As a relative noob to the modular world, I’ve been trying to share a few long-winded updates on my thought process, mistakes, rack, and music every couple of months for the last year. It's nothing profound, but I thought it may help other noobs in their planning, and writing it out helps me make sense of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. So, here is the latest update and my very limited wisdom.

Long story short, I’ve been around synths, recording, and DJ equipment for 20+ years but got disillusioned with making music and stopped completely for years. I stumbled upon the world of Eurorack in 2019 and became inspired again. So, I dove in headfirst and have few regrets. I started out with one Make Noise skiff and a couple of the most popular modules that everyone else seems to have. I had about 50 different genres of music I wanted to explore, and while modular is great for that I found that paring my approach down to just a few styles was much more fulfilling. To my surprise, even though I narrowed the types of sounds I was trying to make, my rack kept growing!

It’s true what everyone says, you need a lot of utilities and support modules to make the most of modular… and that requires a bigger case than you could possibly imagine when you are starting out. I am just about maxed out on “studio” space, so I really can’t go much bigger than this final planned iteration of my rack. It’s almost double what I had initially planned, and almost a completely different set of modules than I thought I wanted when I started out. Allow yourself some flexibility in size, budget, and module choice. I realize that many noobs are just looking for something small to supplement their other studio gear, but I imagine most of those people will quickly tire of the limited sound palette and possibilities of that small supplemental mini-rack. Not to mention the terrible ergonomics of a bunch of 2hp and 4hp modules sitting side by side in a small skiff. (I must reiterate that I’m not a wealthy man, but I made some sacrifices and picked up extra responsibilities to pay for this monstrosity.)

I recently debated getting a Doepfer monster base/case (thanks @GarfieldModular for the Doepfer case breakdown) but ultimately decided on four TipTop Mantis cases joined with brackets. This is for reasons of cost, power, portability, and aesthetics, as I already have two Mantises and three Make Noise skiffs. The Doepfer cases are amazing, but the Mantis works for me. I emailed TipTop yesterday, and they have an ETA of mid- to late-April for replenishing Mantis stock at retailers.

On several occasions I have bought cheaper, smaller, or less fully featured modules than what I actually needed, thinking, “Oh, I can probably make this work…” Bad idea, and a waste of time and money! Don’t cut corners. Save up for what you actually need to accomplish your goals. Move on quickly from modules that you don’t gel with. Don’t let them take up valuable space and collect dust in your rack just because you made a bad decision and think that you will get around to mastering it “someday”. You won’t. Fill that expensive-ass rack space with something that you want to use constantly.

I like to listen to generative music as much as anyone, but I made a conscious decision to reject that with my rack. With Spotify and other data-collection companies actively stealing (or paying fractions of pennies for) the work and ideas of artists in order to create artificially intelligent generative music that sounds like those artists, I wanted a much more human and interactive approach to making music. Mylarmelodies actually had a great conversation with BT about this kind of data-mining, intellectual property theft, and generative music on his “Why We Bleep” podcast if you are interested. So, what I decided to do with my module choice and music is sort of a mash-up of conceptual/dada/Fluxus art, minimal techno, post-punk, and noise. Kind of Merzbow meets Plastikman at Cabaret Voltaire’s house. It’s really focused on interaction and the limitations of the man/technology relationship. Probably sounds pretentious, but it is what it is… haha. I’ve limited the inclusion of menu-divey and button-combo heavy modules for this reason. The level of module complexity that one is comfortable with is definitely one of the choices that new folks need to contemplate right away.

I love the Rings into Clouds into Beads, perfectly lit, fern and herbal tea, sit-back-and listen, ambient videos as much as anyone, but that approach isn’t authentic to who I am and what I want to say with music. I’m more of a gritty lo-fi mess full of mistakes and impulsive decisions. I think my rack reflects that. I encourage all the other noobs to think about what they ultimately want to express. Hopefully it’s not just about increasing social media follower counts, clicks, “content creation,” and “engagement” with the newest shiniest module. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but there are probably far cheaper ways of doing it. If that is your mode of authentic expression, I say, “Go for it! The more the merrier in modular land.”

So, anyway… here is my rack. I already have most of this, but still have about 104hp left to buy and fill. I may yet make a few small changes. In general, I’ve arranged sound sources and effects at the top, drums and modulation in the middle, and sequencing and mixing in the bottom. I have sprinkled some utilities throughout just because of my workflow, cable management, and where I would get the most use out of every module. I’ve been doing my best to incorporate interactive modules that encourage a live performance approach in the bottom row. The arrangement actually took quite a long time, multiple virtual and physical rearrangements, and finally makes sense to me based on my personal experience. @JimHowell1970’s post a few days ago really resonated with my personal experience of trying to create a playable instrument even as it grows to nearly unmanageable size. This is a never-ending process. Other things I’ve found: There is no good place to put Disting Mk4. It’s such a versatile and useful module, that I can never quite find the right place for it. Also, Doepfer is your friend when it comes to utilities (and most other things too)!

