It's easy to get drowned into the 'mare modulae'. In a pinch, you imagine a system that will take dozens of modules and require tons of space and money, with little purpose.
So it's important to remind the fundamentals :
- start small.
- some sort of a plan is necessary.
I intend to go one step at a time, at a steady pace; leapfrogging from stable state to another stable state to have some fun and learn at each phase.
With a modular synth, I believe it's a good idea to start planning with the type of sounds you have in mind.
I tried to imagine my first patches. How many modulation sources will I need to achieve a fluid ambient patch ? How many mixer tracks for a drum machine ? Do I need to input a guitar into my FX setup ? What could be the minimal viable system that permits me to achieve my goal ?
My plan for a modular synthesizer came after I made some rough sketches about two simple synthesizers I thought I could build as first Synth DIY projects.
At first, I wanted to build a noise machine, with some whizz, some bangs, some crsssshh. Something different from the sound of my Anushri. I intended to build it all with the help of the schematic from the Yusynth project. I wasn't too sure of my ability to tune a VCO though. So I was happy that this project didn't involve tuned VCO. The main sound source was a noise generator, plus a couple of VC-LFO that could eventually extend to audible range.
|Early sketch of the noise box|
Then, I thought I could build after that a basic synth with roughly the same sound architecture as a Roland SH-101. Nothing revolutionary. But I would have built it myself, once again thanks to the resources from the Yusynth project.
|Is it really simple ?|
When I saw that both projects shared the same basic functions, I decided to merge them in a single modular synth. The Eurorack format seems the most practical and has a great community. I settled for 2x 84HP rows, partially because Doepfer sells a simple kit to start with.
So here we are.
I'm still not very confident to build and tune a complete VCO, plus I needed a good example of Eurorack module to serve as mechanical reference. I chose a Doepfer A110-1 Standard VCO as my first and main VCO.
To bootstrap myself on the basic synth voice, I picked a Doepfer DIY synth. The assembled board has all the necessary functions : VCO-VCF-VCA + Enveloppe generator & LFO. I intend to fit it in a semi-modular 42HP module.
|The Doepfer boys chilling on the bench.|
Time to think about something to build from scratch.
I'll give a go at the Sample&Hold/Random module from Yusynth (for the noise source).
Regarding effects, I want to try mounting regular guitar pedal kits into Eurorack format.
Finally, I plan some utilities (multiples, inputs, outputs, inverters, …) in a 2U space between the two rows.
And as a starter, a simple module : a basic audio/CV mixer.
|Early case sketches|
I wanted to experiment by making the case myself as well. After having sketched several versions of angular cases : 30°-45°-60°, 0°-30°-60°, etc… , I finally decided to keep it simple and have a basic 8U box.
|Basic plan of the basic 8U case|
White modules are in the making. They constitute the minimal viable synth depicted above. When I'll be there, we'll see. Greyed out modules are envisaged later on, depending on what I feel is missing.
I'll still need some kind of controller or sequencer though. A Korg SQ-1 or an Arturia Beatstep maybe.
Mmmh let's dive into more demo video....