information! I've been quite conflicted for sometime and have no idea where to look for a particular sound. Cheers! Guinness ftw!
30ohm
make sure you get a great reverb & delay unit.
Crimson
I guess I'll have to look into that hmmm.....
kindredlost
I'm glad to read you are interested in a modular synth to do this type of music (which I agree is very appealing). To be honest, about any dual oscillator synth with a good outboard delay/reverb such as the Memoryman will go a long way to getting you there. The modular is a more flexible way to do almost anything as well as this type of music.

I use a lot of delay and reverb effects in my music so I can tell you the key to this type of sound is the proper selection of delay and reverb devices. A good inexpensive delay/reverb effect unit is the Lexicon MX200. You can find them for sale on eBay for 150 bucks or less. This will give you two channels for layered effects in stereo and has tap tempo and MIDI clock timing. Other effects are flanging, phaseing, pitch shifting, compression and reverse delay. The killer reverb for this ambient sound is a good plate reverb. The Lexicon has a decent one or two to choose from but combining them in stacked two channel mode really has to be heard to be appreciated.

I don't wish to disuade anyone from the journey into a modular synth. My goal for this post is to convey that in my opinion it isn't necessarily required to re-create what I hear in your video samples. It wouldn't hurt either and if you are willing to go at it slow and build a system then by all means dive in. The cost can be daunting at first but a few months or years down the road and you will be creating your own dream sounds.
Crimson
Hi, thanks for the reply, I very much appreciate it!

It looks like I'll have to do some research to find the right units for me.

The Jupiter Analogue Drone Synth seems quite appealing, and the Soundlab Ultimate still seems like a reasonable option. I am seriously considering getting a Memoryman once I have some form of hardware.
I'll look into the Lexicom MX200.

Although building a system seems to be the best option in the aspect of customizing it to my own needs; I have no idea which units I should look at, such as the effects, brand, particular units... And then there's the price...


If anyone has any suggestions, than feel free to post! Mr. Green help

I'm still quite stuck on what I should be looking for, (particularly modular synths) so appreciate the responses!
zerosum
Quote:
The type of sound I'm looking for is something that can create ambient soundscapes. Beautiful and etherial and I'm also into the darker drone kind of sound and drone in general.


Spring reverb. love The Q115 is nice.
Analog delay. Not so much for delay delay delay delay..... type sounds,
but for sculpting tones and rolling of high end. Use a digital delay for swirling the sound around/dubby echo delay delay delay delay sounds. The Lexicon MPX's have been used in many "classic" ambient/soundscape albums.
Slew limiter to smooth out rough edges of sequences or CV sources.
I'm not sure if it really "makes a difference" who makes the module for something as simple as that, but synthesizers.com does have one available,
and dotcom was mentioned in your original post.

Those are the 3 modules/pieces that come to mind right away when I think about tools for ambient music.

Lots of VCA's and envelopes/modulators are very important too,
Even more important is spending time to study them.
A slowly opening and closing VCA with some reverb is a lot of the ambient sound.

You will need lots of VCO's too. The Q106 is great, I think it may be my favorite oscillator due to the layout of the panel and the amount of features.
Slowly modulate the PWM on a single osc then swirl it around with some delays and reverbs. love

Quote:
Although building a system seems to be the best option in the aspect of customizing it to my own needs; I have no idea which units I should look at, such as the effects, brand, particular units... And then there's the price...


The dotcom modules offer high quality, high variety of module choices at surprisingly low prices. It's hard to find an alternative that offers so much for so little(price).
For effects processors, there are so many now(rack effects, pedals, stand alone, modules, etc) that I don't think it's possible to really get a bad one or "the wrong one".
The Lexicons are cheap, the Boss VF-1 is cheap(and offers a lot of high quality), the Boss SE-50 and SE-70 processors are OK for the money,
The Alesis Quadraverbs are really cheap now. A little noisy, but nothing that makes them unusable.(They have also been used on many classic albums).
A Dingleberry Monstrosity
a fart into an eventide space will create epic movie-esque soundscapes and ambient drones.


Honestly I find it over the top in that regard, completely eats up what you put into it.
Crimson
Thanks for the helpful advice Zerosum.

I've been looking at the reverbs and delays. Most of what you listed appeal to me. There's also the Line 6 Echo Pro.

Synthesizers.com may be the right way to go since I like the sound of moog generally. I also like Macbeth and mos-lab but that's a bit too costly from what I've seen.

This is quite appealing to me
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSAby-IACFA
The MOS-LAB SYSTEM 8A also has some great sounds.

It appears in the the second video I posted (6:45-7:15), the artist is using the glide rate/portamento on his voyager. Is it possible to make a similar kind of sound in the video using the glide on the Q119 or the portamento on the Q175 as an example?

However, I'm not entirely convinced when it comes to ambiance/drone for dotcom. I don't think I've seen a video yet relating to that. And how close can it sound to the voyager (the particular sound I keep referring to more specifically)?

There are a lot more companies I'm aware of that are in Eurorack format. Maybe there are more options for me there?


Thanks in advance, very much appreciate it! thumbs up
southphillysynths
Oh boy here we go! hah I have a eurorack system that has mostly 'east coast' type modules, meaning they are based around keyboard and sequenced melodic music. I have yet to find a type of music I can't do with it. You can do drone/soundscape music with a recording on a phone and a delay pedal, I've seen it done, i'm slowly realizing its all about knowledge. I have driven myself up walls because I loved the sound of certain synths vintage or new or diy, and if I just think long enough and patch on, I eventually figure out it's not the gear, it's the idea/ feeling. I met a guy who does ambient drone music with a korg volca keys (video below) It is a tiny polysyth that has a delay on it, all the demos are of people playing it as a keyboard, but what they don't tell you is that if you crank the delay on it, it does into total drone mode. you could get a korg monotron or something and be content until you can afford a modular, synthesizers.com is totally capable of any sound you want to make, as long as you keep at it, you will find what you want or maybe even go off on a new direction you have never seen before. good luck we are here to help rock on SlayerBadger!

-S

[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnwxPSPeidc[/video]





[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLgXXvf5Sq4[/video]
cubisteffects
[quote="zerosum"
Lots of VCA's and envelopes/modulators are very important too,
Even more important is spending time to study them.
A slowly opening and closing VCA with some reverb is a lot of the ambient sound.
[/quote]

Great post zerosum, but I think this point needs a thumbs up

There's nothing like a slow ramp LFO that builds for a minute then drops to zero into a high repeat delay.

I recommend an MFOS Sound Lab to get your head around synthesis patching basics and you'll be surprised at the ambient sounds you'll pull out.
felixer
southphillysynths wrote:
I eventually figure out it's not the gear, it's the idea/ feeling.

applause words of wisdom thumbs up
but do get a nice echo/delay/reverb type thing ... and experiment! basically any modular will do to get you going. only after a while you can say what you really want/need. or maybe start off with a little tabletop synth like dark energy/microzwerg. you can end up with a few, all connected ... semi-modular.
drowld
Definitly not in need of a modular to make ambient.
And like peeps said any audio source can make ambient with reverb/echo/delay and so
Would love to see some nice modular ambient if anyone have good youtube vids or soundcloud link ! thumbs up
southphillysynths
Thinking this brings up another point, the BUDDAH MACHINE, it's a little drone box that has preset recordings that you can speed up or slow down, they have them over at analoguehaven.com I saw a live performance of a guy running one through delay and it was awesome ambient stuff, this might just get you started until the modular happens!

cephalopod
A little on the expensive side but the Intellijel shapeshifter is amazing for this. In the short time Ive had one Ive mostly been making spaced out drones. For instance just setting it to one of the 64 chords in chord mode, detuning things a bit, then morphing through the wavetables yields some amazing shifting textures I havent gotten from anything else.
ZLAL
Many keyed monosynths in combination with an echo or delay device will yield results similar to the second video posted. Don't get too caught up seeking out "one piece of gear to do x-specific sound".

