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Modular is changing me
Old 8th January 2020
  #1
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Bignatius's Avatar
Modular is changing me

It's making me more judge-y and self-reflective.

For instance, I just sat through the Daniel Fisher demo of the Wavestate, fine demo, no criticisms there, but what I kept thinking was:

It feels like cheating, synths like the Wavestate that make patterns like that so easily. It feels like cheating. I'd respect it more if done in modular...

I'd probably think - "cool drone-y vibe there, I like that percussive bit", etc, but instead I'm fairly meh, thinking it's just gotten too easy to do now.

I kept thinking... what would really be interesting is to do that on the fly with X modules and no presets, with just a Harmonic Osc and a xyz...

It's ruined me, I think. For the better, probably. You can't unsee some things. And never again can I personally be ok with some super easy to do gear.

The Wavestation makes things too easy, I think.

I like it. And it's creeping me out.
Old 8th January 2020
  #2
It's all good.
It should be about the music, and no listener cares if it was easier or harder to create. What is more important is continuing to innovate.
So I regularly spend time creating my own sounds in modular for my music, but if I just need to add a background texture or pad I'll happily use a preset from a hardwired synth or soft synth.
What I think is boring (although not wrong), is making music using all pre-made loops, sounds and patches.
But my music is a combination of pre-made components supporting original sounds and parts made from the ground up.
Old 8th January 2020
  #3
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Bignatius's Avatar
All true.
Old 8th January 2020
  #4
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Now just wait for the beard and a buncha cats stage...
Old 8th January 2020
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bignatius View Post
It's making me more judge-y and self-reflective.

For instance, I just sat through the Daniel Fisher demo of the Wavestate, fine demo, no criticisms there, but what I kept thinking was:

It feels like cheating, synths like the Wavestate that make patterns like that so easily. It feels like cheating. I'd respect it more if done in modular...

I'd probably think - "cool drone-y vibe there, I like that percussive bit", etc, but instead I'm fairly meh, thinking it's just gotten too easy to do now.

I kept thinking... what would really be interesting is to do that on the fly with X modules and no presets, with just a Harmonic Osc and a xyz...

It's ruined me, I think. For the better, probably. You can't unsee some things. And never again can I personally be ok with some super easy to do gear.

The Wavestation makes things too easy, I think.

I like it. And it's creeping me out.

Sounds like you're turning into a an elitist **hole with no real talent to make music anyone wants to hear but yourself. Keep at it champ
Old 8th January 2020
  #6
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Derp's Avatar
I'll admit my head was stuck in that mindset for a long time, but then I talked myself into starting a workstation with polysynths. I love sound design and sampling every little thing I do, but it's also nice to just take something like the Wavestate and a Virus to twist some knobs and knock out melodies. I'm really struggling to not want the Wavestate.
Old 8th January 2020
  #7
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Derp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
It's all good.
It should be about the music, and no listener cares if it was easier or harder to create. What is more important is continuing to innovate.
So I regularly spend time creating my own sounds in modular for my music, but if I just need to add a background texture or pad I'll happily use a preset from a hardwired synth or soft synth.
What I think is boring (although not wrong), is making music using all pre-made loops, sounds and patches.
But my music is a combination of pre-made components supporting original sounds and parts made from the ground up.
That's something that took me a while to come to terms with: If it was really about JUST the music for me, I'd do like the cool kids do and grab a guitar, a laptop, and a small pool of softsynths/samples to put together songs. I've been listening to older music I used to enjoy, and I fantasize about making some quick and dirty hooky pop doodlebug, but that's not what I really want to do. I enjoy what I do now and get a kick out of the odd tune I pull out of my studio here and there, but I've come to grips with the fact that I'm really more of a synth nerd than an actual musician at this point. The real musicians are guys like you that are actually actively making music the focalpoint of their work, regardless of the tools you use.
Old 8th January 2020
  #8
The main modular driver for me is that the process of making the sounds inspires me.
Also, I would like my main sounds in any piece to be my design, rather than an obvious preset from a well known synth.
I really like also dropping in sounds from a sample library and some supporting sounds from a soft synth. In the end, I may replace those 'ready made' bits with stuff of my own, or leave them in if they are working well and I can't improve on them.
Old 8th January 2020
  #9
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Bignatius's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TRSC View Post
Sounds like you're turning into a an elitist **hole with no real talent to make music anyone wants to hear but yourself. Keep at it champ
Right. Sure. Thanks for your contribution.
Old 8th January 2020
  #10
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void23's Avatar
I was looking for an old WaveStation before I got into modular. The WaveState is cool, but now that I have a system that I'm extremely happy with ... I'll pass.
Old 8th January 2020
  #11
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Bignatius's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post
That's something that took me a while to come to terms with: If it was really about JUST the music for me, I'd do like the cool kids do and grab a guitar, a laptop, and a small pool of softsynths/samples to put together songs. I've been listening to older music I used to enjoy, and I fantasize about making some quick and dirty hooky pop doodlebug, but that's not what I really want to do. I enjoy what I do now and get a kick out of the odd tune I pull out of my studio here and there, but I've come to grips with the fact that I'm really more of a synth nerd than an actual musician at this point. The real musicians are guys like you that are actually actively making music the focalpoint of their work, regardless of the tools you use.
I don't believe it's an either/or proposition.

