20 Ways To Get More From Your Synth Gear

Ziv Eliraz, better known as Loopop, has released a new video, a comprehensive walk-through of “what a matrix synth and drum machine would look like”:

The synthesist and video producer explains: “The idea is to build a setup where you can pull out and replace an individual component (sequencer, synth, effect pedal, etc) without the need to rewire the entire setup, and in addition, that you can quick build new audio and MIDI routes without plugging or unplugging a single cable.”

The setup in the video is based on MRCC by Conductive Labs and Matrix Mixer by Erica Synths, but it also discusses patch bays and other alternative products.

Eliraz has a copious library of instructional, review and demo videos on his Loopop YouTube channel.

18 thoughts on “20 Ways To Get More From Your Synth Gear

  1. welcome to the worst workflow of the world.
    these days I just reload my in the box projects and they come back as I saved them. 🙂
    good luck coming back to what you did 3 weeks ago with that kind of weirdo setup. 😉

    1. It literally says on the Matrix Mixer what’s what. The whole point of the video is how you can make sense out of a lot of gear with that device.

        1. My patchbay is completed labeled. My Squarp Pyramid sends Program Changes at the start of every project. Each patch on every synth is named after the project it is used in, even if it’s a duplicate of another patch being reused.

          For people who want to work out-of-the-box, there are strategies for making it basically just the same as loading a DAW project file.

          I dunno. Doesn’t seem hard to me, and I still get the joy of not having other distractions, waiting for machine/software updates, etc.

          The only part that really requires any note-taking is how the effects are routed and set, but I’ve slowly been finding “Defaults” for my effect routing anyhow so that won’t be an issue much longer.

    2. Well, reloading computer projects doesn’t always work out, though i suppose at least you have a chance, unlike this setup. It’s just a different way of working. Not everybody needs to preserve their projects in perfect workable states over a long term.

    3. Wow good for you!!! *applause*
      I think I speak for everyone when I say that you bring so much to the comment section here, every reply so helpful and thoughtful and, most importantly, interesting!
      Just…thank you for being you.

    4. Looks like a mess, sure, but an inspiring one that puts a smile on my face. And not everyone wants the ability to recall what they did three weeks ago – for some it’s about constant evolution, and surprise.

      1. I had a setup like that 30 years ago, with 3 patchbays … and a little book to write down things and make photos of stuff unsavable.
        it was an unproductive nightmare.
        you cant work on this project until you cant hear it anymore, work on some other project and return to the first one again.
        If you cant recreate what you did, its not evolution, its a mutant mess.
        but what do I know 😉

        1. Haha I can totally imagine the cognitive dissonance working with this system which is designed to keep you in the flow being a nightmare to try and document carefully into a workable track. Trying to recall it later is another layer of analytical mindfunk. Not exactly ‘flow’! But theres something to the immediacy of the sound shaping that I just can’t discount, however impractical.

        2. You could just do what i used to do and record an hour of jam and chop it into bits and call it artist_name LIVE and just have the rough mix be part of your “art”, wink.

          1. Hm, I’m a slow worker
            I do something, the next day I listen to it again and realize the snare sound doesn’t work and the melodic parts are cheesy, and there is to much reverb on it.
            I can fix that in a minute without having to think about it. 🙂

            1. waking up and realizing something has too much reverb is a universal feeling i’m sure. It’s a part of living a full life. You could just set a rule to forbid yourself from using a reverb after 9pm. Or you could just hire somebody to put the fader somewhere reasonable. I think we could all use a buddy sometimes.

    5. If you finish your composition arrangement and recording in the first session there’s not a big reason to come back to it, and from my personal experience this type of workflow gets me there. I can go from idea to finished product in a couple hours and never have any need to come back to it afterwards. Isn’t that the goal here?

