ModularGrid Rack

Hi! I have a nice Arturia DRUMBRUTE that I love for the sounds, but I thought it would be playable from Renoise (my Linux DAW) via MIDI Note and velocity messages. It's not---It just responds to the clock sync and transport messages.

I have a new Behringer Neutron semi-modular that I could use to transition into eurorack gear. I could sell the DRUMBRUTE and base off an BLCK_NOIR to replace it in the eurorack system.

I have "My Useful 2x104 Rack" shown above. It's got two goals:

  • Keyboard voices via Neutron, MI tides, clouds, and plaits.
  • Drums via plaits (the kick), Erica Synths clap, and BLCK_NOIR.

I plan to mix inside Renoise (the DAW) after upgrading my soundcard.

That means I'm missing a MIDI-to-CV module that can send note and velocity information via CV, right? The modules I see are either experts-only DIY or really expensive modules for just a few voices. To control the drums I have in mind, even before extras like clav and tambourine, I need 9 voices. I could sample some drum sounds and sequence them in Renoise to reduce drum voices in the eurorack system, at the cost of dynamism and flexibility.

It's entirely possible that I'm totally missing something! Advice or comments would be most helpful.

OH MY GAWD. Arturia DRUMBRUTE came listening to MIDI channel 10 for note messages.

I read in one part of the documentation that it only listens to start/stop messages, but in other parts it says it sends note MIDI info if you set it up in the (Windows and Mac only) MIDI control center software. That implies it listens to note messages. More burrowing in sparse documentation on MIDI suggested that's true. Playing a pattern that sweeps all the notes in Renoise while changing the channel found joy on the tenth try. Your mileage may vary.

This message posted for posterity.

I'd still like to hear comments about the original question, even though no way am I getting rid of this DRUMBRUTE now that it's exactly what I want. :)

Get the micro-versions of the Mutable stuff and buy a Eurorack module capable of mixing your signals. Unless you like the kick sounds in the Plaits, you may want to go in a different direction. The Intellijel Morgasmatron dual filter is great for making some tasty electronic kicks. But you'll want an envelope generator and a VCA to go with it. As an alternative, the Noise Engineering Basimilus Iteritas Alter makes for a good stand alone kick module with no other external gear. You can also use it as an VCO when not needing it for a kick.

Oh, and the Expert Sleepers Disting just got a few compressor algorithms, great for compressing drum drum mixes... but again, you're going to want some way to sum them and feed them into the compressor.

You may find it better to keep the Neutron in its own case and use your expensive rack HP for more modules.

Thanks for the advice. I was looking for powered cases today and had some sticker shock, so I think you're right about keeping the Neutron in it's stock case.

Erica Synths has a drum mixer with compression that caught my eye.
I might not want to mix entirely in the DAW after all.

Expert Sleepers has me scratching my head. It looks like they are using ADAT lightpipe as a way to multiplex several signals onto one cable, but I haven't figured that out yet. They have some non-Linux software, Silent Way, but I think it isn't necessary for most use cases?

Yeah, channel 10...makes perfect sense. Back when polytimbral devices were starting to pop up, and even before when people were starting to create sizable piles of MIDI gear, there was this sort-of-a-rule that ch.10 was intended for drums and percussion. Interesting to see Arturia still holding true to that. But TR-909, when I had that, it would both respond to and send on 10 out of the box as well.

As for Expert Sleepers...what they have with their Silent Way software is a way to use a DC-coupled audio interface to send and receive CVs, gates, and triggers (and sync, natch) to/from analog hardware. MOTU's Volta is similar to this, albeit Mac-only. Those interfaces that you see on here with the ADAT lightpipes, etc, are actually A-D/D-A converters, just like the ones on the conversion end of your DAW except that they're designed to be 100% DC-coupled and Silent Way compliant. In fact, you can even use the Expert Sleepers interface modules that have 'returns' to the DAW as a means of recording the synth's audio, instead of sending it to the dedicated A-D linked to the computer itself.

