I think I might've suggested this before, but we seem to have a pretty solid set of starting advice, to the effect of:

1) Get a quad cascading VCA
2) Get a Links and a Kinks
3) Aim for 1/3 utility modules
4) Get one of the numerous DUSG knockoffs (Maths, Rampage, a real DUSG, etc)
5) To start slow, add one sound source, one filter, and one effect (e.g. Dixie/STO/Plaits, Polaris/QPAS/Ripples, FX Aid/Morphogene)
6) Pick a reasonably priced 6U 208HP case (Mantis or something similar)

I'm probably missing a few things but if we had a sticky thread with these ideas collated I think it'd help speed up people's journey a bit. What's everyone else think?

“These three cool modules + Pam’s New Workout is not a working modular synth”

But more serious, not sure if some manual, or written guide is stronger than any of those sexy minimal Modular Synth YouTube videos.

Yes lol, also you made me think of another one that @JimHowell1970 always says "Make sure you can modulate the modulators."

and to quote myself
"Utilities are the inexpensive, dull polish that makes the shiny, expensive modules actually shine and stops them tarnishing!"

And of course, the point that once you think the modular is finally DONE...it's not.

Not directly quoting Jim, but agreeing 100% with him on reading manuals. Ideally BEFORE buying any module, and even more ideally reading a few different modules for each function before picking one.
It hurts to see some youtubers actually brag about not being "manual-reading types", like it's a cool trait.

I am happy to sticky any good post!

Beep, Bopp, Bleep: info@modulargrid.net

Not directly quoting Jim
-- Mazz

you can quote me anytime - RTFM!

Not reading the manual works fine with prebuilt synths, I should note...in fact, Brian Eno has long advocated for the "switch it on and see what it can do" approach. But with MODULAR...there's just too much that can go wrong, malfunction, blow up (unkeyed bus header funtime!), or kick you back several feet when the screwdriver slips a millimeter. And aside of the obvious hazards, not every function works the same on every module. Not reading the manuals for modules, especially when something seems unclear without their counsel, is just plain 100% dumb AF.

Even after 40+ years, I know that you just DON'T DO THAT. But then, I'm also comfy working with amateur radio gear that won't merely bounce you around the room when you touch the wrong thing...it'll just outright KILL YOU.

@modulargrid I'll refine all of the above into a post and drop the draft here. If everyone is still onboard at that point I can make a new thread and we can sticky it!

@troux, good idea. I do tend to see similar feedback in a lot of the "rack feedback" requests.

In addition to the ideas above, how about adding in some of the following:

a) write out your vision for your modular synth. What do you want it to be great at? It's okay if this is vague to begin with, but the clearer the vision, the more coherent the modular design will be (e.g. more fun, more good sounds, less frustration and waste).

b) consider how big a modular case you would likely get. Next, consider a larger case! Ideally, plan to leave 25-50% open space in your first case so you can add additional modules as you learn your needs and interests better.

c) consider your $s budget for modular. Is modular a better option for you versus other music items (e.g. software or hardware synths, grooveboxes, etc.)? While modular is great at many things, it can be an inferior alternative in some situations.

d) plan your first (or next) modular rig. Start by thinking about proportions of modules: a useful guideline (courtesy of JimHowell1970) is "sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities." A rig with good proportions of modules will tend to seem balanced and deep (for its size); a rig with skewed proportions will tend to seem unbalanced and limited (for its size).

e) pick some modules! A balance to keep in mind is "inspiration / working instrument / going slow". Something has led you to modular -- make sure at least some modules embodying that "inspiration" appear in your rig. "Complete working instrument" -- if you buy a hardware or software synth, most of the time it arrives as a fulling working instrument, essentially complete on its own for some musical task. With modular, there is a risk of missing an important module type, and severely limiting the rig so that it is not as much a complete working instrument as a VST or hardware counterpart may be. Consider all the modular functions you need to accomplish your main musical tasks, and include those in your draft rig. Lastly, there is the longstanding advice among modular synthesists to "go slow," namely get modules one or few at a time and learn them very very well before adding new modules. Keeping inspiration in your rig, designing a rig that is a working instrument, and going slow enough to learn your incremental new module are somewhat contrary guidelines -- with some consideration, you can find the balance right for your rig.

f) consider some "no regrets" or "tried and true" modules if you're a beginner. These can include [to insert list from across thread above].

g) use tools like Modular Grid and/or VCVrack to test your rack designs. There is a large modular community and other modular users routinely help each other start or extend their modular journey!

h) dive in, take time to learn and explore your rig, and enjoy!

IMO maybe some of the above is helpful broader advice to include in a primer for new folks. Feel free to keep / toss / update / recombine any of it as you see fit.



Lots of good ideas there @nickgreenberg, will definitely add some of that in!

Hi Troux, All,

How about "Get started with at least a monster case of say 3 * 168 HP" ? ;-)

Most of it has been said already indeed. Perhaps pointing out to the very basics of (modular) synthesizer as well? Like you need at least: 2 oscillators, 1 or 2 filters, VCAs you mentioned already, 2 LFOs, 2 EGs, etcetera. Before even thinking about "sexy looking modules".

If you need that picture that I made of all those functionality stuff, you are welcome to use that link to that picture, no problem.

Good luck with it and I think it's indeed to have one of such posts stickied here in the Racks section. Kind regards, Garfield.

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