looking for ideas/help choosing modules for creating ambient drone music. so far I have the moog mother 32, which i plan on keeping it outside of the rack, disting mk4 and tide. I plan on adding maths, and shades mixer/attenuverter. any help would be appreciated


Rings, Clouds, Morphagene! These 3 are practically necessities in the 'Ambient Modular' genre, if that's a genre.


Hmmm...perhaps I should quit making ambient, then. My Digisound 80 has none of those...so none of my 15+ albums of ambient work are valid anymore.

(NB: the equipment doesn't make the music. The artist does. Believing that certain pieces of equipment are "necessities" is an utter fallacy, and a great way to kill ones' creativity by becoming reliant on specific musical "crutches". If you can make incredible ambient music with a couple of steel drums, a touch of reverb and multitracking with no other electronics at all (see Stephan Micus' work for this example), then do so. But if you have to labor under the misapprehension that you MUST have X piece of gear to do Y sort of music, then quit immediately, as you're not really making something that truly speaks of who you are musically.)


I'm not trying to pretend I know what is necessary to make ambient music, or anything at all for that matter. I did say 'practically necessities', I guess what I meant is that these are the popular tools used today. Though I see that this isn't how it was interpeted.

I made the assumption here that the poster(like many others, including myself) came to modular after being inspired by current popular ambient modular artists - R Beny, Lightbath, Emily Sprague, etc. In which case these module's would be good places to look. I realize I shouldn't have made that assumption though

That being said I see no problem with following trends that speak to you. Personally my only goal is to make sounds that I enjoy listening to, and I doubt that I'm alone there.

I'm not doubting your credentials here, but I don't think anyone has the authority to tell anyone else to 'quit immediately' when it comes to creating sounds, apart from maybe my upstairs landlord.


What I would do is download VCV rack. The basic set-up is free. I believe that it comes with a knock-off of Clouds. Try your hand at producing ambient sounds in VCV rack FIRST. Once you're able to make something you like, you can emulate your set-up in a real Eurorack case. I'd get the skills first so that you know what you're looking for before spending a small fortune on what you think that you need.

As Lugia stated, you don't necessarily need to use what's currently popular for the genre. It really depends on where you want to go and what appeals to your own tastes.


Well, "quit immediately" as in stopping believing that X music MUST be done with Y devices. I recall the psychotic behavior that went on during the early phases of acid in the early 1990s, where people believed that "real techno" required every synth used to be analog, you had to have a TB-303 and other "church of Roland" accoutrements, and if your track had the ultimate bass patch, you won 1,000,000 Internets. This was incredibly stupid, and I know for a fact that as the prices of 303s, etc started to skyrocket to nosebleed levels, that false notion DID stop people from trying with whatever they could get their hands on. The 303 went from a "we pay you to get it out of here" device to something that was eventually pulling down wads of cash in the $3k range. And unless your dad was an investment banker, you weren't getting one.

And even crazier than this was the fact that, when you go back and review classic tracks out of Detroit or Chicago from the late 1980s and early 1990s, while you do find some artists using these (esp. Larry Heard, who kicked that 303 acid sound off with "Washing Machine" c. 1987), you would also find a lot of digital synths and off-brand things in peoples' arsenals. Hell, one of the Belleville Three, Derrick May, did tons of his basslines on a cheap Yamaha DX-100, such as on "Nude Photo" and kickstarted the "house piano" riff thing using a Korg M1 on "Strings of Life". No analog in those, nope.

So, yeah...I'm a definite believer in the idea that if you possess the ability to make music, you can make something just as good with a Pringles can, a pencil, a mic and a loop pedal as you could with a moving van full of TB-303s and TR-808s (another device that went into economic extinction during that same nonsense). The GEAR is only a tool and the MUSICIAN creates, not the other way around.


Oh ok, I'm glad to hear you weren't telling me to quit making music, that took me back a bit!

But ya woah, I didn't know about all that craziness business.. I have wondered why 303s and 808s went for so much money, especially since there was passable clones on the market by the time I came around. I mean a Minimoog I could sort of understand, but ya that explains it a bit.

I understand where you're coming from though, if gear made the musician than the best musicians would also be the richest who could afford the most and coolest gear, which obviously isn't how things typically work out.
That said the OP was looking for Ambient module recommendations, and so telling him to grab a Pringles can and a pencil might not be the most appropriate advice! :P

Now, not to further derail this thread with our pish posh:

I didn't really consider OP's current setup when giving my last recommendations, since you already have Mother 32/Tides/Disting/Maths, maybe a nice effect module would be a nice place to look next, some ideas: Strymon Magneto, Intellijel Rainmaker, MI Clouds, Make Noise Erb-Verb, Tiptop Z-DSP... The list of cool effect module's could be near endless.


Right...that period of hyperinflation of analog synths started about 1992, was in full swing everywhere by 1994. Up until then, used synths could be bought for prices that made (and to my reckoning, still do make) sense. But watching things go full-on crazy where prices for a monosynth such as a Pro-One, one of which I bought used in mid-1993 for $80, suddenly and unwarrantedly exploded to something like $750 by the start of 1995...none of this made any sense whatsoever from a purely economic standpoint. But when you encountered a lot of the buzz on the Internet, in print media, and ESPECIALLY through Mark Vail's "Vintage Synthesizers" book where arguments were being pushed that these devices were essential...then it made sense. Or rather, more obvious, yet still utterly senseless.

Anyway, pointing the OP toward effects actually makes more sense. Consider: Brian Eno's "Thursday Afternoon", one of the landmark ambient albums of all time, really has very little going on as far as musical events. What carries the weight in there is actually some elaborately-crafted time-domain processing work. These also offer a wide variety of possible results within an ambient palette, since the real key to that is to craft the imaginary acoustical venue then introduce very basic material into it to 'ring' the 'space' that's been 'composed'. I would even suggest that the OP go with a couple of send/return modules and then inject some stompboxes into the system with those, and then spend less time making the synth noises and more on 'playing' the processing to re-envision what one actually 'performs on' for ambient work. It even works on Pringle's cans...nope, not joking there! A very light 'ping' with a pencil into a properly-filtered reverb at over 45 seconds of T60 will sound quite ambient, indeed!


Ya wow that’s an interesting approach.. Is that Convolution you are talking about? I don’t know much about this stuff but it sure sounds interesting. I have considered getting something like a Koma Field Kit (or just some basic contact mics) and pairing it with my Eventide Space reverb for some fun experimentation.


Nope, just plain-jane algorithmic digital reverb. That Eventide box should be perfect for that sort of thing. There's a lot of possibilities in using contact mics, too, especially with something that's designed for that such as the Field Kit. For example, try stretching out a metal Slinky (the plastic ones will not work for this) between two points, and place a contact mix on either end. Then fiddle around with the Slinky...tapping it, springing it back and forth, etc. Or run a signal in one end via a transducer to a contact mic on the other end for utterly fucko bizarro spring reverb craziness. Another fun one: get a ride cymbal and a violin bow. Put the cymbal on a stand and contact mix it right at the top of the bell so the mic doesn't impede its ringing. Now bow the cymbal. MUCH craziness of an ambient-ish variety...sort of like a cheapo version of what Stockhausen was up to with his "Mikrophonie I".

Electronic music doesn't have to involve a synth. Sometimes some weird amplification methods and processing works...sometimes even better!


Some great ideas here Luigia! The slinky idea reminded me of a spring reverb I owned for a short while(the Ekdhal Moisturizer) which had exposed springs. I really enjoyed running sounds through, even something like a simple drum track, and then playing with the springs in different ways, even just breathing on it would yield cool effects.. Now I miss that weird machine..

On a side note, I just posted a thread about a system makeover I'm planning and I would greatly appreciate some of your thoughts(if you have the time)!

Sorry OP for the total hijacking..


Hey Placebo, the Z-DSP's internal rate clock is also clockable to an external input. That means you can get some grunginess out of it. I've had mine for about a month but it hasn't seen much action... yet.