Lead And Bassline == Two Arpitechts??

I know I'm crazy. This is crazy. If you can, please help me with my crazy.

The premise

I'm trying to build a setup for live improvisational dancy techno. I'm looking for a lead, a bassline, and drums. That's (technically) music, that's what people seem to expect, that's what (I think) will get people dancing.

My thinking is I'll have 2 lead voices and 2 bass line voices to be able to swap out a voice when I move to a new musical space. Throw in drums, delicious and weird voicing from the Loquelic, some basic effects, plenty of filtering to twiddle with, a few samples. Jam everything into a small enough case to be portable but large enough to accommodate not needing another piece of equipment (like a separate drum machine) and I'm off to the races.

The problem

In theory, I thought Metron's Voltera extension would allow me to throw together melodies and bass lines easily enough on the fly. In practice, it's proving somewhat clunky; I'd very much appreciate an easier way to generate said melodies and bass lines.

Enter the theoretically insane: double (2x!!) Arpitechts. One for the lead voices and one for the bass voices. It just feels bad, but what am I to do?

The question

How else could I improvisationally (on stage) generate two sequences of notes that, you know, get people dancing? I look at this current setup and just see problems. Do I need a bigger case? Should I accept defeat and move to an external drum machine? What think?

Case


Hi @CardiacTasty. I've sort of built my rack around the idea of performing improvisational minimal techno mainly using an Arpitecht and Eloquencer switching with an Acid Rain Switchblade (though I have other sequencers and utilities, and record other types of music too). I chose the Eloquencer over the Metron for the exact reason that you are describing here. I've also added a Behringer RD8 808 clone to trigger additional modular drum voices via the three trigger outs, so an external X0X style drum machine is always valuable, but you already have that functionality with the Metron. I've found the Arpitecht to be fun but not precise in getting exactly what I want, so you could probably use two but I think you'll find it similarly clunky to what you are doing now. I would recommend doing a lot of research on sequencers to pick one that does exactly what you need it to do, and use the Arpitecht as a supplement.
As always, yes... get a bigger case. Haha.
Have fun and good luck.

Here's a good video for your consideration:


@farkas, That is a fantastic video, exactly what I'm looking for. I'll give it a watch through (probably a couple times actually). Thanks for the input!


There are very few good reasons to put drums in your case. Drum modules are more expensive than buying a drum machine. Those modules will also need additional modules to be cohesive. If you have 8 drum modules going, you're going to need a Eurorack mixer with at least 8 inputs. You will also need a sequencer with 8 triggers available. So it's a substantial investment for something that can be replaced with a $300-$400 external device. Your audience isn't going to care if all of your drums are coming from the case or a drum machine.

There ARE good reasons to have modular drums if modulation is something that's extremely important to your own personal sound in abstract music. But for 99% of people... it's JUST a drum sound.

The 1010 Music BitBox is a good compromise if you want to stay inside the case. It can also be triggered via MIDI if your sequencer supports MIDI OUT. It's possible to run one TRS cable from the sequencer's MIDI out to the BitBox's MIDI in. Without giving a full tutorial on MIDI there are caveats of course.

There are smaller sample playback units that will work just fine as well. I'm speaking of gear I know and I'm familiar with.


Those are great points about drums in modular @Ronin1973.

My main concern with an external drum machine is something that actually might not matter much (or might matter tremendously): desk space. I'm concerned with being able to fit both my modular case and a separate drum machine on whatever table is available, whether that's at some venue or at home while practicing. I'm also a little concerned with the portability aspects of packing the modular case as well as a case for the drum machine, but that's a more minor concern.

In trialing with the case I currently own (a 104 hp 9u beauty from Case From Lake), I now realize I might actually be able to rock a small drum machine to the right of the case when it's setup. Maybe I should sell my Octatrack and buy a Digitakt?

What do you guys think of mixing separate drum machines and drum machine modules? How would a person get the drum machine sequencing drum modules? Would the drum machine control the clock on the Metron?

...I'm realizing this is going to take more research, but that's nothing new. Thanks again.


