michael.express
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