Hey guys,

I planned this minimal system for very specific generative music purposes.

I wanted to limit myself to this tiny 42hp case by Erica Synth.
Beehive (Plaits clone) mainly in chord mode (I'm considering a Rings clone too, but Plaits is maybe more versatile), Monsoon for granular processing and reverb, Doepfer A-145-4 quad LFO for slow off-phase modulation on several parameters (so that the LFOs never come perfectly back into sync with each other): the goal is to achieve Brian Eno-inspired generative ambient / drone stuff, like he did with tape loops. That's it, really straightforward.
Then Ornament Crime for additional modulation, cross-modulation, random, envelopes, basic sequencing and so on; I'm also controlling stuff with the Doepfer dual VCA. Clock comes from a square wave LFO. I'm considering flashing the Hemisphere firmware to have more options on the Ornament, but I'm not sure.

So, I have 4hp left: what should I add? I was thinking maybe of some kind of attenuators / attenuverters to have more control on the CV, aside of the VCAs... or maybe a filter? What do you think?

ModularGrid Rack

Hey guys,

I planned this minimal system for very specific generative music purposes.

I wanted to limit myself to this tiny 42hp case by Erica Synth.

Hi Traxy and welcome!

I hope you don't mind me asking, but why limit yourself to such a tiny case? especially for generative music, which often benefits from much, much more modulation, especially layers of changing modulation over time?

perhaps you could elaborate '"very specific" generative music purposes? so we know what you are talking about!

Have you actually bought any of this yet? or is this just a planned system?

I am assuming that it's a planned system - not actual (but if you do already own it then some of the below will still apply):

the really good news is that you have at least kind of got everything you need in there to make a basic patch and listen to it (on headphones or laptop speakers) but there are issues - not least that at least 1 the modules won't actually fit in the case! (according to MG and erica) - & yes you could get some m3 spacers - but talk of making the beauty case fugly!

I'm not convinced that the doepfer LFO will function exactly like you want it to (and would benefit from attenuators and of more vca channels) and I think you will be bored by it very quickly as your only modulation source

O&C - yes it's a great module and got a fuck load of functions, but remember that it can only do 1 thing 4 times at once (stock firmware) or 2 things twice at once (hemispheres) these are often functions that especially in a tiny case you are better served with a single channel of more of them - so you are taking up all or 1/2 the module constantly for generating v/oct - can't remember if it's quantized or not - if not that's the other side gone! and you probably only intend to use plaits as a v/oct controlled voice and then run it through clouds as an effect - instead of using clouds as sound source too... because you do not have enough mixer/vca channels to do this - so you only need 1 channel of v/oct not 2 - I'd possibly suggest the 2hp tm and tune - if you had the space and I thought they would fit in the case!

plaits is a great choice in such a minute case as not only does it have an on board modulation source - so you really only need to think about modulating clouds! - but it also has an onboard lpg (low pass gate) which is a combination of a vca and a filter - you only need to trigger it to get a nice decay envelope - so no need for envelopes (at least for now)

I just checked the depths of the modules and case - the erica case is only 40mm deep and definitely the vca (45mm) is too deep and there's no info on the depth of the beehive (may fit may not)

plus I would want more vcas at least 4 all for modulation - buy a load of stackcables and mult the modulation everywhere through the vcas - the vcas should at the very least be able to attenuate the input signal - clouds really benefits from attenuated modulation!!!

Personally I think that this system is not big enough to be an enjoyable synth over a long period of time - so the usual advice - and the advice I'm going to give now! - is go for a big case to start with and fill it with the modules you want AND the modules you need to get them to work properly, slowly over a decent period of time so that you can get to know them well and, often more importantly, spread the cost out over time - this also allows you to (at least to some extent) get the right case for the modules instead of trying to jam tiny unergonomic (unplayable in a lot of cases) and, often wrong, modules for you into a 'beauty case'

yes I know the youtube influencers make it look so cool with their beauty cases adjusting trim pots with tweezers and waviing their synths around in the air... but most of them have massive cases that you can't see on their videos, that they swap modules in and out of to make videos on (mostly because it's easier to film a beauty case than a big one)

And yes I know there are a lot of arguments for starting small, but, I've never seen one that didn't have a very persuasive and sensible counter-argument

If you haven't seen it please read this post on muffwiggler (at least the 1st post) https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=245154

Hi Jim, thank you for your in-depth thoughts!

So, first of all yes, I already own some of those! I own the Plaits, the O&C and the Monsoon. At the moment I have a 84hp 3U cre8audio Nifty Case, but it's almost full and hopefully I'm gonna upgrade it to a nice 104hp 6U Tiptop Mantis case very soon!
So, why the Pico Case? Well... it's mainly for "organisational" reasons with my other gear. I make ambient music and I'm really happy with my Synthstrom Deluge as the core for my system... modular is also nice for ambient sounds, but I find it a bit unplayable in a live situation. I use my modular to sample sounds and then I arrange them with my Deluge, or i prepare cassette loops... but I'm not really able to play it live, too many cables and patching, it's very unpredictable, requires tuning and you never really get the same results.