"Ambient" is a relatively broad term. Even unconventional setups for ambient can yield deceptively pleasing results. I could play my SH-101 doing osc fade in and out and subtle pulse width modulation through a tape delay for hours and not get tired of the output.

Jumping into the modular world, particular if you're interested in long form, self generating, heavily modulated type material will generate gear lust very quickly. New means of manipulating parameter x y or z and all that ... it adds up.

Lately I have been patching extensively around the Topobrillo Wavefolder. Folding biases CV'd by a slew'd sequencer. Sequencer clocked by a logic module. Envelope lightly controlling some filtering with the attack and decay modulated by a different semi-random source. I could just turn it up and sit in front of my synth for hours trying to figure out if I can get a feel for the patterns emerging.
Umcorps
ZLAL wrote:
Many keyed monosynths in combination will yield results similar to the second video posted. Don't get too caught up seeking out "one piece of gear to do x-specific sound".


Quoted for truth.

Recently, I have been having huge fun with a MiniBrute and a couple of (Eventide) pedals. Minibrute is a superb ambient/drone machine in that context, particularly because you can switch it to free running mode. The audio input gives another dimension too in that you can plug in noisy toys etc to add another layer of complexity/interest and mix it up right there on the front panel.

Seriously. There is enough depth in a setup like that to keep you exploring for months. And, by doing that, when you do bump up against its limitations, you'll have a much better idea of what you really need in a modular to take thing forward.
JohnLRice
Welcome Crimson! w00t

I occasionally do some ambient types of things and I agree with others that good delay and reverb effects are fairly critical to pulling it off. In fact, with 2 or 3 delay and reverb units chained together you often need little else besides something that can generate a variety of tones with gradual attacks.

I think the TC Electronic Flashback delay and Hall Of Fame reverb pedals are very good sounding and an excellent value (about $150 each)

Here is my small 5U modular




And here is a recent slow developing piece I did with it:



Here is an earlier drone video I did with my eurorack setup at the time (I didn't have the TC pedals yet):
TipTop: Z5000 (reverb/effects), Z2040
Doepfer: A-174, A-147
Synth Tech: E340, E350, E580 (delay)
Malekko: 8NU8R
Intellijel: Dixie, uMod
The Harvestman: R-1982
Blue: Yeti mic



fireclown
lots of top flight tips. in terms of what you can get for reasonable outlays, those Flashback delays look very affordable, and a number of used digital reverbs can get you a big space.
I just wanted to suggest the PAIA 9700 if you can find a deal on one.
A pretty sophisticated sound source for the money. Should use additional attenuation, LFO's and mixers, but does some things other gear wont.
I think most of the ambient bags of tricks lay outside of modular, but the right modules will certainly perform well given a chance.
not necessarily cheaply though.
Attenuators and CV mixers, very slow LFO's and a couple three pedals or rackmount effects would be my suggestion.
almost any audio source, but for this I would lean towards a wavetable/sampler type with more than my three favorite waveforms on hand.
boxxed
Hi all,

I also have been looking to set up a smaller suitcase system for ambient drone and evolving textures.

JohnLRice I'm interested in your small 5U set up pictured smile
What has you set up here?
The size and format is delightfully fascinating to me.
Thank you for your utubes also!!!
JohnLRice
boxxed wrote:
Hi all,

I also have been looking to set up a smaller suitcase system for ambient drone and evolving textures.

JohnLRice I'm interested in your small 5U set up pictured smile
What has you set up here?
The size and format is delightfully fascinating to me.
Thank you for your utubes also!!!

