Hey friends,

I would love your thoughts on my rack setup and how to potentially improve it.
I'm making hypnotic/deep techno (evolving textures+percussion, not so much melody) with it and use the rack pretty much for all sounds except drums. I also have an Analog Rythm and a DFAM. I use the Befaco outs to multi-track everything in Ableton, which is where I also apply "static" FX like delay/reverb/etc. The uMidi is only used as the clock source. I used to have some more drum modules but I'm moving away from that now.

Here are some of my concerns:
- I feel like I have almost too many sounds sources but not enough things to do with them
- A lot of gate/clock sources but no real clever way to turn them into unique patterns
- The two Tiarans are great but I might need something more sophisticated for sequencing CV (not pitch but rather CV for modulation)
- I would like some more crazy FX modules (I love the Deflector shield) (but rather no multi-fx stuff like Disting/FxAid)

What would you add/remove?

I'm looking forward for your ideas!


ModularGrid Rack

Here are some of my concerns:
- I feel like I have almost too many sounds sources but not enough things to do with them

yes way too many - so not enough support modules

  • A lot of gate/clock sources but no real clever way to turn them into unique patterns

trigger/gate combiner/switched multiple

  • The two Tiarans are great but I might need something more sophisticated for sequencing CV (not pitch but rather CV for modulation)

not that I sequence modulation - but if I were to I'd be tempted to either go with stages or a step fader

  • I would like some more crazy FX modules (I love the Deflector shield) (but rather no multi-fx stuff like Disting/FxAid)

both disting and fx aid (I have the xl) are excellent modules - what sort of effects are you interested in? delay/reverb? I like magneto too - but you'll need a bigger case!

First up, Jim's comments are very much spot-on. Let's try and find some fixes...

Sound sources...there's an easy fix here, one that gets you more space while avoiding a functionality trainwreck, and that's removing the drum modules altogether. In the words of Rocky J. Squirrel, "That trick NEVER works!". The reason is that you're really MUCH better off using a dedicated drum machine...plus, if you have one with trigger outputs, you can always use that to fire some modular modules to add THOSE sounds alongside the drum machine's. The crux of the problem comes down to two points: expense and space. For one thing, building something akin to a TR-909 in modular can easily start to veer off into the general price range of an ACTUAL, ORIGINAL 909. And it would be large, more than likely taking up much of an entire Mantis cab in of itself, crowding out other modules.

Clock modifiers...OK, you first need a head-first dive into Ladik's listings. Right now, I'd peg them as the BEST overall source for stuff to mess with timing and/or logic. Plus, they're CHEAP...and offer hard-to-find things like their Derivator, stochastic Clock Skipper, and so on. Anything that you can add to tamper with the even, metronomic flow of time works here...to Jim's list above, I'd also add trig/gate delays, electronic switches, stochastic sequencers (Euclidean, etc), chaotic modules (Turing Machine, etc) that output trig/gates, and on and on.

As for the Tirana sequencers...don't use them for pitch OR modulation. Instead, they're very useful, along with a chromatic quantizer and an adder, for automating transpositions of CVs. Tempo changes, key/mode changes, and the like...that's the very best use for them, sort of like the "shorter" Serge Sequential Programmers.

Lastly, what does "crazy FX" mean to you? Weird time-warpy things? Hideous audio mangling? Something else? The Deflector Shield is definitely "odd", to be sure, but frequency shifting's been part of modular for a while...hell, it was part of the later iterations of the pre-modular Mixtur-Trautonium! Plus, some things become "crazy" when you put them together, but not necessarily on their own. Case in point: working with signal inserts. The Doepfer A-106-1, a variant of the MS-20's Sallen-Key filter pair, has one of these...so you could put a delay in there and have increasingly-filtered delay returns. BUT WAIT...so, you could THEN add an Alright Devices Chronoblob2. It's a delay, sure...but in its "original" mode, you have...yep...YET ANOTHER INSERT, this time in the feedback path, so that every repeat in THIS can be altered as well by yet another module. So...how about some spring reverb? Add an Intellijel Springray II...and OH HELL THERE'S ANOTHER INSERT!!!

...and on and on and on. So it's NOT simply a case of finding the right module, per se...combinations of specific modules that might SEEM to be fairly "vanilla" on first glance can actually turn out to be utterly bonkers when patched the "right" way.

Thank you so much for the detailed answers! Let me try to address some points:

