Diving into the world of modular synthesizers is a never-ending story. Endless possibilities, connections, tests, constructions and extensions that go as far as your auditory imagination wants to go.
We delve into the studio of Omega dB. Omega is a passionate producer of electronic music and modular synthesizers that convey emotions through sound. The studio is already getting too small for him due to the near infinite number of machines he has. He knows he will eventually have to sell some, but picking which ones is not easy.
To improvise and test the live sets he showed us the base camp that he always has ready for battle. The base is the Machine, the brain of operations that commands everything else. It is followed by the BlackBox which is a groove box and also a sampler. Then we have the TR-6s drum machine with which we shape patterns and loops.
From there we progress to the OPZ synth and finally we get to the Typhon. We saw how the screens of the Blue Box allowed you to see the control over everything that was happening, filters, effects… even the sound waves that you modify from the synths.
This setup is ideal for any kind of music, because you can control absolutely everything and have free rein to create whatever kind of music you like. It’s also highly addictive. You start playing a little and end up recording improvised sounds and before you know it, you’ve made new music.
On the next wall, there is an electric piano, which also serves as support for the first modular synthesizer that Omega dB is building. It’s a step by step process and he’s documenting it, because it is not an easy task. The history of modular synthesizers goes back to the 60’s. The first company to enter this game was Moog, who debuted the oscillator which is the heart of the modular synthesizer.
Basically the first thing we need is the Modular Case, it is a base where we will mount everything we want to add. If we follow the rules of the game the first thing you will find is an oscillator, it is the sound source and is constantly running until you turn it off. Following the oscillator you have the filter, the effects module, the double modulator and envelope, a delay, the sampler and hold and finally a VCA (virtual controller amplifier).
The cables build a voltage chain per Patch. They pass voltage from one to another until the audio reaches the VCA. The sound is modified through the voltage. The double modulator modulates the frequency with the filters that you add.
These assemblies can be much more advanced as you gain experience and increase your skill level. But you always have the freedom to assemble what you want and how you want. If you already have a clear idea of the sounds you want to play with, you can add a Groove Box and give it rhythm.
Before we were talking about following the rules of the game imposed by Moog, but today you can find synths like the Cobalt 5S with all the integrated elements which has the oscillator in the center, but that’s another story.
If you have the desire and believe you possess the know-how to build your own modular synth, by all means pursue your passion. However, it may be quite some time before you become a master and start churning out classics like The Chronic, by Dr. Dre. We don’t know if he ever built his own modular synthesizers, but he certainly seems to have mastered using them.
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