BTW, one of the worst drawbacks of using LINUX within music, IMHO, is the fact that the vast majority of development done for the instrument marketplace is going to either be for MacOS or Windows. That's simple economics at work...the installed base is simply larger, and if a music equipment company has limited resources dedicated to developing software, they're going to stick to the two OSs that the vast majority use. For example, right here in this thread, you're missing out on unlocking the Drumbrute's deeper control layers because you can't run the Arturia Control Center, and you can't explore computer control over analog with Silent Way or Volta. And that's among a lot of other things. While I certainly think LINUX has its uses, some in which it excels, using it in music is likely to handicap you in the long run by keeping a large array of tools out of reach.

Thanks. I didn't know the history on channel ten. Interesting!

It's true that Mac and Windows are very popular, and the points you make follow from that.

But for out-of-the-box thinking and doing, Linux is often nice, and individuals (not companies) sometimes respond to that. For example, Olivier Gillet of Mutable Instruments has Linux-based development kits on github to allow folks to customize the firmware on their modules. (He made it virtualized, so that people using Windows and Mac can run the Linux virtual machine he configured.)

I'm doing this in my free time the way I want to, and I don't want to use Mac or Windows, so it's part of the challenge figuring out how I can best accomplish my goals without those systems. I don't feel constrained at all today, in contrast to year 2000, when it was way harder to use Linux for digital audio in a full-experience kind of way.

Expert Sleepers offers many products. Some of their product line is pretty confusing as to its purpose and functionality. The Disting does not have ADAT lightpipe capabilities as far as I know. However, it has tons of functionality. I hate the interface as it's not intuitive as far as adjusting parameters of each program. But the difficulty in use is worth it due to the tons of features. It's basically a Swiss Army knife for Eurorack. If you keep it in reserve and give it no full-time duties, it can provide that one missing ingredient. "I need an extra LFO, ADSR, ring modulator, compressor, etc..." for this one patch.

If you can dual boot your Linux machine, I'd add a Windows partition. As Lugia explained, you're not going to get the most out of your computer running Linux. It's always going to be a compromise over what's available. Booting it into Windows gives you tons of inexpensive options. There's a DAW by the name of REAPER that's quite extensive, inexpensive and hosts VST plug-ins as well. There are TONS... TONS of free VSTs out there that compete with retail. As Eurorack is quite expensive, having a low cost DAW arsenal at your disposal goes a long way towards freeing up cash for your Eurorack addiction.

The easiest way to dual boot your Linux machine is to use two hard drives on a switch. Select drive A to cold boot into Linux and drive B to boot into Windows. Or you could use the software method on one drive with two partitions. No disrespect to Linux. It's just not popular enough to compete in the DAW niche.

Exactly,, with the absence of intensive development, there will be drawbacks that can be avoided by going with an existing DAW package. The key will be to find something that has the right 'feel'. Don't ever approach DAW selection from a mindset that you're creating a 'studio in a box'. Instead, view the approach as one might look at building a modular system; you're creating an instrument, essentially, with the big difference being that the 'instrument' all resides in code. Beyond that one point, a DAW really needs to function like the same sort of 'musical extension' of yourself as any other traditional acoustic and/or electronic instrument.

