About Learning Modular

Tweaking a typical East Coast patch

Tweaking a patch on the Learning Modular Synthesis demo system

My goal is to help a new generation of modular synthesizer users master this exciting, potentially intimidating instrument. My approach is based on the idea that once you truly understand how something works, it’s far easier to be creative with it, as you will no longer waste time and become frustrated stumbling over technical issues and misunderstandings. To that end, I am creating a set of materials – from informational articles on this site to a set of online video training courses on Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning – aimed at the musician who is new to modular synthesis, but also of use to current synthesists who want to better understand and master their instruments.

This web site will act as the central host for articles, videos, and more for the modular synthesists. Much of this information will also be re-posted in various forms on Facebook, YouTubeTwitter, and Instagram, but LearningModular.com will be where it appears first and in its most complete form. Please join my mailing list (at the bottom of this page) to learn when new information is posted, and feel free to join the conversation by posting comments on the individual posts: We all learn by helping each other, from sharing our personal experiences to just letting me know what you found useful and would like to learn about next.


 

About Chris Meyer

Prophet VS + JD-800

The Sequential Prophet VS, which I designed the voice algorithm for, and the Roland JD-800, which contains sounds from some of my personal instruments

You’ve heard the stories where a kid finds his older brother’s stash of pornographic magazines…in my case, I found my brother’s stash of electronics magazines, and was fascinated by the images of bare circuit diagrams (I read the articles, too – I swear!). Then as fate would have it, his first college roommate had a relative that was creating commercials with one of the first Moog modular synths. He brought home a tape (reel to reel!) and played it for me, and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do with my life: be involved in electronic music.

I took modular synthesizer lessons on a Steiner-Parker Synthasystem as a teen in the late 70s. A PAiA modular was my dorm room companion in college, eventually supplemented after college with a custom Gentle Electric cabinet was well as the semi-modular EML-101 and an Oberheim 2-Voice that I modified to bring all of the internal patch points out to the panel. This love of synthesis led to an engineering position at Sequential Circuits in the mid-80s, where I created Vector Synthesis and worked on a variety of instruments including the Studio 440. After Sequential I had stints at Digidesign, Music Maker Publications, and Tom Oberheim’s Marion Systems before becoming the Chief Engineer at the now-defunct Roland R&D US. During this time I also served as Technical Chairman of the MIDI Manufacturer’s Association, creating or shepherding through many additions to the MIDI specification; I also taught synthesis through UCLA Extension to musicians and producers in the Los Angeles area.

Alias Zone - Lucid DreamsIn the mid-90s I transitioned working in the video and film industries. My wife Trish and I ran an award-winning motion graphics studio, CyberMotion (now known as Crish Design). I occassionally composed soundtracks for our clients; I also produced and performed on album Alias Zone: Lucid Dreams which was named best independent electronic music album in 2002. During this era, I played ambient and rhythmic loops in a live improv situation processed through a stack of gear including at various phases a Korg MS-20, Sherman Filterbank, and MAM Warp 9 as well as vocoders and other effects.

Our motion graphic business was based around the software program After Effects; our studio was one of its original development sites. Our insistence in understanding how After Effects worked underneath the hood led to us writing 13 books and creating nearly 50 online video courses translating these technical underpinnings into advice for the practicing motion graphics artist. Now that we have wrapped up that business, I am taking that experience of explaining technical concepts to artists and applying it to teaching synthesis to a new generation of modular synthesizer enthusiasts. And I’m having a blast.


 

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