Modular synthesizer with a basic patch laid out. Color coded wires: green for audio, yellow for the envelope, purple LFO and pink the pitch/gate control

For week 1 we’re starting with a basic patch (a patch is a combination of several modules to create a specific kind of sound; modules are connected with patch cables), maybe the most basic patch: a simple monosynth.

You can think of this patch as something like the classic Roland SH-101. It has one oscillator, a filter and an amp to make/shape the sound, and to control it, a single envelope and a single LFO. Limited, but similar in capability to many classic synths. (Worth noting that we could add a number of additional elements — sample & hold, noise, sub oscillator, combinations of the control elements even without adding more modules to the mix, but I wanted to keep it simple.)

I used color coded cables to make this as clear as possible. I know this isn’t helpful for some percentage of people with visual disabilities of one kind or another, and I sincerely apologize if that’s you. I don’t actually have a good alternative. (In the video version I do wiggle the various cables as I talk about them, so that should help!)

Okay, the Klavis Twin Waves is making a simple square/pulse wave. That runs into the Doepfer SEM filter, then into the XAOC Tallin VCA. These are controlled by the Pittsburgh Modular Lifeforms Mod Tools. VCA and filter, in classic fashion, share the same envelope, an ASR (Attack Sustain Release) envelope. The oscillator’s pulse width is modulated by the free-running sine LFO of the Mod Tools. A keyboard controls the pitch and note on/off (thru the MPC, but I’ll get into that later).

So how does it sound? Pretty good to my ears!

30 seconds of direct audio noodling

Now, typically I wouldn’t create something quite so basic for my own use in modular, but I thought it made sense to keep things simple for our first outing. Still, there may be things you don’t understand (hell, you may be baffled by the whole thing) and if so, please reach out to ask. A comment here or on the video I’ll link below, or find me online or send up some flares, maybe. I’ll do my best to answer any relevant questions.

Here’s this post, more or less, in video form! I also ramble a fair bit about some concepts and a few other things.

Next week, we’ll use this same basic patch but complicate it with a bunch of fun stuff to try and show why you might bother with modular.

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