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Getting out of your safe-zone

posted by Leo Nathorst-Böös 2012-02-13 at 16:16

Many of us here at Propellerhead are, as you might imagine, synth geeks. I myself, don't have a lot of hardware synths. Over the years I've made a number of attempts at finding gear that will complement Reason and give me new ways of approaching composition and sound generation, but haven't really found my thing until I stumbled upon the Eurorack modular system last summer.

The modular format gives me new ways to think about both sound creation and melodies. Or rather, it forces me to. Only having access to an eight-step analogue sequencer and a bunch of LFOs makes for melodies and little patterns that I'd never come up with on a keyboard. And since I have a limited selection of stuff in my rack, I have to come up with new ways of creating the sounds I want, and often end up with the complete opposite of what I was trying to do. You get the idea...

As an example — here's a little thingie I recorded last night. The drums and effects are all from Reason, of course!

Modular Slomo Beats by Leo Nathorst-Böös

Moral of the story? There is none. :-) But for me, the key to inspiration is often to get out of my safe zone and try a new instrument. Regardless of whether that's patching up a new sound on my modular or picking up the guitar! What's your trick when the oh so familiar writer's block strikes?


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Comments (5)

Comment posted by: dioxide - 2012-02-13 17:15

I've been using a friend's modular every now and then. As far as I can tell it's the approach that is important with modulars, ie. no keyboard, lots and lots of modulation even if you can only hear one oscillator. I set up a Thor template with Remote that allows me to program Thor's sequencer from the pads and dials which results in fairly weird sequences that you wouldn't get if you'd tried to do the same with the Matrix or a keyboard.

For me it shows how much of this stuff is down to approach and the interface of a piece of hardware often suggests what you could do. The one-fuction-per-knob thing is good too, sadly not really doable with a MIDI controlller.


Comment posted by: Leo - 2012-02-13 17:25

I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes just playing a melody on a pad controller instead of a keyboard helps when trying to come up with something new, since it forces you to think about it in a different way and really use your ears.


Comment posted by: eXode - 2012-02-13 18:35

Have you considered running Reason with the ES-3 Leo? I do that with my Eurorack and the integration is awesome!

Also, there is a moral of the story imho. Modular make you think about sound design in a way that you might not have done with a regular synth like Thor. The cool and awesome part is that you can then take that knowledge and apply it to Thor, because it's so well programmed.

I have indeed managed to get some very nice tones out of Thor that are normally associated to "west coast" type modules.


Comment posted by: Koshdukai - 2012-02-13 18:38

«The one-fuction-per-knob thing is good too, sadly not really doable with a MIDI controlller.» ...unless you have a lot of controllers and/or a plenty-o-knobs controller(s) (Spark, Drehbank, Mackie C4, BCR2000, ...)


I agree, "the interface" both control and note input (usually a MIDI keyboard, pads or a sequencer grid accessed through mouse+screen) can have a huge influence on the outcome. I'm not a guitar player, but I keep a pair around exactly to get melodic or bass lines that I would never come up while playing a keyboard.

I try to use a mix of whatever's at hand exactly to break out of any composing shoebox or routine.

I love Reason's rack paradigm as the interface for device modularity, control and audio routing. It's practical, easy to understand, easy to use and makes sense (to me). That I like to keep it unchanged, because it speeds up the process and shortens the path length of me going from A (idea) to B (the sound/combinator I want to build).

But, synth-wise, sometimes I need to look away from the existing available ones, play a bit with "other stuff" for inspiration. That allows me to experience different control interfaces (be it GUIs or hardware) and different device routing, features and sonic possibilities.

I keep wishing to get that same rack of devices modularity applied a level deeper i.e. a device of modules... erm... aka a polyphonic virtual version of an Eurorack.

...that's why I ended up buying KarmaFX Modular Synth, because I can't afford the hardware version and I definitely can't find the space to keep one permanently setup and readily usable -.-'

ok, I'll shut-up, before getting into why after that I started buying soft-synths ;P (although, the reason's always the same: variety of interfaces and keep the possibilities as open-ended as possible)


Comment posted by: lofi1990 - 2012-02-13 20:48

Very fun beat, Leo! I'm jammin'

To avoid writers block, I write down my goal on a post-it note and stick it to my monitor so I can remember what I'm doing. When I stray and find a good idea I either write it down or save a patch in an experiment folder. Sometimes my post-it says "sift through experiment folder, 1 hour" or something along those lines.


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