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A journey through modular synthesis

A Systematic Introduction To Making Generative Music With Modular Synths

Music modular synth

Welcome to this first part of a really long series of articles, articles which will enable you to produce not only “just some kind of” generative music, but truly great generative music by following a strategic and efficient but also joyful approach.

There are going to be more than 200 pages (well, in my book there are that many), divided into 4 main chapters, and there are going to be embedded videos to illustrate what each chapter – sometimes even each paragraph of the chapter - is about.

Today I´m going to give you an overview of what you can be looking forward to, and after showing you the content – or shall I say the journey through modular synthesis? - you find a kind of short introduction, which I´ve called “Chapter 0”.

You´ll find a new article each week here on this website, and if there are questions, well, I´m prepared to answer them. You´ll find more about me, my work and my books on my website


Let me send a big “thank you” to the great people of Uryan Modular for allowing me to mention this here.

Rolf Kasten

And here is the content of this, well, of this course:

  • Chapter 0:                   About This Course And Some Words About What Generative Music Is

  • Chapter 1:                     Real Randomness vs. Complex Cycles (and the combination of both)

    • Chapter 1.1:                   LFOs

    • Chapter 1.2:                  Other Devices Generating Regular Cycles

    • Chapter 1.2.1:                Looping Envelopes

    • Chapter 1.2.2:                Sequencers

    • Chapter 1.2.3:                Shift Registers With Feedback

    • Chapter 1.2.4:                Sequential Switches

    • Chapter 1.2.5:                The Turing Machine – Part 1

    • Chapter 1.2.6:                Samples and Recordings

    • Chapter 1.3:                   Randomness, Probability and Stochastic

    • Chapter 1.3.1:                Some Basic Definitions

    • Chapter 1.3.2:                Sample & Hold

    • Chapter 1.3.3:                A Short Glimpse at the Turing Machine And At Shift Registers Again

    • Chapter 1.3.4:                Perfect Pseudo Randomness: Gray Code Modules

    • Chapter 1.3.5:                Imperfect Pseudo Randomness: Euclidean Sequencers

    • Chapter 1.3.6:                Random Trigger (Percussion) Sequencers With Different Amounts of Randomness

    • Chapter 1.3.7:                Stochastic Sequencers

    • Chapter 1.3.8:                Probability Gates (Random Clocked Gates)

    • Chapter 1.3.9:                Bernoulli Gates

  • Chapter 2:                      What to Modulate And to Trigger

  • Chapter 2.1:                   Pitch

  • Chapter 2.2:                   Timbre

    • Chapter 2.2.1:                Filter

    • Chapter 2.2.2:                Shapers

    • Chapter 2.2.3:                Partials (additive)

    • Chapter 2.2.4:                FM/PM

    • Chapter 2.3:                   Voices

    • Chapter 2.4:                   Rhythm

    • Chapter 2.5:                   Effects

    • Chapter 2.6:                   Envelopes

    • Chapter 2.7:                   Quantizers

    • Chapter 2.8:                   Grains

    • Chapter 2.9:                   Sample (Player)

    • Chapter 2.10:                 Slew Limiter

    • Chapter 2.11:                 Comparators

    • Chapter 2:12:                 Pitch Shifter

  • Chapter 3:                      Compositional Aspects of Generative Music

    • Chapter 3.1:                   General Thoughts, Strategies And Basic Compositional Decisions

    • Chapter 3.2:                   Basic Compositional Techniques

    • Chapter 3.2.1:                Contrasting

    • Chapter 3.2.2:                Repeating, Modifying And Inverting Relations

    • Chapter 3.2.3:                Basic But Exclusively Generative Techniques

    • Chapter 3.3:                   Specific Compositional Techniques

    • Chapter 3.3.1:                Pitch Dependency

    • Chapter 3.3.2:                Rhythm

    • Chapter 3.3.3:                Tension and Layers

    • Chapter 3.4:                   Certain Patch Techniques And Examples

    • Chapter 3.4.1:                Switching Voices And Larger Parts Of the Patch

    • Chapter 3.4.2:                Sculpture Randomness And Setting Borders

    • Chapter 3.4.3:                Jumping Between Certain BPM And Inverting Pitch Lines

    • Chapter 3.4.4:                Mixing Stable And Random Elements

  • Chapter 4:                      Some Building Blocks of Generative Patching

    • Chapter 4.1:                   The Instrumentation of Envelopes

    • Chapter 4.2:                   5 Faces of Randomness

    • Chapter 4.3:                   Random Harmonies

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