This tutorial introduces the following Adroit Synthesis modules…

Getting Started

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…

The Tutorial 3 preset patch

Click on the Song Control PLAY button in the top left of the patch.

You should now hear an extremely bare bones song complete with a fade in and fade out. After a pause it will repeat.

An overview of the patch

Block diagram of the Tutorial 3 patch

The patch builds on the structure of the one in Tutorial 2. It has additional song parts to give the song (such as it is) some simple structure. There is now a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s still essentially just a two bar long loop but instead of quantizing to the blues scale it’s quantizing to a very basic chord progression. Although we aren’t playing chords per se, the patch uses chords to add a little bit of movement and variation to the melody. The root note of the chord is also used to drive a drone voice.

The “song” is very slow and subdued, almost like a lullaby. It’s not the kind of thing most people create with modular synthesizers but it is deliberately pretty threadbare so that you can see the way song structure and chords are handled without there being too much clutter. It’s also rather gentle and boring for some contrast with other more energetic Tutorial patches. Hopefully you can listen to it repeat many times while studying the wiring without it getting on your nerves.

There’s no control over note velocities just in order to keep the patch a bit simpler.

If you are an old hand at modular synthesis then this patch will not seem very challenging in scale but if you are a beginner then it’s probably complex enough that you might feel overwhelmed. It’s important to allow yourself plenty of time to understand what’s going on. It’s a matter of breaking things down into components – asking questions like what is this module doing? What’s this cable doing? Don’t expect too much of yourself in one session.

Even for people with years of experience there comes a point where a large patch is no longer fun to work with. It becomes fragile and difficult to modify. But we are only beginning to scratch the surface of LSSP. So how is it going to be possible to go much much further? The answer in plain language is the use of “black boxes”. We’ll be exploring polyphony in the next tutorial but in the one after we will be looking at how to hide things like entire verses, choruses and breaks inside of single modules with nothing but a V/Bar connection as input and a stereo pair as output.

Using the Song Control Sequencer to build song structure

One of the key differences between this tutorial and the previous one is the use of multiple Song Part modules. The combination of a Song Control module and one or more Song Part modules creates a sub-system called the Song Control Sequencer. This can be thought of as a rather bulky step sequencer where each step is a section of a song rather than a note.

Song Control and Song Part are separate modules so that that songs can be extended indefinitely by appending or inserting extra parts. It’s also easy to delete sections or rearrange them. Just remember that it’s the ordering of the LINK OUT – LINK IN connections that determines the order of play and not the location of the modules on the screen. The labels at the top of each Song Part Module automatically update to indicate the actual order.

The Song Control Sequencer

The main function of the Song Control Sequencer is to generate V/Bar signals. Each Song Part’s V/BAR OUT socket produces a rising voltage when the Song Part is active. Non-active Song Parts output zero volts. This V/Bar signal enables Adroit sequencers to switch on and off at appropriate times and to know “what time it is” when they are active.

The IS ACTIVE sockets provide a gate signal that is 5 volts when a part is active and zero volts otherwise. The two sockets above with squiggly graphic labels produce voltages that gradually change over the duration of the part. In this tutorial’s patch they are used to control the fade in at the beginning of the song and the fade out at the end of the song.

Introducing chords

The free Nucleus version of Voltage Modular doesn’t include any polyphonic modules or the tools required for handling MIDI so we aren’t using the Adroit Chord Player in this tutorial. But it is introduced in the next one (although you’ll need the Core version of Voltage Modular to use it).

In the previous tutorials we’ve been using the Blues Scale and Pitch Adjuster modules to quantize the output of CV Sequencer so that all notes are in the blues scale. But here we are using a chord progression over 16 bars to add a little more interest. The Pitch Adjuster is still doing the quantization but now it’s adjusting on the fly to make the notes fit in the current chord. As the chord changes over time the resulting pitches vary a little.

The chords are generated by the Diatonic Triads module. This produces the commonest three note chords (a triad is three notes) and the notes are all from a scale (they are known as diatonic). LSSP XL includes more chord related modules.

A chord progression is constructed by patching some of these chords to a Progression module.

A simple chord progression

A very common notation for chord progressions is to lay them out in a table. The chord progression used in this tutorial would look like this…

IIII
viviiiii
IVIVIVIV
VVVV

In the key of C the chord names would be as follows…

CCCC
AmAmDmDm
FFFF
GGGG

If you look at the image of the Diatonic Triads and Progression modules above you can hopefully see the exact same pattern. Although a cable is only required when a chord change occurs, so we only need to patch 5 cables rather than 16.

If a key other than the default of C is chosen using the selector in Song Control then all the chords in Diatonic Triads change. You will see that the Roman Numerals remain the same (they are independent of the key – that’s why they are so useful) but the yellow Chord Names change automatically to reflect the new key.

Tutorial 4

List of LSSP 101 Tutorials