Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

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Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

With the success of my JV-1080 experiments, the thoughts of a portable performance-oriented eurorack skiff is like an itch I can't scratch. :D I also would like to see if I can book a streaming gig with the New York Modular Society, and obviously using the 1080 wouldn't work lol. :shh:

After a few goes on Modular Grid, assisted by real-world alpha testing, I came up with the following: https://photos.app.goo.gl/c5PFJsW8mptXM8mB7

So, a quick walk through of the skiff:
1 Master clocking and additional trigger pulses are from Pamela's Workout
2 Pam's also feeds the MIDI <>CLK module for clock divisions and MIDI clock feeding the RV-500 for tempo-sync'd delays
3 Intellijel Quadra is providing VCA and filter envelopes
4 Make Noise Dynamix is acting as a VCA here, as well as sub mixing the levels of the analogue voices
5 2x Oscillation VCOs and 2x Doepfer LPFs
6 Steady State Modbox for modulating PWM and sample & hold duties
7 Intellijel Mixup for sub mixing the modular, 808 kick, and external synth
8 WORNG LRMSMSLR mid-side processor that adds reverb and delay to anything panned left or right whilst keeping the kick drum dry
9 Tip Top Audio BD808 kick drum module

It's a bit of a misnomer because there is no sequencing here, it simply wouldn't fit using the modules I have. It's still very much a work-in-progress because I will have to settle on which sequencer I want to use and am currently torn between the power of the NerdSeq vs the immediacy of the SQ-1. There really is no contest in terms of sheer versatility, but I interact very differently with the one vs the other, and for this setup, I think the SQ-1 may be the better option.

As an accompanying synth, I am also equally torn between the DSI MOPHO and the MiniBrute, for pretty much the identical reasons: the MB has an integrated keyboard and the parameters are right there, whereas the MOPHO has presets, 2 VCOs and an onboard sequencer if needed.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Couple of hours of work, and I will have to reorganize my other cases now, but it's together and ready to be played in anger.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/59WpeCSXY25AWUHx8
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

This is coming together quite quickly, and the folks over at NYMS are really keen about booking and promoting gigs, so who knows? This may actually happen ...

In the meanwhile, I still have a ton of actual prep work to do, but the skiff is now complete; I just tested it and everything is still working as it should. I will say this -- having everything self-contained in a single skiff is very enjoyable and quite compact. My muscle memory had me reaching for the other cases and I had to keep reminding myself, no, everything is right here.

I was able to do a lead synth shoot out this evening between the MiniBrute and the MOPHO, and I recorded both so I could go back and listen objectively. I was expecting it to be a tough fight, and it was -- both synths have great strengths that differ from each other. I loved the warmth and thickness of the MiniBrute, and the MB's glide is really nice! However, on the lowest drone notes, the MOPHO is tighter and more present, even if a little less authoritative. I ended up adding a smidge of sub osc to the MOPHO and the final sound is certainly good enough for my purposes.

The plan for tomorrow is to test the entire system and dig up my old BOSS looper pedal and see how the proof of concept jam goes.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Arpangel »

It’s always extremely interesting looking at other peoples racks, they are totally individual, modular is like people, all different, what I like is nothing is right or wrong.
You’ve got an A-120, great filter, very underrated, it’s a lovely dark, smooth thing.
Hope the gigs work out.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Folderol »

It's all very pluggy and knobby :?
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Arpangel »

This is very Modwiggler, maybe we should have a "show us your rack" thread!

:D:D:D
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Well, I played the whole thing in anger tonight and I am sad to say that 104hp isn't quite enough space to do what I want. I keep having to find work-arounds for things I can just as easily do with modules I already own.

So it's with heavy heart that I acknowledge defeat and acceptance that I'm going to have to use my 6U case for all of the signal routing I need. :D
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

I really wasn't thrilled with the idea of going to 208hp, it would introduce compromises of a different kind, or unused space. But then I had a lightbulb moment and remembered the case that I used when I had outgrown my original skiff: a shallow depth (I think it's 9" deep) 6U rack case with two Happy Ending kits inside it!

So, a quick trip to Modular Grid later (https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/1623016) and I'm ready to tear it all apart again and rebuild it.

As fun as it is to use the SQ1, at this stage it would be silly to not use the NerdSeq. I also discovered that the tracking on the SQ1 isn't all that accurate, which may cause an issue later on down the road.

