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 Forum index » Clavia Nord Modular » Nord Modular G2 Discussion
patching for improvisation
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sebber



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2005 7:59 am    Post subject: patching for improvisation Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hello everybody,

I'd like to discuss patching for improvisation. What do your patches for imporvisations look like? When improvising one needs to instantly react to other people ideas. Changing programs just to get one sound that might fit doesn't seem to be the solution. So I suppose, what is needed is an extremely flexible and controllable sound. A too complex patch might make you think too much and fall out of the musical flow. A too easy patch might not have enough flexibility. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Another thing: as a trained pianist I don't like to improvise on the keyboard, since my hands play tonal although I ask them not to. When I improvise on a piano I always go inside the piano to avoid the keays. I know that people create microtonal scales to get away from that, but I'm not interested in that. I thought of buying extra gear, a Theremin, a ribbon controller, breath control, but I'd like to hear about how you deal with this.

Seb
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mosc
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2005 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A great topic for discussion.

You make great points about creating patches for improvisation being a different art from than patching for other applications.

I try to make very simple patches 2 oscillators, envelope, filter, 2 LFOs, noise, phase shifters, frequency shifter, reverb, for example. Then I make sure there is a very flexible modulation matrix. Each module can get modulated by any output. The knobs that control the various modulation indexes are brought to the G2 parameter pages in a consistent way, so that every path has similar controls in the same place. I use the Clavia page labels as a way of categorizing the controls.

After all that's done, the next step is building a set of variations that has a lot of variety. In performance, it's easier to change variations than to change patches. I also work with the G2's internal arpeggiator at this point.

I've just started to experiment with the G2X's two extra mod wheels. I'm finding I have good luck using them for filter cutoff and resonance controls, but that's because most of my patches use heavily FM'd filters as a way to generate sounds.

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egw



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2005 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I agree that the most important thing about patching for improvisation is to make the sound flexible, and easily adjusted in real time.
Almost always, a patch that sounds great in my studio doesn't mix quite right with what others are playing.
So, for synth type patches, controls to adjust the pitch, brightness, envelopes, etc. should be immediately accessible. Or, use several (but not too many) patches that can be quickly found, each covering a basic sound category.
For rhythmic patches, tap tempo is nice, plus the ability to sync to the downbeat. Also, shifting the tempo (e.g. double or half). Plus, the ability to turn down delays and reverbs if they make the sound too muddy.
Leave yourself some headroom, volume-wise, for those times when everyone gets carried away and it's hard to hear your instrument. Compression can help here too.
I have the default volume level for all my patches set at zero, so that when I bring in a sound, I can match up the level with whatever else is happening. Real time volume control is probably the single most critical thing for getting everyone to tune in to each other. Often it is lacking in laptop musicians, one reason I don't like to jam with them unless I know that they are sensitive to that. Often I have noticed that subtle changes in volume can really influence the jam, but only if everyone is trying to listen carefully.
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Kassen
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2005 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:
Often it is lacking in laptop musicians, one reason I don't like to jam with them unless I know that they are sensitive to that. Often I have noticed that subtle changes in volume can really influence the jam, but only if everyone is trying to listen carefully.


Never worked with guitarists?
;¬)

I think your perception is scewed; in my own experience styles typical for hardware synths such as acid or prog rock are often characterised by huge near the pain barier volumes while styles typical for laptop musicians such as microsound and lowercase-sound not infrequently tend towards a extremely quiet, barely audile aesthetic, I think you met the wrong people.

Anyway, I tend to make my own patches default to the -0db level (or unity gain where it concerns effects), then use the mixer to controll volume, this gives a reference level that can easily be matched to other instruments.

I´m in complete agreement with your point on volume, as a aesthetic element and especially where it concerns communication, so much so that I realy feel this topic isn´t confined to the G2 board, I also like music on both sides of the volume fence, but I think your are throwing all laptop musicians on a heap where those typical for the instrument don´t belong and many others don´t either.

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gravehill



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
in my own experience styles typical for hardware synths such as acid or prog rock are often characterised by huge near the pain barier volumes while styles typical for laptop musicians such as microsound and lowercase-sound not infrequently tend towards a extremely quiet, barely audile aesthetic, I think you met the wrong people.


I find this comment a bit odd. A laptop isn't an instrument per se. It's more comparable to a synth stand: most of the synth players have one but judging by it alone, it's hard to tell what the music will be all about.

