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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Apr-16 > Build Your Own Eurorack Modular Synthesizer System

Build Your Own Eurorack Modular Synthesizer System

This month, Dave Gale focuses on sequencing and modulation, with Eurorack modules that can tweak, mutate and distort those beautiful tones…

Part three Modules and modulation

One of the attractions of the modular system, to the synthesist, is the ability to be able to take an audio or CV signal and apply any number of modulations and mutations to it. Part of this is the inevitable experimentation, after all, many great sounds can start from a happy accident (think Gary Numan stumbling across a Minimoog for the first time). But with time and experience, you learn that if you apply X to Y, you will get… well, something weird, esoteric and quite possibly wonderful, all linked together in some form of sequence. This is the main thrust of our theme this month.

Modulation, that’s what you need

Most of us know and understand that 99 per cent of all commercially available synths have two controls(normally to the left of the keyboard) – these being the pitch wheel/lever and a modulation wheel/control. We generally understand that tweaking the pitch wheel or lever will flatten or sharpen the note pitch, often by extreme amounts of up to an octave, but also that the second wheel/control has traditionally always been for applying pitch modulation to a note, usually via a low-frequency oscillator or LFO, as you will often see by the legend. This is normally the default setting, yet it’s often possible to apply other modulations to the mod wheel. In a Eurorack modular, the wheel isn’t normally present. However, enticingly enough, you can connect LFOs to all manner of locations to create a modulating effect.

The most common and cheapest forms of LFO are free-flowing: which is to say that they generate a low oscillation at a frequency which is not connected to anything else. There is a plentiful supply of these to choose from, starting with the most ubiquitous of modular manufacturers, Doepfer. The A-145 offers you a healthy choice of five LFO waveforms, along with a frequency control, which allows for determination of speed of oscillation. Alongside this is a handy three-way selector switch, which will take you from an incredibly slow oscillation right the way up to something in the audio range. There’s also a useful Reset input, which will begin the oscillation every time it receives a gate trigger; this can be helpful, but should not be confused with a Clock Sync input (more on this later).

Like, so random: The Turing Machine is the ultimate randomising unit, complete with trigger outputs for even more possibilities
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About MusicTech

The new issue of MusicTech is on sale Thursday, March 17th and this month we’re bringing you a 'Big Beats Special!'; we gathered together as many tutorials (for all levels) to help you provide that all-important backbone to your music productions. Or if you are some kind of ambient maestro, you’ll be pleased with a certain level of synthesis achieved over our 6 Of The Best, DIY Eurorack, Sound Design and Yamaha Montage features. As ever, enjoy the issue and send us some of the resulting beats. We like to Show Off Your Studios and we’ll soon be Showing Off Your Sounds, too, so keep it all coming.