Muskrat Drum Synth From Moffenzeef

One of our first visitors to the early, unfinished Voltage Control Lab space here in LA (which we announced yesterday) was Ross Fish of Moffenzeef Modular, who stopped by and showed us his new module, the Muskrat. Here, we take a look at some of the functions of this unique 8 bit module.

We’ve looked at a couple of Moffenzeef modules before, including the GMO and the Deviant, each of which have their own specialties. The Muskrat is no different. An 8 bit wavetable drum synth voice, the device has all of the functions you might expect of a drum module. The Bang input can be used to trigger and gate the internal envelope, the decay stage controlled by the Tail knob and related length switch.

The Scratch knob and CV input can be used dial in phase distortion and modulation of the 23 wavetables, which can be selected using the Dig control. Pitch can be modulated using the Chew function, though it does not adhere to tradition (a common trait with Moffenzeef modules) as the pitch does not follow the 1 volt per octave standard. The Muskrat switch at the bottom of the module can be used to grind up the timbre of the 8 bit wavetable, creating even glitchier results.

From the Muskrat quick start guide…

When Muskrat switch is engaged, a randøm number is fed intø the phase accumulatør at the internal cløck rate øf the Muskrat. As yøu mess with the cøntrøls, the chip has a hard time keeping up and starts tø glitch øut. In møst scenariøs this will cause the mødule tø søund like pitched, digital nøise.
The Bang input is no simple trigger in, offering some fun and interesting modulation possibilities. The input is actually based on an envelope follower circuit, meaning it will follow the rising and falling voltage of incoming signals (or audio!!!) and shape the internal envelope accordingly. When using a short trigger, we can get nice short, rhythmic plips and ploops, hihats, shakers and more. Using gates, we can get longer, dirty synth-like tones.
If we route a square wave oscillator to the Bang input, the envelope will be triggered at the frequency to which the oscillator is tuned, syncing the drum module to the oscillator pitch, turning it into an oscillator itself. Especially with the Tail set very short, this can be really nice. Another possibility is to route a loop to the Bang input, so that the envelope follows the rhythm and shape of that loop. This will work particularly well with drum loops.
How are you creating interesting drum sounds and rhythms in your system? Tell us about it in the comments!
More info on our upcoming opening of our new space in LA!

New Space In LA for Voltage Control Lab

We’ve been working on a secret project for the last two months, and it’s finally time to let the cat(s) out of the bag…

You may have noticed we have been a bit less active for the past two months or so… or maybe you didn’t notice. Well, we’ve been preparing a new space in Los Angeles where we will soon be offering courses, workshops, synth meets, hang outs, and a whole lot more. Located in the historic Mid-City area of LA (we’re rebranding it Mod-City, obviously), our new space is easily accessible from almost any of the surrounding areas via car, train, bus or bike.

We have been working like crazy to prepare the space for the summer, planning a number of workshops with LA area modular makers and artists. We will be welcoming Stephen from Noise Engineering, Eli from Mystic Circuits (who is going to do a presentation on physics for the musician), Kero from Detroit Underground, Citizen (who makes the amazing portable lunchbox synth cases) and much, much more.

We have had a great deal of help getting here. First our students, who have been so supportive of VCL, without whom none of this would matter. A huge thank you to our subscribers, followers, viewers and readers. Manny from A Case of Modular has been helping us with some of the projects in the space, and has been invaluable. Leslie Ghazarian has been a huge support as well, aiding in our organizational dilemmas and so much more. Our co-creative director Viktor Carrillo has been a constant help, and makes sure coats of paint are properly applied.

So many people have helped us get Voltage Control Lab to where we are, and we can’t wait to continue what we’ve started in this next phase. We will have a TON more news, an event schedule and more synth cats ASAP. And remember, #patchsmarter!

Voltage Block Eurorack Sequencer

We have a TON of exciting news and developments coming very soon, but first, we begin our explorations into the Malekko Voltage Block…

Recently, we discussed the Varigate 8+ from Malekko which, when paired with its sister module Voltage Block, become one of the most powerful sequencing engines in Eurorack. But the Voltage Block is an essential tool, offering 8 independent sequencers of up to 16 steps, with clock division, direction, step glide, scaling and more per channel. For semi-modular owners considering deeper investment into Eurorack modules, Voltage Block is the perfect compliment for modules like the Mother 32 or 0-Coast (which I used in this video).

Sequences can be composed in a few different ways on the Voltage Block. One method is to simply move a channel slider up and down while the module is receiving a clock. The motion will be recorded on each step as it passes, repeating back as the sequence loops. This is particularly useful if you are using your sequencer as a CV modulation source, though you can discover some really interesting musical patterns this way as well.

Another way to sequence patterns is to hold a step button and move the slider to the desired voltage for that step. Follow this process through the steps, and you’ll have a more exact pattern than is achievable through the live sequence recording with the slider. Randomizing sequences can also be a great deal of fun, simply enable Shift mode and hit the RND button to generate random sequences. By selecting one of the 8 channel buttons in the first row of step buttons, the randomization can be limited to only one sequence.

The scale tool can be handy if you are using the Voltage Block to sequence melodic parts, constraining the sequence voltages to musical divisions of each volt. Enable the Scale mode, and use the channel slider to select one of the 16 scales and modes available.

