Learning Modular Synthesis:
The Comprehensive Starter Course

Tweaking a typical East Coast patch

Tweaking a patch on the Learning Modular Synthesis system

This is my original “Learning Modular” course, created for those just getting into hardware modular synthesis. I start with a brief history of synthesis, and review basic concepts such as voltage control as well as harmonics and sound. I then introduce the major module formats available, and discuss the core modules you might consider for your system, including cases, power, getting notes in, and getting sound out.

Then comes the heart of the course where I show you how to create the most common subtractive synthesis patch, then go over each main module in a typical modular synth, demonstrating how it works as well as what common synthesizer sounds you can create with it. I cover both East and West Coast Approaches to synthesis, so you’ll learn how to craft a wide variety of sounds. Here is the introductory video for the course:

The Eurorack-format “teaching rack” for this course (click here for more information on how and why I chose the modules I used for this course) is based on the widely available Roland System 500 Eurorack-standard synthesizer modules, complemented with modules from numerous other manufacturers. As most modules as well as many synthesizer keyboards and plug-ins are designed around the same principles, this course will be useful to all musicians wishing to get further into synthesis and programming their own sounds, regardless of the specific equipment you own.

Click here to go the Learning Modular Synthesis course on Lynda.com. If you don’t already have a Lynda.com account, register through lynda.com/trial/chrismeyer and you’ll receive your first 30 days free before your credit card is charged.

I’ve created a couple of other posts featuring free-to-all sample movies from the Learning Modular Synthesis course; feel free to peruse these first:


Some of the feedback I’ve received on this course includes:

“This is a fantastic course.  I would LOVE more.  I’ve been waiting a long time for a course like this THANKS Chris!” – a Lynda.com subscriber

 
“Holy cow this is awesome!!!! I had no idea this would be so nice…” – JH
 
“I checked out the previews and was really impressed at how in-depth it is and how much new knowledge I learned. I’ve already started recommending it to friends…” – EP
  
“Looks really good, very professional, very well presented; the way it’s broken down into chapters/sections is definitely a help.” – JO
  

These are some of the best newbie tutorials for modular synthesis… – SR

  

Thanks a lot for your videos. Perfectly clear explanations for people starting out in modular synthesis. – BF


Table of Contents for Learning Modular Synthesis

Introduction

  1. Welcome
  2. How we got here
  3. Fundamental concept: harmonics
  4. Fundamental concept: voltage control (CV + gate)

Chapter 1: Putting a System Together

  1. The standard formats
  2. The core building blocks
  3. Playing your modular synth
  4. Getting sound in and out
  5. Case and power supply issues

Chapter 2: Learning Subtractive Synthesis

  1. Patching a typical synthesizer “voice
  2. Tuning voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs)
  3. The basic analog waveforms
  4. Sine waves and drum sounds
  5. Digital wavetable oscillators
  6. The voltage controlled low-pass filter (VCF)
  7. The difference between filter slopes
  8. Resonance (feedback)
  9. Other common filter modes (HP, BP, Notch)
  10. Envelope types (ADSR, AD, AR, and DADSR)
  11. Linear versus exponential envelope shapes
  12.  Low frequency oscillator (LFO) waveshapes
  13. Pulse width modulation (PWM)
  14. Vibrato with LFO sync and delay
  15. Tremolo and voltage controlled amplifiers (VCAs)
  16. Some alternate modulation sources

Chapter 3: Exploring alternate techniques

  1. Oscillator sync
  2. Exponential Frequency Modulation (FM)
  3. Linear Through-Zero FM
  4. Ring modulation (AM)
  5. Waveshaping
  6. Low pass gates (LPG)
  7. Sample & hold (S/H)
  8. Phase shifting
  9. Analog and digital delays
  10. Effects loops
  11. Processing external sounds
  12. Other synthesis techniques

Conclusion

  1. Onward