Patch & Tweak: Exploring Modular Synthesis
When asked to recommend a book on modular synthesis, many musicians used to recommend text books or manuals from the 60s and 70s. But the world has changed a lot since then – so Kim Bjørn and I created PATCH & TWEAK: a new book dedicated to modular synthesizers. It covers the instruments themselves, as well as those who create them and make music with them. Modular synth pioneer and “Diva of the Diode” Suzanne Ciani also wrote the forward.
PATCH & TWEAK includes an introduction to modular synthesis and discussion of different ways to get started. It then covers the different kinds of modules available, starting with the basics and ramping up through advanced examples and applications. No manufacturer bought or bartered their way into the book; all of the several hundred modules featured were hand-chosen because they were great examples of a particular function or feature. This is capped off with a history of modular synthesis, as well as a glossary of the most common terms.
This information is supplemented by interviews with a tasty selection of module manufacturers, including Verbos Electronics, Frap Tools, Mutable Instruments, WMD, Make Noise Music, Intellijel, Endorphin.es, 4ms Company, Noise Engineering, Rossum Electro-Music, Erica Synths, and Music Thing Modular, diving into their own personal philosophies that motivate them to create the modules they do.
Gear lust is fun, but we also want you to be inspired to create music. Therefore, all that technical content is balanced with interviews with a wide range of modular musicians, including Hans Zimmer, Robert Rich, Bana Haffar (Modular on the Spot), Caterina Barbieri, Russell E. L. Butler, Ian Boddy (DiN; Red Shift), Node, Robin Rimbaud (Scanner), Hataken, Colleen Martin (Lady Starlight), Andrew Huang, and more, including patch tips from DivKid, Mylar Melodies, White Noises, and Lightbath. Indeed, virtually all of the artists shared their own advice on what modules and patch techniques they personally find to be useful.
There are also numerous patch diagrams throughout, from basic concepts to favorite patches of many of the artists we interviewed. And beyond that, the information on how each type of module works and interacts with others will lead you to create new sounds – your own sounds – from scratch. We also don’t just tell you now to use that popular module everybody said you should buy; instead, we will make you aware of hundreds of modules that are available, and show you what to look for in a module and what new capabilities it will give you.
But don’t take just my word for it; ask a friend who already has a copy. Or better yet, take the word of none other than Pete Townsend:
“Beautifully designed, full of interviews, advice, and absolutely no prejudice, this is the best book about electronic sound that I’ve seen (since the early 70s). Authors Kim Bjørn and Chris Meyer, with a foreword by the wonderful Suzanne Ciani, make this a life changing moment for me. Warning, it’s expensive. It costs as much as some Eurorack modules. But it will change your studio process and lighten up your lunches and reads-in-bed for months to come. For those of us new to Eurorack the fact that it is so current and up to date makes it very special.” – Pete Townsend (via Instagram)
PATCH & TWEAK was initially offered through a Kickstarter in May 2018; it started shipping during October 2018. You can now order the book from the PATCH & TWEAK web page, or from one of the over 50 modular stores that are carrying the book. Many, many thanks to all of you who made the Kickstarter campaign a success and who otherwise pre-ordered the book.
For more information, see my September 2018 Learning Modular newsletter which contains more information as well as some sneak peeks of the book. For those who want more background, below is a live webcast Kim and I did with “DivKid” Ben Wilson about the book:
Videos, or Book?
I believe you will find this book is an excellent compliment to my online modular synth video courses: A print book is the ideal format to discuss history, list modules, and illustrate common patches; videos are the ideal format to show both your eyes and your ears what happens when you use certain modules in certain ways.
My recommended order would be to watch my original Learning Modular Synthesis course (perhaps in parallel with reading in the “intro to modular synthesis” chapter in the book), followed by reading PATCH & TWEAK. Then keep what you learned in the book in mind while watching many of those modules in action in my ever-growing Eurorack Expansion course. If you happen to be a Moog Mother-32 user, you can watch that course before or in place of my original Learning Modular Synthesis course.