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SynthDIY Modular Workshop

So... you want to build a modular synthesizer system.

I guess you have seen some of the monster systems that flourish on the net today. Maybe you have seen one of the readymade systems that can be bought, eg. the Doepfer A100 or

To build your own modular system is like building any other DIY synthesizer or other... thing. The only difference between a modular synthesizer and a complete "prepatched" synthesizer is that you can route the control and audio signal as you please and create more complex sounds.

Anyways, below I list some good resources and some basic modules needed to get some kind of sound from your system. Feel free to mail me if you have any questions, see under contact for the email address.

Dont forget to check out the Resource center to get some good tools and resources.

Basic Modular modules

Module type Description Nr of modules
Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO) An oscillator is the most basic module in a modular system. It is the oscillator that creates the waveform that is later on manipulated with other modules. Voltage controlled means that you can pass a voltage into the module and that way control for example pitch. Usually you can use a VCO as a control source for other modules (and other vco's) therefor more is better. 1-n
Power Supply Ok, before you go and create any more modules make sure you have the correct powersupply. Most modules use the +/- 15volt standardand you get quite far with just this. Other standards are +/- 18V, +/- 12V, +5V. 1-3
Voltage Controlled Filter (VCF) Depending on what you want to do with your sound either a VCF (filter) or VCA (amplifier) is your next module to build. a VCF is a filter which can be any type lowpass, bandpass, hipass, notch, etc etc. A filter "subtracts" certain frequencies in a sound changing its character. Many modules often offer many types of filters in one module since the base of the circuit is the same. With control voltage, frequency and resonance can be altered. 1-5
Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA) The VCA is as the name implies an amplifier. With a VCA you can adjust the volume of a sound either manually or by Voltage Control. The effect of sound on when you press a key on a keyboard and sound off when you release it is made partly with the help of a VCA, often in conjunction with an Envelope Generator (EG). 1-5
Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) All of the above modules that are so called Voltage Controlled can be controlled by... you guessed it Voltage sources. One of are ofcourse the VCO, which sends out a voltage waveform. However since the VCO is made for making sounds the waveform is quite fast. So for more slow and audible control of VC-modules LFO''s are used. LFO's are simply put, Very slow waveforms, therfor the name LFO, which meanse Low Frequency Oscillator 1-5

Later/advanced modules

Module type Description Nr of modules
Envelope Generators Comes in many variations, are usually triggered one wave LFO... sort of, what it does, it sends out a voltage controlled curve that can control any voltage controlled module. One of the many uses are the ADSR(Attack Decay Sustain Release)-envelope used on a VCA to get a smoother sound when triggering a sound. But that said it comes in many variations, VCADSR, AD, ADSR, HADSR, etc etc... VERY useful. 1-n

Filters and effects

Module type Description Nr of modules
Non controllable filters All of the above modules can be found as non voltage controllable, this usually means WYTISYG (What you turn is what you get) ;) Turn the knob, release and that is the value of that module. This is mostly used in filter modules. 1-n
Delays / echo Everything from very short delays to fatten the sound to long delay lines making their own melodies. One of the old electronic ways of creating a delay was with a bbd-circuit. 1-n
Reverbs The Ambience of a room, very short delays and diffusions of delays. A VERY complex effect, that todays computers do a great job of taking care of. But if you want some of that old feeling build your own... Or even better make your own "echo-chamber", now THAT is analog ;) 1-n
Flanger Short delays that are constantly sweeped usually with an LFO. 1-n
Phaser Do you have a good explanation? Let me know. 1-n
Ring modulator Do you have a good explanation? Let me know. 1-n
Distortion, overdrive, fuzz Do you have a good explanation? Let me know. 1-n