Adroit Synthesis modules are downloadable software components in Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular – a virtual modular synthesizer system that works as a plugin or standalone on both Windows and Apple Mac computers.
Voltage Modular is essentially a software simulation of a Eurorack modular synthesizer. Because it is implemented in software it has the advantages of much lower cost, greater portability and the convenience of being able to automatically save and reload patches instead of you having to spend hours messing with physical cables and controls if you want to recreate previous work.
If you are new to modular synthesis you can download the Nucleus package for free and try it out to see what all the fuss is about. All you need is a couple of days’ spare time to explore and become addicted!
Once you are familiar with the basics of Voltage Modular you can download Adroit Synthesis modules from the Cherry Audio Store and use them at no cost for a demo period to evaluate their potential.
Adroit Synthesis modules are priced so as to be easily accessible and you can save extra money by buying discounted bundles of modules such as the Adroit Toolkit.
Some Adroit Synthesis modules are general purpose and can stand alone but many use custom technologies such as Volt Per Bar timing and S-Poly connections for scales, chords and control signals and are designed to work together in an integrated system called LSSP.
The LSSP 101 bundle is a low-cost and effective introduction to the world of LSSP.
Large Scale Sequencing Project
The Large Scale Sequencing Project (LSSP for short) is a fancy name for the concept of mapping the structure of a musical composition onto a collection of interconnected Adroit Synthesis modules.
Its design stemmed from a sense of frustration with the limited scope of piano roll editing and the fact that existing modular synthesizer technology focuses lots of attention on sound design and small scale sequencing but hardly addresses the problems involved in large scale musical composition.
The diagram below shows an overview of LSSP.
Each of the blocks in the diagram represents one or more modules in a Voltage Modular patch.
This diagram might not make a great deal of sense initially but when you have explored the modules a little it might be worth coming back and looking at it again as it could possibly help you gain a more holistic perspective of the architecture.
LSSP Patches in Practice
In practice the exact form of an LSSP patch depends on what you want to achieve. This open-ended approach is of course the beauty of modular systems.
At one extreme a simple setup might use a subset of the functionality and consist of just a handful of modules that patched together operate like a neat little drum machine or a simple bass line sequencer for instance.
At the opposite extreme, systems that implement entire symphonic scale compositions can be built providing that you have the massive computing power required to use hundreds of modules simultaneously and of course the ingenuity and patience to build such large scale patches.
Depth and Freedom
Deep exploration, analysis and technical creativity combined with an open-ended systems approach are exactly what modular enthusiasts find so attractive when applied to sound design. LSSP attempts to extend this modular philosophy to large scale musical composition.
LSSP is not a simple system, it’s designed to model the internal structure of musical compositions and music isn’t always the simplest of things.
On the other hand everything possible has been done to make the modules straightforward and easy to use. Some novel terminology is introduced here and there but only out of necessity – the goal has always been to keep things transparent and simple. LSSP modules have generic names that reflect their purpose as directly as possible.
LSSP does not make any assumptions about the genre you would like to work in. This means that everything is as open-ended and as flexible as possible. The cost of this freedom and sophistication is some complexity but the benefit is that you should be able to use LSSP to work in just about any genre imaginable from cliché pop to extremely experimental generative electronica that uses micro-timing, polyrhythms and micro-tonality.
Unlike a piano roll editor where melody, harmony, rhythm and form are all entangled; LSSP attempts to expose these elements to independent manipulation by making the underlying musical structure explicit. This opens up fantastic possibilities but requires a deeper level of engagement than a system based on a piano roll (or a series of CV step sequencers).
I use the analogy of a graphics editor. In principle a program that enables you to set the color of any pixel in an image is extremely easy to understand and is capable of producing any image. But in reality this conceptual simplicity is of little help when you are trying to create complex shapes and shading.
Piano roll editors have the same conceptual simplicity and are easy to use but they offer little or no assistance in creating music that has real-world structure built from scales, chord progressions and large scale form. Such structural content is only implicit.
So, one of the key concepts in LSSP is disentanglement with Melody Sequencers handling melody, Rhythm Sequencers handling rhythm, Progression modules handling chord progressions, Scale modules handling scales, Chord modules handling chords, Groove modules handling micro-timing and dynamics, CV Sequencers handling CV modulation, Song Control and Song Part modules handling large scale structure and time-splitting modules handling intermediate level form.
Sophisticated interaction between these modules enables these essential elements to be independently manipulated yet coalesce into a whole in a manner that transforms the way you can create music.
Although modest small scale patches using LSSP modules are very useful the main focus of the design is to enable very large scale projects to be constructed that model complete compositions with multiple instruments. Perhaps using hundreds of modules and taking weeks to build.
A practical example of this open-ended design philosophy is that all of the different types of sequencer modules can be chained to created sequences of unlimited length.
The computing power required when a large amount of polyphony is required is of course an issue but one that that will slowly be solved by more and more powerful computers, in the meantime one way to address this is to offload some sound generation to external hardware. This is why some Adroit modules focus on MIDI interfacing.
Large scale patches can look scary but it should be noted that you don’t need to build a custom LSSP patch for each new composition. A moderate scale LSSP patch includes sufficient flexibility that you can create a wide variety of compositions using just preset arrangements of modules.
Also it is possible to manage complexity by using Voltage Modular’s Plug-In Host module to run multiple instances of Voltage Modular inside of a Voltage Modular patch. This requires a powerful computer but rather than having a huge sprawling patch all on the same level, you can build massive multi-level hierarchies where complexity is hidden inside of small “black boxes”.
Even if your focus is resolutely on sound design rather than musical composition you will hopefully find some inspiring new low-level sequencing and modulation tools in LSSP.
The LSSP 101 Bundle is the recommended gateway to the world of LSSP and this website is my attempt to introduce each of the current modules, explain the reasoning behind architecture and to provide tutorial and reference material to get you under way.