Years ago, when I first started working within recording studio environments, one of the things that I always found troubling was the system division inherent in that working space. But then, I learned from some of the 'old-timers' back in Nashville (where I'm originally from) that the key to how they got their sound was that they approached how they dealt with a studio as if it were a unified system, from room to mics to desk to tape machines to processing to monitors, all of which synergized to create the 'sound' those producers and engineers were gunning for. And this fit in with what I'd learned about the likes of Brian Eno, Conny Plank, and Can, all of whom I still admire to this day for their adventuresome approach to the studio-as-instrument. And while in undergrad and learning how to isolate the living crap out of everything and never print with processing and all of that old-school malarkey, I was eyeing developments such as Real World, Peter Gabriel's studio in which he'd dispensed with the separation of 'cutting' and 'control' spaces altogether, much as how Can did so but with the bleeding edge tech then appearing at the time. And this seemed right...the idea that NO barriers (physical or otherwise) should exist anywhere in the process chain found in the studio. So this did quite a bit to influence me up to the present day, where I don't even see my 'studio' as me, it's a very large musical instrument. And within that context, the DAW system is simply akin to another valve on a horn or knob on a synth. It has to work in integration...not as a thing unto itself. And finding that right DAW package was tricky...we're talking a process that literally took me a decade and a half, but the time spent was worth it in exploring possibilities in the tech as well as in myself as a musician, and what I needed to use to keep forward progress going.

So the upshot is this: don't box yourself in by saying that something like an OS is going to define your work. That's really an ancillary thing. If your musical needs require using Windows or Mac (or iOS or whatever) and you can see possibilities that may happen by getting past the OS 'box', then try and do so. View your setup as an integrated whole and ask "what does my music need from this and how do I let it reach that goal?"

Get the micro-versions of the Mutable stuff and buy a Eurorack module capable of mixing your signals.

What's the relationship between those vendors and Mutable Instruments? I like Olivier Gillet's work and I like the idea of my dollars supporting MI.

But you'll want an envelope generator and a VCA to go with it.

If I am accumulating gear gradually, I can start out with overdubbing and use the Neutron's VCA and envelopes, I think.

Thanks again for your helpful responses.

Get the micro-versions of the Mutable stuff and buy a Eurorack module capable of mixing your signals.

What's the relationship between those vendors and Mutable Instruments? I like Olivier Gillet's work and I like the idea of my dollars supporting MI.

But you'll want an envelope generator and a VCA to go with it.

If I am accumulating gear gradually, I can start out with overdubbing and use the Neutron's VCA and envelopes, I think.

Thanks again for your helpful responses.
-- RelaxedNapper

Mutable Instruments believes in open-sourcing their code. Those people crafting their own versions of Braids, Clouds, etc. aren't violating MI as far as I know. MI isn't your typical manufacturer. You can buy the micro modules and other from respected retailers like Detroit Modular and Perfect Circuit. MI supports the DIYers.

As far as I know, the Neutron only has one VCA. "You can never have enough VCAs." Take that to heart. VCAs can control audio as well as every kind of CV. I would say to try your approach and see if it is satisfactory. You can always try it and buy more modules if you're unhappy with the results.

I'll second that VCA sentiment. Look for something that gives you several in a tight space, preferably switchable between linear (good for CVs, not bad for audio) and exponential (better for audio due to our exponential perception of apparent loudness, but more difficult to control for CVs if they can even pass DC at all). Plus, most multiVCA modules also function in various ways as mixers, which you'll also find come in handy.

You're right, @Ronin1973, that the Neutron has a single VCA.

@Lugia, do you have a specific module in mind? I tried to search on modulargrid for "quad VCA exponential" and got no hits.

Actually, Streams from Mutable Instruments looks really fun, although it has two channels, not four. Should be plenty for starting out!

Oh wait... the Neutron does have a second VCA. Attenuator 1 has a CV gain control. I'm not sure if that qualifies as full VCA control. But I'm sure it'll do in a pinch.

I have two Intellijel Quad VCAs. I found them to be the most flexible due to the normalling as well as the linear to exponential response curve... and a switch to boost signal level through the VCA.

You can find other VCA modules with more VCAs per HP. But I think most of them lack features and are set at either exp. or linear response.

Seconds on the Intellijel Quad VCA. As far as multi-VCAs go right now, I'd say that that one's fairly close to being the gold standard. The ability to warp the response curve is brilliant, plus the addition of the mix function is super-convenient for either audio or CV summing. For a smaller rig, it's a good way to go.