What is a Modular Synth
Simply put, a modular synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument that consists of a multitude of different components (modules) that are used and combined to create electronic sounds. The individual modules are connected via cables (patch cables), switches, sliders and patch panels. In this way, a large number of connection options and permutations are possible. It is important to know that the parameters of analog synthesizer modules can be controlled by Control Voltage (CV).
Modular Synthesizers are EXPENSIVE! Like $1,300 for a very modest system. You can start with a Behringer Neutron for $330 or so and another $100 for a MIDI controller to play it, but I think you’ll quickly want many more modules which add up quick, in fact the case and power supply you’ll want to use will cost more than the Neutron.
“ModularGrid is a database and planner for modular synthesizers”
ModularGrid is a great site to build up a synth before you start buying things, it will quickly show you how easy it is to spend $4,000 or more for a modular synth.
Another problem for me was the lack of availability in the Atlanta area for any modular synthesizer equipment. Some of that is due to supply chain, but there are no music stores with a synthesizer department. And the online options are sparse at the moment, even the DIY kits that are available are few and far between.
Then I found VCV Rack 2 and a game on Steam called The Signal State and a whole new world opened up to me!
VCV Rack 2
VCV Rack 2 is a free standalone modular synth application for Mac and Windows with a lot of available modules! As I am writing this there are 1,950 FREE modules and another 311 premium modules you can buy.
For $149 you can buy VCV Rack Pro and get a VST plugin that you can use in your Digital Audio Workflow (DAW), what makes this special is that you can use any modules in VCV Rack as effects, that means you can do things like use Valley’s Plateau reverb module on your tacks.
Omri Cohen has videos on YouTube to walk you through using VCV Rack including how to use it with Ableton, Reaper, and Bitwig.
The Signal State
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, The Signal State puts your logic skills to the test with complex puzzles inspired by modular synthesizers. Repair machines, rebuild an abandoned farm, and be part of a revolution that will change the fate of agriculture once and for all.
Learning how the different modules in a synth work is a large part of the fun, but starting from nothing can be really hard. The Signal State game will teach how all of the basic and some of the advanced modules work and ways you may use them. It rewards you for creating the most efficient system to complete the puzzle.
I’m having a lot of fun learning about synthesis and how to use modular synthesizers to create cool sounds and music.
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