Do I need a specific module, and if so, how much? Do I know (how to use) a specific module, and if so, how much?
Both questions are not exactly irrelevant in the design and use of a modular system: if I have some which I hardly know, then it’s high time to get to know them. And if I have some which I already know but don’t use at all – this could be the installation space for another module.
I look at all the modules in the current TNG Mothership and gave them a ranking in the category of use and understanding, going from 1 to 4 in each.
For the use category (how often I use them), it goes from almost never over sometimes and often to almost always.
Similarily for the understanding category, it goes from no idea over basic to advanced to complete.
Everything is purely subjective!
With that, we arrive at a huge list, which I tried to summarize in a kind of chart.
First of all, I’m pretty knowledgeable as my self-assessment goes: among the 82 modules, I only have no idea about one of them (and that is because I pretty much never used it).
However, there’s a considerable number (10) of modules where I only have a basic understanding of.
On the other hand, I find it rather surprising that I judge myself to have a complete understanding of 43 modules – that’s more than half of them!
A part of this can be explained by very basic modules, such as unity mixers, simple mixers, VCAs, switched multiples and the like. I often have more than one of each of them, and if I count out the VCAs, mixers, adders, switches and mults, those are already almost 20.
If there is something to learn from those, it’s to put some effort to get into those modules where I have at best a basic understanding. Here’s the list:
Klavis Twin Waves, Scanned, BIA, Plaits, Ensemble, Akemie’s Taiko, A-106-6 Xpander Filter, Disting and Pamela’s New Workout.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a complete beginner with some of those. However, they often offer so much functionality and options, that I really need to deep-dive them more. Ok, I won’t be doing a “test very algorithm challenge” with the Disting. But it’s high time to more deeply explore some of the hidden beauties of Plaits, BIA and Akemie’s Taiko. And maybe of Ensemble as well. I still believe I only barely scratched the surface.
Twisting the data around, we get:
The first observation to me is that “sometimes” is the strongest category, with 26 modules. Add that together with “almost never” (luckily, the weakest group), and you find that I only use half of the modules often.
We’ve already discovered that the only group that has a module I have no idea about is the “almost never” one. Interestingly, the largest quantity (both in relative and absolute terms) of modules I understand “completely” is within the group of modules I only use sometimes. All in all, there is no system visible here.
I mentioned (more than once) that all of this data was just purely subjective self-estimates on my part. But I remembered that I tracked my configurations of the TNG Mothership (i.e. which modules were used) for a total of 13 configurations in between May and November 2021.
(why nothing after that? Because of this).
Rather than going through each and every module (something that would totally make sense, but for which I am far too lazy for), I’m looking at the outliers.
So the top ten in the actual data list are: A-140-2 Dual Envelope, 2hp Mix and A-182-2 Quad Switch in shared first place (18), then Plaits (9), Mimeophon (11), Forbidden Planet (10), Nebulae, Scanned, Pamela and Rene (all 9).
Three modules were never used (PicoBBD, 2hp Switch and A-151 SeqSwitch), and there’s the A-183-9 USB, A-133 and A-133-2 POL, Reflector, A-199 REV, Kinks, DiRT, A-136 DIS and A-196 PLL which were each used once.
Looking for easily visible discrepancies, there’s e.g. Forbidden Planet and René (which I only assumed to be used “often”), or Freestylo (with only 7 actual uses, but which I thought I was using “almost always”). At the other end of the spectrum, Clep Diaz was used a total of five numbers, but subjectively listed in the “almost never category”.
Fortunately (or documenting a lack of self-awareness), there’s only one device in the “no idea” group, and that’s the Sequential Switch. So let’s sequential switch!
For those in the “basic” group, there’s a number of newer digital oscillator/voice-module-kinda things: Twin Waves, Scanned, BIA, Plaits, Ensemble, Akemie’s Taiko. Then there’s the A-106-6 Xpander filter, where I think my knowledge might not be that bad, and finally Pamela, and, as a special case, Disting.
I think Disting is a special case because it has such a huge and varied number of individual algorithms, and I really don’t see any need to go through all of them. One thing I could do, however, is to get some muscle memory with that horrible user interface.
Pamela is a complex thing – I would need to reserve some time to learn it all.
For all the sound generators (and for the only filter), it might be best to just play them and fore myself out of the comfort zone. All the better if I can do some funny combinations with other modules, e.g. use Disting and Pamela as modulation sources.
If I had to prioritize, I’d start with those which I don’t use that often, to find if there’s a good reason for that. Which would make me start with the Ensemble/A-106-6 combo.
Obviously those identified as not often used in both approaches would be the first ones to go. Fortunately, right now I don’t need that much space in the mothership, but it’s always a good thing to have free space for new and exciting modules.
The first ones to go would then be the sequential switch (if I don’t find a way to use it properly, see last chapter) and the Reflector.
I could see one of the two A-110-4 Sine VCO going, and one of the Polarizers (the larger and less powerful one). Next one would be the Multicore (until I actually start gigging with the thing), and then one of the Distortion thingies, and one of the odd filters (TG3 and/or DiRT). And after that…let’s see.
A statistic: In the total of 672TE, of which 668TE are currently held by modules, there’s a total of 94TE in the “almost never” category, and a total of 265TE of optional ones if you add the “somtimes” category to it. That’s more than three rows of 84TE standard cases!