The updated layout keeps most everything from the original skiff with a few extras:

:: The step sequencer and master clock will now be the NerdSeq. I will also use the More Triggers expansion to trigger drums, and can use the MOD outs from the NerdSeq to trigger the Quadra for filter envelopes.
:: The strymon AA.1 will be used to get the audio signal of the MOPHO properly into the eurorack ecosystem so I can have a single pair of cables going to FOH.
:: Mixing duties will now go from the Mixup to the WORNG Sound Stage. The LRMSMSLR will still serve as my effects loop.
:: The Make Noise Rosie will be used for headphone monitoring and mono summing to FOH; if I happen to play a place that has stereo (or for recording), I can bypass the Rosie and go stereo out from the LRMSMSLR.

A bit more complex than the original setup, but this will save me a lot of headaches using adapters and whatnot and will be much more reliable for mixing the audio of the MOPHO in.

Now, if I can avoid the temptation of adding the Subharmonicon or Lyra-8 to the setup, I'll consider it a win! :D
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by resistorman »

Sounds good!
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Arpangel »

Modular racks are a reflection of of our inner selves, and are only really understood by those that build them.
I look at your rack Ben, and my brain goes into melt-down trying to understand how it works, holistically. It's patently obvious that you have the ability, and are willing to put lots of time, and effort into understanding things that I would give up on in five minutes, I wish I could be like that sometimes.
Not sure if it’s got anything to do with our respective age groups, I seem to be creating less, and I’m becoming less interested in things generally, like equipment, I am an observer now, not, a participant.
I find modular a kind of therapy, yesterday I rearranged my rack, it’s like meditation, and it’s very strange how satisfied I feel, and how relaxed I am, if I know my rack is in order, all is fine with the world.
I hope the gigs work out, and if we make it to New York next year, I’d like to come and see you play, and generally, check-out the New York music scene, I understand it’s still very interesting, and that people are very receptive to new things, there’s still a vibe.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

I like the puzzle aspect of trying to make it all work; this thread is mostly my thinking out loud, it helps me to see it in writing.

Since portability is paramount for me, and I know that 104hp isn't going to be enough space, the question is, performatively, whether the 6U rack is better than a Make Noise skiff and a Moog skiff combined... Due to the size and height I would need for the rack to work, it may not be tenable.

Today will see a lot of experimentation!

One thing this experience has helped me see is how I can break down my modular into smaller systems.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Done! ... I hope lol. :)

I was able to make this work with a couple of small changes to my Moog sidecar.

OUT: Pamela's Workout, MIDI <> CLK

IN: 808 drum modules, Disting Mk4

After a thorough play through and staying up way too late sorting out issues related to signal routing, I am now using the Dynamix for the synths and the Mixup for the drums. Dynamix Sum output goes through the RV-500/Blackhole and into Channel A of Rosie. Mixup goes directly to Channel B of Rosie.

It turns out that the mid/side processing wasn't jiving very well with the delay and reverb, I think it's due to the complex nature of the waveforms, it was very much an all-or-nothing result. Deciding to bypass the mid-side makes the signal routing much easier, and having Rosie as the final mix/balance stage, as well as having discrete outputs for FOH and cue/review makes it totally stand-alone!

I also ended up nixing one of the delays and reverbs for a single reverb/delay, though I may bring the 2nd reverb back depending on how I am liking it.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/MmgHraAH3ptgrF3L8

Whew ... everything sounds fantastic!

In retrospect, I think that this would be the system I would have put together 4 years ago had I known then what I know now. As it stands now, I essentially have 2 other complete modular systems and I will be reconfiguring the cases with that in mind. This one is focused on live playback of sequences; another one will be centered around Mother-32 and Subharmonicon exploration (I will be relocating them to the rack case); and a third system using the Turing Machine, Pluck, and Quadnic. I think this will make it easy for jamming or following my muse when I'm in a more generative mindest.

Overall I'm very pleased, it's compact and all fits on my 2-tier stand. If I don't use the Lyra-8 and use my KeyStep instead of the KSP, it will be even more portable!
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Eddy Deegan »

That looks extremely tasty Ben, and I take my hat off to you for the dedication you're putting into learning the wayward ways of such wayward beasties. My modular is currently 'frozen' insofar as until my new studio build is complete there is no way I'll be able to give it any useful time.

However, once the build is complete it'll be getting loads and I've no doubt will be expanding subsequently.

