Modular - why bother?

If someone can convince me otherwise I’m all ears… but I don’t really get the point of modular in a musicality context. Fine if you want to make random blips and sounds, but isn’t that it’s limit?

Every time I hear it being used, modular just sounds like modular.
It always sounds like a ‘can I do this with it?’ experiment, where the answer is usually yes, but, you know…zzz

Do you want to sound like YOU, or do you want to convince yourself that the modular sound is YOU?? :man_shrugging:t2:

I haven’t heard anything done on modular gear where I can recognise/distinguish an artists voice/signature behind it… anyone know of any work to disprove this??

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s modular parade, if you enjoy it cool… but it strikes me as the ultimate GAS and TIME sinkhole there is.

The reason I bring this up is that I’m in the process of possibly picking up a Moog Matriarch… that’ll be as close to modular/patching that I’ve come, and at present I really don’t want a Eurorack… :joy:


Modular is 50% the process and 50% the sound. The fun thing is you can make it what suits you. If a bunch of people all want to make the generative pot plant stuff that’s fine, but that’s not the extent of it.

Cool if you don’t like it though, and I agree the cost of entry is a bummer. Enjoy the Moog.


You might as well say guitars, why bother?
They all sound the same!

Same goes for any instrument. How many more boring 120bpm house loops does the world need?

And yet, Eliane Radigue always sounds like Eliane Radigue. Arp 2500.

Suzanne Cianne always sounds like Suzan Cianne. Buchla systems.

People that learn their instruments and know what they are doing, create their own voice.


I think it’s probably fair to say that a lot of modular users make non-mainstream music and some of it could accurately be described as bleeps and bloops, but there’s nothing wrong with that and if that’s what you’re aiming for then modular may be a good option. Some people don’t have a musical destination in mind and they just want to “go down the rabbit hole” and see where it takes them and modular has that ability I think. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a thing.

I don’t think you’ll get much argument there, it’s clearly a massive time and money sink!


It’s still synthesis, albeit a Frankenstein version. Anything you can do on a regular hardware synth you can do on modular, and you can bleep and bloop as much on a defined synth. That’s what modular is, breaking out of those defined synths that are sold to you, and carving up your own mixture of sections. It might be a time and coin sink, but for many that is part of the allure. I personally went the semi modular route recently, I’m fascinated to understand the process of modular, but there’s enough regular old synth there to get by without understanding it at all (and as a result, less GAS)


This is a common misconception due to far too many inexperienced synthesis to doing just that. But a well-thought out modular system can be as musical as any ‘standard’ synth.

You haven’t heard everything, then. There are plenty of examples throughout history, from Wendy Carlos and Mort Garson, up to modern day acts like Sonoio.

I would suggest that a modular synthesizer would let you sound more like you than any other synth, as you would be the one making the choices about what goes into it.

The thing is, the current approach to modular synthesis can be somewhat haphazard, thanks to the many options available. It’s easier to buy a new module when you want a new sound rather than come up with a new idea using the modules you’ve got. However, this really isn’t getting the most out of a system.

A modular synth isn’t limited to only a certain type of sound… this makes no sense, as a modular system can have the same building blocks that might be used in, say, an ARP Odyssey or Analog Four. Being ‘patchable’ doesn’t give it a sound, any more than a modulation matrix on a Waldorf or Oberheim give those instruments a sound.

Modular synthesis is exactly what you want it to be.


They don’t though, not at all… they are highly influenced by the player who uses it as an expressive tool (well, you know, people who are good :blush:).

I think the same of pianos, synths, drums, drum machines, etc… there’s a huge element of player control/input that’s required.

I do get that there’ll be a range of abilities of people using modular gear, and it could be a similar case, but personally I am unaware of anyone who contradicts my take on it.

This was a reverse point I meant to make… I don’t really hear any modular systems doing anything you couldn’t do on a synth or two for a fraction of the cost…

a friend of mine, who is into modular, told me similar things.
he said that it’s 1/3 the sound, 1/3 the process, and 1/3 the show when it comes to gigs.
however, my super-portable live rigs always make him envious :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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There’s loads of examples of excellent modular music that isn’t just “bleeps and bloops”. Check out Steevio. He’s developed own sound that is deeply related to his particular modular set up - no doubt honed over many years + his ability to play it like an instrument. Just one example of many.

There are plenty of examples of videos of people in the early stages of learning all types of instruments. Modular is no different.

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This was part of the point, I’m open minded to checking music out using it… and there is modular music I hear and like, I’m not a hater. :v:


Well, an adjunct to this might be, you will always be limited by the total parameters available to you on a defined synth, with modular, that’s not the case. And there’s a different logic to modular that relates to voltages etc that is different to regular subtractive synths etc. There are certain ways you can pivot a patch in unbelievable ways with a simple change of a cable, it’s a different way of thinking and working tbh.


Build your own personal groovebox. You decide how many and which type of lfo’s, vco’s, sample possibilities and which fx you want. Digital or analog filter you choose.
Standard electronic instruments are like Duplo or Lego to play with. Eurorack is more like Play-Doh. A little messy but you decide and the output of musical journey is never the same.

Strictly modular tracks :


I always find these ‘Disprove me’ threads kinda off putting - why should anyone go through the process of gathering ‘evidence’, when you are so clearly wrong, and would find out, with a minimum of research?

Anything you could ever dream of doing on a synth, can be done in modular. So if you find any sounds made on a synth ‘musical’, then you are disproven. Enjoy.


I, for myself, completely gave up with “free” modular.
But I ended up with a fixed case in which I never unplug anything. Modular doesn’t mean you have to change everything all the time. You can build an instrument that fits your needs, and your needs only.


I like this period of Simian Mobile Disco (Whorl / Welcome To Sideways) where almost everything was done on a pair of eurorack systems with Cirklons sequencing.

Could you reproduce it on “standard” synths or a computer? I guess? Would they have made this music like this in the first place on different gear? I doubt it. Either way, it sounds uniquely SMD to me.


Why bother?

Too much money in your bank account, not enough ideas in your head? - Go Modular!! You can then spend as much time thinking about whether a different module might be better than the one you already have as making sounds with the thing. You can talk to people on the internet about modules, not music. You can put photos of blinkenlights cable spaghetti online and cream in the likes for a little dopamine hit every now and then, all without making a single piece of music!! It’s perfect for the modern hyper-consumerist world. Just make sure to match your module colour scheme with your tattoos.


And that would so be me… :joy::partying_face: