Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics

Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics

Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics

Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics

Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics
Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics
Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics

Softube Modular Sound Design Series: Basics

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

In 2014, after I’d gained a couple of months of experience with a hardware Eurorack synth, I bought a small system. My experience of this was that it proved expensive to finance. 

As an alternative to expensive hardware, I tried Softube Modular.

I was immediately inspired and amazed. The look and sound of the plugin was amazing and this inspired me to dive deeper.

“Buchla and Moog started it all with their modular synthesizers in the 1960s. Doepfer made it affordable in the 1990s by introducing the Eurorack standard. Today, the Modular plug-in from Softube makes the modular synthesizer truly accessible to everyone.”
www.softube.com, Modular product page

Softube collaborated with Doepfer. They created the modular system in software such that the plugin works either as an effect or as an instrument plugin. 

Anyone will be able to use Softube Modular whether they’re beginners or experts. Beginners learn the basics where experts design sounds in a familiar environment.

Softube Modular comes with a number of features:

  • Scalable GUI: small, medium, big
  • 7 Doepfer modules
  • 20+ utility modules
  • Add-on modules from: Intellijel, Buchla, 4ms and Doepfer
  • 200+ presets
  • Preset browser
  • 64 bit format
  • VST2, VST3, AU, AAX plugins
  • Windows and macOs support
  • OpenGL graphic support
  • Free Roli Seaboard Rise module

“Softube Modular is a revolutionary virtual modular synthesizer. I finally have a way to patch and experiment on the go with my laptop. So far its been incredibly fun, and I am looking forward to all the new modules they will add!”
– Richard Devine, Electronic artist and music producer (Warp, Schematic) (www.softube.com, product page)

Pros: 

  • Great sound with an analogue vibe, which is really exciting
  • Excellent support
  • Full modular synth in the basic price
  • Easy to understand the modules
  • Superb manual with examples
  • Softube makes a “Tip of the week” content on the company blog and Facebook page

Cons:

  • CPU load is very high
  • You have to pay extra money for additional modules
  • The Buchla module is very pricey

Types of Modules

There are two module types: sources and processors.

  • Source: it has output but no signal input, though they have control input
  • Processor: it has both output and input and can have control input

Sources

VCO

VCO
An analog oscillator can produce traditionally 4 waveforms: sawtooth, square, triangle and sine

Voltage Controlled Oscillator, this produces a continuous sound. The types of sound can be waveforms such as sine, triangle, square and sawtooth. Each has a different flavour. 

The square wave may have pulse width setting and PWM, also known as pulse width modulation.

VCLFO

VCLFO
An LFO is an oscillator below audible rate, but often they can handle some audio rate frequencies as well

Voltage Controlled Low Frequency Oscillator, this produces a continuous voltage that can go below audible frequencies in order to use as a modulator signal. 

It’s useful to create vibrato or tremolo effects and also to create a filter wobble. 

Similarly to the VCO, it has got basic waveforms. You can also modulate another VCLFO with another one to create more complex modulations.

Noise

Noise
This noise module can generate simple white noise, colored white noise and random signals

Noise is a random voltage source. The white noise produces all the frequencies without any periodic waveforms. Noise is a good tool for creating snare drum or hi-hat types of sounds and also as a noise effect riser. 

Consider this one for fattening up sounds.

ADSR

ADSR
The ADSR is an envelope module. This can modify voltages synced in time and rhythm

ADSR, also known as Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release is a voltage source. It can be used to synchronise note events to an envelope generator. 

ADSR is basically an envelope generator. It makes modulation changes related to time.

Processors

VCF

VCF
This is a Moog inspired ladder filter. (The Moog brand was one of the first synth manufacturers in the 60s.)

Voltage Controlled Filter, changes spectrum of sounds below a frequency point (high pass, HP), above (low pass, LP), or both below and above (band pass, BP).

VCA

VCA
A dual VCA, which can be switched to either linear or exponential mode. This modifies the change in time.

Voltage Controlled Amplifier, is an amplifier with control inputs. It may be used to control volume levels, both for control voltage and audio signals.

Mixer

Mixer
A simple tool for mixing audio level signals

This module mixes the signals.

Sequencer

Sequencer
A classic use for a sequencer is to create musical loops changing over time

This tool has steps each with an input signal and it produces outputs. It also has a clock input to set the tempo.

Ring Modulator

Ring Modulator
A ring mod can create unusual tones, timbres and cold, metallic sounds

This module creates the sum and difference of two inputs and combines them in a single output.

Patch Examples

You can wire the modules together with (patch) cables. We call a complete wiring a patch. The Eurorack Modular format uses eight inch jack cables.

Single VCO

Single VCO
The sawtooth changes over time in a slight way. It has a great analog sound without any modulation

Select the sawtooth wave for this patch and connect to the left output. In this example a sound generator produces a continuous sound. 

VCO Modulated With a VCLFO

VCO modulated with a VCLFO
You can experiment with the CV2 parameter to fine tune the pitch modulation

  • First, use the previous patch
  • Connect the VCLFO sine to the VCO’s CV2 input

Control the amount of the effect with the CV2 knob.

VCO, VCF, VCA

VCO VCF VCA
We also call this a “synth voice”. This wiring became the standard since the old days.

  • Connect the VCO‘s square wave to the VCF‘s audio input
  • Next, patch the VCA with the VCF and with the main left output

This is a classic patch, which musicians used in many synths, since the Minimoog Model D from the 1960s.

VCO, Noise, VCLFO, VCA, Mixer

VCO Noise and Mixer
The sound of a waveform and a noise. In the patch the noise changes its volume over time

  • Connect the VCO output to the Mixer
  • Patch the VCA out to the mixer
  • Connect the white noise output to the VCA, then the LFO to the VCA
  • Finally wire together the mixer’s output to the main Left input

This sound mainly consists of a VCO and Noise generator. Further in the patch a VCLFO modulates the VCA. The mixer handles the raw square wave and the noise through the VCA.

2 x VCO, RING MOD, VCLFO

VCO Ring Mod VCLFO
A classic example for Ring Modulation. Two square waves with changing pulse widths with a ring mod. It has a chaotic sound

  • Connect each square outs to the inputs of the Ring Mod
  • Then patch an LFO shape to each oscillators’ pulse width CV

This generates a buzzing noise with a wide frequency spectrum.

VCO, Sequencer, VCLFO

VCO Seq LFO
The sequencer generates musical notes for the VCO

  • Connect the LFO‘s square to the Clock in of the Sequencer.
  • Then patch the Seq’s CV out to the oscillator’s CV1.
  • Wire together the VCO‘s square to the Left main output.
  • Twist each numbered pots on the Sequencer to change their pitch.

The LFO provides a clock source, to give the sequencer the tempo. Then the sequencer modulates the pitch of the VCO. Use the Quantize and Range options on the sequencer to give musically useful notes.

VCO, VCA, ADSR, Midi to CV

ADSR example
The ADSR envelope provides a regular change in volume for the VCO playing notes

  • Create a simple one-bar loop in the DAW
  • Play some notes from the C-minor scale
  • Convert the notes with a Midi to CV module to pitch and gate signals
  • Feed them into the VCO and VCA and ADSR

The ADSR gives an envelope shape to the volume control of the VCA.

Tips

  • Feel free to experiment. There are infinite ways to connect the modules
  • Be careful with the volume. Especially when using headphones
  • Use the manual. It is very well written. It’s got great examples

Summary

In this beginners using Softube Modular, I introduced you the basic modules, then showed how to connect them. Use these connections to make your own sounds and patches.

In the next lessons, I’ll show you how to use add-ons and more esoteric modules.