Oh, here's an update on the setup at the current moment. As always, this will change dramatically as I continue twiddling. I took a lot from that video you shared @farkas, particularly around live pitch sequencing. I'm feeling much, much better about generating melodies on the fly now.

The Setup


I just bought a metropolix though I've not had the chance to use it yet, but it seems to be close to what you're looking for?


What are you using as a master clock now? Some drum machines have cv clock inputs and outputs (RD8 and RD9 for example, and I assume the Elektron stuff too).
I’m a bit more excited about modular drums than Ronin, but I agree that the expense and necessity are probably unnecessary for some. I really enjoy my hybrid setup. I have an MPC but don’t really use a lot of samples that I don’t create myself, so I like the versatility of a decent enough drum machine and modular options. I’m usually happy with standard 808/909 sounds but the BIA and WMD modules are fun. I’ve been building some percussion sounds from scratch too, so everyone will do it differently. The MPC One and RD8 also have trigger outputs to interface with the rack. There are a lot of different ways to do the same so just continue to do your research to find the right option for you.


I just bought a metropolix though I've not had the chance to use it yet, but it seems to be close to what you're looking for?
-- troux

Yay! @troux is back! :)


Yes, there's a little GAS in the tank @farkas 🤣


I'm using the clock on the Metron itself. It does have a clock in though, so I could possibly use a Polyend Poly 2 to send clock from an external drum machine to the Metron as I don't think the Digitakt or the Octatrack has a clock out port, only midi.

I've been eyeing the Metropolix @troux. It's a tremendously powerful pitch sequencer, and the two voice control is exactly what I'm going for. The issue I keep coming back to: I fail to see how it could interplay with the Metron. I absolutely adore the Metron's 'variations' capability; I love being able to flip to a new musical idea, and then flip back to the original before moving on to something else. With the Metropolix I kind of lose that ability, though it might be true that with this recent change to precision adders generating the pitch sequences I may have already lost that ability.

Though it pains me, maybe I should jump ship from the Metron sequencing nearly everything to an external drum machine sequencing drums while the Metropolix sequences pitch? I love my Metron, but it's definitely proving difficult to integrate certain aspects (in a tasty way).


I'm not really familiar with the Metron so I can't speak to it very well @CardiacTasty, but I can share at a high level that on my own journey here sometimes it's not the modules. It's possible that your rack can do a lot of what you want as is and there's some growing pains there? Certainly that has been the case for me at various points along the way. So I'm curious, what exactly are you finding clunky here? What's not working?


Growing pains are a real possibility, I'm very new to this.

It's pitch sequencing, I'm struggling to quickly create decent sounding melodies and bass lines. I definitely need more practice, but it feels like even if I were to put in the time to master Metron's Voltera expansion (which is what I've been using for pitch sequencing) I'd still really struggle to do it quickly and easily enough to keep the music satisfactorily interesting. Too many things to do to focus all my time on coming up with the next bit of pitch.

I'll keep playing with it. I'm already loads better off since the beginning of this thread, thanks to all these great suggestions.


Looking at the Metron, it does make sense that you'd have some trouble since it's primarily a trigger sequencer. Thinking through the original question a bit, the Intellijel Scales can function as a dual quantizer and also as a sequencer I think, worth checking out along with the Metropolix.


The more I research about the Metropolix, the more GAS I fall prey to. I'm growing convinced it's exactly what I'm looking for.

This leads to a central question: Do I keep the Metron? If not, should I transfer to an external drum machine? How do I sequence drum modules without Metron, maybe Grids? Do I keep the Metron but mostly not use it in preference over other rhythm generating sequencers? Could I somehow augment the Metron with other trigger generators?

Can I just say how fun this all is? I absolutely love a good optimization problem.


You already have one of the best trigger sequencers on the market (Metron). I would really recommend keeping that and adding the Metropolix or something similar to it. That would be a very powerful combination.


Good point. Okay, I've updated the rack to the following:
Rack

I've added the Metropolix, it's definitely what I'm looking for. I also dropped the Javelin single VCA-envelope in preference for a full quad rack of envelopes and VCAs, so that I can gain some sustain for the Manis, the Ataraxic, and the uPlaits.