Please feel free to roast my rack, ask questions about modules or arrangement, or share your philosophy on creating music. To any other noobs reading this, above all have fun. This ain’t brain surgery.
Thanks for your time, and enjoy your weekend!
ModularGrid Rack


NOT ENOUGH UTILITIES!!!!

mantises 5 & 6 should be just utilities

408hp of matrix mixers, dc-coupled wavefolders and logic modules!

just kidding - but seriously what are you going to throw out to get a matrix mixer in there, farkas, huh, huh??

hahaha!!!!!


Gosh, that's amazing. I wouldn't know where to start. Hats off to you for creating such a beautiful constellation of modules. I have no idea even what most of those modules do. But no Beads? And no sample modules? You must be able to squeeze something in. I suppose the Disting mk2 can sample. For myself, I like the idea of sample modules in modular... it takes me back to Musique concrète... those were the days...


Haha. Man, I've had so many different iterations including a matrix mixer. Doepfer, AI, Future Sound Systems, Instruo... I can get a little of that from the Happy Nerding 3xMIA and I've considered adding another of those when they become available again. I think there is a shortage in the dual concentric pots.
But, yeah... I'm sort of avoiding too many utilities, logic modules, and such that discourage a hands on approach. That's why I've got a few mixers without VCAs. I like to pretend I'm Lee "Scratch" Perry mixing an incredible dub session. hahaha


Gosh, that's amazing. I wouldn't know where to start. Hats off to you for creating such a beautiful constellation of modules. I have no idea even what most of those modules do. But no Beads? And no sample modules? You must be able to squeeze something in. I suppose the Disting mk2 can sample. For myself, I like the idea of sample modules in modular... it takes me back to Musique concrète... those were the days...

-- ModLifeCrisis

Funny you mention that... I started off with a granular and sampling approach (Clouds, Radio Music, and Phonogene) for musique concrete style stuff, but didn't really enjoy working with samples. I have the Erica Sample Drum which can record and load samples, but I haven't really been using it in that way. And, I still get my glitch fix from the Data Bender.
I think sampling is an art form unto itself, and I'm just not passionate or skilled enough to join that world.


Haha. Man, I've had so many different iterations including a matrix mixer. Doepfer, AI, Future Sound Systems, Instruo... I can get a little of that from the Happy Nerding 3xMIA and I've considered adding another of those when they become available again. I think there is a shortage in the dual concentric pots.

well you did say roast!

shortages of everything - I swear I spent hours last night trying to find a electronics componenet dealer that had c0g capacitors and both lm6172 and cd4053 ics!!!

But, yeah... I'm sort of avoiding too many utilities, logic modules, and such that discourage a hands on approach. That's why I've got a few mixers without VCAs. I like to pretend I'm Lee "Scratch" Perry mixing an incredible dub session. hahaha
-- farkas

so you know that when they used to have to mix everything by hand - because they only had 2 hands - they had to get other people in to help move faders etc - get more utilities now I tell ya, might spare you from the corona!!! and there's a lot to be said for being able to be both a hands on and a hands off synthesist - and everything in between - with utilities, logic, vcas etc etc - you can choose to use them or not! without you don't get a choice

and you could play matrix mixers and vcas with your hands - just get the right ones - big chunky things with big knobs!!! - go on get a Doepfer Matrix Mixer, you know it makes sense!!!

at your stage of filled case - I'd be looking for the next case!


at your stage of filled case - I'd be looking for the next case!

-- JimHowell1970

I'm maxed out on space, so anything I decide to add means that something else has to go. The Blck_Noir and Panharmonium are the likely candidates to get replaced eventually, but I'm in no hurry. I'm still having so much fun with this setup.


maybe metalwork is the answer

get someone to build a bracket in steel that will angle 3 mantises like the doepfer stands

ok probably a prohibitively expensive solution - although you never know!

I know what you mean though - I need to move soon - so I have more space for cases (amongst other things!)


I know what you mean though - I need to move soon - so I have more space for cases (amongst other things!)

-- JimHowell1970

For real. It’s time for a new place. My lifetime collection of vinyl records already has its own bedroom, so I need to be really careful about taking up any more room than necessary in my current space. For my wife’s sanity! Haha


Nice rack @farkas, but where's the Akemie's Castle??


Nice rack @farkas, but where's the Akemie's Castle??
-- troux

Ha! You don't know how many times I have added both Akemie's Castle and Akemie's Taiko to this rack. Lol.
I've got 2-Op FM with the E352 and BIA is ultimately pretty similar to an FM percussion sound, so the ALM modules will have to wait for a little while. You've got that market cornered!


