Varigate 8+ Ways To Spice Up Your Modular Drums

The Varigate 8+ from Malekko Heavy Industry has quickly gained a reputation as a complex gate and pattern sequencer, pairing with the Voltage Block as a formidable modulation source. The module provides a number of methods to create a pattern, as well as adding depth and variation.

The Varigate 8+ is an 8 channel 16 step gate pattern sequencer, with two additional channels of CV sequencing and a boatload of additional features. Like the Varigate 4, gate, repeat and step delay can all be assigned per step, as well as assigned probability values for more generative patterns. Programming a sequence or group of patterns and saving the state into one of the 100 preset slots is easy, simply hold the save button and the gate channel button switch to save slots. Using the save functionality as a starting point, we can generate a pattern and save it as a return point. The pattern can be subtly or dramatically changed by hand, and then quickly recalled using the Recall button.

Entering track mode, we get even more control over each of the 8 gate channels, including clock division/multiplication, sequence length and sequence mode (or playback direction). Switching sequence mode, individual patterns can be thrown into reverse, pendulum (forward/reverse) for odd timed sequences or random. A quick recall of the saved state will return these settings and the patterns back to the original groove, making this a great tool for both complex rhythms as well as drum fills.

Rotate pattern mode is another interesting and fast method to get weird, pattern combinations and variations. By entering mute mode (hitting the mute button) we gain access to three independent functions according to the respective flashing bank, save and recall buttons: mute, randomization mute (disabling random gate mode on that channel) and rotate pattern mode. Hitting the recall button will enter rotate pattern mode, which allows any programmed sequences to be shifted to different gate outputs. By pressing the gate channel buttons along the bottom of the module, we can shift the patterns to different channels.

Random Gate mode takes things in another direction, allowing a external gate signal to trigger randomization in the patterns. This mode is accessed by pressing the bank and prob buttons, indicated by the flashing of these buttons. Upon entering this mode, the gate channel buttons switch function, now determining the amount of randomization of the patterns when a gate is received. Pressing the gate 1 button sets a low amount of randomization, ascending up to 100% randomization by pressing CV 2.

This mode also splits the first and last sets of 4 gate outputs, each performing different roles. In random gate mode, the first 4 outputs on the Varigate 8+ will randomize between different drum maps (pre-programmed drum pattern loops). Each gate will take the role of a certain drum in the kit, gate 1 acting as the kick, gate 2 as snare, and gates 3 and 4 as closed and open hihat patterns. Gate outputs 5 through 8 will produce actual randomized patterns, not tied to any drum map or existing pattern. Triggering randomization is as easy as sending a gate into the RND gate input… I was having fun using Pressure Points for this, though the Mikrophonie might be an interesting pairing as well.

We’ll have much more coverage of the Varigate 8+ and it’s partner in crime, the Voltage Block, in the coming weeks.

How are you getting complex patterns and drum fills from your module? Tell us about it in the comments!

Help SynthTech Make The Quad Morphing VCO

Synthesis Technology is in the midst of a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their new E370 Quad Morphing VCO, reaching their stretch goal of $100,000 within 54 hours of launch. The module is a combination of functions from two existing Synthesis Technology modules, the popular E340 Morphing Terrarium and the E330 Multimode VCO. Borrowing from the feature sets of both, the Quad Morphing VCO aims to be “the most technically advanced Euro oscillator available.”

The Quad Morphing VCO will have four independent digital oscillators, which can be grouped in unison, pairs or controlled individually. Each VCO is designed to have coarse and fine tuning, exponential FM (though linear FM will be included at the stretch goal of $115,000) and “2 programmable modulation CVs and associated attenuator. The function of MOD A and MOD B are dependent on the VCO mode. For example, in Cloud Mode, MOD A is the ‘SPREAD’ and MOD B is the ‘CHAOS’ function of the E340.”

Each oscillator can be updated with wavetables created through a custom application, and stored (along with presets) on a micro SD card. A brilliant navigation screen is included for the minimal amount of menu hopping planned for the device. The screen will have menu pages for VCO control, tuning, four oscilloscopes, mixer, preset and SD card management.

The E370 is 54HP wide and has a depth behind the panel of 48mm (1.89in). It uses a 16-pin shrouded header (standard Euro power, the cable is included) and the target power consumption is +12V @155ma and -12V @40ma. The final power will be available once the project is funded and the module is running the code and the TFT backlight current is determined. About 35% of the current off +12V is determined by the setting of TFT brightness.

The Quad Morphing VCO is already funded, but let’s help Synthesis Technology get over their stretch goal so we can see this monster in all of it’s glory!

Moffenzeef GMO Artist Samples & Firmware

This week, we’re exploring the GMO Genetically Modified Oscillator from Moffenzeef Modular, the older brother to the Deviant which we examined a few weeks ago. Like the Deviant, the GMO has a distinct character and style. With multiple alternative firmwares and sample banks, this is a perfect tool for injecting some lofi tonality into modular compositions, Moreover, the module has some quirks that make it unique in the growing field of modular samplers.

The open source, Teensy-based GMO is a grungy, dirty sample player and mangler. The 8-bit sample limitation insists on making any material it produces sound grimy and lofi. The device offers panel and CV control over every function, including sample selection, pitch/speed, sample start time and end time and looping. By using the Head and Tail controls, tiny, granular windows can be carved out of a sample and then looped to generate oscillator-like tones.

