Hey all, Im building out a nifty case with the intention of having a generative ambient setup which I could also plug the output of piezo mics into rings or clouds, etc. I play Yang Qin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) - Its hard to explain the music I make but i have some stuff out on BC as Earth Person if that helps inform your suggestions. I have 10 hp left in my case and was thinking of the antumbra cara (smaller marbles) does anyone have any suggestions on other modules which might suit the setup better?

This will be fun, if you have tiny fingers. Otherwise, the micro-modules will get on your nerves at some point, particularly the Marbles clone (Marbles, unlike a lot of similar random-based sequencers, is really playable, and not at its best as a "set-and-forget" sequencer). Otherwise, the lack of VCAs is your only real issue.... you're going to want some. Maybe replace the input module with something like Ears, and use the free 4hp to add a VCA module (there are several dual VCA modules in 4hp available).

@Shakespeare - just updated the case - I was toying with the idea of MI Ripples to act as both a filter and vca? you think the quad VCA would be more beneficial?

Do you have these on hand already, or is this still speculative? The reason I ask is because the key to getting something more playable is going to be starting with a bigger case, something like a Tiptop Mantis. And this isn't simply because of the usual routine of "go bigger, then shrink your build", but because it sounds like you need more interactivity in the controls, and trying to do that with tight spacings and tiny controls won't be any fun.

If this is designed to complement the yangqin as something of a "sidecar", you should make the modular as playable as the yangqin is in the rig. The idea here is that the modular is supposed to function as part of that instrument, so you really won't like having to go from a really obvious musical environment (the yangqin) to a confined and twiddly one. Rather, everything should simply "flow", as if this were all one instrument...because technically, IT IS.

Now, as for the pickups...this is another place you need to be careful. Piezos tend to have low outputs, so it might be a better idea to boost the signal level BEFORE it arrives at the synth. Mission Engineering has a volume pedal, the VM-PRO, which has an option for piezo inputs with the proper impedance level (very important! piezos typically like to connect to something high impedance) and boost for those pickups. Plus, this will give you a few new playing methods by default, such as manually reshaping the envelopes while playing, or striking a large number of strings and then gradually bringing up the level of the resulting tonal wash, all by having the volume pedal between the yangqin and the synth's input. Plus, with the VM-PRO, that Doepfer A-199 will be a lot happier with the incoming levels, as this won't require the major level boost that a typical piezo pickup does. This is sort of familiar turf, as I've started (again) using guitar (dual-neck lapsteel...in this case, a fine 1952 National Dual-8) in a few things, and this seems to work better into a synth if the levels are already up near line-level at the synth's input module.