SC vs Modular Synths (Eurorack)


#1

Hi, gentle People of SC!

I hope this question of mine does’nt sound naive or worse :slight_smile:

I got first hooked to Electronic Music thanks to DAWs, until I’ve come into SC (oh, happy day!!!) which I’m still learning and studying (BTW, to discover this forum was a major breakthrough as well!).

Ever since I’ve heard about modular synths, I’ve been strangely attracted… I was very fascinated by all those knobs, cursors, coloured cables, and most of all, the amazing sounds that came from it all…

In these last days, my curiosity grew so strong that I went to a local store to have a closer look and I’m seriously thinking about going for it (I mean, buying a €1000,00 worth gear, oscillator, enveloper, filter and a few more things).

But, since I don’t like to through money away, I would like to ask you guys a question :

Do I get something from Eurorack modules that I would NEVER get from SC?

Is there something that Eurorack modules can do that SC CANNOT do?

So, in a few words, do I really need to buy Eurorack modules in order to obtain certain effects, sounds and bleeps I would never get any other way?

Thanks in advance for your kind answers/opinions, hoping that I didn’t put too silly of a question (this is my first post here!).

Cheers!!!

kriyananda


#2

Hi kriyananda

I totally understand your fascination with modular synths. I don’t have any as they’re simply too expensive, although I do have a couple of synths: Prophet, Roland SH101, PolyEvolver.

Your question asks, “SC vs Modular Synths”, of which I’d have to say the answer really depends on what you want to do with synths or modules! I’d suggest before spending your money, trying out a modular set-up with https://vcvrack.com. You’ll at least get a feel (for free) of how modular works, and some of the pros and cons too.


#3

dear joesh, many thanks for your prompt reply!!!

and, yes, I’ve been playing around with VCV a few hours last year. I was fascinated indeed, even though, watching an introductional video to Modular synths, the guy said that “VCV is very different from real hardware Mod. Synths”.

Well, I’m quite sure that real “maniacs” would insist that they are indeed (but this can be said for real and ‘fake’ Harley Davidson bikes, real and fake Fenders, real and fake Grandpianos…), but it would be really useful to hear the opinion of somebody with some experience ‘on the field’.

I was quite surprise when the guy back at the synth store admitted that you can reproduce on Max whatever you do with mod synth.

Though I appreciated his honesty, I don’t know whether this is true or almost true…

… anyway, yes, on VCV rack you can find even reproduction of real, commercial modules.

Thank you very much for you reply, once again! :slight_smile:


#4

Well, I hesitated to say the same thing (as the guy in the shop). I think what’s most important is to work out what you’re going to do. I went for SC (after using PD) and hardware synths, as I mentioned, because I’m interested in harmony, even if often quite abstract.

As for SC I like:

  • The control you can have over your sound
  • The never-ending possibilities of SC
  • The possibility to combine ideas/compositions and organise them as needed, and change them on the fly too.
  • Iteration
  • I can control my hardware synths with SC, or vice-versa
  • Transportable

And the list goes on…

Anyhow, if you buy some modules give us some feed back.


#5

Well, I hope I can get my hands on that gear soon!

I hope it’s ok to post a link from YT :slight_smile:

Well, there would be thousands of things to say about this video; one question comes first, to me :

how to reproduce on SC that crazy drum breaks variations?

Is it something you can automate with the same degree of randomness/coolness? :slight_smile:

I hope this is not considered OFF TOPIC anyway.

Ciao,

kriyananda


#6

Analog oscillators produce slightly different waveforms from SC’s all-digital oscillators.

Use VCV Rack’s scope and you’ll see.

hjh


#7

Yep, I can easily imagine that one major aspect in the “SC vs ModSynhts” dispute, if there’s one, is the quality of sound; analog produced sounds are often referred to as ‘warmer’ and ‘richer’ sounds.

My main concern is to try and understand if one can reproduce all the incredible, crazy whistles and bells eurorack modules seem to have.

Thanks for your kind reply :slight_smile:

k


#8

In short, yes, but you’d have to build them - you can easily produce bell sounds, crazy whistles, glitchy and more.

Hope that helps - joesh


#9

In my experience, complexity comes much much faster than one expects when you’re combining things in modular ways (this applies to either software OR hardware). I sometimes find videos like that a little deceptive because it implies that complexity / richness / etc. is linearly related to the number of modules / components / synths / etc - if you add one more module, you get one extra sound or increase of complexity.