I don't believe in capitalist models of enforced scarcity @farkas, ALM Modules For All!


Haha. Amen to that!


Totally useless. For one thing, you need about 16 Distings...for starters. I would also consider adding about 372 hp of VCAs to this so that you've got enough VCAs, even if this happens to be too many VCAs. Lastly, I think OSHA regulations probably requires the following module: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/other-unknown-der-blinkenlights

EDIT: Oh, yeah...this also: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/d-machinery-event-horizon It gives you the "sound" that "all" the "kids" "want" to "hear" these "days".


Hi Farkas,

Wow you got a very nice rack there! :-) Some great choices of modules. I would love to have that Furthrrrr generator :-)

Sorry, I am a bit confused is this your final rack or is this what you have now and in April you are going to extend it?

I have the A-138m Doepfer Matrix module and I love it, it gives you some great flexibility, so just go for it :-)

With such a rack every weekend must be fantastic, so I wish you just yet another great weekend! Kind regards, Garfield.

For review reports of Eurorack modules, please refer to https://garfieldmodular.net/ for PDF formatted downloads

Lol. Who doesn't need more blinkenlights and VCAs?
As far as potential additions, I've got 20-some VCAs including the ones built-in to modules, but I would consider adding another quad or hex VCA just in case I decide to get weird with it some fine evening, and the Joranalogue comparator for some extra logic functions. Other than that, I'm at my blinkenlight limit. haha


+1 on the Joranalogue Comparator, to be sure! It's got windowing functions, which means you can extract multiple gates from a single inputted modulation signal, depending on the signal's state. There's only a couple like that in Eurorack; I myself use several Frederick Haer units for this (definitely NOT Eurorack) and they also have windowing...awesome for start/stop commands, logic tampering, and a bunch of other things (waveshaping! naaaaaaasty clipped-up pulsewaves!).


Hi Farkas,

Wow you got a very nice rack there! :-) Some great choices of modules. I would love to have that Furthrrrr generator :-)

Sorry, I am a bit confused is this your final rack or is this what you have now and in April you are going to extend it?

I have the A-138m Doepfer Matrix module and I love it, it gives you some great flexibility, so just go for it :-)

With such a rack every weekend must be fantastic, so I wish you just yet another great weekend! Kind regards, Garfield.
-- GarfieldModular

Thanks @GarfieldModular. The Furthrrr Generator is a fun module.
The rack pictured is my final plan. I have almost all of it currently, but still need to fill about 104hp of this plan. I'm still debating a few of the modules to include in that 104hp, but this should be fairly close to the final outcome.
Currently I have two Mantis cases and three Make Noise skiffs (so, 728hp filled). I will be swapping out the skiffs for two more Mantis cases in April or May, giving me 832hp.
I will be holding on to two of the skiffs as a portable live rig in case I decide to do some live performances. I have a friend in Leipzig who is encouraging me to play in some noise festivals or art shows in Germany when I visit again after COVID, so we'll see what happens.
Have a great weekend!


Alright... I caved in to peer pressure and included the Doepfer A138-m. I eliminated a few redundancies to squeeze it in.
This thing better make me sound like Daft Punk. Haha.


LOL


Farkas awesome rack.and thank you for suggestions for interactive controller modules in my thread.

i am thinking about selling my mantis case,as i just got a bigger case


Farkas awesome rack.and thank you for suggestions for interactive controller modules in my thread.

i am thinking about selling my mantis case,as i just got a bigger case
-- Broken-Form

Thanks @Broken-Form. I've had some fun making generative patches, but the interactive method is so much more attractive to me. Let us know which control modules you add to your rack. What kind of case did you decide to upgrade to?


Farkas awesome rack.and thank you for suggestions for interactive controller modules in my thread.

i am thinking about selling my mantis case,as i just got a bigger case
-- Broken-Form

Thanks @Broken-Form. I've had some fun making generative patches, but the interactive method is so much more attractive to me. Let us know which control modules you add to your rack. What kind of case did you decide to upgrade to?

-- farkas

i will,got alot of modules to check,i upgraded to acustom 13U travel case


@farkas this is a very interesting rack and post

question: you said "With Spotify and other data-collection companies actively stealing (or paying fractions of pennies for) the work and ideas of artists in order to create artificially intelligent generative music that sounds like those artists..." are there a couple key articles / videos you could point me to on this topic? The Mylarmelodies vid you mentioned is ~80 minutes long. Thought I'd just ask you where the good bits of info you've seen on this topic are

reactions to your rack:
-- looks awesome! It contains a lot of my "top pick" modules I consider most interesting. Having instruments that I find exciting, inspiring, that I want to come back to over and over -- that's a big deal. A mixture of sonic appeal and depth, physical beauty, kinesthetics, ease & fun of use but also challenge and depth, to me that makes a great instrument. Your rig has a lot of that vibe to me

-- I'm also new to modular but experienced in music and synthesis. I had asked some recent questions to the forum. JimH and Lugia got back to me with loads of useful recommendations. One Jim said that sticks out to me in this instance is basically "consider separating your drum modules from others." To me that seems helpful and I thought I'd pass it along. So maybe as you evolve your rack(s) you split rhythm from other?

-- what else might be useful in your evolving rack? I haven't scrubbed your rig design module by module, but at a glance, I might suggest:

** It's a big rack, so maybe sprinkling some more "utility / submix pods" in 2-3 spots around the rig could help. This could mean mults and low-HP mono and stereo mixers. While it doesn't sound sexy on the face of it, in effect it should allow for a huge range of parallel signal paths. I know you've already got some utilities sprinkled around; IMO a few additional submix pods could be interesting.

** More waveshapers!? To me those are a very exciting part of modular, esp when driven with deep modulation and/or audio rate. Also very neat is Instruo Tain, a switching utility that can be driven at audio rate. So like the OS2 scissor you have, but able to intake anything. My jaw dropped the first time I got that working. I'm not sure if Switchblade will work at audio rate, but I know Tain will. And today I spent some good time with Rossum Linneaus; it really changes my ideas of what a filter can be. Yes it can do the normal "removes spectral content" aspect of filtering, but it can also add a lot of content in interesting ways. To me Linneaus is a really interesting waveshaper. All these modules I'm mentioning essentially fit the category "what could come after an OSC but before final FX?" that would add interesting depth and flexibility to your already formidable rig.

** syncing audio rate modulators: I just learned about this recently, when reading the manual on Rossum Trident, and I'm SOO excited about the technique. Basically, if doing audio rate modulation, syncing the modulator to the carrier gives rock-solid pitch tracking (due to the sync) while you can get a huge range of timbral variety from the audio rate modulation, and even change the modulation depth without losing pitch tracking. If you haven't already spent time with this technique, I would recommend it, as it opens up a vast added dimension of timbral variety. It's the bees knees! The Trident literature explains this technique pretty fully, and I've verified the technique works in broader usage.

I hope at least some of these ideas above are interesting / helpful / fun.

Cheers!


Hi @nickgreenberg. Thanks for your thoughts here. Some great things to consider.
As far as the Spotify thing, BT's thoughts and experience with AI are presented in about the last 15 minutes of that podcast. I've read through a few things about Spotify's "Creator Technology Research Lab" but there isn't a whole to of good info on what exactly their goals are with generative music. I'm not sure if there are any academic papers on the topic and with Spotify being a private company, I'm sure they are keeping data, algorithms, and strategy pretty close to the vest. In general though, it seems like Spotify is a data company masquerading as a jukebox... and they get to keep the money. I can't say that I am a big fan of BT's music, but he definitely knows what he is talking about in regards to music technology and the future.

Regarding drum modules, I have a small subsection at the bottom left dedicated to drums and drum sequencing. I also incorporate an external drum machine here. I've been working more towards synthesizing my own percussion tones with the Patching Panda Punch v3 and low pass gates, and so it makes sense for my workflow to have a drum section integrated within the larger rack. Your recommendation of waveshapers/wavefolders will come in handy here. In fact, I have switched out a few modules since I initially posted the rack image above so I can include a wavfeolder. I haven't decide if I want an Intellijel or Instruo yet. I will definitely try the audio rate switching with the Switchblade. I still have some time to tweak my remaining 104hp before I commit to anything.

And finally, your recommendation for submixers is one that is essential for everyone (and especially noobs) to consider. I have pondered that exact question quite a bit and have ultimately decided to adhere to Jim's insistence over multiple threads that I add a larger matrix mixer (as opposed to smaller submixers). I reasoned that each level of submixing that I incorporate limits the amount of control I have over single sounds at the end of the signal path. If I submix drums, what happens if I decide I want to add reverb to a single snare hit or send just hi-hats to a delay? I could probably use a few more buffered mults, but I have a considerable amount of external passive mults, so signal splitting isn't much of a problem. From a performance perspective I reasoned that a dedicated mixing section worked for me. With the Toppobrillo, Erica Fusion and Drum Mixers, and the Doepfer matrix all in one area of the rack, I can perform with a dub approach that makes sense to me. I can also use the matrix mixer along with the 3xMIA to mix CV in interesting ways, so it seems like a winner. As much as I love the WMD Performance Mixer, I had not initially planned to go this big with the rack, and so I ended up with multiple mixers. I'm actually pretty happy with the feature set and sound quality of the mixing section I've cobbled together. I do have the Moffenzeef Moffenmix (not pictured here) that I can always add back in if I find a need for more mixers.

Thanks again for your thoughts. These are all very useful ideas to ponder.
Take care and enjoy your weekend.