So, since I still love eurorack and I like to keep things minimal, I decided to make a really small system with a limited range of features I can easily tweak live. I got some really cool results modulating Plaits' harmonic in chord mode and Monsoon's pitch and density with my Marbles, so it's something I already kind of tried... I planned this system with the idea of creating some easy-to-make generative polyphonic ambience while I play my Deluge and the other stuff.

So the modules I was planning to get are the Doepfer LFO and the utilities (which are missing in my bigger case too haha). I thought that having 4 LFOs could be nice to make slow, constant variations on Plaits and Clouds with the off-phase thing. Marbles is a bit too on the "step" side, and it's also bigger. But maybe the Doepfer one is too limited, and I shoud consider something more complex... Batumi maybe?

I totally overlooked the VCA depth!! Haha sorry for this, usually I'm very careful to depth and power specs when I plan my racks XD
So I could remove it and put in something like the ALM Tangle Quartet! Four VCAs in 8hp, it fits perfectly, and I would also get the two additional VCAs.

O&C - yes, I was thinking of installing the Hemispheres for that exact reason! To use it more like a swiss army module than a quantizer on steroids. But - speaking of playability - it could be the wrong choice here (lots of menu diving).
I'll take a look at the 2hp modules you suggested me! Somehow I have to rearrange this.

Thank you so much!

I'm a fan of small focused cases, knowing the limitations. Looking at yours it's hard to argue with some attenuators but I can see a few other routes too:

1) add a 2HP Clock Divider and a 2HP Sample and Hold, this lets you add changes that sustain over longer durations and that add a bit of structure if they are impactful enough
2) add a filter of some sort that fits in 4HP, IMHO filters are close to the funnest part of eurorack and a good analog filter always sounds great with a digital oscillator
3) pivot and get a 62HP Intellijel palette, more expensive but the extra HP would go a long way here and you could do all of the above, including attenuators pretty easily.

@troux - couldn't agree more regarding small focussed cases - especially when they're pulled out of larger cases - but as starter modulars I'm not convinced they are a great idea at all

troux makes a very good point here, as does Jim...the idea of building a "generative" system in 42 hp is VERY impractical. Having done work with those methods since...ah, crap, I dunno HOW long...I think I can safely say that you'll be lucky if you can get it to behave like a basic off-the-shelf monosynth. And while you apparently have other modular gear to interface this with, the idea that you can use only this live for generative ambient work in of itself is a pretty big stretch of the imagination.

20 more hp here would make more sense. 166 more hp would make a LOT of sense. You'll need it for the various modulation sources, control modules (comparators, anyone?), submixers, etc etc etc to arrive at a truly generative result. In fact, of all of the various modular paradigms, generative tends to require the size and diverse modular complements to be as MAXIMAL as possible, at least if you're trying to realize a schema that has multiple channels (as in an installation work), consists of a few different "lines" in front along with a "background" layer, and has a diverse palette of sounds that it can generate.

But here's how you can see how this'll work: build this 42 hp thing, and patch it up and let it run. If, after an hour, you've been driven insane by the limited sound palette and want to kick the skiff across the room at that point, DO SO. Then build a real generative setup.


all great reasons to go for a tiny case in you situation - although I am with troux on 62 hp probably being a better fit

tbh based on what you have said - I would not bother with the pod at all - I would just take stuff out of the nifty case make or buy some blind panels (cereal box cardboard is fine) and see if that helps - add the modules that you need to do your minimal generative setup and put the case money to one side - either towards a smaller case or a mantis in the future

this way you could just buy a quad cascading vca (if you don't already have one) I like veils for a multitude of reasons - and use that as a mono output module - that way you can explore what you can do with the O & C - with a bit more space - which may make it a bit more playable

I think it really depends on why you find it unplayable now? uncontrollable or un-ergonomic or too complicated

maybe share the nifty?

@troux - couldn't agree more regarding small focussed cases - especially when they're pulled out of larger cases - but as starter modulars I'm not convinced they are a great idea at all
-- JimHowell1970

Agreed on the starter point for sure @JimHowell1970.

@JimHowell1970, sure, this is my actual Nifty Case:
ModularGrid Rack
As you can see it misses a lot of stuff, but I'm slowly expanding it. The things I'm planning to get next are LFOs and VCAs, precision adders, attenuators and maybe a complex filter.

@troux thanks, I considered getting the Palette too. Maybe it's too expensive for me at the moment, but it would be a nice addition for sure.

Sure thing @Lugia, for the future I'm planning to build a way more complex setup, but for this time I just wanted to get to grips with these few hp. I know the sound you get is very limited but it's really what I'm looking for haha.