Diy musical instrument ideas

“Modular is a spectacle. It is producing crazy sounds, patch cables going everywhere, flashing lights, and this beckoning conglomerate of knobs and faders. Musical instruments, guitars, and drums are already extremely personal in nature it becomes a part of you, an extension of your spirit. Then add to that what modular brings, a highly customisable instrument, tailored by you – for you. I ponder modular enthusiasts are mostly hungry to discover things, new and ancient, in the realm of electronic sound. The more you discover, the more it feeds into the imagination, thus sparking curiosity to discover more – it is a virtuous cycle”.

Garren G-Man Morse, founder of G-Storm Electro

“One of the grand things about Eurorack is there is a choice… It’s diverse things to diverse people.

That’s why there are over manufacturers and each of them own their own approach”.

Alan “J” Hall, founder of AJH Synth

“Theres some separation for me between sound and music. I ponder you can explore sound for sonic qualities, and study and engage in that, almost separately to music. Of course, there is a huge crossover and a large grey area between the two. But I just really enjoy every aspects of it, just exploring sound, learning on a technical level, making music, it just felt correct, for some reason”.

Ben “DivKid” Wilson, producer of the DivKid YouTube channel

“It attracts and appeals to non-musicians, by which I mean non-standard musicians.

So theres a significant portion of people who get into modular and Eurorack who are coming from completely exterior the industry, which means they havent really played a keyboard or guitar or any other instrument before”.

Jason Brunton, founder of Signal Sounds

“To be your own mad scientist; the tangibility of tweaking knobs with obscure descriptions, making indicator lights flash to patterns clear to yourself but mysterious to the onlooker, to building the musical instrument of your own design without any limits (besides the size of your wallet)”.

Tom Verchooten, DIY-er and founder of ThreeTom Modular

“From a musicians perspective, I ponder the allure of modular synthesis is the absolute lack of limits, the near-infinite customisability.

There are modules out there that can assist you make almost any sound you can imagine (and numerous more besides) and thats extremely attractive. On top of that, modular synthesis is just plain enjoyment. There are always moments of serendipity where the instrument will surprise you, and in my case at least, thats irresistible. Its also extremely satisfying to work with such a tactile instrument. Software is fine, Ive used (and still use) my share love anyone else, but it really is missing something compared to working with genuine knobs, patch cables, touch interfaces, etc”.

Jason Coates, founder of Manhattan Analog

“It felt for me love a extremely natural thing to do because with my electronics background, we are used to having components and wiring them together to create something bigger.

Modular was a perfect fit for me I feel flexibility when you can join things in the way you want”.

Dr. Leonardo Laguna Ruiz, founder of Vult

“I ponder the main difference to another instrument is that you dont own an already built instrument. If you go to the guitar store, you purchase a guitar and then you own the final instrument. For a modular, its totally different: you own to build your instrument first. It means you own to collect the modules and install them into the case and so on before you can start using the instrument. So thats totally diverse compared to other instruments. That first creative process is to design the instrument.

So thats a lot of enjoyment from my point of view.

The second is that, in most cases, you own a extremely special instrument, which is probably the only one in the world unless you purchase a standard system. But I ponder 90% of every the modular systems are totally mixed with multiple modules from diverse manufacturers. Each system is extremely unique”.

Dieter Döpfer, the dad of Eurorack


Make your own paper plate banjo

I thought this a cute thought and every you need are: 
some paper plates, 
a few rubber bands,
a piece of cardboard and 
paint to decorate with.

Start by stapling a few paper plates together and then decorate the plates however you wish. I used a few plates together as the elastic will fold the plate if it is only one or two together. Put the rubber bands around the plate, which will act as the strings. Cut the cardboard into a rectangular piece about 30cm endless and a few centimeters wide then glue this to the back of the paper plates. You can add more detail if you desire. Attempt to get a fairly strong rubber band as they break easily if they are too thin. The image shows the finish product and once yours is completed the kids can happily frolic and enjoy themselves.


The shaker

I ponder this is the easiest thought for creating a musical instrument.

You will need a container or bottle, such as a cola tin or water bottle and something to fill it with. Since my bottle is clear I placed some colorful beads inside, you can use rice, little stones or anything you can ponder of that will make a noise when you shake it around. The container can be painted or just add a ribbon for decoration. There, you are finished, now go shake, shake away.

(See how to create some awesome rattles here)


DIY Musical Instruments for Kids

  • Make Your Own Maracas We own a couple plastic eggs that didnt fair so well final Easter.

    Tape them up with some rice inside and make your own maracas. Use colorful tape and spoons and let the dance party begin!

  • DIY Xylophone I knew my stash to cardboard rolls would come in handy sooner or later! Create a simple xylophone with recycled materials and use straws as mallets. Your xylophone can be completly customized with beautiful painting or stickers. This would be a grand musical instrument to create while studying the letter X too.
  • Rainbow Sensory Bottles/Music Shakers I cant get over the beautiful colors in this shaker! Make your own with whatever you own in your craft box. Theres no correct way to make this beautiful instrument and your kids are going to love making their own.

    Use this as a fine motor work for the littles or simple counting exercise for your preschoolers.

  • How to Make a Kazoo Kazoos are one of my kids favorite musical instruments. Do you remember playing them as a kid? Use recycled cardboard rolls and decorate your own kazoo. Then own the kids take them exterior for a neighborhood block party.
  • Straw Pan Flute Craft Making a pan flute is one of the easiest DIY musical instruments you can make.

    Grab a handful of straws, some tape, and you are ready to frolic love your favorite cartoon characters!

  • How to Make a Hand Drum I had no thought you could make your own hand drum. I had one as a kid and LOVED it! Use recycled materials and your craft stash to make a beautiful set of these hand drums for your children. This article makes a note to be certain you own balloons that wont break, but little enough to stay taunt.
  • Make Coffee Can Drums These coffee can drums are classic. You can use varying sizes of cans to make diverse drum sounds.

    I love that they used colorful balloons and layered them for effect. This is a grand gross motor activity for your young ones and a enjoyment way to assist grandma or dad hold the beat for your kids next dance train through the house!

  • Homemade Baby Guitar So simple. I dont believe I havent thought about it before. Grab a handful of rubber bands and your bread pan. Be certain the rubber bands wont snap and let the little ones make music for hours!
  • Rainbow Rainmaker Gorgeous!

    Making a rain stick is simple and enjoyment. Enquire your children to select their own tape colors and make a beautiful pattern. Add these rain sticks to your study of the rainforest or Africa.

  • Popsicle Stick Harmonica Harmonicas made out of popsicle sticks. Who knew!? I love the colors in this set of harmonics. The vibrations made between the two sticks makes a enjoyment noise. Urge your kids to make up their own songs or squeeze the sticks together in the middle to vary up the sounds.

Easy DIY musical instruments for kids

I own always wanted to study to frolic a musical instrument, but never really got circular to doing it.

One is never too ancient to study a new skill or too young to start learning. When I saw these ideas, I thought what a enjoyment and interactive way to introduce music to children. I am going to introduce to you a few DIY musical instruments that I thought are really simple to make.

Easy DIY musical instruments for kids

I own always wanted to study to frolic a musical instrument, but never really got circular to doing it. One is never too ancient to study a new skill or too young to start learning.

When I saw these ideas, I thought what a enjoyment and interactive way to introduce music to children. I am going to introduce to you a few DIY musical instruments that I thought are really simple to make.


Kazoo

A “Kazoo” sounded so cool, so here is how you make it. This is also an simple activity to do with the kids every you need is: 
a cardboard toilet roll or a longer paper towel roll,
wax paper and
a rubber band.

Put three or four holes into your roll, decorate as desired, the kids can show their artistic abilities here and make it their own.

Then take a piece of wax paper just enough to cover the top of the paper roll and put a rubber band around to secure it into put. This is so simple and can be done in a few minutes and you own your kazoo. Now comes the tricky part, trying to make the correct sound. I’m kidding every you own to do is blow into the open finish of the toilet roll and to make the sound come out correctly attempt to tell the expression “do”  as you blow.

Den Den Drum

I love this one because I used to own one of these drums when I was younger and played with it every the time. This will take a bit more time to do but it is enjoyment none the less.

You need:
Cardboard
A dowel
Beads
A string
Glue ( or a glue gun)

You will need to cut out two circular pieces of thick cardboard about 10cm in diameter you can decorate the one side of these pieces of cardboard, for example, I used scrapbook paper on each piece. Next, you will need a thin circular piece of wood more or less 20cm long; you can use an ancient wooden spoon or a dowel stick and some string and beads. Tie the bead onto the ends of the string.