I've very much liked much of your work you've shared to date and I'm looking forward to hearing the results of whatever you use the latest setup for!
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by The Elf »

Yep, that setup intrigues and terrifies me in equal amounts! :D
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Folderol »

The Elf wrote: Tue Jul 06, 2021 11:43 am Yep, that setup intrigues and terrifies me in equal amounts! :D

For me, the emphasis is on 'terrifies' :?
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Here’s a photo of the fished product, all patched up, https://photos.app.goo.gl/syCUbD4no2zeWu1t7

I was very tempted to keep the Lyra-8, but I think it may be more than I can safely chew right now. :) Plus, I need the space! So for drones, I will either play samples or loops recorded from the L8.

The range and depth of sounds is surprisingly wide (and deep) and having the extra set of EGs for the filters gives an additional tonal range. As I am already familiar with how it all works, the next step is to get busy writing and practicing on it!

@The Elf and @Folderol it is a little terrifying, especially not having any real polyphony; it’s going to stretch my meager music theory knowledge to the limit to make it sound interesting.

I can definitely see now why when people play modular live it tends to fall into either the ambient or techno genres. Composing evolving structures this way is really challenging, but I’m looking forward to it!

I’ll post my first proof of concept here!
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by OneWorld »

Ben Asaro wrote: Tue Jul 06, 2021 1:25 pm Here’s a photo of the fished product, all patched up, https://photos.app.goo.gl/syCUbD4no2zeWu1t7

I was very tempted to keep the Lyra-8, but I think it may be more than I can safely chew right now. :) Plus, I need the space! So for drones, I will either play samples or loops recorded from the L8.

The range and depth of sounds is surprisingly wide (and deep) and having the extra set of EGs for the filters gives an additional tonal range. As I am already familiar with how it all works, the next step is to get busy writing and practicing on it!

@The Elf and @Folderol it is a little terrifying, especially not having any real polyphony; it’s going to stretch my meager music theory knowledge to the limit to make it sound interesting.

I can definitely see now why when people play modular live it tends to fall into either the ambient or techno genres. Composing evolving structures this way is really challenging, but I’m looking forward to it!

I’ll post my first proof of concept here!

Wow, all those cables, looks like an explosion in a spaghetti factory!

But brings back warm feelings, I am almost welling up, thinking back to the time when I first became sucked in by the allure of the original analogs and spending almost every waking moment scouring through the various mags back in the day and learning how to build a module/synth. Most of which I sold for buttons when the initial fad died out and synths were considered naff and subsequently the 'axe' resumed its prominence and synths went the way of platform heels and hot pants (no I never wore hot pants LOL)
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Martin Walker »

Ben Asaro wrote: Tue Jul 06, 2021 1:25 pm I’ll post my first proof of concept here!

Looking forward to it! :thumbup:

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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Been picking at the system in little bits, getting used to the new sounds. I realized that I’ve pretty much only used the SEM filter with Oscillation, and it sounds quite different with the ladder filters! I do love the range of the CV inputs, however; there are so many tonal options, and rhythmic ones, using EGs and LFOs into the CV inputs of the filters.

I’ve snuck up on a key center (Gm/G Phrygian) and chord progression as well, playing around with Notion. Now begins the process of turning that into music!
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Quick update: this has been an incredible learning experience, I’m really enjoying it, but … I’m not loving the sound of the MOPHO in this context. On its own, it sounds SUPERB, but against the modular, either too loud or too soft. That usually indicates an EQ/masking issue, but that’s not so easily dealt with in this arena!

The other, smaller issue I’m having has to do with the KeyStep Pro. Once again: I love the machine, it’s amazing but … I really don’t like using a standard keyboard with the modular! I think this mostly stems from my terrible keyboard skills. It’s just too much mental overhead for me and my choices are: play a very lame line at moderate speed, or a decent one at half that speed.

So I will probably be removing the KSP/MOPHO from the setup and replace them with something/somethings that are more in my wheelhouse. As the footprint for the KSP is large, I have a couple of options.

I will not be able to experiment further until after the weekend, but I’m still really excited to keep pushing forward with this setup! It’s so close, I just have to get it like my guitar rigs, where it’s hand in glove with nothing holding back the ideas I want to express.

Stay tuned! :D
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Back home tonight after spending the past 3 days visiting family in Philadelphia. Was a great time, and a necessary counter reset. Looking forward to diving back into the thick of things tomorrow!

We visited the Franklin Institute today and there was one exhibit on moire patterns that really struck me ... the idea of musical moire patterns and palindromes ... the beginnings of a new idea, I can feel it resonating around in my brain looking for a way out! :D
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by John Stafford »

Looking good! Is that your Subharmonicon case?

Talking of moiré patterns, I think the Subharmonicon is great for that kind of thing. Two sequencers that are not synchronised at all but have similar patterns can be great too.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

John Stafford wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 5:42 am Looking good! Is that your Subharmonicon case?

