This tutorial introduces the following Adroit Synthesis modules…
Ideally you will have already worked through LSSP 101 Tutorial 1 as these tutorials build on knowledge gained in previous sessions.
In the first tutorial you hopefully explored the CV Sequencer in some depth. The Tutorial 2 patch is designed to help you do the same with the Rhythm Sequencer and to see how we can move from a one bar loop to a two bar loop.
Table of Contents
As before all you need for this tutorial is the free Nucleus version of Voltage Modular and the demo version of LSSP 101.
Begin by clicking on the button below to download the .voltagepreset file.
Open the downloaded file to automatically launch Voltage Modular with the ready built patch shown below…
All of the 101 tutorials are designed to run in standalone mode at a tempo of 120 BPM so check that you have the correct setting at the very top of the window.
Click on the Song Control PLAY button in the top left of the patch.
You should now hear a two bar loop playing.
An overview of the patch
This patch is similar to the one in Tutorial 1. There are two monophonic synthesizer voices, one assigned to the left stereo channel and the other to the right and both of the voice’s pitches are being quantized to fit in the blues scale.
Each voice is a still quite primitive with just one oscillator but we now have much more control as a result of added VCAs and envelope generators. Obviously feel free to adjust the controls or adapt the patch as you see fit.
For practical reasons the goal of these tutorials is not to showcase fantastic sounds but to help you understand how LSSP can help you compose fantastic music.
The first thing you will probably notice is that this patch loops over two bars rather than the single bar of Tutorial 1.
Being able to move from a single bar to a double bar length sequence in LSSP involves something called Time Splitting. Don’t worry too much about the theory at the moment, just consider that the Time Split 2 module does the job of driving one sequencer for odd numbered bars and then another for even numbered bars.
In addition to time splitting, the outputs of the sequencers need to be merged together. This is the job of the MERGE sockets that you will find on almost all Adroit sequencers.
The CV Sequencers control the pitches of the two voices. The lead sound uses the upper channel which is color-coded green, the bass uses the lower channel and is color-coded cyan.
The Rhythm Sequencers below provide gate signals for the envelope generators and also velocity control to enable the volume of individual notes to be adjusted. The Rhythm Sequencers are color-coded to match the CV Sequencer channels so you should be able to easily see what is controlling what.
In this patch the VEL OUT sockets of the Rhythm Sequencers aren’t actually connected to anything, this is because the built-in VCAs (labelled VCA* in the block diagram) are being used instead to modulate the amplitude of the envelope generators that control the volume of each voice. Exactly the same effect could be had by using Amplifier modules connected to the VEL OUT sockets but Rhythm Sequencer includes a VCA to help save space and wiring.
Quantization and sample and hold
The “compositional” technique used here is commonplace in modular synthesis. A sequencer produces a melodic shape that is quantized to fit a particular scale and a sample and hold module is used to sample the pitch and hold it until a new note occurs.
It works well enough as a generative technique but you don’t really decide which notes are played, instead you define a rough pitch contour, choose a scale and then use rhythm to sample the pitch in what is essentially pseudo random probing.
If a completely constant rhythm is used then the pseudo random element is removed. The result is the kind of music made popular nearly half a century ago by the likes of Tangerine Dream.
Adding some complexity to the rhythm creates greater interest but changing the rhythm often changes the pitches in an unpredictable way. This haphazard approach has its fans though and in a studio rather than live setting you can try many attempts at tweaking either the pitch contour or the rhythm until you eventually strike gold.
The Melody Sequencer module offers a sophisticated alternative to this approach. It provides a range of options for creating melodies. You can step record from a MIDI keyboard. You can start with a scale or chord. You can manipulate order and repetition. You can build a melody one note at a time. Individual pitches can be edited with precision. There are random and shuffle functions so you can still throw the dice. Also you can use quantization but in a very controlled manner – you can choose note by note whether to quantize and by what algorithm.
Experiments in rhythm
Rhythm Sequencer is a sufficiently complex module that there are two website pages of documentation for it. A reference page that provides an overview and an operation page that explores some of the details. Rather than duplicate this information here it’s best to check out these pages.
Ideally have both a browser and Voltage Modular running at the same time so that you can test out things straight away as you read through the website pages.
Although it is strongly recommended that you read the detailed documentation it’s important to grasp that Rhythm Sequencer is actually quite easy to use and just experimenting will get you a long way.
Below are just a few little pointers to help you begin to experiment.
Rhythm Sequencer provides a simple but powerful probability function.
While this tutorial’s patch is playing in a loop locate the top left Rhythm Sequence of the set of four. It’s the one on the left with controls color-coded green. Turn its PROBABILITY knob down to approximately 50% (or 12 o’clock).
Note the dramatic effect this has on the melody. It gives the first bar a sense of improvisation. It’s important not to over use this effect though. It is so powerful precisely because the rest of the music remains rock solid.
To prove the point – leaving this specific change in place, adjust any of the other Rhythm Sequencer’s PROBABILTY knobs and you will hear how this destroys the power of the one carefully chosen change.
The CV socket on the left of the knob enables probability to be voltage controlled. Importantly, this can be done synchronously so that each step can be given its own probability of firing. So it’s possible to have a solid rhythm with certain steps 100% certain with a range of weaker steps that may or may not occur.
This little button is very important as it transforms how Rhythm Sequencer works.
When it’s engaged adjacent rhythm steps that are on combine to form one long sustained note.
When it’s disengaged each step is independent and this generally produces faster but less expressive rhythms.
One thing to note here is the interaction between rhythm and envelope generators. You need to find envelopes that fit a particular rhythmic pattern. Something that sounds great for relatively slow sustained notes might not work at all when being driven at sixteenth note speed and vice versa.
The user interface aspect of velocity control can be rather confusing at first so it’s important to understand why the white line and the colored velocity bars don’t always match up.
It’s all quite logical once you understand why there is a difference. The Velocity Editing section of the Rhythm Sequencer Operation page goes into this in depth.
As with the Tutorial 1 patch it’s possible to change key using the Song Control KEY feature. This time however the transposition is applied to the right-hand voice, because the lead line is (in the initial patch state) already in quite a high register so the bass is transposed up instead.