ModularGrid Rack

Well, I’m almost finished building this beast. I started getting pretty serious about putting a dream instrument together at the end of last year, and I should have the last two pieces of the puzzle (the Panharmonium and TG4) in the next few weeks. This website has been so valuable for me in realizing this project. It has been nice gaining insight from all of you and even sharing some along the way. I thought I might share a few things I have discovered for the folks interested in dipping their toes into the Eurorack world (or for those diving in headfirst).
I think I have mentioned before that I have a fairly long history with synths, recording, music etc., so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch. I sold off all my old equipment years ago, though, and this format was completely new to me. The potential of Eurorack rejuvenated my interest in making some music again. I went from having zero musical equipment in my home to having what I think is a pretty killer synth in a little less than a year. So what did I learn along the way?
First, this thing probably ain’t gonna pay for itself, so be careful with the credit card. I put a few things on the card, but mostly paid cash. I’m not a wealthy man, so I had to make sacrifices and take some opportunities for extra work. Many hobbies are expensive, and this completely overshadows my record collecting habit for its zero-bank-balance-inducing potential. Buy used, DIY, whatever… Just don’t go into debt for this.
That leads me into the second thing I learned. Slow down a little. Buy one thing (or a select few) at a time. This way you can spend some time learning the potential of each module, and decide if it really fits in with your workflow and the kind of music you want to create. I wish I had kept the first rack I built on Modular Grid because it was COMPLETELY different from what I actually built. You will know what you need next after you start incorporating a few things into your rack.
Third: Do your research. From MG to MuffWiggler to DivKid and beyond, there are a million resources to help you figure it all out. Outside of work and actually playing around with my synth-in-progress, I spent most of my free moments researching this big investment. I know you probably want to ask a million questions, but they have already been answered. Take ownership of this journey and put in some work to understand what you are getting into.
Fourth: Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to jump into the modular world. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on an interesting module. It might just change your whole concept, or it might be a dud. So what if it doesn’t end up working for you. Don’t force it. Just sell it and move on. You might take a little financial hit, but chalk it up to the learning process. I’ve bought some crap records in the past. I sold them and bought something I liked instead. Same thing applies here. Don’t dwell on it. If you have actually done a bunch of research and moved slowly, the duds will be fewer and farther between. Also, don’t be afraid to put your music, demos, videos, and experiments out there. If you are going to make some noise, share it with the world. Most people will probably hate it, and that’s ok. Back in the early 70s, the lead singer of the New York Dolls (David Johansen) told Joey Ramone that the Ramones sucked and they should give up. Ignore the haters and just do what you do. You probably aren’t going to be the next Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, or even Merzbow, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying and sharing your creative energy.
Fifth: Don’t believe the hype. Just because a module is popular amongst modular enthusiasts or a “must have” doesn’t mean it’s right for you. A few of my earliest purchases were “must have” modules, and they are among my least favorite (I’m looking at you Maths and Clouds). You can build a generative-ambient-houseplant-and-cup-of-herbal-tea-overlooking-a-beautiful-peaceful-garden rack without Rings and Clouds, I promise (though Rings is pretty sweet). I’m holding on to Maths and Clouds for now, but I’ve found that there are better modules or combinations of modules for what I want to do. You may love both of these, but I bet you will find a few modules that will make you wonder what all of the fuss is about.
Finally, build something that is fun for you. Build something that makes you want to experiment or record all the time. If the module looks like a pain in the a**, it probably is. You don’t have to get into some weird Nietzsche suffer-for-your-art thing. If you get a headache from menu-diving and multiple button combinations, don’t buy those kind of modules. Above all else, have fun.
I’m probably going to be a bit less active on Modular Grid for a while because I actually have the instrument I want now. I don’t have as much research to do and I have a few projects I want to dedicate some time to, to take beyond the lo-fi screwing-around-and-seeing-what-comes-out demo stage. I just wanted to offer some food for thought to the new folks who are standing in the shoes I was in not too long ago. Thank you to all of you who have helped me along without realizing it (Lugia, Garfield, Ronin, and others). This website has been such an invaluable resource for considering different approaches and viewpoints.

P.S. Almost forgot… Buy a bigger case than you think you need. More utilities, modulation sources, and VCAs will make your rack a lot more fun, and modulate the modulators.

Hi Farkas,

I like this post of yours, a good introduction for newbies into modular :-) Well done!

You got yourself a nice rack there. It's a pity though to hear you are kind of leaving us or at least not attending so much here any longer, I believe you are/were a huge added value to our community.

On the other hand, of course, I wish you good luck with your planned projects, hopefully the output of those projects is that what you had in mind :-)

Regarding Maths... yeah, I kind of recognise it. It's an okay module, it has certainly good advantages but for such rather large HP-sized module, I am also not very overwhelming with it. Same as you, I keep it for the moment. I wonder though, perhaps I just don't make enough use of the possibilities (which I might not know or aware of), not sure with this module what to think of it.

Well good luck with your plans and I still hope to hear once and a while from you even if you reduce your presents here.

Kind regards, Garfield.

Thanks Garfield. I'm sure I will still lurk around the forum and chime in. This is a fun place to hang out. :) I just don't have the need to spend as much time on here researching modules and planning out my rack now. I have a few ideas about switching out Maths and Clouds eventually, but nothing immediate. I'm going to spend some time figuring out Maths' secrets before I make a decision.
I look forward to hearing some more of your music. Take care. occurs to me that this build could use...NOTHING! You did this thing right, farkas. All of the study and slogging really hit the big payoff here.

One thing I would suggest as a tandem to that DFAM, though...and which would really shoot this monster up with some synth vitamins...would be the Subharmonicon. I got mine about a week and a half ago, and it is truly THA SHIZNIT, especially the very deceptively useful 2 x 4 sequencer and its wild subdividing/ratcheting capability. With the sequencing that's in here already, having that level of clock craziness would be the proverbial cherry on the cake. Think RYK-type subdivision, and make it crazier...that sort of thing.

But yeah, congrats! This thing looks like it's not only got plenty of potential in of itself, it also has lots of possible upgrade/expansion paths that are clearly suggested by the module selection and layout, and just goes to show that when you stick at this whole process of whittling at your build, keeping up with developments, and studying other builds and the theory behind this, you DO eventually arrive at something serious that'll give many years of use. And yeah, the plan changes over time...but it's changing with knowledge and understanding, and this shows that.

Thanks Lugia. You know, even though it's an intriguing synth, I haven't looked into the Subharmonicon much yet. I checked out a few minutes of an early video, but I was distracted and never came back to it. I'll give it another look. Right now, the only other piece of external gear I have besides the DFAM is the SOMA Labs Lyra-8. I figured that was the closest I could ever get to Fripp's guitar sound on No Pussyfooting. :)
I appreciate the ideas and insight I have gained from you and some of the others here.

Right now, the only other piece of external gear I have besides the DFAM is the SOMA Labs Lyra-8. I figured that was the closest I could ever get to Fripp's guitar sound on No Pussyfooting. :)
-- farkas

Well, that, and maybe a couple of Revox B77s and a VERY sturdy table! :-)

Ha! Yeah, I'm not sure I'm up for the real thing.
I checked out the Subharmonicon more in depth yesterday. That is definitely on my watchlist now. It gives me some deep early Depeche Mode vibes on its own. Would be awesome integrated more deeply with modular.