  • Drum modules: Yes, I've been trying to make modular drums even though everyone said not to, and yes, it was a bad idea ;) I'll keep some of the modules (I like the Kick modules quite a lot) but most will be removed and I'll just use my Analog Rythm for this purpose.
  • Too many VCOs: So I have the Cs-L, Mangrove, Odessa, E350 (and Rings). That's maybe a bit too much, but I'm not sure which one to get rid of. I'm tending towards the Odessa because even though I really want to like it, I have a hard time getting useful sounds out of it. Does anyone have some "special tips" for this one? Or maybe the E350 because even though it sounds nice, it doesn't add much that the other modules don't already provide.
  • trigger/gate combiner/switched multiple: Gate combiner should be already covered with the Plog in OR mode. Switched multiple sounds like a great idea, I'll look into that!
  • Clock modifiers: Thanks for the suggestions, I'll have a look at those for sure.
  • Sequencer: Stages looks interesting, I'll dig into that some more. I also thought about the Verbos Voltage Multistage, but I'm not sure if it's worth the money/space.
  • Disting/FxAid: I'm sure these are great modules, but I'm not a big fan of multi-purpose modules. One of the reasons to go modular for me was to have a "one-knob-for-everything" approach, and rather no "small computers" in my rack.
  • Delay/Reverb: Reverb I can do in the box (I have a FaderFox PC12 mapped to a bunch of send channels in Ableton), I don't see a need for a modular variant. Delay seems like an interesting idea, the Chronoblob seems cool. I had a Magneto once but never really liked it.
  • Other FX: Not sure tbh what else is there really, I guess combining smaller "building blocks" goes a long way. I'm not really into distorted sounds, so that's out. I like the phaser, the ring-mod in the Cs-L and the frequency shifter. Is there anything worth getting in that area that I don't already have? I love the idea of patching random things into the delay feedback, will definitely try that out.

you don't need to get rid of sound sources - you just need to make space for much modulation and utilities - it may be by removing the drum modules - it may be by adding another row (or 2)

NB I was suggesting using the switched multiple as a trigger combiner - a la Steevio and MylarMelodies

it really depends how you use the disting/fx aid xl etc - if you set them on a specific algorithm and leave it at that then they are effectively 1 knob per function - if you need something else you can take a quick look at the manual and get it working in a few minutes

i've had a disting mk4 for 4 years or so and it's almost always been used in the tape delay setting and my fx aid xl has been a stereo lofi junky since I got it (6 months ago)

Thanks again for the thoughts!

So here's what I did, in case anyone cares ;)
- Removed most of the drum modules (except the kick drums - I like having the full control)
- Removed the Matrix Mixer (no space, might come back later)
- Might remove Rings + E350 at some point, when I need more space
- Got a Chronoblob - patching stuff into the feedback line is awesome, lots of fun here
- Got a SY0.5 - Super cool for basslines and bloopy stuff in little HP
- Got a Serge 8XL - Very hands on, lots of patching points
- In the future I'll get some more small utils, like a 3xMIA and maybe another VCA
- I also rearranged things so that the "performance" modules are in the bottom row for easy access

ModularGrid Rack

To add to the discussion, consider the artist Surgeon who does a lot of techno stuff. He uses a very basic setup just
with a kick, clap and snare modules and sampler. I figure since he packs houses and is famous techno artist, he can show us how it is done. Here is a post of what he has used in the past for some ideas

ModularGrid Rack

You could use Plaits instead of Braids and so forth. Quadrax instead of Quadra for modulation stuff.

He was packing the joints when I did an event with him back in the late 1990s, actually! Surgeon's skills aren't just due to the imposed limitations, though...he has a very singular ability to use the minimal elements and STILL make tracks that sound fully-formed. And that's not an easy trick; when you try to do more with less, it's invariably far more difficult than trying to do more with more.

wow @Lugia so you met him before? What is he like as a person? I like that he makes killer beats with a minimal setup as lugging 20U of modular is not easy as I get older. With a good trigger sequencer and some delay/reverb and few percussion modules, I am getting pretty decent techno results. That said, as I dig deeper into eurorack/modular, I am really enjoying creating weird ambient stuff. Last night was a fun adventure tweaking Hertz Donut fed into Angle Grinder and using 4ms DLP for delay and NE Desmodus Versio. After a while just doing the same worn out techno tracks is boring. Weird ambient patches that take on random sounds is more fun with modular for me anyways. If I had to do a live dance performance at a club, I'd just use my Elektron Analog 4 and be done with it or a drum machine.

Well, we were all sort of dazed and frazzly as this was the "morning" (ie: around noon) after the event, which had run to just before dawn. But I hit breakfast at a Denny's (in Kalamazoo) with him and several other DJs plus one of the promoters. He's a great guy, very low-key, but DEEP into the music. Also, this was a hot minute ago...like, say, 1998-ish. Interesting breakfast conversation that kept drifting from the post-WWII electronic scene to the present day; Surgeon definitely had caught the connection between the two, and the discussion kept getting a tad mind-blowing for some of the DJs (albeit NONE of the Detroit guys...they've known about that for a loooooong time!).


That is way cool! I really like Surgeon's approach. Another electronic artist that really influenced me was Fluke ya know the band with the song Atom Bomb and a lot of songs from the Matrix soundtrack of movies? I don't know what Fluke used but a lot of kick, hi hats and bass lines. Sadly they never used any modular or eurorack that I am aware of. A live show of them:

Now to reproduce these synths in modular is very expensive. Looks like a lot of Roland vintage synths and drum machines.

Well, it wasn't that long before "Atom Bomb" when much of that gear was dirt-cheap. It was around that time (1993-ish) that I got my TR-909 that I had for years for a mere $700 from Daddy's Junky Music, and not long before that when I snagged my Jupiter-6 for $750.

Yes, synth shopping used to be fun! You didn't feel like someone was sneaking around behind you, trying to snag one of your kidneys for payment!