I'm also thinking that I'll augment the Metron with uGrids for the snare, hi-hat, and clap (via some logic OR modules, I'll be able to send gates from both Grids and Metron). That way I can generate entirely new drum patterns with the twists of a few knobs while still retaining much of the Metron's ability to control what's going on (particularly with the kick).

Wonderful. Now comes the painful part; the eons of waiting while I buy modules bit by bit.


Check out the Low Gain Electronics Short Bus for a good trigger sequence combiner. It's passive, cheap, and fun. You could probably use it to switch between and combine multiple channels of Metron, allowing you to avoid buying Grids. You could have a straight pattern set up on one channel of Metron and a fill pattern on another channel, and then switch back and forth or combine those trigger sequences with the flip of a switch. Switchblade would allow something similar as well.
On a related note, I just checked out a demo for Metropolix. Wow. Awesome.


Great idea! I'll order one and play with it to see if it'll work. It would be nice to use the Metron more.


Apart from the “what modules” question there are some important music theoretical underpinnings to this effort.

2 moving pitched lines (here bass and lead) invokes all the problems of counterpoint. If you’re not already comfortable in this area I recommend Hindemith’s book. Not sure the exact title but you would find it pretty quick. COMC Book II if I recall…

From that, my ultra short counterpoint summary guidelines are: contrary motion sounds best, oblique next. Similar motion is good only in a small set of circumstances, usually over small distances. When both voices move, they usually need to go from consonance to consonance. Dissonances need to be carefully controlled. Beyond that are a lot of details that would basically require to read the Hindemith book and a lot of time at the keyboard hearing counterpoint problems and how to avoid or resolve them.

Practically, for your application:
— control of available notes (Pitch class sets) will be very important so your sequences are limited to tones that will pair well with the other line. I use Intellijel Scales to for this as I can set an arbitrary set of tones and CV switch between those sets.
— control of the motion of the 2 lines relative to each other (so that they are not in similar motion too often)

SO I can recommend you consider some modules including:
— Scales, or something like it, so you have definitive control on what pitches you’re allowing through
— Acid Rain Maestro or something like that. Six channels of time synched CV. Very jam-able. This way you could have for example up CV for one voice and down CV for another voice. Flow those through your quantization. That gives you complementary pitch values with controlled counterpoint! ARM is in your MG rack above, okay, good!
— some playable switching like Acid Rain Switchblade or Verbos Sequencr selector. That way you can have multiple “feeder” sequences and you play them with the switch. Of course the switches can also be CV driven.
— handling trigger/gate needs separately from pitch, or at least thinking of these as independent. You have Merton, that gives you a lot of options. Running your pitch values from independent lanes, and trigger / gate values from other lanes, that gives you huge flexibility.

BTW I didn’t scrutinize your MG draft rack too closely, just wanted to put out some ideas of what I would need if trying to do what you want to do.

I hope at least some of this is helpful. I hope my post does not sound condescending; I’ve struggled with a lot of these topics before and wanted to share a few of the helpful points I’ve learned. I’m interested to hear how this develops for you. I’ve been working on some similar directions and am curious to hear how this develops for you.

Cheers,

Nicholas


Good gracious, 'The Craft of Musical Composition: Book 2' by Hindemith has achingly specific instructions on what exactly to do within melody-crafting. Frankly @nickgreenberg, I'm impressed that you can recommend a book like this. I'm just trying to craft a system that won't get me booed off the dance floor. Thank you, I've ordered a copy and I'll see what I can make of it.

I imagine contrary motion will be somewhat more difficult to pull off with something like the Metropolix, but I think I could put together some oblique counterpoint in a fairly non-complex manner. I'll have to do some testing, and some deeper research into counterpoint music theory.

Running the Maestro through a quantizer like Scales is something I hadn't thought of, excellent. Let me see if I can fit in a Switchblade and Scales to switch between the Metropolix and the Maestro; that could provide me with some momentary controlled contrary motion before switching back to the oblique and (hopefully short) moments of similar motion.

Your post doesn't read as condescending in the slightest, quite the opposite; it has been intensely helpful. One of my weaknesses is my novice grasp of the theory behind music. I appreciate any tips others have to offer, so again, thank you.


I've just realized the Metropolix can reverse the sequence for one voice while playing normally for the other voice. This should allow me to provide a nice amount of contrary motion so long as I program the sequence to 'advance' upwards or downwards in pitch. Very very good, as it's proving somewhat difficult to jam a Scales and a Switchblade in; it's doable, but requires sacrifices.


Okay good!

End of night here soon so a shortish post for now.

COMC#2 will have some stuff you don’t need. But it’s great overall. The “63 rules” of counterpoint he has, I take as “tendencies” eg what follows them tends to sound good and what busts them tends to sound bad. But it’s not clad in stone. Parallels, for example, are openly admitted in some styles of music. BUT the “63 rules” will give you a very good idea of if something sounds bad, why it does. And reducing the number and severity of flaws, what is left is much improved! Yes COMC books are “heavy lifting” but I totally needed these to get some command over writing pitched parts. COMC2 is a godsend IMO.

You mentioned Getting contrary motion might be a problem. Here’s a suggestion: drive a lane of Maestro’s CV through a quantizer. Take the same lane of CV and invert it, shift and scale it as needed, quantize that. Boom! Perfect contrary motion! Or same idea but just use a 2nd lane of Maestro going down or up, paired so it is contrary to the 1st voice. If using 2 lanes you can run them at different rates. If using a switch, you can toggle/switch in DC to give you oblique motion.

My Maestro won’t arrive for a few days so I haven’t implemented exactly this idea yet but I’m soon to test it IRL. In idea form it should work.

More later. Glad to have offered some help and stimulating ideas. Cheers!


Good gracious, 'The Craft of Musical Composition: Book 2' by Hindemith has achingly specific instructions on what exactly to do within melody-crafting. Frankly @nickgreenberg, I'm impressed that you can recommend a book like this. I also recommend that you read the book A Clean Well Lighted Place. A brief description can be seen at https://freebooksummary.com/category/a-clean-well-lighted-place, this is a set of great Hemingway stories. I'm just trying to craft a system that won't get me booed off the dance floor. Thank you, I've ordered a copy and I'll see what I can make of it.

I imagine contrary motion will be somewhat more difficult to pull off with something like the Metropolix, but I think I could put together some oblique counterpoint in a fairly non-complex manner. I'll have to do some testing, and some deeper research into counterpoint music theory.

Running the Maestro through a quantizer like Scales is something I hadn't thought of, excellent. Let me see if I can fit in a Switchblade and Scales to switch between the Metropolix and the Maestro; that could provide me with some momentary controlled contrary motion before switching back to the oblique and (hopefully short) moments of similar motion.

Your post doesn't read as condescending in the slightest, quite the opposite; it has been intensely helpful. One of my weaknesses is my novice grasp of the theory behind music. I appreciate any tips others have to offer, so again, thank you.
-- CardiacTasty

Paul Hindemith's textbooks are still outstanding works of their kind. Unlike many other books, this one was written by a man who could play all the instruments and compose a good piece for almost any ensemble. Therefore, it is not surprising that his textbook is one of the best and most important in the knowledge of music construction.


Good gracious, 'The Craft of Musical Composition: Book 2' by Hindemith has achingly specific instructions on what exactly to do within melody-crafting. Frankly @nickgreenberg, I'm impressed that you can recommend a book like this. I'm just trying to craft a system that won't get me booed off the dance floor. Thank you, I've ordered a copy and I'll see what I can make of it.

-- CardiacTasty

Another oldie but a goodie: Helmholtz's "On the Sensation of Tone". One of the first scientific works to deal with things such as timbre, reverberation decay, and on and on, approached from a not-quite-so-theory-packed perspective. And I can't recommend Nicolas Slonimsky's "Thesaurus" enough...just randomly flipping through it and choosing a scale at random can be a great way to approach the initial compositional steps.