Making modular sounds with regular synth

I would appreciate your input if you create modular type music with your desktop synth.

I often dial in a tone which i like, but then i stop editing, because i fear that i make it worse or dont come back to the sweet spot.

With electrons its not that bad, with function reload : but how do you go about it with peak, virus, prophets etc ? I end up with the cut off knob to frequently to my liking.

So do you treat your desktop synth like a modular? Or keep the sweet spot?

There is no innately modular music or innately desktop music.

These synths have hundreds of patch storage locations. When you get somewhere you like but want to go further, just save the patch to the next location.


The more wide-open the modulation possibilities, the more a fixed-architecture desktop synth can resemble a modular rack. From personal experience with both, I can point to the Analog Four, Micromonsta 2, Norand Mono. I’m sure there are many others (e.g., Hydrasynth).


Planning to use an Elektron sequencer w. parameter locks with the CC values of a synth with a lovely tone. I expect more control and more precision thant what I might get from CV values.

Modular and semi modular synths changed how i approach desktop synths. Patches can have a lot of sweet/interesting spots to modulate between.


I’ve used lost of modular, semi-modular and not at all modular gear and my sound has remained pretty consistent throughout.

I’m better at what I do because of all the different gear I’ve used, but I wouldn’t say that one sounds any particular way different to another, at least as far as I have used them.


More modulation routings makes things sound more like my modular. In my case also easy access to 8step or less than then sequencing. Ideally non-Quantized, which I love, and takes some extra steps in something like an Elektron (or I accept its Quantized).

A4 mk1 is a very affordable way of achieving modular approach in a fixed architecture synth. Because of all its lfos and envelopes.

Added: As opposed to some, for me modular makes things really sound different to me. But the more and more I learn synthesis, and my gear, the less different.

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This is a modular jam i like, you can see him adjusting the modulation qiete frequently. So do you work with your synth matrix more than the actual desktop controls? Did you setup external midi controllers to access lfo speed/ depth ?

So the thing here is that I suspect his preference for modular is as much about performability as sound. There are a few modules he’s working more than others, one of them is just a filter - but there’s something to be said for having all that functionality laid before you, you can see it - every setting is one knob turn away and you don’t have to go searching for it.

Digitone is genuinly a good shout - the elektron sequencer lends really well to heavy modulation and the sounds being used here could easily be created with FM, and Digitone’s implementation works well for making continual changes over the course of a track, shaping tone and character constantly. The effects shouldn’t be that restricting for this style of music.

Syntakt could also be a good candidate.

The problem with both is that you lack immediacy. Love my Digitone, and you can see above the kind of killer performances people like @Jeanne do on them (also check out forum regular @DaveMech ) - there is clearly no lack of sonic capability there for this style of music. What you do have to adapt to is the fact that you can’t, for example, close down the release on one voice while you open the filter on another (at least without introducing external controllers or specific planning) - and any live decision making is more limited by what you can find/see on the screen and hear, rather than what you can immediately review by glancing over your rack. That doesn’t make for better/worse music, but it’s a preference.

What am I saying. I guess that it’s more about workflow than sound. In techno especially modular is very knobby and visceral - it becomes part of the experience - but I don’t think it’s required for the sounds you need. You could buy a Perkons and save a couple grand :sweat_smile:

For me I don’t think that modulation is neccessarily the heart of modular, it’s the ability to reconfigure things in interesting ways and create custom instruments that you retain tactile control over. That said I don’t think I can buy, say, a Euclidian LFO in desktop format so there are some things you might struggle to recreate.

You might also like LIFKA - I’ve been enjoying his sets recently.

Might be useful to watch how he works with his rack to see what you could bring into the desktop space.

If you find the racks of artists you like on Modulargrid it might help you to identify some of the qualities of their sound you enjoy.

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I’m a fan of semi modulars, like the Moog Matriarch and Grandmother, or the 0-Coast.

They’re fun right out of the box, they are mostly knob-per-function, and you can take them off-piste whenever you like.

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Apart specific modules which are unique in the hardware world, there are some modular techniques I feel you can only do in there:

  • Feedback explorations like sending a VCO to a VCF and then sending the output of that VCF to the VCO’s fm
  • Cross modulating modulations like LFO1 modulating LFO2’s speed, LFO2 modulating LFO3’s speed and then LFO3 going back to modulate LFO1’s speed
  • Using sequencers, modulators, mixers, S&H and quantizers to generate melodies

Except from that, there’s really one thing that sounds like a modular to me: waveshaped VCO into a LPG controlled by and exponantial envelope. If you can emulate that elsewhere, you’re getting pretty close to it.

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Finding sweet spots is like finding mushrooms in the woods. If I try to draw a map so that I can come back to that exact spot the next time, I could miss out on finding even sweeter spots.
Never quite as sweet as when I just find them.


I agree, but I think non-modular gear is catching up.

You could achieve most if not all of that with a Hydrastnth (modulation/feedback), A4 (feedback/neighbour osc) and an Erica DB-01 (sequencer).

Of course, all of this is stuff that is just so easy with modular that it becomes second nature, whereas it’s often a bit more difficult/menu divey with non-modular gear. I think it’s that difference in approach that really sets modular gear apart.


…use ur synth as the raw material…use samplers to align all their sweetspots…

I think ability to totally decouple sound generation from sequencing and modulation is easier and more hands-on with modular. You could get a hardware sequencer but you’ll likely still end up dealing with multiple “pages” of controls or some other interface abstraction whereas modular tends to be more knob-per-feature so you could argue that it might technically be less “deep” than other gear but whatever functionality is there is right in front of you and not hidden behind any menus or pages or whatever.

I think decoupling sound from sequencing appeals to me and (perhaps foolishly) I’m tempted to get a tiny modular or a semi-modular so I can enjoy the Elektron sequencing from my DT but have some sound design playground from the modular synth.

how about Faderfox PC4

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I have an EC4, i will map the LFO speed/depth not sure if target is also a possible destination on the DN.
I think youre right, the difference is in the layout, Maybe an even larger midi controller would help, with EC4 i start to page quickly.

I didnt count the knobs in his rack from the video what i posted. 16 modules with 3 to6 knobs, that is quiete a lot of possibilities.

I dont want to go the modular route, but semi modular is appealing to me. 0 coast, dreadbox … not to convinced with the buchlas what i have seen as youtube demos.