Modular Synthesis for Dummies

Modular synthesis involved in creating your own instrument.
It’s a rewarding method if you know what you’re doing while can seem a total chaos and loss of time if you are starting and you have a little knowledge.

There are many types of modulars:

Software based Modulars :

  • Virtual instruments (like Native instruments Reaktor, SynthEdit…)
  • Digital instruments with modular editing (Clavia Nordmodular..)

Hardware Modulars :

  • Vintage (Moog, Roland, Emu, Arp…)
  • 3 Unit (Eurorack)
  • 5 Unit (MOTM.. etc)

Software and Hardware approach are in some way similar but in most ways really different.
Software based modulars have a really versatile use as they can be cheap, as you have all the modules you want buying the software, mono or poliphonic with click of the mouse, they have memory recall for patches, every parameter can be automatized in the host and they take no space.
An hardware based modular has a different approach to the instrument as you have to buy and built your own instrument, so you will have to choose a basic configuration to start and then add new modules as your needs grow.
In an HW modular poliphony is a tricky thing, in fact as hw are based on “analog style” modules using cv-gate (analog signals to controls and interaction between the modules, as mainly HW modulars are analog instruments).
So polyphonic patches are the first difficulty to consider in building your instrument as you have to buy a “synth structure” for each voice.
You can also choose to buy a “paraphonic instrument”, like the old string synth of the 70s and 80s, a multiosc synth with only one  amp and filter path.
The other thing to consider is that the ability to choose the modules can helkp you crafting a little modular that can do many things, that’s really important.
On the other hand if you choose good modules you will have a versatile instruments with good “sound” that can completely cover almost all your analog needs.

Let’s start planning a little good modular!

First of all is really important to understand what kind of use you want to do with your modular.
If you want a versatile synth for more standard use you’ll have to choose different modules from a very experimental / soundexploring machine.
The first step is to take a look at the various module manufactures to get some info and to try to configure a modular with the “modular planner”.
I will talk about euroracks because I’ve done and I’m experiencing with this type of modular, and I find it really open and there are so many manufactures to choose from!!!

Using the Eurorack modular planner is possible to see your “virtual configuration”, and work on the type of modules to choose.

The first things to choose are the basic modules, the really necessary ones.

  • The cabinet
  • VCO
  • Filter
  • Envelopes
  • Modulator
  • VCA
  • Midi CV interface

CHOOSE THE CABINET (for dummies)

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