Modular synthesisers are made up of separate components that you can either buy or build yourself. You can generally mix and match components from different manufacturers, and any you build yourself, because they are all built to certain standards which specify their physical size and electrical connections.
In this section we will look at some common types of module, and describe what they do.
The simplest modular synth that can create any kind of sound will normally require, at least:
But that would be pretty boring, it would just play one continuous note that you might be able to change by turning a knob. In order to create anything resembling music you would need:
A more usable setup would normally have:
Common effects you might add are:
There are also all sorts of weird and wonderful special modules for creating other effects.
The rest of this chapter gives and overview of the different components.
There are several different modular synth systems. The system defines the physical size of the modules, the power voltages, and the types of connector used for interconnecting modules.
We will only discuss the Eurorack system, as it is probably the most popular.
Here is a typical module:
And here is a typical patch cable:
Here is a commercially available Eurorack rack. The modules are fitted onto the rails, and the power connector is inside the box. This allows you to mix and match different module (they should all be the Eurorack standard height so they will fit the rack):
Racks can be quite expensive, and it is not too difficult to build your own if you want to save money when you get started. At the most basic, you just need a simple wooden frame or open fronted box of the correct size.
If you really want to put the effort in, and your wood working skills permit it, you can make a good quality box out of decent hardwood, and polish it. You will end up with something that is better than anything you can buy.
You can also make the rack out of metal if you prefer. Some people choose a more original option, for example it is possble to create a rack built into a suitcase, which is great for portability.
To be continued.
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