This course will be based around the widely available Roland SYSTEM-500 Eurorack-standard synthesizer modules, complemented with modules from several other manufacturers. As most modules, synthesizer keyboards, and plugins are designed around the same principles, this course lets you dig deeper into synthesis and programming your sounds regardless of the equipment you own.
- Putting a system together
- Getting sound in and out
- Patching a typical synthesizer "voice"
- Tuning voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs)
- Working with waveforms
- Using filters
- Exploring frequency modulation, waveshaping, oscillator sync, effects, and more
Skill Level Beginner
- Hi, I'm Chris Meyer, and welcome to Learn Modular Synthesis. A modular synthesizer takes a traditional synth and breaks its components down into individual hardware modules that you can then buy, mix and match, and interconnect in any way that you choose. This way you're not bound by someone else's idea of what a synthesizer should be, what components it should contain, and how those components should be connected. Many synths did, indeed, come from these modular roots back in the '60s and '70s, and today modular synths are enjoying an enormous resurgence in popularity.
However, this means you are now responsible for configuring and wiring together your own instrument, and that can make modular synths a bit intimidating, not just to use them, but to even know where to get started. Well, some, indeed, learn modular synths with the trial and error approach, just by poking around, and that's perfectly valid. You find happy accidents that way. However, it can mean you just don't know how to recreate that really cool sound you stumbled across two weeks ago, or you just don't know how to get that sound out of your head and into your instrument, and you're losing that creative flow.
That's why I'm gonna take a much more structured approach to teaching you modular synthesis. I hope to really shorten that distance between your ideas and making music. I'm gonna start at a very high level, talking about the fundamentals of sound and electricity and work our way down to how each individual module works and how to get the most out of it. In the remainder of this chapter, we're gonna discuss two fundamental concepts of modular synthesis, how sounds consist of individual harmonics that you can shape and how modular synthesizers are controlled using simple wires and voltages.
In the next chapter, we're gonna cover some things for you to keep in mind when putting together your own system, including the most common standard formats for modular synths, the core building blocks of a typical synth, how you get notes into your modular synth to play it, how you get sound back out of it, and planning out your system, including how large a case and power supply you might need. In the chapter after that, we're gonna cover the basics of subtractive synthesis, the most common approach to patching together a sound on your modular, and then in the last chapter, we'll get into some advanced, more esoteric techniques, including oscillator synch, frequency modulation, amplitude modulation, and more.
The information you'll learn in those last two chapters can be applied to virtually any synthesizer that allows you to create your own sounds, be it modular, an all-in-one keyboard, or a software plugin. But, first let's talk a little bit about the history of synthesis and how we got here.