This is absolutely not the case: almost always, if you’re combining things carefully, every component you add is a multiplier. Often when I’ve seen people walk through their modular setups, there are two or three components (in combination) that are producing the majority of the interesting material, and everything else is making that material controllable and playable. It’s hard to hear a finished thing (like that video) and imagine it broken into component parts (that’s the cool thing about modular!) - but a bottom-up approach of combining modular elements, rather than a top-down approach of starting with an explicit goal in mind, is always more productive for me.

Much of the “controllability” part (enveloping, sequencing, LFO’s, etc) can be done in SuperCollider with beginner-level knowledge. A lot of the “interesting material” part can be done with SC also, but that can be a little harder to achieve. Buying even a single synth or powerful module (something like the Ø-coast is a good example) can be a good way to jump-start the “interesting material” part of the process without having to go too deep on the SuperCollider synthesis side… and, it can be very productive to engage with something as a black box versus something you have to understand every part of (usually the case with code).

Is it something you can automate with the same degree of randomness/coolness?

This is me messing around with ~200 lines of code - one Synth that’s about 100, and another 100 lines of pattern stuff chained together. I think there’s a pretty good amount of randomness, complexity, and sound variety for something that I more or less let run, and changed a parameter every minute or two. As for coolness, up to the audience :slight_smile:


#10

well, I’ve listened to your music from beginning to the end; I’ve enjoyed every second of it.

I’m IMPRESSED! And yes, what you say is absolutely correct and makes perfect sense… thank you very much my friend, I’ll take your words as a precious advice :wink:

k


#11

Nice music (Scott)!

I hadn’t thought to post anything musical, but as Scott says, you can do a lot in a few lines of code. You asked about clicks and more, so here’s an example from my stuff - work in progress - where I’m using clicks and minimal code, even less then Scott’s, maybe 30 lines of code, a few samples, and that’s about it - all of which I change whilst playing.


#12

really good breakcore / drill-‘n’-bass drumming has two very important sides to it: the sound design and the sequencing. the original producers of these genres all used heavily sample-based production workflows done by accumulating tons of little percussive samples and breakbeats and sequencing them manually. if you want to produce this kind of music in the traditional way it was done in the 90’s and 2000’s, get yourself octaMED or renoise. or even just load a bunch of samples in a traditional DAW! rumor has it that this album was programmed manually in FL studio (in 2003, no less!):

the music is complex, but the tech is simple: it’s samples, sequenced by hand. these artists just have an ear for rhythm, lots of attention to detail, and an absurd amount of patience :smiley:

so you really don’t need a modular or SuperCollider to make this kind of music. venetian snares didn’t — he used octamed and renoise for most of his career. however, that gradually changed during his later work, and he slowly started replacing his setup with a eurorack system. luckily for us snares fans, aaron funk has been kind enough to discuss some the equipment that he uses. two interesting ones:

they’re pretty straightforward, and not hard to make in SC. “magnificent stumble v2” is a beautiful track not because of any magic exclusive to eurorack, but because it’s made by a skilled producer who knows how to work with his tools. you can make cool drums with eurorack, or with SC, or with ableton live, or with octamed, or with audacity. you’ll get different results with all of them, because they all inspire different workflows. try them all, find your favorite!

finally, since we’re sharing sounds in this thread, here is an old sketch i made. i’m not claiming it’s anywhere near as good as squarepusher or ruby my dear, but it was fun to make at least


#13

wow joesh!!! This sounds so exciting, I’m hypnotized!
If it’s about 30 lines of code, then SC must be really powerful and effective as I thought… thank you so much indeed. Without asking you to share your code, can you just suggest a blueprint of what it’s going on there?

Thank you anyway… this forum is a minegold of good ideas and advices! :+1:


#14

Hi nathan, thanx for your deep answer; yes, I am profoundly convinced that it’s NOT about the stuff and gear you surround yourself with…

These Blessed Guys would be able to compose sick stuff even with a rusty spoon and a few rubberbands.

To be honest, I am true to this opinion of mine and, while I finally put together the budget I needed to buy modular synths, I’m not convinced to buy it, since as you wisely suggest, it’s all about having good ideas.

When you have a good inspiration, gear CAN help to lay it down more quickly and/or easily, but there’s no Magic Machine that money can buy to compose and arrange and perform good music in your place.

What about your piece (I really like it, OMG!)???

Was it made with SC? you do employ samples, don’t you?

Any hint?

Thanx for Xanapticon, I didn’t know him, he’s cool!!! :slight_smile:


#15

glad you enjoyed! the sketch was made in about 130 lines of SC with no samples. the synthesis is simple – mostly FM except for filtered noise + sine wave for snare, subtractive for the acid bassline thingy.

for sequencing, i made a really simple text-based “micro-tracker” where each beat is one character. k = kick, s = snare, g = glitch, etc. and beats are written as e.g. k...ggggs...gggg. this is written as a string, and the code for the piece parses this and turns it into a Pbind. in the process the synth parameters are heavily randomized.

