19 December 2020

My new money pit

I've been steadily releasing more music on my SoundCloud over the past few weeks. Each project has explored some fun little musical idea, and I just flesh it out with some instrumentation. It's been a blast, and each new track's production quality feels just a little bit tighter, a little sleeker. I feel my Bitwig powers growing in strength.

Along the way I've been watching a lot of music YouTube and it's been great for generating new ideas. I'll call out 8-bit Music Theory and Andrew Huang's channel in particular. I hear some neat sound or they'll explain some neat idea, and I'll begin to wonder how I can make something from that.

One aspect of music production that Andrew Huang focuses on is sound design and trying to find new textures. For that, modular or semi-modular synths are great: you just plug a bunch of things together and see what happens (well, a bit more purposefully than that, but you get the idea).

That on its own was interesting, but a modular synth is even more than that. Its this wildly tunable, highly customized musical instrument.

And of course, that's when I stumbled upon ann annie's modular rendition of "Clair de Lune."

I listened through that with amazement. Hook, line, and sinker. Soon after, I found a small synth case I liked (on a slight discount! B-stock) and impulsively bought it.

And thus began my modular journey. Using Andrew Huang's getting-started-with-modular video as my starting point, I stayed up until 3:00 AM learning about different modules, acclimating to jargon and acronyms, and carefully constructing my tiny modular synthesizer in an online shopping cart.

What I wanted out of this system was:

I wanted it to have delay, I wanted it to be plucky, I wanted it to be weird and spacey. I found a video of someone who created a modular synth using 2hp's Pluck and Mutable Instruments' Rings and I knew I had to have them in there. I could make the synth stand alone by using a powerful sequencer like the Hermod. On top of having a MIDI interface built right in, it also has a bunch of built-in effects and a nice user experience.

But, I couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger. In my time as a software engineer, I've come to learn that you shouldn't push to production or submit a change at the end of the day, when you're tired. That's when you make a mistake and start to panic when what you really wanted to do was stop. I slept on it, found out my shopping cart was obliterated, recreated it and fixed some mistakes I'd made in the process.

Then I pulled the trigger, and began refreshing my inbox. I hadn't been this excited about a purchase in a while and it showed. When the big box of modules finally arrived, I spent the entire evening just putting it together and playing around with it. It's so so so cool.

My modular synth.

In the meantime, I'd started "porting" a chiptune track that I wrote a few months ago. I'd practiced the guitar part for it and was ready to record, but this was the perfect timing to try out the new synth. I made a few patches, settled on something I liked, and recorded it.

Here's the result.

Michael Knyszek ยท sunny with a chance of synth