  2. I’m an ITB player too, but its like synths themselves; there are several different paths you can take, some of them hybrids. Even Peter Baumann admitted that sometimes T-Dream would kick back and let the sequencers roll while they tweaked, leading to some then-unique results. I think you lose focus if you have too big a stack of anything, but if its like this rig, it becomes its own modular venture, which may be just right for you.

    Synthesizers are the adult version of a kid’s Busy Box, for keeping toddlers quieter on road trips.

  3. Props to Loopop for experimenting with a different workflow. I hope he is happy with it. I have the Matrix Mixer, but use it primarily with my eurorack. It’s great for recalling routings I may need at a later date to speed up my workflow. That said, I achieve what he is trying to do a bit more elegantly ITB with MOTU AVB. The matrix routing is great. I have a large studio with 60 plus synths and 16 channels of ADAT dedicated to Eurorack. I’m using all 120 inputs. I can save preset routings and labels, which are saved in the hardware unit itself, I presume. I had to nuke Windows at one point, and was pleasantly surprised that all previously saved presets were there waiting for me a few hours later. I can route any synth to any other synth without unplugging anything, although I do make use of the same patchbay for pedals and small children. I personally cannot imagine going back to a more static set up, but it did come at a hefty price. That said, I am able to work this way, because I do not have an aversion to working with a DAW, and am in no way attracted to the novelty of working without one.

  4. I recently acquired my Cirklon after 4+ years of waiting, and I gotta say it’s a wonderful solution for the midi end of things.

    Regarding the endless and legitimate OTB v ITB debate, I’d argue that both are entirely valid options with different pros/cons.

    For me, writing ITB has never felt particularly rewarding. Perhaps it’s because I come from a traditional band background, but when I’m working entirely ITB nothing feels tangible or real, and that tends to push me too far from the emotional content of the work. I say this as someone that’s made multiple records I really enjoy using this technique, but it became increasingly difficult to stay in the zone. Additionally I found I spent far too much time LOOKING at my music rather than hearing it. Combine that with the ongoing updates, distraction of other applications, and just constantly staring at a screen. and it eventually felt more like working on a spreadsheet than writing tunes.

    That said, trying to mix or edit in an OTB environment is it’s own special hell. Back before solid state drives and when I played in punk rock clubs I had no faith using a computer live, so I’d bounce my ITB work down to something like an Octatrack. What. A. NIGHTMARE. Getting levels consistent, sequencing previously created material, sorting out clicks for the drummer, trying to rebalance sound for the room. Awful.

    But for me, the worst option was trying to use both worlds at the same time. Props to all you out there that have managed to consistently run a hybrid environment, but dealing with sync, routing, mixing, recording…not a good experience for me. I spent far more time troubleshooting than creating.

    So now I’ve got a setup that really works for me by keeping the writing and editing phases distinct. I use my OTB tools to create loops, soundscapes, patterns, beats, you name it. I run it into a mixer and listen to it through my monitors. When I get enough stuff going that excites me, I record direct outputs from the sources and record the direct outputs into Bitwig as audio for mixing and editing. I can use monitors or throw on headphones and mix from a laptop anywhere I want. The lack of computer midi forces commitment and creativity, but if anything is truly broken I can thrown a VST instrument in there. The computer is the ideal environment for fast access to all the amazing digital effects, and mixing is far easier for me when I have recall.

    There is no winner for ITB or OTB so long as it meets your needs as an artist. I’d be lost without either, but please don’t ever make me use both at the same time again!

    1. Great comment on the struggle to find the right kind of balance. I mostly worked ITB and came upon a similar workflow as you, but more because i wasn’t using my analog synths as much as i wanted. I just got so used to the Push 2 and then the power of MIDI editing on-screen that I started to feel like switching to hardware seqs would be too much investment in time to find the right device and learn it. Like you, I much prefer creating the sounds with my hands and bringing in all the technical stuff on the DAW later. But being able to quickly throw as many $30-50 plugins on a track as i like definitely makes routing easier and saves me a lot of money. Luckily the sync issues are working for me at the moment!

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