(PS: i’m realizing now that my previous post is a bit condescending and sort of implicitly assumes you aren’t aware of the history of how this music was produced, if i was wrong in that assumption then my apologies!)


#16

hi nathan, that method of yours of creating a “micro-tracker” is just genial, it’s really functional and logical.

Don’t apologise for your previous post : it was really inspiring and, besides that, yes, I’m a newbie, I come from a completely different genre of music and everything is quite new to me; and, besides that, even if you wrote a few things I’ve already heard of, as my ancestors said “repetita juvat”.

thanx!!! :slight_smile:
k


#17

Hi, thanks for listening, glad you enjoyed it. And as I’d agree with Nathan, that much of what you hear from others is just hours of trail and error, and a good musical sense. Like Nathan mentioned DAWs are another possibility. I’ve spent a few hours building glitchy drum tracks, but using Reaper - the last one was built using sounds from the metro, hissing doors and announcements.

As for my code, I have to admit I lost the original (made back in 2016), but I just had a quick look at some sketches I still have. My code is often a bit messy, and now I see it I think I exaggerated a bit on 30 lines (:roll_eyes:), but there’s not so much. The blippy drum clicks are made by sending signals through either CombC, or in another case using Pulse and sending it through a RHPF filter, and really messing around by trial and error with the bandwidth. The rest is like Nathan said, using Pbinds and randomness, which always gives you some interesting sounds which you can either leave, or try to find ‘the’ right sound. By the way, the drone in my piece is very simple, it’s just a sampled gong played backwards in a loop (using BufPlay), but played at different speeds and overlapped (4x).

It’s also great to read Nathan’s idea, I really liked the piece. It made me think of Autechre’s stuff, very glitchy. I also like the idea of making the micro tracker, gives one food for thought, eh! In fact - whilst I think about it - there’s an interesting pattern called Psym (look up the help file), which if you play the examples you’ll notice how one can use letters (symbols) in your patterns. If, as Nathan suggested, you give each sample a letter … !

It sums SC up really, its endless.


#18

joesh dear, of course I enjoyed it!

As we said before, DAW, trackers, modular synths and SC are just tools through which we try to convey our ideas…

Your use of reversed samples at different speeds is ingenious and the outcome sounds effective indeed!

Never heard about Psym but, hey, this is the good things of sharing our personal experiences… that’s simply a great discover for me… now I’m reading the help files to learn more about this.

Thanx!!! :wink:
k


#19

Kryananda, firstly, no laughing, but I’ve just listened to Blip 3 and realised - in my earlier post - I’m talking about another piece (ouch), when talking about the gongs. But the blippy/beeping drums are still the same.

Apart from synth melodies (often made using SinOsc), the other sounds are piano notes played randomly backwards, forwards, different speeds, pitches and the lot. I spent an afternoon at work - I’m a music teacher - meticulously recording each note on the piano, and then cleaning them up (on audacity). The result being I now have a great file built up of all sorts of piano sounds, hits, scrapes and all - they’re up on Freesound.org. The rest of the effects in there I’ve forgotten what they were?!

So, what I’ve learned from your post is that I need to be more organised in saving my code in the right places, and not making endless changes. I can’t find Blip 3, which sounds much more interesting than the Blip 2 (no joking) - the one I was talking about with gongs! As you might guess, I’m off to clean up my SC folder on my computer!


#20

Since we’re talking about modular-inspired working methods – I have a couple of projects that are relevant.

JITModular it makes it easier to use JITLib NodeProxies as synth modules. It was hard (the JIT part was easy; saving/restoring, and buffer/MIDI management were hard) and I had to do some hacky things to get there, but I can now experiment with different oscillators, filters, other processors, swapping them in and out dynamically, and saving the whole thing to disk to be restored later. After that, it does take a little work to copy the pieces into a unified SynthDef, but overall it saves me time because I can test out small changes to the graph by just switching out one module. https://github.com/jamshark70/JITModular

Unfortunately I haven’t had time to write complete documentation … but maybe try it out and ask questions on the forum.

p = JITModPatch.new;

… and then, in the code window, create ~module = { ... synthesis ... }. A module can have an audio input by writing JMInput.ar, and then you supply a signal to it by writing ~source <>> ~target.

For example, I just made a synth with a gapped wavetable oscillator (with layered detuning) --> HPF/LPF pair acting like a band pass filter --> Shaper adding higher harmonics --> reverb. At each stage, I could play with it to get the sound right. Then rewrite as a SynthDef, add a slow envelope, sequence it, and New Age magic:

hjh