Modular synth with a monosynth patch wired up. Green wires are audio; yellow is envelope 1, blue is envelope 2. Orange for the chaotic modulator, purple for the LFO. Pink are the note info (pitch and gate on/off).

For week two, we’re building on last week’s patch. As I briefly mentioned last week, our first patch was very basic — by design, I wanted to introduce concepts and modules as an easy to digest pace — and, to be quite honest, not really the kind of thing I’d bother making for my own use. This week’s evolution of that patch still keeps things relatively simple, but adds enough control and cleverness to make it something I might actually build, and use, myself.

That said, I did try to keep it simple again. I think I said I was only going to add two or maybe three modules, and I absolutely failed at that! A reminder that often modular patches grow a little wild as you develop them. I ended up adding FIVE modules, not two or three. But, they are all very simple, straightforward modules, so hopefully you won’t get lost.

Let’s start with the audio chain. Once again, all the audio is going through the green wires. If you recall last time, we used a single square/pulse oscillator to start our sound. Last time we only used a single output of our dual oscillator, so this week we’re going to fix that and beef our tone up considerably. First thing I added as the Sub output — most (not all!) oscillators offer a Sub Oscillator output, generally a square wave, and hey, the Twin Waves is no different! Let’s get that in there… and on the second side, let’s get a little fancy and instead of a another square/pulse we can detune for fatness, let’s add a BUNCH of them and go for a unison sound! See, the Twin Waves has a cool Super Square patch (like the famed supersaw, but, you know, square) which detunes a bunch of squares for us, so let’s use that.

Okay, that’s now three outputs we need to get into one filter input! Time to add our first module (and the only module I added to the audio chain), a basic mixer. In this case, that’s the Doepfer A-135-2, which is actually a VCA mixer, but we’re just going to use the knobs this time. Plug all three inputs into the mixer, set the knobs to your preferred balance (in this case, main and super square osc at 2/3 volume; sub osc just under half) and then send it to the filter.

The same sine LFO we used to modulate pulse width is doing the job today, but last week I felt like it was too deep — I don’t necessarily want the full range of modulation going to pulse width, just enough to give it some life. To that end I routed that same LFO through one of the channels of the Blend and just turned it down to around half and voila, perfect pulse-width modulation.

The filter and VCA are identical to last week, except for their controls. I gave the VCA its own envelope, courtesy of the Ornament and Crime module. I selected an ADSR, gave it a nice fast attack, a slow decay to a mid-level sustain and a slowish release (faster than the decay tho). It uses the yellow cable.

A view of the envelope we used, displayed onscreen in the Ornament and Crime

That gave us a little more shape to our sound, and by giving the amp and filter their own controls, we can get a little more movement and life into our patch. Speaking of the filter, its envelope (blue wire in the photo) was the same one we used last week to control both the amp and filter. Here it controls the filter only, and it even has a little help in that regard. It opens kinda slow (as opposed to the fast attack of the amp envelope), then slowly fades out without any sustain — a nice contrast to our amp envelope.

In the picture above, you can just see another module, with Japanese lettering. That’s the Triple Sloth (with Lucky Cat faceplate), a very cool chaotic modulator. It’s like an LFO that’s unpredictable. LFO just goes up and down, the same every cycle — sloths make a moderately irregular but definitely unpredictable pattern. It’s kind of hard to describe, so have a terribly drawn diagram instead.

Extremely poor rendition of the difference between the movement of an LFO and a chaotic modulator

That’s very rough, artistically speaking, but it gives you the idea I hope; LFOs move in a predictable, periodic way, chaotic modulators follow a similar pattern but with a lot of variance and “wobble” in the movement.

So how am I using that modulator? I am actually using two different versions of it in this patch. One, the lower variance version (doesn’t go as high or as low; mellower modulation, in other words) goes to a mixer module (the After Later Blend), where it gets turned down a bit more, mixed with the sine wave then fed to the Super Square oscillator’s modulation input, which changes the detuning between the squares inside the super square.

The second, higher-energy/variation output goes to the Kinks module, where I use the full-wave rectifier to transform the modulation from positive and negative to positive only — all the negative values get flipped to become positive values (it turns frown upside down) so it’s only positive values. This then gets sent to the filter’s second CV (control voltage) input, and I used the attenuator on that input to turn it down so we get just a hint of upwards modulation added to the filter (in addition to whatever the envelope is doing at the time). This adds a subtle variation to the patch, so each keypress gives you a slightly different filter sound, and it changes subtly as you hold it.

So, then, how’s it sound? Pretty great! Here’s an example, and remember, the only additional sound sources we added are the additional osc outputs from the same module. No effects, no additional audio sources or alterations.

Essentially four square waves and a sub through an SEM filter; yummy!

Just like last week, I am controlling this from a keyboard. Next week, we’ll try some generative sequencing, which everyone loves to do in modular. That’s it for this week, but I will add a video take on this patch as soon as it is finished.

Update: Video!

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