I find the topic very interesting and would suggest moving it to composition area, for example, as it isn't really Nord Modular specific.

In my home studio I try to keep a certain basic setup handy for improvisational purposes. Just a quick way to find basic lead, pad, etc. When the idea is down, then I'll go tweaking the sounds. I don't find modular systems that intuitive for improvisation because of the time needed for occasional re-patching.

Live, I do pretty much the same thing but just tend to use guitar a bit more and therefore having also a bit more simplified synth setup.

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Kassen
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

gravehill wrote:

I find this comment a bit odd. A laptop isn't an instrument per se. It's more comparable to a synth stand: most of the synth players have one but judging by it alone, it's hard to tell what the music will be all about.


Hmmm, lost me there, are you implying that what is or what isn´t a instrument is dertemined by how it apears to the audience when not in use? How do you see that relating to -say- a theremin which might to a unsupecting onlooker be mistaken for a am-radio?

Where do you place the bowed saw in this context?

Would a synth stand, if equiped with pickup mikes, then hit expressively with a little hammer become a instrument in your opinion?

I think that if we are talking about patching (or programing, in a wider perspective) for a speciffic purpose according to our personal vision then it´s unavoidable that it will be hard to determine for outsiders what the music will be about, this goes for laptops as much as for G2´s. After all; both are computers, despite the different encasings and specialties.

We use our patches, scripts or programs to express ourselves and we build those according to our own vision of expression; if it would be readily aparent to the audience exactly how they would work then we probably wouldn´t need to go through the trouble of roling our own. Violins are standardised to such a degree that generally audiences know how they work and this standardisation has as a side effect that violins are available off-the-shelf.

[edit]
It struck me that we might be miscomunicating; I took your future tense to imply that you were talking about audience anticipation before a gig. What I meant is that some instruments (or things that can be used as instruments to include bowed saws, laptops and keyboard stands) are prefered by composers in certain fields. The 303 is closely linked to acid, for example. I argued that the laptop has made the live performance of certian kinds of music possible that were previously impossible or very hard to perform live, in realtime. Those types of music, I´m pleading, have a certain aesthetic that is linked to a certain volume which I found is lower then that of the types of music linked to the previous generation of "new"; being synthesiser driven styles. Of cource you could conceivably play acid or prog-rock on a laptop, but that´s not what I would call "laptop music" which to me means music that depends on home-written programs and that has a aesthetic based on posibilities that only recently became available in realtime.

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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 3:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sebber, this is an interesting topic.

I have started to improvise again.. a lot. This is partly due to me now having the NM-1 and the Korg Legacy Collection in the studio. The Korg thingie inclused an amazing recreation of the MS-20, but now polyphonic.. and complete with a USB controller which iis n fact is designed just like the old MS-20 ( 80% reduced size ). With these it is very easy to get into impro again.
I use the zero state method when improvising. This is an old technique.
A "zero state" is a basic patch ( your choice ) that allows you to patch/tweak while you play. You can design as many zero states as you like really. The main point is to get to known some basic patches so well that you can intuitively cover a wide sonic terrain. This goes for modulars too.

Another matter is of course tonality, which it seems is a point you are trying to make here. I don?t see a problem with you already being a skilled pianist. Stick with the tonal stuff, but reconsider the tonality. Hmm.. reconsider is probably the wrong word here. I guess you should rather construct your own tonality.

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sebber



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'll have a try with a Minimoog-patch. It seems that it's important to know 1 patch (instrument) really well and know where your knobs are. At first I thought the printing next to the parameter buttons are strange for a modular, but they often come quite handy.
Then, turning the volume down., but that's lesson one in improvising, isn't it? Whatever instrument you play.
But we'll see if I can learn to react soundwise fast enough (I want to try it in late May), or if will use the G2 as an effectbox. For me, it's easier to improvise rubbing a microphone on different texture and work with that sound than playing on a keyboard. I know other people have a similar problem. See, after having played a minor 7 the next thing I do is avoiding the Tonika. I have that with every interval, and all I focus on is avoiding things, which is a drag. There are less atonal than tonal chords, and when improvising I'm not interested in both of them.

I read in an interview with mosc that he was improvising with two young guys in Stockholm(?) in 2002(?). I'd wish I'd been there.
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Tusker



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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 4:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

In addition to the excellent ideas mentioned here, I would suggest having five things:

Continuity in the sweet spots builds confidence. Extreme non-linearity or jagged response (e.g. changing the filter topology from LPF, HPF, etc) is fine for discontinuous tonal shaping and for changing the role of the instrument in the mix. It tends to scare me and ends being a waste of a knob, if I'm improvising on a "solo" instrument. (True, I could "learn" it and get more comfortable over time.)

