Planning a Eurorack Modular Synth: A beginners guide

This Guide shows an easy and failsafe strategy how to plan your first Eurorack Modular Synth.

If you’re just getting started with modular synthesizers, planning a new Modular System is a challenging task. The vast amount of modules available is just overwhelming and can make a decision for the right module pretty difficult.

Below I want to show you a strategy that lets you build very effective and fun modular systems!

Use a planning tool: If you haven’t done it already please stop reading now and sign up on www.modulargrid.com! This website is an online planning tool with a database of basically all eurorack modules. You can choose the size of your eurorack synth case and start adding modules digitally, move them around and easily plan the system before buying the modules.

Get an Idea of what you want to do with your modular
It seems obvious but since you have almost unlimited possibilities with a modular synthesizer its essential to first think about what you want to use your modular synthesizer for. Should it be a customized drum machine, a personal versatile effects rack or a classic synth voice? Do you want to be able to transport you System? Do I plan to extend it later?

If you have answered all these questions you can follow the steps below to actually build the system!

  1. Choose a case: Eurorack cases come in various sizes and configurations, so you’ll need to decide how much space you need for your modules. You’ll also need to consider the power supply and whether you want a case with built-in power or one that requires an external power supply.
  2. Make a budget: Modular synthesizers can be expensive, so it’s important to set a budget before you start buying modules. Determine how much you can afford to spend and try to stick to it. You can always add more modules later as your budget allows.
  3. Select your modules: There are hundreds of eurorack modules available, ranging from oscillators and filters to effects and utilities. Again, think about your needs and goals to determine which modules you should include. You may also want to consider modules from different manufacturers, as each has its own unique sound. Below you can find some examples for nice beginner modules.
  4. Plan your layout: Once you have a list of modules, you’ll need to decide how you want to arrange them in your case. Consider the function of each module and how it will interact with the other modules in your system.

Here are a few good beginner modules to consider:

Oscillator: An oscillator is a key component of any modular system, as it generates the raw audio signals that are then processed by other modules. Some good beginner oscillator options include the Mutable Instruments Braids or the WMD Geiger Counter.

Filter: A filter is used to shape the timbre of an audio signal by cutting off certain frequencies. Some good beginner filter options include the Doepfer A-120 or the Intellijel Atlantis.

Envelope generator: An envelope generator is used to create dynamic changes in an audio signal over time. It’s often used to control the attack, decay, sustain, and release of a sound. Some good beginner envelope generator options include the Make Noise Function or the Xaoc Devices Sewastopol.

Mixer: A mixer is used to combine multiple audio signals into a single output. Some good beginner mixer options include the Intellijel Mixup or the Solisynth MIXER module.

Let’s talk about utilities!

Utility modules are an important part of any modular eurorack system, as they help you connect and control other modules in your system. Here are a few examples of utility modules that can be useful for beginners:

  1. Multiples: A multiple allows you to split a single audio or control signal into multiple outputs. This can be useful for sending a signal to multiple destinations, such as multiple oscillators or filters.
  2. Attenuator: An attenuator is used to reduce the level of an audio or control signal. This can be useful for adjusting the level of a signal to match the input range of another module.
  3. Offset: An offset module is used to add or subtract a fixed voltage from an audio or control signal. This can be useful for shifting the range of a signal to match the input range of another module.
  4. Slew limiter: A slew limiter is used to smooth out abrupt changes in an audio or control signal. This can be useful for creating more gradual changes in a signal, such as smoothing out the attack of an envelope.
  5. Clock divider: A clock divider is used to divide a clock signal into smaller divisions. This can be useful for creating complex rhythms or patterns.

While utility modules may not be as exciting as some of the more creative modules in your system, they can be an essential part of your system, helping you connect and control your other modules. As you build your modular system, be sure to consider what utility modules you might need to help you get the most out of your system.

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