I'm a mix and no less legitimately either side.

Old 8th January 2020
  #12
I cheat with Braids and Plaits
Old 9th January 2020
  #13
Many years ago I was all judgemental about people who bought modular because I used to build it from scratch. I thought that's too easy just buying modules to put a system together - those people are spoiled and don't appreciate the craft in it all.
But then one day I bought a module in kit form from Blacet and felt guilty. Then I bought another.
Then I got out of modular because someone stole my two systems that I blood/sweat/teared together over many years.

But now I have a different attitude. I'm more financially prosperous compared to then and have much less free time than ever before. Yay I can buy pre-built modules and not slave over a hot soldering iron.

Same thing with integrated synths. Yay I don't have to patch the same exact signal chain over and over and over and I can have polyphony without losing whats left of my mind.

I have a modular case in my shopping cart. And don't look at me like I have just put a glass pipe to my lips until this next part - I have a 500 series lunchbox in my shopping cart too.
Ok commence with crack smoking jokes...

Old 9th January 2020
  #14
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subdo's Avatar
I'm not current on the Wavestate but I had a Wavestation in the studio for a couple years and creating a decent patch was anything but easy. Maybe Korg has improved the interface. Certainly the iOS app looks way more intuitive. I really tried to get into programming the Wavestation but in the end I perm-lent it to a friend. For me modular and the physical knob per function mind set is easy mode. Maybe the Wavestate has made things simpler. I can't wait to get my hands on one. But Wavestation was too much for me and I have mad respect for people who had the patience to program that type of synth. DX's are also in that category IMHO.
Old 9th January 2020
  #15
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Quote:
It feels like cheating, synths like the Wavestate that make patterns like that so easily. It feels like cheating.
Cheating? Nooo... I love the Wavestation, still have the original..

Old 9th January 2020
  #16
Deleted 80b9b09
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I've gone back and forth with modular, at one time proclaiming I couldn't foresee a reason to ever go back to fixed architecture.

But then production and deadline wise, I just don't have the time.

If you're Martin Gore and have time, space and assistance in all your modular and synth noodling, that's different, but if you need to produce, there are limits.

So I focused more on workflow and integration, and now seem to have the perfect balance.

However, I will say when I first took demos for my last album to the boss, he said 'I wish I had more demos of this quality with such attention to sounds' so there is an element of surprise for the uninitiated still, who are stuck in one way of working.

I think balance and doing what's right for your music matters the most.

And yes, I still cringe at presets sometimes, thinking someone will rumble me, but as Chrisso says: the average listener doesn't care.
Old 9th January 2020
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by mutilatedlip View Post
However, I will say when I first took demos for my last album to the boss, he said 'I wish I had more demos of this quality with such attention to sounds' so there is an element of surprise for the uninitiated still, who are stuck in one way of working.
That's great.
I did a few sessions with Trevor Horn (who I personally think is amazing) right at the height of his powers (late 80's).
We were working on a dance track and he turned on a D50 keyboard, which was brand new at the time and I'd never seen one before.
He started playing some chords over the backing tracking with one of the factory pad presets. It sounded amazing!
It was the whole package, a great song, well produced, Horn's chords and voicings were very nice, and the D50 preset just worked perfectly.
That was a real lesson to me in what was important and what was not important.
Old 9th January 2020
  #18
Deleted 80b9b09
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
That's great.
I did a few sessions with Trevor Horn (who I personally think is amazing) right at the height of his powers (late 80's).
We were working on a dance track and he turned on a D50 keyboard, which was brand new at the time and I'd never seen one before.
He started playing some chords over the backing tracking with one of the factory pad presets. It sounded amazing!
It was the whole package, a great song, well produced, Horn's chords and voicings were very nice, and the D50 preset just worked perfectly.
That was a real lesson to me in what was important and what was not important.
That's a great story, Chris!