One 60hp case is from my Mother-32 (which will be going into my 6U rack case as a stand alone separate system).

Talking of moiré patterns, I think the Subharmonicon is great for that kind of thing. Two sequencers that are not synchronised at all but have similar patterns can be great too.

I agree! Looking forward to having a play after work today!
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

I only had a few scant moments yesterday to work on the system, but I was able to get sound from all sources, so that was a major win!

The current iteration of the setup is:

:: Eurorack voices > RV-500 fx chain A
:: Subharmonicon > Lyra-8 > TU-3S > RV-500 fx chain B

:: RV-500 A & B > Blackhole (set to mono) > Rosie channel A

:: Drum voices > Mixup > Rosie channel B

As both my Mother-32 and Lyra-8 allow for external audio input and the M32 is much easier to tune, I may end up using the former for drone/textures, I really need to experiment with the current setup.

Sonically, there's a lot of independence in that I can have a separate delay and reverb for the SubH and L8 than the sequences from the NerdSeq, which adds a lot of versatility.

It's also surprisingly compact without a keyboard taking up valuable real estate. Whether this is a good idea or not remains to be seen lol. :) Being able to "play" the voices from the Lyra-8 should add a human element to the proceedings, though...
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Had a chance to give the system a nice, long play last night; will be making the next round of consolidation today.

I'm not convinced that the Lyra-8 actually makes this setup better. I mean, it's amazing for ultra low notes, but its sound is very difficult to mesh with the other voices. I also realize that I'm going to have to get the filters moved to the side car so that I can have immediate access to them. For performance, the three things I access the most are the EGs (adjusting their attack and release times) and the filters; so I think I want to have all of those to hand.

In the Plus column, I have a nice motive that I've started to develop, which is going a long way towards getting the system finalized.

In the Minus column, we're going to blow way past my original goal of 104hp! I think that just the control skiff will be 80-104hp, with another 208hp for the rest. But still no keyboard lol :D

(I suppose it's still better than schlepping all 15U out ...)
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Arpangel »

Glad it’s shaping up, I can remember my portable, a Pittsburgh 104 case, with lid, all based around that legendary module the Equation Composer, without which I would have been very lost, saw me through a few gigs.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Arpangel wrote: Wed Jul 14, 2021 4:21 pm Glad it’s shaping up, I can remember my portable, a Pittsburgh 104 case, with lid, all based around that legendary module the Equation Composer, without which I would have been very lost, saw me through a few gigs.

I think I've got it to the point where there's very little compromise but is still portable; ie, it can fit into 2 cases that can be easily transported on the subway.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/ezytqPuL8p3JEJV1A

With the Delta variant on the rise here it remains to be seen if this Summer will be doable for in-person gigs, but I'm going to get some virtual ones booked as well.

The best part is that this has thus far only cost me $25, which is the price I paid for the control skiff stand to tilt it back.

Now to patch it up and see how it works!
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Eddy Deegan »

Ben Asaro wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:58 am Back home tonight after spending the past 3 days visiting family in Philadelphia.

Kinda unrelated but one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had as a British chap was driving from an office (belonging to the company I worked for at the time - I was visiting HQ for training) in Philadelphia to visit an old friend in Maryland for the weekend.

A mere jaunt by US driving standards but a massive adventure for me, especially as it was the first time I'd ever driven an automatic and I find driving on the right non-intuitive.

The US medians can be hard to determine in the twilight, I took a lane that wasn't there in a dark-ish rainy rush-hour and ended up buried in sand to the wheelnuts. Got out of that but had to rejoin the carriageway - that was hairy. There were hoots a-plenty!

Also cut off a guy at some lights on the way back by changing lane at the last minute. He was super-pi**ed and yelling at me but when I wound the window down and apologised profusely while explaining it was one of my rare driving experiences in the States he defused instantly, said he liked my accent and made complimentary noises about the UK as well as appreciating my honesty for fessing up. He was a nice guy :-)
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Ben Asaro »

Hehe, nice story! I had the opposite experience the first time I tried driving in England! :D

Being a native New Yorker, I hate the way everyone drives lol.
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Re: Here we go -- single-skiff performance synth in 104hp?

Post by Arpangel »

Ben, have you got one bag that this lot fits in to? I used to use one of those wheeled shopping trolleys for mine, although they can be a pain on underground (subway) steps.
There is a market here for good portable systems, for transporting modular.
Those Space Cases are good, they take a hell of a lot, and fold up small, but they are way too expensive.
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