Now bring everything together, glue the string in the middle of one of the boards at the back so that the beads are left exterior of the board. I used a boiling glue gun. Then glue the stick perpendicular to the string onto the board and finish off with placing the second circular board onto the top of the stick. When everything has dried properly you can use your drum by rolling the finish of the stick between your hands so that the beads accident against the board on each side.

These are just a few ideas; there are plenty of grand and enjoyment instruments to make using your imagination. Things to do together with kids own never been more entertaining.

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The pressure of air due to sound waves in a pipe (like a flute) looks a lot love a sine wave. If you own a pipe with an open finish and a blocked finish, the blocked finish (often called the node) of the pipe doesn’t let the air change pressure much. An unblocked pipe also has a node, located in its middle. The distance between nodes determines the frequency of sound wave vibration, and the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch. Let's study how to make a PVC pipe instrument to see every of these concepts in action.

Make an instrument out of PVC pipe.

  1. Electronic tuner (optional)
  2. Duct tape
  3. Ruler
  4. First, we need to do some calculations.

    Musical notes are every produced by sounds of specific frequencies. You can translate those frequencies to tube lengths using the speed of sound. Here’s how:

  5. Pencil & paper
  6. Line up your pipes side by side in order of ascending length, and duct-tape them every together securely. Make certain that every of the sanded ends are lined up as well.
  7. Adult
  8. Pennies
  9. Hacksaw
  10. Sandpaper (optional)
  11. Have an adult assist you measure and cut a length of pipe to match each note you’ll include in your scale.

    Make certain your pipes are cut slightly longer than you need so you can cut them below to tune them.

  12. Sand below one finish of each pipe so that so that each pipe’s exterior surface tapers below a sharp edge at the inside surface. This will make your pipes sound better.
  13. D: Hz, E: Hz, F: Hz, G: Hz, A: Hz, B: Hz, C: Hz
  14. You can use the internet to glance up frequencies and select any notes you desire, but here’s a list of notes at certain frequencies to get you started.

    For the above calculation, we solved for the tube length necessary to produce a D at Hz (which gives us a tube length of about inches).

  15. PVC pipe (½ inch Schedule 40, 4 feet or so)
  16. To discover out the length of tube you’ll need to produce a given note, insert your measurements (in inches) for tube diameter and the frequency of your desired note (in Hertz). The speed of sound (at sea level) is 13, inches per second. Plug these numbers in and solve for the length of the tube in inches. Here’s an example:
  17. Blow over the edge of the pipes (or slap one finish with your hand) and use the tuner or just hear to hear if they’re the correct length.

    Sand or saw them below as needed.

  18. Play some notes! Rubber flip flops make grand mallets to strike your tubes with.

Note: Read every the instructions and do your math before cutting your pipes!

  • First, we need to do some calculations. Musical notes are every produced by sounds of specific frequencies. You can translate those frequencies to tube lengths using the speed of sound. Here’s how:
  • To discover out the length of tube you’ll need to produce a given note, insert your measurements (in inches) for tube diameter and the frequency of your desired note (in Hertz).

    The speed of sound (at sea level) is 13, inches per second. Plug these numbers in and solve for the length of the tube in inches. Here’s an example:

  • Have an adult assist you measure and cut a length of pipe to match each note you’ll include in your scale. Make certain your pipes are cut slightly longer than you need so you can cut them below to tune them.
  • You can use the internet to glance up frequencies and select any notes you desire, but here’s a list of notes at certain frequencies to get you started.

    For the above calculation, we solved for the tube length necessary to produce a D at Hz (which gives us a tube length of about inches).

  • D: Hz, E: Hz, F: Hz, G: Hz, A: Hz, B: Hz, C: Hz
  • Sand below one finish of each pipe so that so that each pipe’s exterior surface tapers below a sharp edge at the inside surface. This will make your pipes sound better.
  • Blow over the edge of the pipes (or slap one finish with your hand) and use the tuner or just hear to hear if they’re the correct length.

    Diy musical instrument ideas

    Sand or saw them below as needed.

  • Line up your pipes side by side in order of ascending length, and duct-tape them every together securely. Make certain that every of the sanded ends are lined up as well.
  • Play some notes! Rubber flip flops make grand mallets to strike your tubes with.

You made a pipe instrument that allows you to frolic notes on a musical scale.

What’s happening is called resonance: moving particles are forced to vibrate a specific number of times per second.

You can change resonance by changing the length of your pipe. Let’s talk about why.

In air, the speed of sound is about miles per hour. If you bump one finish of an open pipe, you create a pressure wave that rides from one finish of the pipe to the other. The pressure wave actually overshoots the open ends of the pipe, creating low pressure areas that draw air from inside the pipe. This begins another cycle with rarified air.

This keeps happening back and forth until the wave dies below due to friction. Since sound has a characteristic speed, the number of times that this high-pressure/low-pressure cycle happens per second is directly dependent upon how endless the tube is because it takes a certain quantity of time for the pressure wave to get from one finish to the other.

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When Dieter Döpfer, the founder of music instrument manufacturer Doepfer, decided to launch a brand new modular synthesiser system in , no one could own predicted what would follow. Today, his Eurorack format supports an ecosystem of hundreds of manufacturers that own collectively produced thousands of compatible modules used by renowned musicians, such as Radiohead, Chemical Brothers and Aphex Twin, and hobbyists alike.

Fuelled by passion not venture capital, most companies in the Eurorack space are neither startups nor established OEMs.

Diy musical instrument ideas

Instead and fairly remarkably the industry remains a endless tail of boutique manufacturers, with some of the best-sellers still operating as one-person shops. Inspired by technology that is almost half a century ancient, and intentionally designed not to scale, these businesses might well be considered the anti-Crunch.

My happiness is based on developing, not on the quantity of sales, one Eurorack maker told me, after I promised not to name his company for fear of generating too numerous new orders.

Of course I really appreciate if someone decides to purchase some modules, then I know my work makes sense, but the current sales quantity ensures I own enough time for developing.

He said that increased sales would lead to less time spent working on new designs and more time assembling modules and answering emails explaining why a specific item is currently out of stock. One solution would be to take on an employee or two but the associated bureaucracy would also be an unwelcome distraction.

Thats not what I love [doing], he said, comparing it to a friend who owned a single coffee store and was happy making grand coffee and fine desserts, but had subsequently expanded to three coffee shops and is now unhappy.

Hes thinking about selling two of his coffee shops to get his happiness back. More money does not ensure more happiness, said the Eurorack maker.

Its the helpful of an existential crisis numerous founders discover themselves facing after a company grows to a certain size, but for the makers of modular the reason for existing is often clear from the start. This is certainly true of Döpfers own story.

In contrast to the preceding two decades, the mids ushered in the era of digital synthesisers, popularised by Yamaha’s DX7, meaning that instruments based on analog electronics let alone a modular synthesiser system that had to be patched manually before it would produce any sound were no longer in vogue.

Modular systems from the 60s and 70s, such as those produced by Moog, Buchla, Arp and Roland, had mainly become the domain of vintage instrument collectors, while the modular synthesisers that remained in production were seen as arcane high finish products priced well beyond the reach of most musicians.

In those intertwining years, Döpfer had pivoted his company away from analog electronics to produce one of the first digital sampler cards, followed by a more successful line of MIDI keyboards and controllers.

However, by the designer was left feeling unchallenged, and perhaps noticing that second hand prices for Rolands TB and other discontinued analog synthesisers had begun creeping upwards, Doepfer introduced its first new analog synth in ten years. Called the MS, it was mainly designed for Döpfers own enjoyment, but sold better than expected, creating an even bigger itch in need of scratching.

By the following year Döpfer had developed an entire modular synthesiser system he called the A Using repurposed circuits from the MS, the system consisted of ten individual Doepfer modules, each fulfilling a specific function, such as an oscillator, envelope or voltage-controlled filter.

Just love the modular synthesisers of the past, the A would require the user to create their own instrument by patching the modules together. Using cables with a mm jack on each finish that are capable of carrying audio signals and control voltages, the synthesiser’s sound could be shaped or modulated in a vast number of ways and configurations, limited only by the user’s creativity and knowledge of synthesis techniques (or their appetite for experimentation), together with the number of diverse modules in their system and size of their bank balance.

“The thought was to make it affordable, Döpfer told me during a call from the companys office in Munich, Germany.

Every modular systems that were available in the past were far too expensive for normal people from my point of view. And so I said, ‘there should be a modular synthesiser available, which is affordable also for normal people, not only for wealthy ones. This was the thought behind the A”.

Doepfers A suitcase

Despite its relatively low cost, Döpfer says the new synthesiser was initially met with bemusement by dealers. He was repeatedly told that nobody was interested in a modular system and that he should spend his time designing something diverse. I said, no, I ponder its a excellent thought, Id love to own something love that, and thats why I continued it, he recalls.

Once again, Döpfers instincts were excellent.