We’ll have more with the Voltage Block in coming weeks… We also have some huge news coming very soon! Subscribe to our email list for more details!

Chord Organ Custom Eurorack Chord Generator

Chord Organ is the newest alternative firmware for the Music Thing Radio Music eurorack sample module. Developed by the inventor of the Radio Music, Tom Whitwell, Chord Organ ditches the original functionality. Instead, the new module mode uses customizable chord shapes to harmonize up to 8 internal oscillators in 4 available wave shapes, each resembling a different organ. The new functions are so cool, that Music Thing is offering a new DIY kit with a Chord Organ panel.

The Chord Organ converts all of the existing panel and CV controls to perform completely different tasks. The “station” or sample select knob and CV input control chord type or quality, while the start knob and CV set chord root position (also acting as a transpose or tuning knob). The module does not use 1v/oct tuning, however it does internally quantize for musical results. The reset button switches between banks of sine, square, sawtooth and dirty pulsewidth wave shapes (with the pulsewidth shape tuned an octave lower than the others). The reset trigger input has been repurposed as a trigger output, sending a trigger everytime the chord quality or tuning changes. The trigger output can be extremely musical. In the intro and outro to the video, the trigger output is patched to a channel on Maths, which then modulates the cutoff frequency of a filter, creating a nice stabby effect on the sawtooth waveform.

One of the coolest things about this firmware is the chord customization that is possible by simply editing a text file on the microSD card. The text file can include up to 16 different chords, each with up to 8 different chord tones. Producer/sound designer (and friend of VCL) James Bernard posted a number of great chord combinations, which can easily be pasted into the CHORDORGAN.TXT file.

1 [0,4,7,12,0] Major
2 [4,7,12,16,-5] Major inv 1
3 [7,12,16,-5,0] Major inv 2
4 [-12,-8,-5,0,4] Major inv 3
5 [-8,-5,0,4,7] Major inv 4
6 [-5,0,4,7,12] Major inv 5
7 [0,4,7,11,0] Major 7th
8 [4,7,11,0,16] Major 7th inv 2
9 [7,11,0,16,19] Major 7th inv 3
10 [-12,-8,-5,-1,0] Major 7th inv 4
11 [-8,-5,-1,0,4] Major 7th inv 5
12 [-8,4,7,11,23] Major 7th no root
13 [0,0,0,0,0] Root
14 [-24,-12,0,12,24] organ
15 [-8,-5,4,7,16] Major no root
16 [-12,0,0,12,24] 2 up 1 down octaves

He also posted the chords used in Tommib by Squarepusher…

1 [0,3,-14,-19] 1st
2 [-2,2,-14,-19] 2nd
3 [-2,5,-14,19] 3rd
4 [-2,3,-14,-19] 4th
5 [2,-14-17] 5th
6 [-2,-14,-17] 6th
7 [2,-14-17] 7th
8 [2,5,-14,-17] 8th
9 [0,9,-14,-21] 9th
10 [3,7,-14,-21] 10th
11 [3,10,-14,-21] 11th
12 [3,12,-14,-21] 12th
13 [5,14,-14,-22] 13th
14 [5,9,-14,-22] 14th
15 [5,10,-14,-22] 15th
16 [0,3,5,-14,-22] 16th


How are you generating complex chord sequences in your system? Tell us about it in the comments!

Generative Rhythms w/ Varigate 8+

The Malekko Varigate 8+ is a fantastic tool for creating complex rhythms and melodic sequences in a eurorack modular synth system. The module can also create morphing, generative patterns, based on external gates, or even using it’s own gate outputs including the end of sequence gate source.

With eight independent 16-step gate channels, the Varigate 8+ is designed to make it easy to sequence and perform multiple patterns from one source. One function that aids in generating morphing and random sequences is the random gate mode, which when enabled, will create random sequences based on a user defined probability amount. When combined with the end of sequence gate output built into the panel, the module can trigger itself to create generative patterns at the beginning of every bar.

Random gate mode can be enabled by holding the bank button and pressing the probability button, which should cause both to flash. In this mode, any gate sent to the RND input will cause the patterns to randomize or morph. While flashing, the module will wait for one of the 10 channel buttons along the bottom of the module to be pressed, setting the probability of pattern randomization. By selecting gate 1, random gate mode will only randomize patterns slightly. Ascending up the channel buttons, we increase the likelihood of randomization up to the CV 2 button, which sets the highest possible probability of randomization. (I’m not sure that it is actually 100% probability, so I hesitate to suggest that.)

Combining this function with any gate source can be enjoyable, but patching out from the end of sequence gate output back into the random gate input can yield some fun results. The end of sequence gate output sends a gate (you guessed it…) at the end of the sequence/beginning of the looping pattern. Outputs 1 thorugh 4 generate alternative drum maps, pre-programmed drum sequences mapping kick drum patterns to gate channel 1, snares to gate 2, closed hihats to gate 3 and open hihats to gate 4. Outs 5 through 8 output completely random patterns, by contrast.

I like starting from an empty preset, and letting the Varigate 8+ start creating random, generative patterns from thin air. When I find one I like, I can enter mute mode by hitting the mute button, then switch into random gate disable mode by hitting the save button while the mute key is flashing. Again, using the channel buttons below, I can disable certain channels from randomizing, locking them in when an interesting pattern is revealed.

Have some secrets to creating generative sequences and patterns? Share them with us in the comments!