One of the most common questions people new to synthesis ask is “What books offer a good introduction to modular synthesis?”
Until recently, the answer has been Welsh’s Synthesizer Cookbook or Electronic Music Systems, Techniques, And Controls By Allen Strange. While these are excellent resources, they predate the renaissance of modular synthesis and the explosion of affordable Eurorack systems. As a result, these and other classic tomes don’t offer the kind of concise and clear introduction to synthesis that meets the needs of today’s modular synthesists.
Fortunately, that’s starting to change, and an excellent example of this is a new book for Eurorack beginners, Modular Sound Synthesis On the Moon, by authors Tulpa Dusha (Anna Martinova) & Pete Johnston. Martinova is a sound artist from the Netherlands and Johnston is sound designer/technician and composer from the UK.
Modular Sound Synthesis On the Moon is a deep, hands-on introduction to modular synthesis. The book is a project of Modular Moon, a modular synthesis school located in Amsterdam. The book presents the School’s curriculum in printed form. But, while the book originated as a teaching aid for the class, it’s been expanded to be a tool for learning synthesis, a reference book and a gorgeous general introduction to Euroack modular systems.
Modular Sound Synthesis On the Moon is thoughtfully organized, starting with an introduction to modular synthesis and Eurorack systems; moving on to exploring the sounds of modular systems and an in-depth look into standard modules; going deeper into techniques of control and types of synthesis; introducing recording and live performance; and looking at related topics, like synth DIY and building a personal modular system.
Throughout, the book is profusely and beautifully illustrated. Just about every two-page spread includes diagrams showing the building-blocks of synth patches, patch examples, photos of gear or electronic music inspired artwork:
Purchasers also have access to an online tool, The Platform, that expands on each chapter of the book with videos, patch examples and other materials.
At Modular Moon, the idea was that you’d use this book as a text along with a small Eurorack modular synthesizer, the ‘Given System’. The book provides an extensive set of patch diagrams that demonstrate various synthesis topics and techniques with this system.
To get the most out of this book, you’d want to have access to the system outlined in the book. Fortunately, the Given System is made up of many of the most common modules found in modular systems – VCO, VCA, VCF, ADSR EG, Sequencer, etc.
If you’re completely new to modulars, though, you may not have these modules in your system and it could easily be impractical to buy the modules featured in the book. It would be great if future editions of the book could be updated to offer an introduction to Eurorack that was less tied to a specific hardware system.
One option would be to provide some discussion about how the concepts underlying a Doepfer VCO, for example, can be generalized to just about any VCO.
Another option would be to provide a version of the Given System in VCV Rack form. Rack is free, open source and multi-platform, so it could be a great option for making the book’s examples accessible to just about anyone.
Modular Sound Synthesis On the Moon is one of the best introductions to modular synthesis and Eurorack systems that we’ve seen, especially if you can work along with the patch examples provided in the book, as was originally intended.
Pricing and Availability:
Modular Sound Synthesis On the Moon is available for €60.00 via Modular Moon. See the book site for details on shipping and handling fees, along with VAT, where relevant.