When the A made its first public appearance at an industry expo the following year, it was the companys new modular synthesiser at the back of the Doepfer stand that grabbed most of the attention, relegating its bread and butter MIDI keyboard and controllers to a rather lonely looking affair.

Meanwhile, Doepfer wasnt the only company developing a new low cost system in a bid to re-introduce modular synthesisers to todays musicians.

Diy musical instrument ideas

Unknown to Döpfer, the British company Analogue Systems had been working on a similar idea.

Purely by chance the A and Analogue Systems RS Integrator System 1 were both 3U in height (based on the 19 rack standard), shunning the larger and more expensive 5U design of most existing modular systems. The two systems also took inspiration from the Eurocard standard for printed circuit boards (PCBs) and faceplate dimensions, where width is measured in a unit referred to as horizontal pitch or HP for short.

Unfortunately, the exact position of the mounting holes on the modules front panels differed between systems, leading to gaps if the two brands were placed adjacent to one another.

The power cable configuration was also diverse, although that was later solved when Analogue Systems redesigned its power supplies to provide Doepfer-style outputs so that systems could be mixed.

Quite brilliantly, however, Döpfer decided early on to publish the specifications of the A module format on the Doepfer website, and in doing so had laid the groundwork for a Eurorack modular synth standard to emerge.

I thought if the people and the musicians are interested in a modular system, it should be an open system because it was clear to me that we were not capable to offer every the kinds of modules the people desire to own, Döpfer told me.

And so I said Ill publish everything love the mechanical dimensions and electrical specifications and so on and after, I dont know, two or three years, the first other guys asked me if it would be okay to offer modules in the same format and with the same design.

I said, okay, it would be best if more modules are available from other companies, because then the people are more confident in the system, compared to a situation where we would be the only supplier of such modules.

As modules from third-party makers started to emerge, Döpfer admits he was initially concerned about the effect competition could own on his company.

However, as more companies entered the market, Doepfer sales went up, especially since the first generation of Eurorack companies focused on more specialist modules or plugging gaps in the now expanding Doepfer system. That was really surprising for me, he says.

The one thing that Döpfer has done is hes created an industry out of Eurorack, says Allan J Hall, the founder and designer at British Eurorack maker AJH Synth. If it wasnt for Döpfer, there wouldnt be any Eurorack. And hes extremely generous in his approach to it as well. He doesnt go around saying, well, you know, it was me that started this, I should own every the glory.

There isnt any of that at all.

I was hoping that we could sell the system, I dont know, maybe for 5 or 10 years or something love that, but now we are shut to 25 years, reflects Döpfer. And I never thought that it would final for such a endless time, and that so numerous companies and so numerous modules will be available.

***

This wasnt the product of decision-making, its really a one thing led to another tale, says Jason Coates, founder and sole proprietor of Manhattan Analog in Kansas, U.S.

In he was working in graphic design and layout, while building a modest studio on the side, and this led him below the DIY path by making a few custom panels for available circuits, just for his own use.

After he posted his design to a few forums, he quickly discovered there was a need for panel designers within the Eurorack community.

I started sharing my designs and taking on custom work, recalls Coates. At one point I got a request for a simple three channel mixer in 4HP, so I designed what would become the Stir. After sharing that one I had a slew of requests for more, so I did a run of That sold out in hours, so I took the funds and invested in a run of .

By the finish of , he says he was making twice as much at his hobby than he was doing layout design. So I quit my day occupation to focus on Manhattan Analog full time, and Im still doing it today.

For production, Coates says these days he generally does runs of for an individual module (and always in multiples of three).

He concedes that it would be quicker to manufacture in larger batches, at least up to a point, but says he is limited by physical space in his workshop.

This every still happens in a spare bedroom thats also shared with my studio, he explains. I own started outsourcing a bit more as the line has grown, but frankly I still enjoy doing the work. I feel love it gives me an advantage regarding build quality and it also allows me to be choosy about certain components that may not be available in the SMT, machine-assembled realm.

For distribution, Coates was capable to partner with a number of retailers extremely early on, but also sells direct through the companys website, including offering DIY kits for people that enjoy assembling their own modules.

From a makers standpoint, its enjoyment to work in Eurorack because there really is that liberty to do whatever you can imagine, he says.

You can offer small-run or niche products with extremely little risk, and theres not a lot of overhead involved since the bones of the systems, such as cases and power supplies, are already widespread in the market.

In other words, its partly the modular aspect of modular that makes Eurorack an industry that attracts endless tail businesses. Even as a student you are capable to design one single module, says Döpfer. You can design a extremely limited project as there is already a pool of thousands of modules which can be used in combination with your special module. Thats extremely diverse to other markets.

The other aspect that makes it enjoyment on the supply side is the tight-knit community that goes along with it, adds Coates.

That direct connection with the customer base is probably as significant to the makers as it is to the musicians.

***

My own journey into Eurorack is less than 12 months ancient, even though Ive always loved the sound of analog synthesisers, particularly those used by funk and rock musicians from the 70s. Until recently, the only hardware synth I owned was a relatively basic single voice synth that has remained slightly underused in my home studio.

Being semi-modular in its design, however, what it did offer was a number of patch points, either for internal pathing or you guessed it to external synth modules. One day tardy final year I decided to build a tiny Eurorack modular case to expand the sound possibilities of the synth.

My tiny 32HP Eurorack case

After purchasing a few modules, mostly second hand via a vibrant used market, it wasnt endless before Id outgrown my humble 32HP case and a pattern developed familiar to anyone who has caught the Eurorack bug. I upgraded to a bigger case and obsessed over what modules I should purchase and sell in pursuit of my perfect system (financial and space constraints permitting).

Putting together a modular synth is the epitome of personalisation as no system is likely to be exactly the same. It’s a constant journey of discovery, too, spurred on by the amazing what if? moments that often happen during patching.

It is also a journey that you dont own to go on alone. The Eurorack ecosystem is well-established. Along with the makers themselves, there are online forums, such as the trailblazing (and oddly titled) “Muffwiggler,” various groups, Subreddits, YouTube channels, independent stores, and marketplaces love eBay, Reverb and Etsy. The community is generally welcoming to beginners and more experienced users same, and people who inhabit the scene are often willing to share their experience.

As I immersed myself in Eurorack, I was also surprised to study how little most Eurorack companies are: from one-person shops to boutique manufacturers of no more than a dozen people.

Certain, some makers outsource manufacture and assembly, but it is common for a lot of the work to be done in-house, bar printing circuit boards and milling faceplates. In some ways it is a throw-back to how numerous hardware industries got started and is a little reminiscent of the extremely earliest days of the personal computer and the Homebrew Computer Club, except Eurorack is approaching a quarter of a century old.

Despite outward appearances, Doepfer itself only employs four staff (when I emailed the company for customer support, it was Mr Döpfer who replied!).

Other examples include the U.K.s AJH Synth, which has three full time and one part time member of staff, or XAOC Devices in Poland, which employs eight people. Meanwhile, Mutable Instruments, probably the most revered company in Eurorack after Doepfer, is just founder Émilie Gillet.

It is extremely much [a] cottage industry, and I ponder, purposefully so, says Ben DivKid Wilson, who produces the favorite Eurorack YouTube channel DivKid. I dont encounter numerous people that are so driven they desire to run it love a corporation, or they desire lots of staff. Its that thing of, you know, if youre an engineer for a car company, and you climb up the ladder, youre probably going to finish up doing less engineering, and more management.

I dont ponder anyone wants to let that go. They desire to hold on to that reason that they got into this.

Jason Brunton, who runs Signal Sounds, a Eurorack retailer based in Glasgow, Scotland, likens the makers of modular to the independent record labels he used to work with in a previous occupation. The people that run modular companies own a extremely similar attitude, he says. A lot of the companies, its just one persons vision you can generally speak to the person that made the design, that manufactured it, designed the logo, you know, in some cases, its every the same person.

This is extremely diverse to giant music manufacturers love Roland, Korg or Yamaha, says Brunton, where you never own a chance to discover out whats going on in the heads of the people that make the gear and only ever hear from sales reps.

You dont get any insight into why the designers came up with specific ideas.

***

You dont own to glance extremely hard to get into the head of Allan J Hall, the founder and designer at AJH Synth. Hall has been involved with synths, electronics and music for more years than he cares to remember, according to the companys website, and love numerous Eurorack makers his entrance into electronics started with building guitar pedals. An interest in synthesisers and electronic music soon followed and for the final 20 years, Hall has been part of the DIY synth scene, including building and modding synth systems both for himself and other electronic musicians. He also spent five years as a service technician repairing and modifying Moog, Arp, Korg, Roland and other analogue synthesisers, along with some Pro Audio design work, including two years designing and building boutique valve guitar amplifiers.

