An Introduction To Modular Synthesizers

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Episode 3 from the Inside Synthesis series is a basic introduction to modular synthesizers, using the Mattson Mini Modular synthesizer.

via insidesynthesis:

Correction #1 – I refer to modulating the amplitude of an audio signal with another audio rate signal as Ring Modulation (RM). I should have said Amplitude Modulation (AM).

RM is certainly related to AM, but there’s a distinct difference. RM is implemented in such a way that the carrier and modulator’s frequencies are eliminated from the signal. You only hear the sums and difference frequencies of the carrier and modulator, but not the original carrier and modulator frequencies.

Interestingly enough, the AC-coupled circuitry that does RM is ring shaped.

Correction #2 – Neither RM nor AM add harmonic frequencies. They add sidebands of inharmonic frequencies – hence the metallic and dissonant sound.


7 thoughts on “An Introduction To Modular Synthesizers

  1. That was very interesting, I watched the whole thing.

    So far, from watching various tutorials, the sounds created by ‘granular’ synths sound the most interesting to me, they seem to have the most ‘movement’ and they seem to be the most dynamic. To the extent I understand these ‘old style’ (non-granular) synths, they can re-create probably any specific sound a granular synth can generate, but unless an LFO can modulate the actual patches themselves and morph from one patch to another, I don’t think a non-granular synth can really duplicate the movement and dynamics of a granular machine. I would really like to have something simple like a Roland Gaia if it could do everything, but I don’t think the Gaia can get the same dynamic movement of sounds morphing from one to another that granular synths can achieve. But I’m going to keep watching these tutorials to try to learn more!

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    • Can any synth do everything?

      You wouldn’t see these rich guys with 50 synths if they could!

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    • The “old style” modulars can do granular synthesis … with the right module.
      Just listen to the Phonogene from Make Noise.

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      • You’re absolutely right, thank you for that recommendation!

        p.s. Have you ever read the Phonogene manual? That is an experience. I recommend taking a caffeine pill before hitting page one. Or maybe a whiskey. Or maybe a whiskey and a caffeine pill. But the manual sounds interesting. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of what the device might sound like or how the sound can be controlled and shaped rationally/musically, but the microsound stuff certainly seems to be granular synthesis. Thank you again for the recommendation.

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        • You write “the microsound stuff certainly seems to be granular synthesis”. Seems like you never read or even heard of THE book on granular (re-)synthesis: Microsound by Curtis Roads. If you like granular synthesis, then perhaps you will at least have heard some compositions by Mr. Roads. And yes, it seems quite impossible to use granular stuff musically, at least in a fashion consistent with playing an instrument (which I like about old time modulars and other types of digital synthesis): You can play the sounds you get and even shaping the sounds can be done in a manner that feels like playing an instrument. Which, to me, is much more satisfying at the end of the day than the most beautiful theory (not that mathematical/physical theories can not be satisfying in their own right, mind you).

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