Thanks! 8_)

Top half: http://www.modulargrid.net/m/racks/view/44072


Bottom half: http://www.modulargrid.net/d/racks/view/44075


And the lid of the case has a Mackie 802-VLZ3 mixer, TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb and Flashback delay pedals, MXR 'Slash' distortion pedal and Electroharmonix Ravish Sitar pedal. The lid isn't quite done as i plan to put one of my JLR custom panels at the top to support gooseneck lights and patch points for all the pedal I/Os so I can reconfigure how they are connected on the fly.
ersatzplanet
I know this is sort of cheating in a way but this is what I do, for ambient background textures and evolving stuff I use a ADDAC Wav player and a Nebulae (just got). I also play loops from different iOS apps on two custom panel mounted iPhone modules. I used to use loops from Ableton but now it can all go with the modular, leave the computer at home. I have lots of VCAs (two VCAMatrix and a Doepfer VCMixer and more) and lots of filters and wave shapers to mangle them with. A ring modulator will do lots too. The thing is to treat the WAV players and iPhones and VCOs in a patch - super complex wavetable VCOs. The ADDAC and the Nebulae allow easy pitch manipulations and great on-the-fly jump cuts and stuff which is very useful. You can do a lot of stuff by just manipulating/filtering/chopping/RM'ing/waveshaping loops in real time. Make the loops with computer software or other modules and play over them.
digitalganesha
I'm at work so I didn't read all the comments but there are some great interviews I read not to long ago with Steve Roach and his current use of modulars in his music.

As some have said, a great delay and reverb are essential but so are a good balance of various oscillators and and modulation sources. I use mostly analog oscillators but I couldn't do it without at least one wavetable oscillator in the system. The choices available today are astounding, and you can get heavenly results from the "west coast" synthesizers as well as the traditional manufactures. Buchlas with tons of slow cross modulation through an Eventide is pure incredible, but so is a properly pieced eurorack system. So go both ways in your module selections and have it all.

And for my ambient creating - the physical controller is absolute key. I have an AS French Connection that I couldn't imagine ever being without, and not just for the Martenot slide ring.... the expression button is where it's at routing all audio to a LPG and master VCA with cv from the button and gate from the keys = most expressive method to physically play 5 second notes in my book. The Therevox is an incredible instrument/controller too.
felixer
digitalganesha wrote:

And for my ambient creating - the physical controller is absolute key.

funny, my ambient stuff is usually automated. so instead of getting a controller for that i spend my money on random generator/s&h/lfo type things 8_)
mousegarden
I also like making this type of music, my modular contributes lots of things, it's not possible to pin it down to one particular job. It does drones, bass lines, lead sounds, plus abstract soundscapes, but they are components of the big picture, elements, not the complete thing most of the time, although lately I have done complete pieces with it, but made up of lots of different sounds. I wouldn't treat the modular like a one-stop-shop though.
I would supplement it with a nice poly-synth, something like a Dave Smith Pro 12, or one of your choice, also, as others have said, a nice multi-effects, but saying that, I'd rather have a few characterful stomp boxes than one expensive unit, as you can patch them in to various elements of a modular patch, rather than applying one big expensive box to the whole mix.
It is possible to do all this with little money, build the modular up slowly, look out for older seccondhand synths, and cheap stomp boxes !

MouseGrden.
boxxed
Crap...
So I've been chasing a few modules, but alas I'm in Australia and am not having much luck. For MU moon mud ulnar gear I have to go thru noisebug in Canada... Shipping onto is not super fun. and for Addac Systems I have also been told to go OS or just accept the few remaining modules that are in the country.
not having a super fun time trying to put a small system together, the AUSTRALIAN dealers are to helpful or responsive, so it seems that I'd have to purchase from os.
OR it's been suggested I got with a Pittsburgh Modular Foundation 3 as they are in stock in the country.
Not exactly what I had in mind, but it dose make things simpler and it's a start.

I just want to make slow evolving lush ambient stuff.
Any thoughts? sad banana
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