Friday, 28 December 2012

C#4 progress

I have made a start on the woodwork.
The Trogotronic has arrived. It is a Thing of Beauty. And nice instructions: I'll post a copy. The box states THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS, which is far more encouraging than Eric Barbour's Your music still sucks on the box of the Metasonix R54 (I have the  Mark I, but that page is no longer on their site). I expect the two modules will look very pretty glowing side-by-side.
Anyway, due to pick up the power supply from Maplin tomorrow.
I'll try it in the Happy Endings while Case #4 is under construction.

The Schneiders order is waiting for a delivery and should ship in early January.

And GAK are waiting for more Oranges.

I'm getting a new room in which to deploy the wurble-bleeps, probably on the Rietveld desk.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


There's another Meet on 16th Feb.

I'll aim to get Case #4 done for then.

And I'm tempted by an Orange MicroStack to go with it.

Case 4 prosecution

The fourth case is large, deep and rather primitive, again from a camera fair.
I have ordered aluminium rails from Schneiders and will start the build in the New Year.
I'm getting a Doepfer Spring Reverb for Christmas and this should fit nicely in the lid.
I also took the opportunity to order Strakal Brulu germanium fuzz module (that page can take a long time to load).

I have finished the video course and so will post a video of the boxes ignoring one another one day.

I still need a delay or two and some VC mixers cheaper than the Cwejman.

I have also had to buy a Trogotronic 676. They have somehow managed to bottle Keith Emerson attacking his Hammond with kitchen knives (ref. Karelia Suite, Five Bridges, I saw it in Cardiff when still at school several decades past). There is no finer sound. Starts at 6:14 here.
The module takes a separate power supply - that's an admirable attribute. I'll install it in Case #4, add a separate XLR power input which I'll paint red.

Two new red modules in one day. It must be Christmas.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Modular Grid

There's a great new application available for recording modular setups.
Here's Case #1.

Many thanks to Solitud.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Cases 2 and 3 complete

Quite a lot of catching up to do.
Both cases are now complete, using wooden rails as with the first.
They are also using Doepfer DIY power supplies, taken from The Cupboard, the power arriving through an XLR connector, as suggested by Tony at Synovatron.

Here's case #2 at various stages of completion,

Case 2 with Kevin

Case 2 framework

Monday, 1 October 2012


It's too easy to drop £26 at Maplin on attachments for the two cases, but I have most of what I need to progress.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

New Cases

Two new cases from the camera fair, £5 and £8 - that would be the cost of postage on ebay. They are around the same size and larger than the first, which might allow some storage space,
The current plan is to build wood surrounds in both then use the simple screw into wood mounts on one and try the more sophisticated aluminium rails on the other: if the latter works, I might try upgrading the first two cases.
Either way, I'll need two more zeus power supplies plus warts and two more Pittsburgh Outs. I'll start with one of each.

[Later] I have ordered two more Outs from Rhythm Active. Regarding power, given that I am moving away from The Cupboard in favour of smaller units in cases, it would make sense to liberate the power supplies from the Cupboard and use them in the cases, as did Tony of Synovatron.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Instrument 1 Version 2

Doepfer A143-4
I had to unplug the first multi-source Dream Machine patch in an enforced house tidy and will take the opportunity to reconfigure the modules.
While the Doepfer SoU and the Heisenberg have some discipline, I found the Wogglebug and NoiseRing too chaotic for my purpose, so I will concentrate on the first two.
Makenoise Phonogene
Doepfer's A143.4 Quad VCLFO is now available and so I have ordered one of those plus a 138c mixer and another 175 inverter from EMIS.
And with a windfall due to arrive, some more esoteric modules are on the cards, notably the Makenoise Phonogene.
And there's a camera fair on Sunday bringing the possibility of a second case.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Self-generating patch advice

Taken from a thread on the Doepfer Yahoo group:

From Alan
Hi, sorry if I'm showing my ignorance here, I'm not particularly well informed
in all things modular, but I've a question maybe someone on this group could
I've been hearing some really interesting recordings using self-generating
patches lately. What are the most useful modules to invest in if I want to go
down this route?
I realise these things don't completely write themselves and a lot of learning
is required in order to set up such pieces, but any advice on where to start
would be helpful.

From David
I tend to use sequencers being driven by slow random clocks (Sample
&Hold or Track &Hold) in to logic module with slow LFO's being mixed
together and sequential switches fed from voltage sources to get as much
randomness as possible. Once the patch starts it will evolve over time
and quite often never repeat.
A number of sequences of different lengths helps here as well as then
the start and end of the patterns also change over time.
It may sound like a lot of modules but you can start with only a few ,
say two LFO's and a mixer and a S&H running at slow speeds driving a
A155 with two different sequence lengths.

From Ernst
I use shitloads of Sample & Holds in tandem with various LFOs and several
A118s to generate random values.
And at least one A149-1 is very useful.
This is one of my patches from my setup link.