The reason that I went into modular was that at the time no one else was trying to make Eurorack modules that sounded and performed love vintage gear, Hall tells me.

I was looking for the sound without the reliability issues, and the open architecture of Eurorack allows them to be interconnected in ways that werent previously possible.

AJH Synths Allan Hall holding an extended Minimod system

Eighteen months in the making, AJHs first set of modules was the Minimod released in The system is a painstaking recreation of Moogs Minimoog Model D, arguably the most renowned synthesiser ever made, and has been used on countless hit records spanning rock, disco, soul, EDM and hip hop.

The Minimoog Model D to me was the Stradivarius of mono synths.

Then a few people said, will you build me one? will you build me one? and I landed up as a Eurorack manufacturer. I wanted this thing to sound as nice as a Minimoog but I didnt desire it to own the limitations that the Minimoog has. If I wanted to attempt to use it with a SEM filter, I can just patch it in and see what happens. Or if I desire to attempt it with six VCOs, I can patch it in”.

Hall says that designing a module that accurately reproduces the sound and response of vintage circuits that we know and love involves chasing the final few percent.

To get to 90 or 95% of the way there is fairly simple and requires taking the schematics from the service manual and replicating it. But its the tiny nuances that require genuine work.

With designs, its not unusual for me still to be working at 1AM, he says, laughing. If Im laying out a complicated circuit board then fairly often Ill put in hour days. I only stop for meals and to go to the loo and just be full on at it. You discover that a lot in electronics, computers and everything else its almost the norm, its that human curiosity. The only thing I cant understand is that some people dont own it.

When considering what to design next, Hall says hes not really commercially minded and, as he continues to expand the AJH lineup, he is still building what he considers to be his perfect modular system.

With something love the Next Phase, I just thought, I need a phaser.

I dont really stop and ponder, is there a market for a phaser?’, I just go ahead and build it anyway The initial thought really is: theres something missing in my system, this is what it is, so thats what Im gonna do. So it certainly isnt market-driven.

To go from design to prototype, Hall says he uses the simulation program LTspice, which models various components so that he can get an thought of how a circuit will act out. He then has a prototype circuit made up and says it typically takes three diverse prototypes before everything either works as expected or he decides there is a better way of doing it.

Once a module is given the production green light, the front panels are designed, and then manufactured by a company in Germany, with PCB manufacturing outsourced to China.

Diy musical instrument ideas

However, every assembly is done by AJH’s little team in the U.K., including SMD soldering and the required calibration of each module.

Allan Hall in his workshop

We dont own anything assembled in China, Hall says. Thats something I learned not to do fairly early on. If youre a large company, and you own control, you own someone out there, then yes, by every means go that route. And Behringer own proved that you can go extremely large and extremely cheap by doing that. But for little companies love ourselves, youre extremely much at the hands of the assembler and they tend to get fairly creative with the bill of materials.

He adds that a little change in a component can seem innocuous to a third-party assembler but is often fundamental to a modules design and the way it will sound and operate.

Distribution and retail, meanwhile, is something the AJH Synth founder is happy to outsource, and, unlike a lot of boutique makers, the company doesnt sell direct to consumers.

We attempt to stick to doing what we’re excellent at. Packing up modules and taking them to the post office or getting couriers to collect them, we can’t do that as well as Amazon or the large box shifters We just thought, well, if we can get rid of that, then we can concentrate on what were excellent at, which is designing and manufacturing.

***

Oh, I gotta desire it, first and foremost, says Garren G-Man Morse, founder of G-Storm Electro in Oklahoma City, U.S. There’s something about analog circuits I really go for. And luckily, others own wanted the same things.

So that’s every working out nicely.

A trained engineer and architect, Morse found himself out of work after the financial crisis hit in While he was looking for a occupation he studied up on electronics, which began with circuit-bending an ancient Casio keyboard.

I was buying up used textbooks, Forrest Mims guides from Radio Shack, and studying ancient synthesiser service manuals and schematics, he tells me. I built a few kit things. When I felt confident enough, I got hands-on with synthesiser restoration and flipping synths. And eventually bought a little Eurorack system. Little did I know where it would lead me.

G-Storm Electros growing lineup of Eurorack modules

He wouldnt go on to launch his own Eurorack hardware trade until and in the interim period, amongst other jobs, tried his hand at writing and selling software instrument plugins based on his love of vintage string synthesisers, such as the Roland VP and Logan String Melody.

He says he soon realised that the plugin game is every about how numerous platforms can you satisfy, and decided it wasnt for him. I just wanted to make these plugins once, not 12 times over.

Hardware has a extremely satisfying, tactile interaction you can’t get with software, adds Morse. Hardware has this physical presence that commands your attention and rewards the senses in a extremely engaging way.

He concedes, however, that he still spends an estimated 60% of his time at a computer with module design, cost analysis, ordering, social networking, client interaction, and promotion.

But it feels more rewarding to me, he says.

The soft aspects of running a Eurorack trade, including social media promotion, applies to every company, no matter their size. However, for businesses love G-Storm Electro, which dont own a distributor or retail partnerships, it is even more significant. Currently, the only put you can purchase G-Storm Electro modules is from the companys store on Reverb.

My appreciation for the internet and forums are greatly magnified when I ponder about musical instrument reps that promoted their product by jetting around the world to various dealers, or the DIY synthesizer instructions that were published in magazines, says Morse. The access to products, information, and specialised electronics components were relatively limited compared to now.

On a frugal budget I don’t own such luxuries to jet around the world for promotions. So I wing it on social media, YouTube videos, and excellent ancient fashioned expression of mouth. I love Reverb, their no-nonsense trade acumen is so shut to mine. Their fees are extremely fair, and I really do feel I own my own store within a larger store. It’s been indispensable.

As not every module sells equally, Morses strategy over the final six months has been to diversify by launching new modules rather than simply replenishing stock of his previous designs. Hell typically make batches of about 5 or 10 modules at a time, which he says are hand-crafted in a work-at-home scenario.

His latest creation is a loyal Eurorack adaptation of the main features of Rolands revered SH synthesiser. Earlier in the year, Morse also adapted the filter circuit found in the Arp Odyssey Mk1 synth (dubbed G-Storm Electro , I purchased number 3 of the first 5 modules produced).

My operation is little and nimble, he says. My space and budget for parts, assembly, and inventory on hand are meagre. So I’m always working within those confinements.

I can envision opening store someday, or possibly selling in stores, when I’m capable to move more units. As endless as I can hold up with demand, there is no need to outsource as of yet. I’m having enjoyment with it. If it stops being enjoyment, then I’ll be calling for assist from someone or move on to the next thing.

***

My name is Émilie and I am Mutable Instruments’ product designer, hardware/software engineer, sales person, and customer support representative, reads the Mutable Instruments website. Mutable Instruments has, by design, no employees!

Just me!

Another one-person store, Mutable Instruments punches above its weight love no other Eurorack maker. Over the years, the company has designed a series of innovative and best selling modules, proving that digital has a well-earned put in Eurorack and, as one Reddit user put it, is just as elegant and organic as analog.

Based in Paris, founder Émilie Gillet has a background in software engineering, having previously worked for tech companies such as , and MXP4. She first gained a reputation within the music-making community after developing obscure music software including a granular synthesis tool for BeOS, and Bhajis Loops, a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for PalmOS.

However, the precursor to Eurorack came in the summer of when Gillet started building and eventually selling DIY kits.

The first of these was the Shruti-1, a hybrid digital/analog desktop synth, which initially sold at a loss before being sold for profit in September A year later, Mutable Instruments the company was born.

I quit my main occupation in February because the company I was working for was going nowhere, while Mutable Instruments first quarter showed that I could live decently off the DIY kits even if we werent fairly there yet, Gillet tells me.

The first four Mutable Instruments modules were designed simultaneously, with Braids, a macro-oscillator that digitally modelled a vast range of synth voices and timbres, proving to be the most popular.

I made an informal demo of Braids at a local store and everybody agreed that it had a lot of potential, she recalls.

The other modules were considered less original, or seemed to fill smaller niches. But Braids appeal seemed to be universal.

Because of Gillets reputation designing DIY kits and music software, unlike other modular companies, Mutable Instruments didnt own to overcome a freezing start. This meant that retail partnerships were forged early on and the company only needed to sell direct for a short time. Today Mutable Instruments modules can be found in most independent stores and large box-shifters in the U.S. and Europe.

A selection of Mutable Instruments modules

Gillet typically prototypes new digital modules by writing C++ code and a command-line tool to process or generate audio files, or she’ll record a patch for the visual programming language Pure Data.

To get more of a feel for how the software will interact with hardware, she may record an alternative firmware for an existing module so its directly testable with CV inputs and physical knobs.

Analog modules are prototyped on a breadboard, sometimes with interconnected through-hole PCBs. “I actually made a extremely large through-hole PCB for my latest analog design,” Gillet explains. “Its easier for me to replace components, build little networks of additional diodes, capacitors and resistors in 3D above the board when its made of large parts.

I maintain in parallel LTSpice simulations and python notebooks with every the calculations for part values, cutoff frequencies, gains, etc”.

Next the schematics are inputted into the PCB design software Eagle and discussions are initiated with UI designer Hannes Pasqualini, with whom Mutable Instruments has a long-standing partnership. “This is a dialog, features may be added or removed to make the panel more symmetric or elegant,” says Gillet.

Finally, the design is sent to a company in Germany that specialises in manufacturing and assembling prototypes, and front panels are ordered from Mutable Instruments’ production partner.

“At this point the prototype looks excellent and works well enough to idiot people into thinking its a finished product.

Then theres a rather endless playtesting phase. Just messing around with the module to get a feel for how endless the excitement lasts, sending the module to the only tester who actually finds bugs, and for digital modules theres a lot of balancing and curation.

“I [then] let the project relax for some time, and if I still feel excited about it, I move forward”.

Moving forward involves FCC/CE compliance tests, writing a user manual, and taking photos for the Mutable Instruments website and retailers. This is followed by a pre-production run of 20 modules to check that everything runs smoothly.

“I tend to be present at the factory the day they are made,” explains Gillet.

“They are [then] thoroughly tested and sent to people for some additional field-testing. At this stage its no longer about getting feedback about the design, just making certain unexpected things wont happen in extremely diverse and wild configurations”.

If there are no reports of problems for 3 months, a much larger order is placed with the manufacturer, typically between and units, while a single module on average sells 3,, units over its lifetime. Plaits, the successor to Braid, has so far required eight or nine batches of 1, units.

“Obviously I dont build anything with my own hands,” says Gillet. “I get the modules in their box, ready to ship to dealers.

My contract manufacturers take care of everything i.e. board assembly, panel assembly, testing, and packaging. Thank god for that”.

***

If you go back and read or watch various interviews with Döpfer, something resembling an ancient joke emerges. For years the dad of Eurorack has been saying that he thinks the bubble may own finally reached its peak, only to concede that the industry has grown even bigger the following year. However, throughout numerous of the interviews for this piece, there was a general feeling that growth in the final year or two may own begun to slow even if the market is more saturated than ever.

“I dont ponder its at its peak, but maybe a slight plateau in its growth,” says Wilson, who recently designed and launched his own “DivKid” branded module in partnership with Befaco, a Eurorack maker based in Barcelona, Spain.

“Theres definitely larger growth in people making modular devices than there is the market Sales havent increased as much as the exterior world looking at modular may ponder it has”.

“If I had to put my finger up in the air and sort of take a guess, I would tell things are about static at the moment, definitely not the growth that was there about five or six years ago,” says Signal Sounds’ Brunton. “The [other] thing is that the mainstream retailers own moved into modular fairly a lot, so its actually fairly hard to tell if modules are consistently selling.

It may well be that its selling consistently its just selling less per individual retailer.

“People always desire the new thing. And the other issue is, theres always a new thing”.

For anyone interested in creating the next new thing and starting their own Eurorack trade, what advice might existing makers and retailers own to offer.

“You own to know the scene,” says Matt “Matttech” Preston, founder of Matttech Modular, an online retailer in Manchester, U.K. “Immerse yourself in the scene, know whats favorite and then ponder whether you could either add something, make it smaller or make it cheaper Come up with something that you can see theres nothing love it out there”.

Mutable Instruments product shot

Another aspect to watch out for is the visual representation of your module, which, Preston says, too numerous makers initially overlook.

“You need front on photos, you need demos video demos, ideally, but at the extremely least audio demos and you need every the text and information to be there”.

“You should focus on your idea,” advises Döpfer. “If you own an thought which you ponder is grand, you should follow your thought and stay on track. Dont glance to the left. Dont glance to the correct. If you are certain that you own a excellent product, you really should release it”.

AJH’s Hall says it is still possible to own a successful Eurorack product but you need to own something that’s diverse and that people desire.

“If youre lacking in either of those, then every youre gonna do is waste a lot of time and certainly a little quantity of money, and possibly a large quantity, depending on how you do it,” he says.

The first AJH Synth Minimod prototype PCBs

“Decide straight away what route you desire to go down,” advises Brunton. “Do you just desire to make 10 of them, or 20 of them and sell them direct? Or do you desire to turn it into a business? Make the decision at the beginning and stick to it.

And if youre going to turn it into at least a part time trade, get your pricing correct at the beginning. Factor in not just your time and cost on components, but factor in a retailers margin and, if you can, a little distributors margin”.

Mutable Instruments’ Gillet argues that quitting the day occupation too soon is a rookie error, and instead you should purpose for organic growth and “dont expect things to work out correct away”. She also warns that you could be “too tardy to the party”. Rather than releasing one more module, consider other clever ways of contributing to the Eurorack ecosystem, such as cases and power distribution, patch management, and interfacing with other tools.

“At this point in time I would advise caution,” echoes Manhattan Analog’s Coates.

“If youre going to get started now, you own a lot more to worry about than we did a decade ago when a hobbyist with some skills love me really could add meaningfully to the landscape With fewer gaps in the market that need filling, youll need to be an order of magnitude more innovative and creative”.

“At no point in creativity can you can you tell its every been done,” counters Brunton. ‘Everythings been done, we wont paint any more pictures or record any more books, because whats the point?

Within modular, theres room to either reinvent the wheel, which is taking ancient ideas and doing them slightly differently or theres infinite diverse combinations you can own just by taking an thought and plugging it into another thought. So sometimes its just combining certain things in one module, and then at other times its making exciting ideas more accessible”.

Which, perhaps brings us full circle, back to the extremely beginning when Dieter Döpfer took an ancient thought and made it infinitely more accessible.

“Im still excited to go to work every day and Im extremely happy,” he tells me.

“So as endless as this lasts, I ponder everythings okay for me and for our company. We had ups and downs during the final years, but we are such a little company we are not that much depending on if sales increase by 20% or go below by 10%. For us, it’s significant that its enjoyment every day.

“We also own a lot of friends here in our neighbourhood, which use the modules in their system and also frolic live on stage. Its a lot of enjoyment for us if we can go to a concert where we see that 50% of the equipment on stage has been manufactured by our company.

Thats something thats incredible. And thats why we still love this job”.

You made a pipe instrument that allows you to frolic notes on a musical scale.

What’s happening is called resonance: moving particles are forced to vibrate a specific number of times per second. You can change resonance by changing the length of your pipe. Let’s talk about why.

In air, the speed of sound is about miles per hour. If you bump one finish of an open pipe, you create a pressure wave that rides from one finish of the pipe to the other.

The pressure wave actually overshoots the open ends of the pipe, creating low pressure areas that draw air from inside the pipe. This begins another cycle with rarified air. This keeps happening back and forth until the wave dies below due to friction. Since sound has a characteristic speed, the number of times that this high-pressure/low-pressure cycle happens per second is directly dependent upon how endless the tube is because it takes a certain quantity of time for the pressure wave to get from one finish to the other.

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Implementation of any Science Project Thought should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of every materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.

When Dieter Döpfer, the founder of music instrument manufacturer Doepfer, decided to launch a brand new modular synthesiser system in , no one could own predicted what would follow.

Today, his Eurorack format supports an ecosystem of hundreds of manufacturers that own collectively produced thousands of compatible modules used by renowned musicians, such as Radiohead, Chemical Brothers and Aphex Twin, and hobbyists alike.

Fuelled by passion not venture capital, most companies in the Eurorack space are neither startups nor established OEMs. Instead and fairly remarkably the industry remains a endless tail of boutique manufacturers, with some of the best-sellers still operating as one-person shops.

Inspired by technology that is almost half a century ancient, and intentionally designed not to scale, these businesses might well be considered the anti-Crunch.

My happiness is based on developing, not on the quantity of sales, one Eurorack maker told me, after I promised not to name his company for fear of generating too numerous new orders. Of course I really appreciate if someone decides to purchase some modules, then I know my work makes sense, but the current sales quantity ensures I own enough time for developing.

He said that increased sales would lead to less time spent working on new designs and more time assembling modules and answering emails explaining why a specific item is currently out of stock.

One solution would be to take on an employee or two but the associated bureaucracy would also be an unwelcome distraction.

Thats not what I love [doing], he said, comparing it to a friend who owned a single coffee store and was happy making grand coffee and fine desserts, but had subsequently expanded to three coffee shops and is now unhappy. Hes thinking about selling two of his coffee shops to get his happiness back. More money does not ensure more happiness, said the Eurorack maker.

Its the helpful of an existential crisis numerous founders discover themselves facing after a company grows to a certain size, but for the makers of modular the reason for existing is often clear from the start.

This is certainly true of Döpfers own story.

In contrast to the preceding two decades, the mids ushered in the era of digital synthesisers, popularised by Yamaha’s DX7, meaning that instruments based on analog electronics let alone a modular synthesiser system that had to be patched manually before it would produce any sound were no longer in vogue. Modular systems from the 60s and 70s, such as those produced by Moog, Buchla, Arp and Roland, had mainly become the domain of vintage instrument collectors, while the modular synthesisers that remained in production were seen as arcane high finish products priced well beyond the reach of most musicians.

In those intertwining years, Döpfer had pivoted his company away from analog electronics to produce one of the first digital sampler cards, followed by a more successful line of MIDI keyboards and controllers.

However, by the designer was left feeling unchallenged, and perhaps noticing that second hand prices for Rolands TB and other discontinued analog synthesisers had begun creeping upwards, Doepfer introduced its first new analog synth in ten years. Called the MS, it was mainly designed for Döpfers own enjoyment, but sold better than expected, creating an even bigger itch in need of scratching.

By the following year Döpfer had developed an entire modular synthesiser system he called the A Using repurposed circuits from the MS, the system consisted of ten individual Doepfer modules, each fulfilling a specific function, such as an oscillator, envelope or voltage-controlled filter.

Just love the modular synthesisers of the past, the A would require the user to create their own instrument by patching the modules together. Using cables with a mm jack on each finish that are capable of carrying audio signals and control voltages, the synthesiser’s sound could be shaped or modulated in a vast number of ways and configurations, limited only by the user’s creativity and knowledge of synthesis techniques (or their appetite for experimentation), together with the number of diverse modules in their system and size of their bank balance.

“The thought was to make it affordable, Döpfer told me during a call from the companys office in Munich, Germany.

Every modular systems that were available in the past were far too expensive for normal people from my point of view. And so I said, ‘there should be a modular synthesiser available, which is affordable also for normal people, not only for wealthy ones. This was the thought behind the A”.

Doepfers A suitcase

Despite its relatively low cost, Döpfer says the new synthesiser was initially met with bemusement by dealers. He was repeatedly told that nobody was interested in a modular system and that he should spend his time designing something diverse. I said, no, I ponder its a excellent thought, Id love to own something love that, and thats why I continued it, he recalls.

Once again, Döpfers instincts were excellent.

When the A made its first public appearance at an industry expo the following year, it was the companys new modular synthesiser at the back of the Doepfer stand that grabbed most of the attention, relegating its bread and butter MIDI keyboard and controllers to a rather lonely looking affair.

Meanwhile, Doepfer wasnt the only company developing a new low cost system in a bid to re-introduce modular synthesisers to todays musicians. Unknown to Döpfer, the British company Analogue Systems had been working on a similar idea.

Purely by chance the A and Analogue Systems RS Integrator System 1 were both 3U in height (based on the 19 rack standard), shunning the larger and more expensive 5U design of most existing modular systems.

The two systems also took inspiration from the Eurocard standard for printed circuit boards (PCBs) and faceplate dimensions, where width is measured in a unit referred to as horizontal pitch or HP for short.

Unfortunately, the exact position of the mounting holes on the modules front panels differed between systems, leading to gaps if the two brands were placed adjacent to one another. The power cable configuration was also diverse, although that was later solved when Analogue Systems redesigned its power supplies to provide Doepfer-style outputs so that systems could be mixed.

Quite brilliantly, however, Döpfer decided early on to publish the specifications of the A module format on the Doepfer website, and in doing so had laid the groundwork for a Eurorack modular synth standard to emerge.

I thought if the people and the musicians are interested in a modular system, it should be an open system because it was clear to me that we were not capable to offer every the kinds of modules the people desire to own, Döpfer told me.

And so I said Ill publish everything love the mechanical dimensions and electrical specifications and so on and after, I dont know, two or three years, the first other guys asked me if it would be okay to offer modules in the same format and with the same design.

I said, okay, it would be best if more modules are available from other companies, because then the people are more confident in the system, compared to a situation where we would be the only supplier of such modules.

As modules from third-party makers started to emerge, Döpfer admits he was initially concerned about the effect competition could own on his company.

However, as more companies entered the market, Doepfer sales went up, especially since the first generation of Eurorack companies focused on more specialist modules or plugging gaps in the now expanding Doepfer system. That was really surprising for me, he says.

The one thing that Döpfer has done is hes created an industry out of Eurorack, says Allan J Hall, the founder and designer at British Eurorack maker AJH Synth.

If it wasnt for Döpfer, there wouldnt be any Eurorack. And hes extremely generous in his approach to it as well. He doesnt go around saying, well, you know, it was me that started this, I should own every the glory. There isnt any of that at all.

I was hoping that we could sell the system, I dont know, maybe for 5 or 10 years or something love that, but now we are shut to 25 years, reflects Döpfer. And I never thought that it would final for such a endless time, and that so numerous companies and so numerous modules will be available.

***

This wasnt the product of decision-making, its really a one thing led to another tale, says Jason Coates, founder and sole proprietor of Manhattan Analog in Kansas, U.S.

In he was working in graphic design and layout, while building a modest studio on the side, and this led him below the DIY path by making a few custom panels for available circuits, just for his own use.

After he posted his design to a few forums, he quickly discovered there was a need for panel designers within the Eurorack community.

I started sharing my designs and taking on custom work, recalls Coates. At one point I got a request for a simple three channel mixer in 4HP, so I designed what would become the Stir. After sharing that one I had a slew of requests for more, so I did a run of That sold out in hours, so I took the funds and invested in a run of .

By the finish of , he says he was making twice as much at his hobby than he was doing layout design. So I quit my day occupation to focus on Manhattan Analog full time, and Im still doing it today.

For production, Coates says these days he generally does runs of for an individual module (and always in multiples of three).

Diy musical instrument ideas

He concedes that it would be quicker to manufacture in larger batches, at least up to a point, but says he is limited by physical space in his workshop.

This every still happens in a spare bedroom thats also shared with my studio, he explains. I own started outsourcing a bit more as the line has grown, but frankly I still enjoy doing the work. I feel love it gives me an advantage regarding build quality and it also allows me to be choosy about certain components that may not be available in the SMT, machine-assembled realm.

For distribution, Coates was capable to partner with a number of retailers extremely early on, but also sells direct through the companys website, including offering DIY kits for people that enjoy assembling their own modules.

From a makers standpoint, its enjoyment to work in Eurorack because there really is that liberty to do whatever you can imagine, he says.

You can offer small-run or niche products with extremely little risk, and theres not a lot of overhead involved since the bones of the systems, such as cases and power supplies, are already widespread in the market.

In other words, its partly the modular aspect of modular that makes Eurorack an industry that attracts endless tail businesses. Even as a student you are capable to design one single module, says Döpfer. You can design a extremely limited project as there is already a pool of thousands of modules which can be used in combination with your special module.

Thats extremely diverse to other markets.

The other aspect that makes it enjoyment on the supply side is the tight-knit community that goes along with it, adds Coates. That direct connection with the customer base is probably as significant to the makers as it is to the musicians.

***

My own journey into Eurorack is less than 12 months ancient, even though Ive always loved the sound of analog synthesisers, particularly those used by funk and rock musicians from the 70s.

Until recently, the only hardware synth I owned was a relatively basic single voice synth that has remained slightly underused in my home studio. Being semi-modular in its design, however, what it did offer was a number of patch points, either for internal pathing or you guessed it to external synth modules. One day tardy final year I decided to build a tiny Eurorack modular case to expand the sound possibilities of the synth.

My tiny 32HP Eurorack case

After purchasing a few modules, mostly second hand via a vibrant used market, it wasnt endless before Id outgrown my humble 32HP case and a pattern developed familiar to anyone who has caught the Eurorack bug.

I upgraded to a bigger case and obsessed over what modules I should purchase and sell in pursuit of my perfect system (financial and space constraints permitting). Putting together a modular synth is the epitome of personalisation as no system is likely to be exactly the same. It’s a constant journey of discovery, too, spurred on by the amazing what if? moments that often happen during patching.

It is also a journey that you dont own to go on alone.

The Eurorack ecosystem is well-established. Along with the makers themselves, there are online forums, such as the trailblazing (and oddly titled) “Muffwiggler,” various groups, Subreddits, YouTube channels, independent stores, and marketplaces love eBay, Reverb and Etsy. The community is generally welcoming to beginners and more experienced users same, and people who inhabit the scene are often willing to share their experience.

As I immersed myself in Eurorack, I was also surprised to study how little most Eurorack companies are: from one-person shops to boutique manufacturers of no more than a dozen people.

Certain, some makers outsource manufacture and assembly, but it is common for a lot of the work to be done in-house, bar printing circuit boards and milling faceplates. In some ways it is a throw-back to how numerous hardware industries got started and is a little reminiscent of the extremely earliest days of the personal computer and the Homebrew Computer Club, except Eurorack is approaching a quarter of a century old.

Despite outward appearances, Doepfer itself only employs four staff (when I emailed the company for customer support, it was Mr Döpfer who replied!). Other examples include the U.K.s AJH Synth, which has three full time and one part time member of staff, or XAOC Devices in Poland, which employs eight people.

Meanwhile, Mutable Instruments, probably the most revered company in Eurorack after Doepfer, is just founder Émilie Gillet.

It is extremely much [a] cottage industry, and I ponder, purposefully so, says Ben DivKid Wilson, who produces the favorite Eurorack YouTube channel DivKid. I dont encounter numerous people that are so driven they desire to run it love a corporation, or they desire lots of staff. Its that thing of, you know, if youre an engineer for a car company, and you climb up the ladder, youre probably going to finish up doing less engineering, and more management. I dont ponder anyone wants to let that go.

They desire to hold on to that reason that they got into this.

Jason Brunton, who runs Signal Sounds, a Eurorack retailer based in Glasgow, Scotland, likens the makers of modular to the independent record labels he used to work with in a previous occupation. The people that run modular companies own a extremely similar attitude, he says. A lot of the companies, its just one persons vision you can generally speak to the person that made the design, that manufactured it, designed the logo, you know, in some cases, its every the same person.

This is extremely diverse to giant music manufacturers love Roland, Korg or Yamaha, says Brunton, where you never own a chance to discover out whats going on in the heads of the people that make the gear and only ever hear from sales reps.

You dont get any insight into why the designers came up with specific ideas.

***

You dont own to glance extremely hard to get into the head of Allan J Hall, the founder and designer at AJH Synth. Hall has been involved with synths, electronics and music for more years than he cares to remember, according to the companys website, and love numerous Eurorack makers his entrance into electronics started with building guitar pedals. An interest in synthesisers and electronic music soon followed and for the final 20 years, Hall has been part of the DIY synth scene, including building and modding synth systems both for himself and other electronic musicians.

He also spent five years as a service technician repairing and modifying Moog, Arp, Korg, Roland and other analogue synthesisers, along with some Pro Audio design work, including two years designing and building boutique valve guitar amplifiers.

The reason that I went into modular was that at the time no one else was trying to make Eurorack modules that sounded and performed love vintage gear, Hall tells me. I was looking for the sound without the reliability issues, and the open architecture of Eurorack allows them to be interconnected in ways that werent previously possible.

AJH Synths Allan Hall holding an extended Minimod system

Eighteen months in the making, AJHs first set of modules was the Minimod released in The system is a painstaking recreation of Moogs Minimoog Model D, arguably the most renowned synthesiser ever made, and has been used on countless hit records spanning rock, disco, soul, EDM and hip hop.

The Minimoog Model D to me was the Stradivarius of mono synths.

Then a few people said, will you build me one? will you build me one? and I landed up as a Eurorack manufacturer. I wanted this thing to sound as nice as a Minimoog but I didnt desire it to own the limitations that the Minimoog has. If I wanted to attempt to use it with a SEM filter, I can just patch it in and see what happens. Or if I desire to attempt it with six VCOs, I can patch it in”.

Hall says that designing a module that accurately reproduces the sound and response of vintage circuits that we know and love involves chasing the final few percent. To get to 90 or 95% of the way there is fairly simple and requires taking the schematics from the service manual and replicating it.

But its the tiny nuances that require genuine work.

With designs, its not unusual for me still to be working at 1AM, he says, laughing. If Im laying out a complicated circuit board then fairly often Ill put in hour days. I only stop for meals and to go to the loo and just be full on at it. You discover that a lot in electronics, computers and everything else its almost the norm, its that human curiosity. The only thing I cant understand is that some people dont own it.

When considering what to design next, Hall says hes not really commercially minded and, as he continues to expand the AJH lineup, he is still building what he considers to be his perfect modular system.

With something love the Next Phase, I just thought, I need a phaser.

I dont really stop and ponder, is there a market for a phaser?’, I just go ahead and build it anyway The initial thought really is: theres something missing in my system, this is what it is, so thats what Im gonna do. So it certainly isnt market-driven.

To go from design to prototype, Hall says he uses the simulation program LTspice, which models various components so that he can get an thought of how a circuit will act out. He then has a prototype circuit made up and says it typically takes three diverse prototypes before everything either works as expected or he decides there is a better way of doing it.

Once a module is given the production green light, the front panels are designed, and then manufactured by a company in Germany, with PCB manufacturing outsourced to China.

However, every assembly is done by AJH’s little team in the U.K., including SMD soldering and the required calibration of each module.

Allan Hall in his workshop

We dont own anything assembled in China, Hall says. Thats something I learned not to do fairly early on. If youre a large company, and you own control, you own someone out there, then yes, by every means go that route. And Behringer own proved that you can go extremely large and extremely cheap by doing that. But for little companies love ourselves, youre extremely much at the hands of the assembler and they tend to get fairly creative with the bill of materials.

He adds that a little change in a component can seem innocuous to a third-party assembler but is often fundamental to a modules design and the way it will sound and operate.

Distribution and retail, meanwhile, is something the AJH Synth founder is happy to outsource, and, unlike a lot of boutique makers, the company doesnt sell direct to consumers.

We attempt to stick to doing what we’re excellent at. Packing up modules and taking them to the post office or getting couriers to collect them, we can’t do that as well as Amazon or the large box shifters We just thought, well, if we can get rid of that, then we can concentrate on what were excellent at, which is designing and manufacturing.

***

Oh, I gotta desire it, first and foremost, says Garren G-Man Morse, founder of G-Storm Electro in Oklahoma City, U.S. There’s something about analog circuits I really go for. And luckily, others own wanted the same things. So that’s every working out nicely.

A trained engineer and architect, Morse found himself out of work after the financial crisis hit in While he was looking for a occupation he studied up on electronics, which began with circuit-bending an ancient Casio keyboard.

I was buying up used textbooks, Forrest Mims guides from Radio Shack, and studying ancient synthesiser service manuals and schematics, he tells me.

I built a few kit things. When I felt confident enough, I got hands-on with synthesiser restoration and flipping synths. And eventually bought a little Eurorack system. Little did I know where it would lead me.

G-Storm Electros growing lineup of Eurorack modules

He wouldnt go on to launch his own Eurorack hardware trade until and in the interim period, amongst other jobs, tried his hand at writing and selling software instrument plugins based on his love of vintage string synthesisers, such as the Roland VP and Logan String Melody.

He says he soon realised that the plugin game is every about how numerous platforms can you satisfy, and decided it wasnt for him. I just wanted to make these plugins once, not 12 times over.

Hardware has a extremely satisfying, tactile interaction you can’t get with software, adds Morse. Hardware has this physical presence that commands your attention and rewards the senses in a extremely engaging way.

He concedes, however, that he still spends an estimated 60% of his time at a computer with module design, cost analysis, ordering, social networking, client interaction, and promotion.

But it feels more rewarding to me, he says.

The soft aspects of running a Eurorack trade, including social media promotion, applies to every company, no matter their size. However, for businesses love G-Storm Electro, which dont own a distributor or retail partnerships, it is even more significant. Currently, the only put you can purchase G-Storm Electro modules is from the companys store on Reverb.

My appreciation for the internet and forums are greatly magnified when I ponder about musical instrument reps that promoted their product by jetting around the world to various dealers, or the DIY synthesizer instructions that were published in magazines, says Morse.

The access to products, information, and specialised electronics components were relatively limited compared to now. On a frugal budget I don’t own such luxuries to jet around the world for promotions. So I wing it on social media, YouTube videos, and excellent ancient fashioned expression of mouth. I love Reverb, their no-nonsense trade acumen is so shut to mine. Their fees are extremely fair, and I really do feel I own my own store within a larger store. It’s been indispensable.

As not every module sells equally, Morses strategy over the final six months has been to diversify by launching new modules rather than simply replenishing stock of his previous designs.

Hell typically make batches of about 5 or 10 modules at a time, which he says are hand-crafted in a work-at-home scenario. His latest creation is a loyal Eurorack adaptation of the main features of Rolands revered SH synthesiser. Earlier in the year, Morse also adapted the filter circuit found in the Arp Odyssey Mk1 synth (dubbed G-Storm Electro , I purchased number 3 of the first 5 modules produced).

My operation is little and nimble, he says. My space and budget for parts, assembly, and inventory on hand are meagre. So I’m always working within those confinements.

