The Best Way to Integrate Modulars into Your Music

The modular synthesizer is the century's most over-hyped instrument. This guide offers our favorite way to unlock its power without selling your house.

Just talking about the rise of modular synthesizers has become cliché. Electronic music-related websites post modular fodder because a lot of people are interested in watching videos of social outcasts pinging their vactrols. This increased interest corresponds to an ever-growing sect of techno artists who act like they’ve found Jesus since they’ve “gone modular” and proceed to use it in extremely limited ways as well as a host of frustrated amateurs who believe a wall of multicolored patch cables is their key to the Beatport Top 100. And then there’s the Reaktor evangelist who wonders why anyone buys physical instruments when you can do it all on the computer. So you could quite rightly dismiss the whole thing as a hollow elitist charade…but there is something incredibly powerful about modular synthesis when the user has a thorough understanding of what they want to achieve and how a modular will help them achieve it.

Being the dogmatic critics we are, we think there’s a best way to go about maximizing the machines’ potential in your productions without sacrificing your current workflow or your pocket money, which we will disclose via this step-by-step guide to what modules you’ll need and how best to integrate what you already do with modular gear. There’s only one rule: you agree that what you do to a sound is always more important than the sound itself. With this in mind, we propose a dual system that runs your computer in parallel with a small portable modular rack that doesn’t make sound but only processes what comes out of the computer. Since this style of system doesn’t need to generate audio or sequences, you save loads of cash on oscillators, amplifiers, sequencers, triggers and touch pads. Suddenly, a modular setup looks a whole lot more affordable, more portable and a lot less difficult to learn and maneuver. So while the modular world is still full of dead ends and fallacies, we wanted to present a course that might actually work for you.

Header image courtesy of Richard Devine

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