Don't underestimate the importance of mixers/crossfades in a parallel path. Sometimes giving up a few knobs for a mixer section will extend the musicality of the patch. (e.g. Crossfading in the overdriven sound, is much more dramatic than increasing the overdrive amount, or mixing it in, so it gives you more tonal range.)

Third, as a pianist, I would suggest using a lot of FM, and other inharmonic techniques in addition to note selection, as a mechanism for reducing tonality. For example, one of my patches has a detune which splits three oscillators symetrically across a two octave range. At full setting you get -12, 0- and 12 for a big sound. At zero you get 0, 0, 0, but at intermediate settings, you can get some quartal harmony, which forces a different tonal sensibility.

Also, building on what others have mentioned. Control of volume is primal in music. It helps to have something more tactile than the volume knob to be responsible for it.

Finally (looking back at what I've written and trying to make sense of it) I think it's wise to decide the degree to which a patch will explore the dimensions of pitch/tonality, timbre, volume and time (rates), before setting out to conquer all of those dimensions. This will focus your patch design. Microscopic changes can be musical. I love this thread. Thanks for all the ideas.

Jerry
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richard s



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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 4:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well I bought a micro and now a G2 engine almost solely to improvise with. This is a bit crazy because what you need to improvise is immediate control and the G2 has none. However the possibilty to program a surface to do exactly what I want is very interesting.

I also work with dancers so my eyes need to be free, a laptop is very useless in this situation. Plus it has no body to play with Smile

of course this also means I am making a lot of decisions about what I will want to be able to do in advance, while patching and programming which is predefining the scop of improvisation... I mean where does patching stop and improvisation start?

maybe the MS20 is still the best synth to improvise ON, but a G2 with some of Jan's noodles are very good to improvise WITH

Richard
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egw



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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 5:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
egw wrote:
Often it is lacking in laptop musicians, one reason I don't like to jam with them unless I know that they are sensitive to that. Often I have noticed that subtle changes in volume can really influence the jam, but only if everyone is trying to listen carefully.


Never worked with guitarists?
;¬)

I think your perception is scewed; in my own experience styles typical for hardware synths such as acid or prog rock are often characterised by huge near the pain barier volumes while styles typical for laptop musicians such as microsound and lowercase-sound not infrequently tend towards a extremely quiet, barely audile aesthetic, I think you met the wrong people.


Sorry to generalize. I have met some laptop players who are dynamically aware. But I cringe when I see a laptop player with no other midi control such as a keyboard or knob box. It's not an issue of whether they play too loud or not, it's just that if you are using a mouse or equivalent to control volume, you're not likely to do it in a real time expressive or interactive way. That can kill the vibe in a group improv situation. The same goes for excessive use of looping devices (maybe another topic).
I've also seen plenty of guitarists and drummers who only know one volume level - full. But they don't have an excuse because their instrument gives them ready access to dynamics. Certainly it's about how you use the instrument, not the instrument itself. A good laptop player will probably realize fairly quickly that they need more control if they play in a group that values interactive dynamics.
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egw



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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Tusker wrote:

Don't underestimate the importance of mixers/crossfades in a parallel path. Sometimes giving up a few knobs for a mixer section will extend the musicality of the patch. (e.g. Crossfading in the overdriven sound, is much more dramatic than increasing the overdrive amount, or mixing it in, so it gives you more tonal range.)
Jerry


Can you elaborate on how/why crossfading gives more tonal range than simply increasing the level of the desired effect?
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egw



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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Tusker wrote:

Finally (looking back at what I've written and trying to make sense of it) I think it's wise to decide the degree to which a patch will explore the dimensions of pitch/tonality, timbre, volume and time (rates), before setting out to conquer all of those dimensions. This will focus your patch design. Microscopic changes can be musical. I love this thread. Thanks for all the ideas.
Jerry


Absolutely! I find it more difficult to improvise with the factory patches or patches designed by other people. It's good to have worked out in advance what parameters you want to control, and where the knobs for them should be. I always put my favorite "real time" controls on the first page.
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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 6:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

sebber wrote:
I read in an interview with mosc that he was improvising with two young guys in Stockholm(?) in 2002(?). I'd wish I'd been there.


Very Happy Trondheim, Norway

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Trondheim, Norway

gee Shocked I just saw a car with a licence plate from Trondheim here in Florence Rolling Eyes who cares Question

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Very Happy
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Kassen
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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:

Sorry to generalize. I have met some laptop players who are dynamically aware. But I cringe when I see a laptop player with no other midi control such as a keyboard or knob box. It's not an issue of whether they play too loud or not, it's just that if you are using a mouse or equivalent to control volume, you're not likely to do it in a real time expressive or interactive way. That can kill the vibe in a group improv situation. The same goes for excessive use of looping devices (maybe another topic).


Yes, that I can agree with. Mice are very clumsy when it comes down to it. I got myself one of those gamer-mice which can adjust the sensitivity on the fly and has extra asignable buttons, that makes it a little better but it´s still more of a controler then a real "instrument interface". Even asigning a battalion of keyboard keys to stuff like volume changes will help a lot. More people should do that.

I think the trick with loops is to have continuous controll over the loop length, but that´s quite hard to play effectively, at least that´s what I think, I´ve had some interesting results "playing" loops by setting faders to the start and end point (s612 style) but before I could sinc that to other players we´d be a few weeks further.

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

At the request of Sebber, I'm posting a patch I use for live improvisation. This is not a "completed" patch, but should be considered a work in progress, and food for thought.

This is a very simple two oscillator, two LFO, one filter patch with a good modulation matrix. It's capable of many songs. I use the morph groups to change modulation indesxes with the mod wheel. I'm also starting to use the two additional mod wheels in the G2x - in this case contorlling the filter cutoff and resonance.


Two Osc.pch2
 Description:
Experimental two osc, two LFO, one filter patch intended for real-time improvization

Download
 Filename:  Two Osc.pch2
 Filesize:  3.44 KB
 Downloaded:  1252 Time(s)


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Last edited by mosc on Tue May 03, 2005 8:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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sebber



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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks a lot. Your patch and what Tusker's message make me go in a different, and more creative way than just going with an old synth remake. Great tips and a lot to explore from here.

If anybody else would like to share their patches, I'd love to see them.

I'd love to see more patches generally.

Seb
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Tusker



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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
an you elaborate on how/why crossfading gives more tonal range than simply increasing the level of the desired effect?


I guess I was trying to say that for certain types of timbral effects that you have got on parallel path (such as a ring modulated, wavewrapped, or bit-reduced signal), the ability to fade out the un-effected signal at the same time that you are fading in the effected signal can be musical. Not that a straight up mixer (with all the paths coming into it) is a bad thing. But sometimes it leads to thinking of timbral addition instead of timbral transformation.

I recognize that there is an inherent bias in the way I'm describing it. Like contrasting a pure voice with an effected voice. That dichotomy maybe be artificial to some. I find it helpful.

The analogy can be made to the Korg wavestation's joystick, which (essentially a crossfader) allows you to vector between 4 sampled waveforms. The corners of the square each represent a 100% of a particular waveform. Keeping the joystick in the middle represents a mix of 25% of each waveform. This joystick allows you to crossfade cleanly between adjacent waveforms but not non-adjacent ones. By contrast you could set up 4 sliders on a modern day rompler to do the same thing. It would give you more degrees of freedom (you could manually crossfade between adjacent and non-adjacent waveforms). But it is more cumbersome and less musical in application. So may be the question is whether you want to have higher tonal range within a particular tactile gesture or more generally available within the patch.

Jerry
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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The crossfade effect is indeed different than a mixer, Jerry. Good point. It would be cool to have a 4 way crossfader controlled by one morph group. That would be a neat control to use.
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mosc
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Here is a slight improvement on the Two Osc posted above.


Two Osc B.pch2
 Description:
Improved patch for improvisation using cross modulation techniques.

Download
 Filename:  Two Osc B.pch2
 Filesize:  3.46 KB
 Downloaded:  1186 Time(s)


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi Seb,

here are a couple of patches that I often use to quickly get to a sound that I have in my mind. When I've nearly got it, I usually only need to tweak the patch a little to perfect it. I have also got almost full control over every parameter via MIDI, so in effect the patches represents highly modulatable synths.

http://electro-music.com/forum/topic-11144.html
http://electro-music.com/forum/topic-11213.html

I hope that helps. Very Happy

Sheridan

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Whoah, this thread is over a year old an I still get patches. Kewl. Thanks a lot, I'll definitely take a very close look at those.
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