I can envision opening store someday, or possibly selling in stores, when I’m capable to move more units. As endless as I can hold up with demand, there is no need to outsource as of yet. I’m having enjoyment with it. If it stops being enjoyment, then I’ll be calling for assist from someone or move on to the next thing.

***

My name is Émilie and I am Mutable Instruments’ product designer, hardware/software engineer, sales person, and customer support representative, reads the Mutable Instruments website. Mutable Instruments has, by design, no employees! Just me!

Another one-person store, Mutable Instruments punches above its weight love no other Eurorack maker.

Over the years, the company has designed a series of innovative and best selling modules, proving that digital has a well-earned put in Eurorack and, as one Reddit user put it, is just as elegant and organic as analog.

Based in Paris, founder Émilie Gillet has a background in software engineering, having previously worked for tech companies such as , and MXP4. She first gained a reputation within the music-making community after developing obscure music software including a granular synthesis tool for BeOS, and Bhajis Loops, a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for PalmOS.

However, the precursor to Eurorack came in the summer of when Gillet started building and eventually selling DIY kits.

The first of these was the Shruti-1, a hybrid digital/analog desktop synth, which initially sold at a loss before being sold for profit in September A year later, Mutable Instruments the company was born.

I quit my main occupation in February because the company I was working for was going nowhere, while Mutable Instruments first quarter showed that I could live decently off the DIY kits even if we werent fairly there yet, Gillet tells me.

The first four Mutable Instruments modules were designed simultaneously, with Braids, a macro-oscillator that digitally modelled a vast range of synth voices and timbres, proving to be the most popular.

I made an informal demo of Braids at a local store and everybody agreed that it had a lot of potential, she recalls.

The other modules were considered less original, or seemed to fill smaller niches. But Braids appeal seemed to be universal.

Because of Gillets reputation designing DIY kits and music software, unlike other modular companies, Mutable Instruments didnt own to overcome a freezing start. This meant that retail partnerships were forged early on and the company only needed to sell direct for a short time. Today Mutable Instruments modules can be found in most independent stores and large box-shifters in the U.S. and Europe.

A selection of Mutable Instruments modules

Gillet typically prototypes new digital modules by writing C++ code and a command-line tool to process or generate audio files, or she’ll record a patch for the visual programming language Pure Data.

To get more of a feel for how the software will interact with hardware, she may record an alternative firmware for an existing module so its directly testable with CV inputs and physical knobs.

Analog modules are prototyped on a breadboard, sometimes with interconnected through-hole PCBs. “I actually made a extremely large through-hole PCB for my latest analog design,” Gillet explains. “Its easier for me to replace components, build little networks of additional diodes, capacitors and resistors in 3D above the board when its made of large parts.

I maintain in parallel LTSpice simulations and python notebooks with every the calculations for part values, cutoff frequencies, gains, etc”.

Next the schematics are inputted into the PCB design software Eagle and discussions are initiated with UI designer Hannes Pasqualini, with whom Mutable Instruments has a long-standing partnership. “This is a dialog, features may be added or removed to make the panel more symmetric or elegant,” says Gillet.

Finally, the design is sent to a company in Germany that specialises in manufacturing and assembling prototypes, and front panels are ordered from Mutable Instruments’ production partner.

“At this point the prototype looks excellent and works well enough to idiot people into thinking its a finished product.

Then theres a rather endless playtesting phase. Just messing around with the module to get a feel for how endless the excitement lasts, sending the module to the only tester who actually finds bugs, and for digital modules theres a lot of balancing and curation.

“I [then] let the project relax for some time, and if I still feel excited about it, I move forward”.

Moving forward involves FCC/CE compliance tests, writing a user manual, and taking photos for the Mutable Instruments website and retailers. This is followed by a pre-production run of 20 modules to check that everything runs smoothly.

“I tend to be present at the factory the day they are made,” explains Gillet.

“They are [then] thoroughly tested and sent to people for some additional field-testing. At this stage its no longer about getting feedback about the design, just making certain unexpected things wont happen in extremely diverse and wild configurations”.

If there are no reports of problems for 3 months, a much larger order is placed with the manufacturer, typically between and units, while a single module on average sells 3,, units over its lifetime. Plaits, the successor to Braid, has so far required eight or nine batches of 1, units.

“Obviously I dont build anything with my own hands,” says Gillet.

“I get the modules in their box, ready to ship to dealers. My contract manufacturers take care of everything i.e. board assembly, panel assembly, testing, and packaging. Thank god for that”.

***

If you go back and read or watch various interviews with Döpfer, something resembling an ancient joke emerges. For years the dad of Eurorack has been saying that he thinks the bubble may own finally reached its peak, only to concede that the industry has grown even bigger the following year. However, throughout numerous of the interviews for this piece, there was a general feeling that growth in the final year or two may own begun to slow even if the market is more saturated than ever.

“I dont ponder its at its peak, but maybe a slight plateau in its growth,” says Wilson, who recently designed and launched his own “DivKid” branded module in partnership with Befaco, a Eurorack maker based in Barcelona, Spain.

“Theres definitely larger growth in people making modular devices than there is the market Sales havent increased as much as the exterior world looking at modular may ponder it has”.

“If I had to put my finger up in the air and sort of take a guess, I would tell things are about static at the moment, definitely not the growth that was there about five or six years ago,” says Signal Sounds’ Brunton. “The [other] thing is that the mainstream retailers own moved into modular fairly a lot, so its actually fairly hard to tell if modules are consistently selling.

It may well be that its selling consistently its just selling less per individual retailer.

“People always desire the new thing. And the other issue is, theres always a new thing”.

For anyone interested in creating the next new thing and starting their own Eurorack trade, what advice might existing makers and retailers own to offer.

“You own to know the scene,” says Matt “Matttech” Preston, founder of Matttech Modular, an online retailer in Manchester, U.K.

“Immerse yourself in the scene, know whats favorite and then ponder whether you could either add something, make it smaller or make it cheaper Come up with something that you can see theres nothing love it out there”.

Mutable Instruments product shot

Another aspect to watch out for is the visual representation of your module, which, Preston says, too numerous makers initially overlook. “You need front on photos, you need demos video demos, ideally, but at the extremely least audio demos and you need every the text and information to be there”.

“You should focus on your idea,” advises Döpfer.

“If you own an thought which you ponder is grand, you should follow your thought and stay on track. Dont glance to the left. Dont glance to the correct. If you are certain that you own a excellent product, you really should release it”.

AJH’s Hall says it is still possible to own a successful Eurorack product but you need to own something that’s diverse and that people desire. “If youre lacking in either of those, then every youre gonna do is waste a lot of time and certainly a little quantity of money, and possibly a large quantity, depending on how you do it,” he says.

The first AJH Synth Minimod prototype PCBs

“Decide straight away what route you desire to go down,” advises Brunton.

“Do you just desire to make 10 of them, or 20 of them and sell them direct? Or do you desire to turn it into a business? Make the decision at the beginning and stick to it. And if youre going to turn it into at least a part time trade, get your pricing correct at the beginning. Factor in not just your time and cost on components, but factor in a retailers margin and, if you can, a little distributors margin”.

Mutable Instruments’ Gillet argues that quitting the day occupation too soon is a rookie error, and instead you should purpose for organic growth and “dont expect things to work out correct away”.

She also warns that you could be “too tardy to the party”. Rather than releasing one more module, consider other clever ways of contributing to the Eurorack ecosystem, such as cases and power distribution, patch management, and interfacing with other tools.

“At this point in time I would advise caution,” echoes Manhattan Analog’s Coates. “If youre going to get started now, you own a lot more to worry about than we did a decade ago when a hobbyist with some skills love me really could add meaningfully to the landscape With fewer gaps in the market that need filling, youll need to be an order of magnitude more innovative and creative”.

“At no point in creativity can you can you tell its every been done,” counters Brunton.

‘Everythings been done, we wont paint any more pictures or record any more books, because whats the point? Within modular, theres room to either reinvent the wheel, which is taking ancient ideas and doing them slightly differently or theres infinite diverse combinations you can own just by taking an thought and plugging it into another thought. So sometimes its just combining certain things in one module, and then at other times its making exciting ideas more accessible”.

Which, perhaps brings us full circle, back to the extremely beginning when Dieter Döpfer took an ancient thought and made it infinitely more accessible.

“Im still excited to go to work every day and Im extremely happy,” he tells me.

“So as endless as this lasts, I ponder everythings okay for me and for our company. We had ups and downs during the final years, but we are such a little company we are not that much depending on if sales increase by 20% or go below by 10%. For us, it’s significant that its enjoyment every day.

“We also own a lot of friends here in our neighbourhood, which use the modules in their system and also frolic live on stage. Its a lot of enjoyment for us if we can go to a concert where we see that 50% of the equipment on stage has been manufactured by our company.

Thats something thats incredible. And thats why we still love this job”.


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