An Introduction To Modular Synthesizers

This series of videos features Roger Arrick offering an introduction to modular synthesis.

Arrick is the founder of Synthesizers.com, which makes 5U modules, inspired by classic Bob Moog designs. Arrick’s discussion is a good introduction to the basics of working with Moog-style modular synths, and many of the concepts will apply to any modular synth.

In the series, Arrick discusses voltage control, pitch and gate controls, envelopes, modulation, waveforms and creating synth patches.

10 thoughts on “An Introduction To Modular Synthesizers

  1. I wish that I could afford a big 5U modular system. I’ve been waiting for my local furniture store to throw one in when you buy a bedroom set.

    Thumb up 10
    1. Synthesizers.com offers an Entry System where you add modules over time.

      Great company, great synth modules.

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  2. Good intro, Roger. Pardon my hot air for bit, but he triggered it! I started as a keyboard *player* and that’s where I come from, despite having enjoyed a lot of varied gear. That causes me to see patching a modular as too fussy and time-consuming. I have the notes in mind too much to spend THAT much time “looking for” a sound. It can and often does take up your whole day, until and unless you become Tomita- or Cossini-level efficient. The seductiveness of the Busy Box effect can pull you too much towards sounds and not enough towards the notes. Its fairly easy to get a noise, less so to apply it. Don’t think I’m not awed by the good stuff, either, because I sure am. I’d like to understand the appeal of modulars better, but the results too often lack enough of an organic feel. That’s what makes Omnisphere so impressive: electronics PLUS acoustic resources = best of both. So plan carefully as you go. That can be uncertain when you are still exploring in general, but having been there, I also know it dovetails at various points and you begin to Get It better. My advice: look at any new synth as a potential 10-year investment. That asks a lot of a throwaway world like ours, but its legit. “Modular” fits all synths in terms of signal flow, so do you want it at hand with cords or inside your head, as it is with a slab synth? Here’s a tip: try both. I had a key moment with a synth bro years back, where we melded rigs for a project. I had two 5-octave slabs + MiniMoog; he had a Korg MS-20, an Oberheim SEM, an ARP 2600 + Sequencer and a wad of trigger inverters. We had a lot of happy accidents, heh. One thing gained is how we saw where we each leaned individually, so the music was good, but so was the comparison in work style. Don’t let external labels sway you too much. Dabble broadly enough to make up your own mind. It’ll take some money and you’ll have setbacks. Its called learning. Anyway, guys like Roger do a great service in taking the mystery out of that crucial introductory phase. If you go there, buy some of HIS modules. They have a good rep for a reason. Way better than crack, isn’t it? 😛

    Thumb up 11
  3. When will see an analogue modular system with memories? I look forward to that day, and one without patch chords as I think they obscure the panels . I have thirty years synth experience and have always thought they where vanity products rather than useful. I am still of that opinion but I know they sound ok but no better than smaller analogues.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
    1. It’s surprising that, with thirty years of synth experience, you’re not aware of the modular synths that have patch memory, the hardware analogs that have modular architectures, and that you’d consider a fine instrument a ‘vanity product’.

      Have you considered the possibility that a more basic synth meets your needs and that your needs may be more basic than others?

      Thumb up 8
  4. great video Roger!! keep them coming .. the cost of a 5u system is not more expensive than a eurorack setup … the build quality is way better with 5u and you have more room to work with

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  5. would anyone know something similr to this series but talking about how to actually build and the technical electronic side of synthesizers? i’m starting to design some modules to build but i have no idea what the standards are for modulars like eurorack and such… and im not too familiar with stuff like enveloppe generators and such… anyone know of a good online tutorial to learn the electronics side to synthesis? thanks a lot

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  6. I wish I had this 2 months ago when I got my 5U Mos-Lab system. There is hardly any information out there on how to use a modular synth. I am ready for some intermediate tutorials now! I ran out of patch cables and had to order some more. That tells me I am ready :]

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *