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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Mar-16 > Build Your Own Eurorack Modular Synthesizer system

Build Your Own Eurorack Modular Synthesizer system

Having kicked off our tutorial on how to build your own Eurorack system, Dave Gale turns his attention to the basic modules that you will need to make a palatable noise

Part two MT Feature Modular Mayhem

From cables to oscillators

Having given some consideration to your case or cabinet and the power that is installed within, it’s now time to turn your attention to making bleepy noises.

It’s probably fair to say that most modular users will want to start by building some form of basic synthesizer, which can be played from a keyboard or sequencer, whether the latter is something step-like or DAW-based. So a suggested starting place for a basic system will include an oscillator, a filter, an amplifier and an envelope.

Within modular synths, there can be lots of signals sent in several directions. However, there are two signals that will be more predominant than any other, and they are control voltage (CV) and gate.

Doepfer started it all „this was the company’s system at NAMM 2016

The CV part of the equation relates to a small DC voltage being sent down a cable. Imagine that as the voltage increases, it’s the equivalent of turning a pot from left to right, on a module. In the case of pitch, turning the coarse tuning pot on an oscillator as described, the pitch would rise in a long glissando. Hence, if the voltage rises smoothly, the same effect would be heard, so it stands to reason that if you were to step the voltage of the pitch CV, you would start to hear the incremental notes of a scale. The Eurorack format is in tune with the most common CV to pitch format, and uses a principal of 1v per octave, so playing two notes, one after another, consisting of 1v and 2v, would result in notes that are one octave apart. Step them equally in between, and you would get a scale.

Music and synthesizer keyboards are quite simple beasts. You can almost consider basic synth keyboards to be very similar to a regular on/off light switch. In the early days of synth production, some keyboards made no bones about the fact that when you pressed down a key on a keyboard, one piece of wire would make contact with another piece of wire to create a circuit, thus producing a note. If you ever get your hands on a Sequential Circuits Pro One synth, just have a look at the underside of the keyboard – you will even see the wires and how they connect!

In the tradition of good old-fashioned electronics, this completion of a circuit is described as a gate, which turns on and off. When it’s ‘on’, the circuit is completed and a note is produced! When it is off, well you can work that one out!

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About MusicTech

The new issue of MusicTech is on sale Thursday February 18th and this month we’re bringing you the ultimate modular synth masterclass! We explain (in detail) how to build your own system. Also this month we’ve got a preview of Yamaha’s Montage synth, a look back at NAMM 2016 and brand new reviews and tutorials.