Sample manipulation is easy, it’s loading samples onto the module that presents a challenge. Because the samples are stored in flash memory, they play back quickly with minimal latency. This means reprogramming the code in the module is the only way to get samples into that flash memory. While this is possible, Moffenzeef have created dozens of alternate sample libraries by recompiling the basic firmware with banks of other content, making them all available through their Github page. In the large collection of samples, we find everything from animal sounds, world percussion instruments, classic drum machines and even farts!

In addition, Moffenzeef have curated 10 artist sample packs, including samples from our friend Baseck (who just released an album today) and another friend, Kero from Detroit Underground (who has been releasing tons of modular artists lately). Like any Teensy, loading any of these firmware versions is extremely easy. Simply remove the module from the rack while still powered, connect a micro-USB cable between the Teensy usb port and your computer, and load the firmware via the Teensy Loader app (this process is detailed in the video).

We will explore another of the alternative firmware versions, The Mongrel, in another video…

Reactive Visuals w/ Max and Eurorack

I’ve always been fascinated with generative and reactive visuals for accompaniment of live music performance. Max from Cycling 74 makes creating and modulating a video synthesis patch easy, especially when paired with a DC coupled audio interface.

When I first attended electronic music events in Pittsburgh in the late 90’s, students from Carnegie Mellon would use a modded Playstation 1 to perform live visuals. In Boston, I played with a group of live electronic musicians and artists featuring now infamous visual artist, Zebbler, who also inspired my interest in video performance. Once I began building in Max, I became obsessed.

When I first started experimenting with Jitter (the visual programming system in Max) back in 2002, the application was not very inviting. In recent years, Cycling 74 have created macro style modules for both sound and video synthesis, the BEAP and VIZZIE collections. With these devices, it’s very easy to create and manipulate sound, video or both internally in Max, or using an external source. Thanks to the virtually limitless functionality in Max, we can use anything from a MIDI keyboard to Twitter hashtags to generate modulation in our system.

Of course, what we’d most like to use with a Eurorack modular system… is CV. Using virtually any DC coupled audio interface with inputs (I’m using the Roland Scooper in the example because it has a ton of inputs and very few outputs) we can inject CV modulation into any BEAP or VIZZIE patch, using the BEAP Input tool. Combined with the BEAPConvertr module in the VIZZIE collection, any CV signal can be converted to VIZZIE compatible data and used to modulate any parameter in a patch.

Creating a VIZZIE synth is easy. Use an input module, for instance the GRABBR (a webcam input module), then connect it to an output module, like VIEWR or PROJECTR. Then simply begin experimenting with the VIZZIE effects, by interrupting the connection from input to output. The data coming out of the BEAPConvertr can then be routed to control any element in the patch.

How are you generating reactive visuals with your synth? Let us know in the comments!

We’re starting our next term with Modular 101 and Sound Design very soon, Join Us!

How To NAMM (For Modular Fans)

NAMM 2017 is less than a week away, and modular manufacturers from around the world are gearing up to fly into Los Angeles for the massive, deafening convention. For all of you modular folks who will be in town, whether you attend the convention or not, there are a TON of absolutely amazing modular synth-focused events happening in the evenings and the days after the event. Here’s a growing guide to these events (with directions and links) so you have no excuse to miss out on the mind-blowing music and elbow rubbing.

If you are not going to make it to NAMM this year, follow me on instagram (@computo) for photo, video and live streamed updates from the convention floor on Thursday the 19th and beyond!

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NAMM Weekend

Thursday 1/19 – NAMM begins. Most modular gear will be around 5000 in Hall B

Friday 1/20LZX Meet-Up w/ Baseck & Kodek – 7pm @ Coaxial in Downtown LA

Friday 1/20Elektron Night of Machines w/ The Album Leaf, Tropic of Cancer – 8pm @ Complex in Glendale

Saturday 1/21Sputnik Modular w/ Rodent516, Anthony Baldino, Delivery LA – 9pm @ Union in Mid-City LA

Sunday 1/22Black Noise w/ Alessandro Cortini, Richard Devine, Hypoxia – 6pm @ Lot 613 in Downtown LA

Post-NAMM Modular Events

Monday 1/23KOMA Elektronik In-Store Event & Giveaway – 7pm @ Perfect Circuit Audio in Burbank

Tuesday 1/24Analogue Haven Synth Meet and Performances – 6pm @ Analogue Haven in Santa Monica

Wednesday 1/25Noisebug welcomes STG Soundlabs w/ Suit & Tie Guy – 730pm @ Noisebug in Pomona

Thursday 1/26 – Modular On The Spot @ 7pm – Details available from www.instagram.com/modularonthespot

Friday 1/27Winter Pop Art Show w/ Collin Russell – OC Museum of Art

If you know of any other modular synth-related events in the LA area in the weeks around NAMM, please let us know and I’ll add them here!

The National Association of Music Merchants annual winter convention brings together gear makers, retailers, artists and enthusiasts in slimy Anaheim (right across the street from Disneyland) to ogle new gear and talk flimsy deals. For the outsider, the event appears attractive because of the celebrity contained within the building at any given time during the convention. To those who have to work however, NAMM is a grueling triathlon of talking, standing and hand shaking with short intermissions of disgusting food choices, many mile long hikes to a hotel/car and long lines for the restroom, coalescing in the physical and emotional decimation of the inevitable illness we’ve come to know only as NAMM-thrax.