Hi, Jesse here! You may know me from the forum as the plugin keeper, but you probably don’t know me as the electronic music lover that I am. What I particularly enjoy is (performing) live electronic music, because of the improv nature of the craft.
You can check out the live electronic music project that I’m running together with Daniël (who has created some of the latest factory built-in pedalboards) at www.kortonjo.com.
Today, I’ll talk about using the MOD Duo in the context of an electronic music setup, why it is such a great teamplayer, and how it truly is a Swiss army knife of a device.
This post won’t be an exhaustive list of all the things you could do, simply because there are too many to list. The main goal is to provide you with some ideas and inspire you to build your own, setup-tailored pedalboards.
Featuring: Novation Circuit & Alesis V Mini
In order to demonstrate the various aspects of electronic music setups, we opted for using the Novation Circuit in combination with the MOD Duo.
The Circuit is a groovebox that has two fully-featured digital synths (on MIDI channels 1 & 2) and four sample-tracks that can be either sequenced or played manually. It also speaks MIDI fluently.
We also use the Alesis V Mini, which is just a very basic USB-MIDI keyboard.
The featured devices sitting on the edge of the lovely roof terrace at the office
In the following sections we will talk about a couple of use cases. This is done via screenshots of pedalboards, including links for you to listen to, download and tweak them for personal use if you so desire.
Using the Duo to connect incompatible gear
One thing that the Circuit lacks is a dedicated keyboard for entering notes. We could simply connect a MIDI keyboard… right? Well, you could, if your MIDI keyboard is equipped with a hardware MIDI port. Only have USB? Too bad, you will have to acquire a USB-MIDI host.
Luckily, using the Duo as a host, we can route the signal coming in over USB-MIDI to the hardware (DIN-MIDI) output. Actually, we can even process or use the MIDI data before we route it to the output.
WIRING: For the pedalboard in the image below, I connected our MIDI keyboard to the USB port on the Duo. The hardware MIDI output is connected to the Novation Circuit’s MIDI input. The Circuit’s (stereo) audio is plugged into inputs 1 and 2.
Click on the image to check out the pedalboard on our feed
The audio chain
The audio chain is pretty straightforward, consisting of just the Invada Stereo Compressor, Calf Saturator, and the MOD Stereo Gain plugins. These were included to add some punch and warmth to the very digital-sounding Novation Circuit.
The MIDI chain
The top part of the MIDI chain is simple: the MIDI messages coming from the MIDI keyboard on MIDI channel 1 are passed through the MIDI channel filter plugin, and then routed into the hardware MIDI output. This allows us to play synth 1 on the Novation Circuit with the MIDI keyboard.
Now the bottom part is where it gets interesting. First, we transpose the MIDI notes up by 36 semitones. Next, we map all notes coming from channel 1 to channel 2. The next plugin turns these notes into chords. The final plugin “strums” the chords, much like a guitar player would. This is then also routed into the hardware MIDI output. This way, you can play synth 2 on the Novation Circuit.
Q: Why would you do that, Jesse?
A: We can now play single notes on the MIDI keyboard, and play (for example) a bassline on synth 1, while the bottom MIDI chain causes chords to be generated and rhythmically strummed on synth 2. Alternatively, you could transpose the notes down, and play a melody on synth 1, while synth 2 rhytmically plays basslines. You could also completely skip the transposing to get a very rich and layered sound. Experiment and enjoy!
Using the Duo as an effects processor
Something that I appreciate massively is when gear has great synergy. One thing that can give this feeling of synergy is when the gear responds well to playing dynamics. The Duo has a great selection of plugins that work well with beats and synths. The MDA Subsynth is the plugin of choice for this example.
WIRING: For the pedalboard in the image below, the Circuit is sending the beats into Duo input one, and synths into Duo input two. There are no MIDI connections.
The top audio chain
The audio chain starting from input 1 processes the beats: these are first sent to the ZAM compressor to make the hits more snappy.
It is possible to mix in the MDA Subsynth with the compressed signal by using the Stereo X-fade plugin. When you bypass this plugin, it actually automatically only lets through the top two inputs, making it perfect as a solution for plugins to which you want to add a mix and bypass knob. It also lets you set how the crossfade behaves (linear, logarithmic, overlapping, non-overlapping).
The bottom audio chain
The other audio chain processes the synths. The first plugin pans the synths very wide, to contrast the beat which is panned very narrow. This gives an audible separation of the two parts, making the mix feel less crowded.
Then, there is the famous Stereo X-fade dry/wet + bypass construction again, this time with the Calf Phaser, which is used to animate the signal. A similar construction is used again for the final effect in the chain, the Mverb.
Q: So… why does the MDA Subsynth synergize so well?
A: The Subsynth prioritizes the loudest sound in your signal to generate it’s sub-octave output. What this means is that the plugin transforms only the loudest parts of your signal. Most commonly, this would be the kick-drum. However, when you mute the kick, the next-loudest sound will be used. This can cause for some interesting interactions, especially when using two different sounding kick sequences on seperate channels, completely changing the groove of the generated bassline in the process.
General tips and tricks
Wiring in an unusual manner
Unusual wiring solutions can greatly increase the variety of sounds that you can make. Using the utility plugins to route your plugins creatively can do a whole lot of cool things here. To give an example: you could use the MOD Switchbox plugin to route the first output of a stereo plugin either to the next plugin in the chain, or into the second input of the plugin, to make the sound pass through the plugin twice.
Filtering out parts of the sound
Give filtering out parts of the sound a try. It can give you a really nice layered sound by using multiple signal paths that are all filtered differently. Take this to the next level by mapping these filters to MIDI LFO’s running at different speeds to get a big, morphing sound.
You could achieve something similar using only the MOD Duo by using the MIDI utility plugins to generate MIDI control change messages. Next, loop these messages back into the Duo, by connecting a physical MIDI cable between the hardware MIDI in- and outputs. Your plugin parameters can now be mapped to these control change messages.
Using controlled feedback
Controlled feedback can be very useful. The best example is a pedalboard with a recording. Luckily, Pjotr (also known as Freaked) made the perfect pedalboard almost two years ago! You can find it here.
Using the technique above, you can do some very interesting things with the ZAM compressor. Send the output of your feedback loop into this compressor, and feed another audio signal into the sidechain input. Then, switch on the Sidechain parameter. You can now set up the compressor and let the sound of your feedback loop duck away based on the loudness of the audio signal on the sidechain input. This surely makes for an interesting interaction.
If you made it this far into this blog post, congratulations, you have made it until the end! If you have any kind of setup that you would like to hear more about, or have a setup problem that you would like to solve, please let us know in the comments.
Until we meet again!