June was a month of juggling. I helped organize and headlined an afternoon concert of instrumental electronic music at the Currents New Media Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico; I started planning a potential new studio that will be Dolby Atmos compatible; I also have been editing my next album including recording overdubs for it. (While also injuring my right thumb, and trying to keep up with the normal household tasks like weeding the garden…)

Playing live is obviously a subject that’s been on my mind lately. At the same time, I’ve been reading (and watching videos) about the controversy of conventional musical acts using “backing tracks” as a substantial part of their live performance. This has caused me to bring a few thoughts together in my head, which is the subject of this month’s main article.


  • featured articleBacking tracks are a controversial part of the performance of popular music. How does that apply to electronic music?
  • Alias Zone updatesA video of the second half of my April performance at 17th Street Recording in Costa Mesa, California.
  • Learning Modular updatesYou probably need more power for your modular case than you’re planning on. Here’s how to calculate it.
  • Patreon updatesA continuation of my in-depth Superbooth reports, and a subscriber-only sale of modules I’m clearing out to make room for what I liked at Superbooth. Plus: You may be missing out on some of your Patreon benefits…
  • upcoming eventsI am planning to return to Knobcon in September, and may possibly play a series of dates in North Carolina in October.
  • one more thing: I’m learning about home studio acoustics. Here’s my new favorite resource.

Alias Zone Updates

I had a “mini-tour” in April, ending with a showcase performance the evening before the NAMM show at 17th Street Recording Studio in Costa Mesa, California. What I didn’t expect was that local blogger Jose Corona of The Corona Chronicles was going to record my performances with his stabilized iPhone, including numerous close-ups of me playing (as well as a tour around the studio itself). Jose was kind enough to share the resulting videos with me, and studio owner Lewis Richards shared the audio he recorded. Above is the second half of my performance, including The Barefoot Trail: a piece about how the ancestors of the Zuni pueblo of Native Americans emerged from the underworld, and to this day make a pilgrimage to Zuni Heaven. (A studio version of that track is slated to be on the third of four new albums I am currently working on…maybe out this winter?)

I also helped arrange plus headlined an instrumental electronic music concert as part of the Currents New Media Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Currents was held at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, and the afternoon concert venue was the “show arena” where livestock competitions are often held – complete with the sandy floor and metal bleachers (fortunately, we had a riser so we could set up our gear up out of the sand!). Combined with the open sides for the covered space and the ambient noise of the festival (outdoor vendors and food trucks), it was not a good venue for quiet, delicate music…fortunately, I was playing a couple of my more energetic pieces! There is video and audio of my performances; when I have some spare time I’ll edit and release them.

Finally, work continues – albeit more slowly than I originally planned – on my next album. As it includes a couple of older compositions, I’m taking this opportunity to update them a bit; I might also record a brand-new piece for this album. We’ll see what happens…

Learning Modular Updates

A common problem many users run into is to simply not have enough power. The number that ModularGrid provides by adding up the specs provided by manufacturers only reflects an average, steady demand; it can go up while the module is, say, turning on more LEDs, and can go up substantially when the module is first turned on. Symptoms of not enough power can range from occasional random behavior to a case not even power up.

Therefore, it was nice to observe that one of the quiet trends at Superbooth this year was a lot of companies releasing new power boards for Eurorack synths. In particular, manufacturers seem to be designing more for a worst case of a user loading their system with power-hungry modules, rather than an average case for “typical” modules. One example of this is Tiptop including a more powerful external power brick with their Mantis case than they did initially.

I wrote a Patreon post about how to calculate power needs, including arguing against the “conventional wisdom” that 10-20% of additional headroom above the ModularGrid is enough (if you really want to be safe, plan on double the power you think you’ll need). I made this post available for free to everyone; check it out the next time you’re planning a Eurorack system.

Patreon Updates

In between my musical and studio-planning pursuits, I also wrote a couple more of my detailed Superbooth show reports (available to +5v and above subscribers):

I also offered up more of my modules for sale at special prices for +5v and above subscribers; click here to see the list.

If you are a subscriber, I hope you saw those posts; my own email provider actually blocked that last one – that’s one of the reasons I include these summaries of new posts in each newsletter. Make sure you check them out to be sure you didn’t miss something.

Also, depending on when you subscribed and at what level, part of your benefits may include access to one or more of my modular synthesis courses. However, I often see that over half of subscribers don’t take advantage of that; I suspect many of those introductory emails got caught by spam filters. If you didn’t realize (or forgot) that you may have this perk, go to courses.learningmodular.com/login, and enter the email address you use for Patreon plus the password you created for my courses site. If you don’t know your password, click on the “Forgot password?” link underneath the big LOGIN button and reset it.

And if you’re wondering what this Patreon business is all about, click here to check out the index of articles I’ve written so far. If you find something interesting, sign up and check it out; you get the first 7 days free.

Upcoming Events

September 9: Knobcon Chillout Room, Schaumburg, Illinois. This year I will be playing Saturday afternoon as part of the “afternoon ambience” program.

I have also been planning for months to play a series of gigs in Asheville, Durham, and Charolette, North Carolina the first half of October, but none of them are actually confirmed yet. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.

One More Thing…

One of the things I’m most worried about while designing my potential new studio is acoustics. I’ve been trying to educate myself using searches and manufacturer websites, but there’s a lot of incomplete, confusing, and even contradictory information out there, which often leads to just making purchase decisions based on looks and price – not the most scientific method.

In my searches, I accidentally stumbled across the YouTube channel for Acoustics Insider. At last: Someone who was explaining acoustics clearly (including busting myths and misconceptions). Jesco Lohan uses just enough science to back up his thoughts without becoming confusing or pedantic, and overall believes in the advice of Albert Einstein that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This led me to his website and email list, and that led me to buying his courses.

In addition to the modular synthesis courses and book you may know me for, I also co-wrote 13 books and was involved in creating close to 50 courses on motion graphics (a specialty inside computer graphics), so I’m very picky about how information is presented. I have to say, Jesco has blown me away with the clarity and usefulness of his courses, including his customer interaction. I now feel a lot more confident about designing my studio, where before I was just going to spend a lot of money, throw a bunch of stuff at the walls (and ceiling, and corners, and…) and hope it worked. I’m so enthused, I wanted to share his site with you. (I’m not getting a sales commission or anything; I just like it that much!)

As I hinted in the introduction this month, I’m so busy right now that I’m getting a bit overwhelmed. These newsletters take about 3 days on average to create, which cuts into the time for everything else. So, I’m considering ways to cut back, such as writing a major main article (the biggest time consumer) less often, or even going to every other month for the entire newsletter. Suggestions and comments on what you want – as always – are helpful; let me know in the comments below.

looking for that eighth day in the week –