Horn's output is so consistent. Love the production on some of his work, and the one that stands out (though I'm by no means a massive fan) is the absolutely stellar work on Pet Shop Boy's Introspective.

The production on that is incredible.

I honestly think we sometimes forget round these parts, that at the top level, a lot hinges on workflow, speed, and results, and not authenticity and the need to be wholly original with sounds.

Obviously, some lucky buggers have it all!
Old 9th January 2020
  #19
Definitely at that time there was no speed impetus on Horn's team.
It really was about 'the bigger picture' and not sweating on individual components too much.
In the example I gave, it was really about finding some nice chords to go over the dancey backing track, I guess initially the actual synth sound was secondary to composing the part. He zipped through the D50 presets until he found something that made him want to play some nice chords. We didn't spend half the morning editing presets to try and find something unique.
Old 9th January 2020
  #20
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I think the modular hype leads to false thinking. It's not cooler to do anything with modular... except for the things that only modular excel at (and there is a fairly long list of those things, some of which are more about process than sound or music). The inverse is also true. There are things that poly synth, or even software synths, do that are MUCH cooler/better/easier than modular.... basic polyphony patches for instance.

imo... It's foolishness or some form of failed thinking to look down on poly synths or soft synths. It's double foolish to attempt to force modular synths to do things they aren't well suited for. Don't attempt to hammer a nail with a soldering iron, just because it's more cool to solder.

Last edited by spiderman; 9th January 2020 at 02:50 PM..
Old 9th January 2020
  #21
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Derp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 80b9b09 View Post
absolutely stellar work on Pet Shop Boy's Introspective.
I'm checking that album out now. It's so different from what I expect from Pet Shop Boys. The first track alone has so much going on, like a ton of chaos, but it all sits well together. The orchestration/house sounds with pop vocals are really striking. Thanks for the recommendation!
Old 9th January 2020
  #22
Deleted 80b9b09
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post
I'm checking that album out now. It's so different from what I expect from Pet Shop Boys. The first track alone has so much going on, like a ton of chaos, but it all sits well together. The orchestration/house sounds with pop vocals are really striking. Thanks for the recommendation!
It was definitely a strange move from PSB after this previous run of hit albums. Basically a massive dance album.

Very underrated.

Sounds amazing.
Old 9th January 2020
  #23
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Bignatius's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
I think the modular hype leads to false thinking. It's not cooler to do anything with modular... except for the things that only modular excel at (and there is a fairly long list of those things, some of which are more about process than sound or music). The inverse is also true. There are things that poly synth, or even software synths, do that are MUCH cooler/better/easier than modular.... basic polyphony patches for instance.

imo... It's foolishness or some form of failed thinking to look down on poly synths or soft synths. It's double foolish to attempt to force modular synths to do things they aren't well suited for. Don't attempt to hammer a nail with a soldering iron, just because it's more cool to solder.
fwiw I agree 100% with the spirit of your points.

And I'm not one to hammer with soldering irons (good anaogy) unless I don't have a better hammer at the time. But my post isn't really about that.

I'm also not sure there is really anything beyond deep DX-like 6op FM and Polyphony and other niches that Modular doesn't or can't do best...

The sheer flexibility of Hardware configuration alone trumps the rest. Need X for Y? Ok. Add one...

I am of course ignoring efficiency and whatnot at the moment. And, I'm favoring the less efficient.

That's all, I suppose. A mere recognition that I am favoring the "harder" approach *and* its results.

I'm reminded of a GS thread many months ago about how Omnisphere is a detriment sometimes.

It's that sort of thing. As (computer based) Hardware synths become so powerful/Omni-like.

Maybe "cheating" is too strong a word. Fine.

But that's the gist of what it evokes from me. And part of my love of modular is how it gives back a more "earned" feeling beyond Preset-Driven work.

So I find myself pulling away from such trends, and tools, more and more, even as the tools themselves progress to admittedly impressive levels, I myself am instead moving toward more basic tools/approaches and loving it even more, and even when some high tech is added I find I prefer it at least be in a modular "harder" format.

That I'm sometimes, briefly, beset with the foolish arrogance to think or say that it's "absolutely better" is dumb but inevitable. I mean, I definitely think it's better. But I know it's purely subjective...

What's also true is that lately (the last few years) I am much more impressed with the compositions and approaches of modular synthesists than of anything else I've heard from synth nerds and electronic composers in ages.

Hell, the GS Post Your Modular thread alone is full of excellent examples from many people.
Old 9th January 2020
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by mutilatedlip View Post
It was definitely a strange move from PSB after this previous run of hit albums. Basically a massive dance album.

Very underrated.

Sounds amazing.

I guess I'll check it out. I'm not a fan of PSB, other than Neil Tennant guesting with Electronic. My favourite Horn would be Grace Jones 'Slave To The Rhythm', also going way back the first ABC album.
Old 9th January 2020
  #25
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subdo's Avatar
I've finally gotten around to watching the dozens of Wavestate videos floating around and I have to say I like what I hear. I can also now understand where the OP is coming from with the "hold down a key for instant techno" type patches. But I also hear those beautiful shimmering pads that the Wavestation could do that I currently have to fall back on plugins to reproduce. I think I'm going to have to mess around with one in person to tell if it's something I will actually use or if it would end up a short term toy that would be fun to play with but too dense to bond with the programming.

As far as the too easy sentiment, I get that too. But I won't dismiss an instrument just because it has cheese presets. Hell, my main sequencer is an MPC Live that is full of pre-built tracks and loops that I will never use. And it's not because it would be too easy to use them. It's more that if I did use them it wouldn't sound like any of the other music I make.
Old 9th January 2020
  #26
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When I first got into modular 5 years ago or so, I thought “wow, this is so amazing, I must use this first and foremost before any of my -other- synths”

To which I fell down a rabbit hole if noodling and not writing songs and instead dealing with tuning issues, GAS, etc.

Now...i love my modular (which is bigger than back then) but I don’t really elevate it. Sure it’s worth more than my other synths, and does more / better in a lot of ways....but it doesn’t jam out a nice solo patch recalled from memory like on my mopho se, or provide polyphony like my ultranova.

Now my drums are from a large selection of one hits from samples from mars...I don’t try to force myself to make and sample drum kits.

Much happier once I got over that fixation.

I do feel an element of coolness when enjoying or showing off my modular though...can’t lie about that
Old 10th January 2020
  #27
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Pictus's Avatar
 

@ Bignatius
About the easy vs hard thing, I do not care...
Use all the tools you like/feels comfortable...
But made me remember that the better sex was the harder&forbidden one...
Adolescent times... Sneaking into the girlfriend window at night...

Modular is also about the "trip", for some the trip
may be as enjoyable as the destination...
Some like chess, some like crochet...
Some like modular, it is the fun of learning and discovery...
Old 10th January 2020
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

The “too easy” feeling is real. When I first learned how to use Cubasis and Reason many years ago, I made tons of music. Eventually I made more music than I was ever going to be able to release, and that I didn’t have the same emotional attachment to this music because I felt like I was just spitting it out. It almost feels like the super-easy workflow is just sucking the music out of you, before you have enough time to reflect and decide what you want to do.

But as far as judging other tools, can’t say I agree with that. Use whatever tools “feel right” to you. There’s people making great sounds with VCV Rack. There’s platinum selling albums that were made mostly with an ipad or even a phone. There are great producers out there that use nothing but freeware. Having a packed and stacked home studio full of synths and modules doesn’t hurt, but there are a lot of roads that can lead to the same destination.
Old 10th January 2020
  #29
Deleted 80b9b09
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I guess I'll check it out. I'm not a fan of PSB, other than Neil Tennant guesting with Electronic. My favourite Horn would be Grace Jones 'Slave To The Rhythm', also going way back the first ABC album.
I had a listen to the Electronic album recently. I've fond memories of that album, alongside Violator and Fine Time.

Weirdly, it seems to have aged massively. Still amazing and I absolutely adore Get The Message. But definitely a product of it's time.

Grace Jones and FGTH Horn era are incredible. That Art of Noise tinged production with all the early samplers. Fantastic music.

Back on topic, I found modular really clicked for me (pun absolutely intended) when I got PNW and a Beatstep Pro.

I send clock from my DAW to BSP and then clock Pam's using it.

That way, delays, FX, Batumi and anything remotely clockable is all in perfect sync, so I simply set and forget about it.
Old 11th January 2020
  #30
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Bignatius's Avatar
Many good and valid points by everyone.

Thanks.

I don't wear it all like a badge or something; it's not a conscious philosophy I'm espousing or anything of the sort. Simply some musings on these topics. I think it's largely a general "back to basics" trend I'm noticing in myself having manifest itself and intertwined itself with my broad modular journey.

That's off the too of my head, it's probably what's up...
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