From Chris
I enthusiatically second the recommendation of the 149-1. it's random without
being purely entropic (as S&H from white noise is).
I also recommend getting the 149-2 sub-module as well. i have the individual
outs from the 149-2 going into the individual cv inputs of the lower row of
steps on the 155 sequencer. then you clock the upper section of the 149-1 with a
slow trigger from a clock divider, thus each sequencer cycle or x number of
cycles the sequence itself will change semi-randomly. it can be a little tricky
to tune in a sequence on the 155, since the lower row was intended for cv
modulation of steps, not note generation (and the outs from the 149-2 only
generate on/off cv signals), but the whole point of modular synthesis is the
ability to utterly disregard what something is "intended to do" ;-)

Alan again
Thanks for all the useful suggestions, folks. I'd started looking at the
149-1 and figured it might be a major player in such patches. This has
confirmed it for me. It also looks like I'll be getting a S&H and VCLFO,
to augment my 118 and 145. I don't know whether I can afford the rack
space or moolah to run to a 155 just yet. Maybe I'll see what I can get
happening just with a 160, 161 and 166.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

More Manuals

Back from Edinburgh, and back to work on TI.
The first few modules are in the rack and so I'll start with the manuals:

Doepfer A164.1 Manual Gate
Doepfer A150 VC Switch
Makenoise Wogglebug
Plan B Heisenberg
Malekko NoiseRing

Previous instruction listings here.

I'll simplify back to the Doepfer Dream Machine variant then try the different generators.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Happy Endings

The kit arrived today from SchneidersBuero. It took me three attempts to get the rails the right way round (I imagine that not many would find two incorrect ways to assemble it, but so it goes). Once understood it is nicely done. The initial load will be all the random note generators to play in contrast with the SoU in the Dream Machine, Wogglebug, Noisering and Heisenberg. Instruction manuals to follow.
I also plan to build a Mondrianesque wooden surround.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Happy Endings
Remarkably, the Pittsburgh Outs arrived from Australia on Tuesday - 7 days from order.
Thanks to Rhythm Active.
I have ordered Schneidersbuero's house version of the TipTop Happy Endings. I wonder if that will be quicker than the PO from RA.

Some lovely designs from goike here. But don't forget Ross.

Sunday, 29 July 2012


I have enjoyed the build part of the project and will make one or two more, perhaps another set of wooden rails and one with proper metal ones. I have been looking at camera cases on ebay, but there is a danger of buying an unsatisfactory,  flimsy product and I might wait for a camera fair (September 16th).

In the meantime, Ross Lamond is selling TipTop Happy Endings, which would be a useful addition.

Dream Machine manuals

Links to instruction manuals (where found) for each of the modules used in the various temporary instrument setups.

Allen Strange Dream Machine patch
Dream Machine patch
TipTop uZeus
Doepfer A149 SoU
TipTop X8000 Sequencer
Doepfer A140 ADSR
Doepfer A132-3 Dual VCA
Doepfer A180 Multiple
Malekko Wiard Anti-Oscillator
Doepfer A147 VCLFO
Doepfer A148 Dual S&H
Doepfer A175 Dual Inverter
Doepfer A180 Multiple
Doepfer A109 Signal Processor
Doepfer A110 VCO
Pittsburgh Outs


first noise
The Wart from Farnell arrived next day (Weds). The uZeus from Postmodular was sent on Thurs, using the Post Office's 'guaranteed by 1 the next day' service, and arrived at 7am on Saturday (the PO's web site explains that, during the Olympics, next day becomes the day after).
I found that the celebrated case builder Ross Lamond stocks TipTop power leads and also ships quickly - that arrived on Friday. So on Saturday morning all the essential kit was here (Rhythm Active shipped the Pittsburgh Outs on Saturday).
foam replacement
The uZeus is an impressive piece of kit - the engraved statement watch out hot surface is true: the faceplate is a radiator. I set up the framework outside the case and it burbled happily on TipTop power through a Logitech X-140 while I replaced the foam with a wooden framework.

I set up the Doepfer Dream Machine subset and then the full Strange Dream Machine and I am still fiddling with the latter. There is space for a second VCO until the Outs arrives, so I will add that today.

Snaps to follow and then noises.


Two good beginners' guides.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Nearly there

The frame
Back in the case
The wood is done, first pass at least. Here's the frame, my starting point today. Add top bottom and middle and it's done.

Monday, 23 July 2012


I tried Schneiders for the uZeus but couldn't get their ordering system to work. That could be a good thing as, while awaiting a reply to a query, David at Postmodular replied with confirmation of stock so I will pursue that. Neither seem to have a Pittsburgh Outs at the moment.

On the Case, let's pause for a moment to acknowledge that the case insert, having removed the padding is reminiscent of the great Mondrian  and move on.

