I think my modular system really shines when it comes to drums. The Tiptop Audio 808 modules, hexinverter vcNOIZ and others matched with all sorts of triggers gets me a sharp analog sound matched with patterns I would never make by hand in Ableton. There’s going to be a few nice Gate Trigger Sequencers coming out and I really like the way the Doepfer A-157 looks. All those little lights and 8 lines of TR-Style push buttons are awesome. There will be an advanced controller module which will allow each line to have length, direction, pendulum, random, one shot and other goodies. Modulargrid has a price on it at around $520 USD.
“A-157 is a trigger sequencer subsystem that is used to generate up to eight trigger signals controlled by a 8×16 LED/button matrix (some customers call it “Miniature Schaltwerk” as it is based on the same matrix as the no longer available Schaltwerk).” – doepfer.de
Check out the above videos of the Doepfer A-101-3 Phaser. I’m not going to pretend that I understand how it works or even how to patch it. It sounds pretty sick though. $425 USD.
“Module A-101-3 is a 12 stage phase shifter with vactrols as phase shifting elements. Our design offers access to each of the 12 input and output stages leading to a lot of new filters that cannot be obtained in other ways. Especially the free patchable feedback loops.” – doepfer.de
A great recourse of Eurorack module video demos is the blog PatchPierre. This week they posted a great video from Raul Pena which takes a look at the Doepfer A-117 Digital Noise/808 Source. It starts with an audio demo comparing analog and digital noise, shows how the noise can be used as a clock source, what sounds the 808 outputs create (cowbell and cymbal/hihat) and how to use a VCA, ASDR and Trigger to get some basic drum sequencing going.
“Demonstrations of how to create percussion sounds with this module.” – Raul Pena
As I focus more on my new Eurorack Modular some people have been asking me what do the modules do and how to they work together. Conviently Zoë Blade created the video above. Start here to get a basic system going.
“A brief guide to sound synthesis / how synthesisers (synthesizers) work. Using a Doepfer A-100 modular synthesiser, I demonstrate CV pitch and gate signals, oscillators, attenuators, mixers, ADSR envelope generators and filters.” – Zoë Blade
Today I thought I would give you a quick look at some of my workflow. Here’s how I often start creating an EBM (Electronic Body Music) style track. I’ve started a Eurorack modular system and you can see my first two pieces in action here. I have recorded a 5V Pulse into Ableton from the Korg SyncKontrol iOS app. I loaded the click into Simpler and use MIDI to create a pattern. In this example it’s a straight 16th note. I use Ableton Live to route the 5V click out of my Motu 828 MKIII into a Doepfer Dark Time analog sequencer. The Dark Time is not in sync with my Ableton MIDI set up. The Dark Time controls an Analog Solutions Telemark (SEM clone). 8 steps of CV variation and CV filter variation loop the bassline. I also have the Dark Time send a clock out to a Korg Monotribe. On the Monotribe I have muted the drums and just have it playing some lazer zap type sounds typically where you would find a snare drum. Using MIDI I have a Vermona DRM1 MKIII playing a kick and snare. The Monotribe’s clock out goes into an Intellijel uStep which sends a 16th note clock to a Make Noise Echophone. I have a MFB-522 drum machine in sync with Ableton via MIDI playing a clap. This clap is sent into the Echophon where it’s delay shimmers in 16 synced steps because of the uStep control. I can play with the Echophon’s pitch knob for a wicked nice analog clap delay effect. Is it worth all this effort? In my opinion yes. You can’t really get a sound like this without going analog. This part would make a good verse. Because I can pitch the bassline on a MIDI keyboard the next step is to make a Chorus, maybe change the Dark Time sequence length or patter slightly, add some pads from an Ensoniq ESQ-1 and add vocals. I hope you enjoyed the peek into a world where control is everything.
“CV/Gate (an abbreviation of Control Voltage/Gate) is an analog method of controlling synthesizers, drum machines and other similar equipment with external sequencers. The Control Voltage typically controls pitch and the Gate signal controls note on/off. This method was widely used in the epoch of analog modular synthesizers, beginning in the 1960s and up to the early 1980s. It was mostly superseded by the MIDI protocol, which is more feature-rich, easier to configure reliably, and more easily supports polyphony.” – wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_voltage
As I am about three fourths of the way done with my next album and my studio is a mass of wires. I’ve become obsessed with syncing my old drum machines and analog synthesizers using various methods. I’m not looking for perfectly quantized MIDI. I’m looking for some Control Voltage madness. Last night’s experiment will definitely make it to a full song. I haven’t shared anything with you in a while with regards to my upcoming music but it’s time I start breaking the ice. The audio sample may not be your cup of tea but the method can be used to create all sorts of nonsense in many music styles.
I have an old Korg Rythm 55 drum machine. I go out of it’s Trig Out to a Doepfer Dark Time analog sequencer’s Click In. On the Korg you can set the sequencer to trigger in various times. If you select a 16th note you will get your typical Giorgio Moroder type of thing. This time I have it set to follow the Korg’s kick drum (blue arrow above). The Doepfer is hooked up to one of the oscillators on an Analogue Solutions Telemark synth (both pitch and filter). This time around I don’t want the Dark Time telling the synth to play different notes. I only want it to Trigger a very slight pitch change and that’s why (see the green arrow) I have the pitch line stop after the second step. The two steps are just slightly detuned. The filter does change open and closed over 8 steps (which you can only hear when the filter is partial closed at the beginning). If you notice there is a grey Midi cable plugged into the top of the Dark Time. If I wanted I could play different notes on my attached MIDI controller and the entire sequencing line would change pitch.
Hit play on the Korg and off we go. I turn up the filter, bring in the Korg’s snare and you have something from a different decade. To add to the whole vintage feel the Korg has some Boss DM-100 on it. You can hear when I hit the fills on the Korg the synth follows and it’s really magic. One last thing to note is if you look at the Analogue Solutions Telemark photo above you see that orange arrow? That points to the other oscillator that’s not being controlled by the Doepfer. Its another reason you hear a detuned sound. I can bring it and the noise knob in and out for great effect (or verse/chorus parts). Time to add the vocals.
“At its most basic, an analog sequencer is nothing but a bank of potentiometers and a “clock” that steps through these potentiometers one at a time and then cycles back to the beginning. The output of the sequencer is fed (as a control voltage and gate pulse) to a synthesizer. By “tuning” the potentiometers, a short repetitive rhythmic motif or riff can be set up.” – Wikipedia
I’ve started to plan a modular synthesizer. I really like the Monorocket cases and I’ve picked out some modules to start with: Doepfer A-190-3 Midi to CV interface, Doepfer A-155 Analog Sequencer, Doepfer A-198 Ribbon Controller, Livewire Audio Frequency Generator (AFG), Harvestman Hertz Donut digital oscillator, Doepfer a-118 Noise Module, Livewire FrequenSteiner Filter, Doepfer A-140 Envelope Generator (two of them), Doepfer a-147 LFO, Pittsburgh Modular Analog Delay and a Doepfer a-199 Spring Reverb.
I have some questions: Do I need to know anything about powering these? If I got the Monorocket M9B could I just plug the above in and expect it to work? Is there a shop or meet up in the NYC are where I can try out some modules? What about my choices above? For example I picked two Doepfer A-140 Envelope Generators because I have two Oscillators. I assume I need them otherwise the Oscillators will just drone on. I know there are a lot of other exciting modules out there but any recommendations are welcome.
“Combining the signals generated by multiple modules into a common audio output allows a potentially infinite number of configurations, leading to a potentially infinite number of sounds.” – Wikipedia
Here’s a great video showcasing the newly released Doepfer Dark Time analog sequencer. To get close to the specs you can read the operation manual here: Dark_Time_Manual.pdf. Deopfer has possibly the best resume when it comes to making analog sequencers and their new release may look simple but it has a lot of advanced features.
“The brandnew DARK TIME is a fantastic analog sequencer. It has MIDI, CV / Gate and also TRIGGER IN / OUT for vintage sequencers or rhythm machines. In my opinion, it is much more comfortable than the Korg SQ-10, which I had. The steps run not just forwards – they also can run backwards or in random. Also a great feature is the quantizer – like on the ARP sequencer. In MIDI mode, the two rows can send at two different MIDI channels.” – AnalogAudio1
Are you guys planning on getting one? Or do you already own an analog sequencer?
There’s a classic Front 242 track called Im Rhythmus Bleiben in which the Belgian EBM group scream for you to stay on the rhythm. To do so properly I highly suggest an analog sequencer. Therefore check out the photo of the upcoming (late 2010) Doepfer Dark Time. Doepfer has loaded it up with features and it will run about 450 EURO. This is very high on my acquisition list.
“Dark Time is an analog sequencer that is planned in the first place as an add-on for the Dark Energy. But it may be used even in combination with other Midi, USB or CV/Gate equipment too.” – doepfer.de