Taking out the interstices confirmed that my dad, bless the old bugger, built things to last and that's where I got that inclination. Now ready to build the framework, allowing for the possibility of a storage space if that works with a Dream Machine in place. I visited the splendid and nearby Modern Screws for some suitable product - they only had countersunk, rather than the panhead I need, but they will do for now (£1.56 for a box). I also called into B&Q (just round the corner) for some wood, but can probably take it back and use offcuts already in stock - but better safe than sorry as I hope to begin the wood build (except for the possible storage compartment) tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Dream Machine

One of the prerequisites for the project is that The Case should be large enough to contain a Dream Machine. This was defined in the best book available on (modular) synthesis, Allen Strange's Electronic Music Systems, Techniques and Controls. Diagram right.
The components are:

  • Two random voltage sources - Doepfer's SoU provides two, 12+4HP
  • Sequencer - my smaller is the Analogue Solutions, about 18HP
  • VCLFO A-147 8HP
  • S/H A-148 4HP
  • VCO the Anti-Oscillator is 14HP
  • Inverter A-A175 4HP
  • Two VCAs - there's one on the A109 Signal processor, I need another: a Doepfer A-132 dual VCA is 4HP
  • ADSR A-142 8HP
And the likely permanent modules:
  • Signal Processor A-109 20HP
  • uZeus 4HP
  • Outs 6HP
Total Dream = 76ish
Standards = 30
total = 106

So that's far too much for the 67HP case. Think again. [next day] Silly me, I have two lots of 67HP so carry on.

67*2 = 134 - 106 = 28 free for some sound processing or a second VCO to provide some other notes. The Metasonix R-54 is around 22HP, still leaving 6HP, but not with storage. What is the narrowest VCO?

On power, the uZeus comes with two power leads for 5+5=10 modules and allows another lead for 15 in total.

The case

 I have the case.

I have some Schroff rack inserts left over from the Cupboard but no rails left. Somewhere I have a box of the rails that you get with Doepfer DIY kits (the sort you insert the nuts into), but I'm not sure where.

For the first effort, I might try just a wooden structure and screw the units directly into the wood.

The case is large enough for two rows, certainly if I go 'all wood', not certain with aluminium, until I find the rails. It is 36cm wide and 7cm deep, so it will only take modestly deep modules.

I have emailed David at Postmodular about getting an eZeus power supply - they are not the currently in stock list, though the f(h) power unit is, so that can be a fallback. No answer yet, though he usually takes a few days. SchneidersBuero seem too have them.

I am supposed to be decorating next week, but if I could get the eZeus, this could be running in a week. It always takes a lot longer than I expect.

I had to look it up - an HP is 0.2" - the case is just over 13.5", so that's two rows of around 67HP. The next job is to work out what I need for a Dream Machine and see whether it will fit. It would be nice to  allow some storage space for the wall wart, cables etc., but that might not be possible. It did occur to me today that if the case is too small then I can spend some quality time touring camera fairs to corner the market in larger cases and, no doubt, buy more cameras too. There are no downsides to this plan.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Temporary Instrument 1 (archive, June 2009)

I mentioned at the Brighton meet that I hadn't bettered one of my earliest patches, a standard Doepfer setup using the A-149 'Source of Uncertainty'. It is called Sonata 9 Jun 2009 and here it is.

Gear Lust I

Despite the outrageous price tag of £390, an early acquisition must be the Makenoise Phonogene.

Modules I

So. What shall we have in the case?
I imagine there will be some permanent fixtures.

  • The obvious starting point is the Tiptop uZeus.
  • Not many people seem to use the Doepfer A-109 Signal Processor, but I think it's great. There are three in the Cupboard: I'll sacrifice one. 
  • The A-109 provides most of the basics except an envelope, so I need a narrow ADSR. I might have a spare A-140, else perhaps Circuit Abbey's ADSRjr.
  • At least one oscillator. I have some spares, but the Malekko Anti-Oscillator is my favourite.
  • The cupboard uses a Cwejman MX-4S and an Analogue Systems RS270. For the TI case, I'll get a Pittsburgh Outs.
  • No patch is complete without at least one VCLFO interfering, either Doepfer's A-147 (two in stock) or Pittsburgh's VILFO (none yet).
How much space will that leave?

I'll return to this subject.


That might sound like something bankers do to each other, but this is actually about modular synthesis.
I started a blogger entry a few years ago then switched it to my own web site at SnapDragon, which will probably continue. The blog detailed my gradual acquisition of euro-format modules and the building of the Cupboard.

Today I attended a Muffwiggler meeting in Brighton but could not contribute my own wurble-bleeps, so, as recently concluded, I need a portable setup. There are some snaps of the meeting here.

Tony of Synovatron was there - he has published details of converting a Halfords tool case (that link might not last), details here. This is powered by a Doepfer DIY Kit 1. My first inclination was to follow the same route, but I might seek simplifications and enhancements. The Synovatron blog notes that 'the case is just hardboard with a thin aluminium veneer': I have had an aluminium camera case for 40 years (bought when in school in the late 60s or early 70s - my dad customised the interior), no longer in use, which is far more solid. Regarding the power supply, I liked the look of the Tiptop microZeus and will go with that.

The plan is to build a case which will allow me to work in detail on subsets of the Cupboard and, of course, turn up to outside events and play.

The minimum requirement is that is should be large enough to run a Dream Machine (and there must, of course, be the components of a Dream Machine left in the Cupboard). The diagram is from Allen Strange's seminal Electronic Music Systems, Techniques and Controls.

The case will allow the development of a series of Temporary Instruments. I will document the case and the instruments here.