I recently mentioned some smaller Eurorack systems, among them one called Granturismo here.
At its heart, this setup, consisting of a small (84TE) modular case and a MC-707, is two voice modules and Mutable Instruments’ Marbles controlling them – with the MC-707 acting as a drum machine and mixer/FX unit.
The actual implementation adds a few additional modules – a 2hp VCO and ADSR to make the A-111-6 a true 2-VCO, 2-envelope synth, and maybe most importantly a A-182-2 Quad Switch to allow for quick switching between gate and CV sources.
And if space is a primary concern, one could go Piccoturismo, fit everything in Doepfer’s small lunchbox and add an equally small Korg Volca Beats or Drum for a super-mini system.
But what’s so special about it?
In essence, Marbles is a set of four sources for (pseudo-)random numbers which can be stored in loops of finite length (inspired by Music Thing Modular’s Turing Machine), and those pseudo-random sequences can then be used as a test function applied to distributions which you set with a few knobs to generate two channels of gates and three channels of CV.
So you can use it as a generator for random voltages and gates. Or, by looping those and applying sensible distributions, you can create really nice, repeating and evolving melodies.
Which is great. But here, it only applies to the melodic voices, not to the drums.
Thinking it further
So what can we do to also give us some drums with controlled randomness? Or more generally something that might not be random, but not be programmed x0x-style, either? Both thinking that big (“big” here meaning “I need to fork out cash”) or prototypically (“can do it with existing gear)?
Let’s start with the second, more affordable option. I have another smallish case (“smallish” also means that stupid Moog case is too shallow to hold a Synthrotek DualLPG), so could that do everything the MC-707 does right now, only with non-programmable drum sequences?
So I’ll need drum sounds, some non-programmable triggers, mixer and effects. And all of that in 100TE (as 4TE are covered by the uZeus PSU).
Let’s start with the triggers. I have a bunch of sequencers, including René, Hermod, Varigate 4+ and Bloom. Which are all very large, and René can’t do generative things at all, and Varigate 4+ can do it, but not in a loopable/controlled fashion (as is the case for Hermod, unless you run some pretty tricky to operate tricks).
And then there’s a clock generator.
Pamela’s New Workout is an eight-channel clock generator. Which, in addition, also offers Euclidean rhythm generators and loopable random sources. In other words, just what we want. True, control is only possible with two external CVs or menu-diving, but that’s really the best we can get – and in only 8TE at that!
Speaking of CV generation: be it a simple CV fader, a sample and hold, a LFO, envelopes or a step sequencer (or even a Turing Machine thingie), Stages (with the Qiemen firmware) can do all of that. Let’s add it as a flexible modulation factotum.
For the sound sources, if I want a few drum sounds out of the box, I usually go for BIA, Akemie’s Taiko and maybe Plaits, and build my own bassdrum. Now Akemie is pretty large, and so is building your own bass drum (at least in depth – my to-go approach is to use an A-111-3 oscillator together with Synthrotek’s Dual LPG and at least one decay envelope). But I still have a 2hp MMF in the other case (which I don’t need), and for a completely different approach, also a MFB 522 808 hihat-cymbal module. Let’s go with the BIA/Plaits/522 route for now.
We still need the mixer and FX option. As I’m a stereo person (I keep repeating that), let’s use two A-138s (one for the dry, one for the FX mix) and add a Mimeophon as my to-go funny effect. And a Befaco StMix to bring everything together. Nice!
With a total of 6TE still available, I first threw in a A-182-2 quad switch (because they are great), and a further Intellijel Unity, to allow me to sum 2×3 audio (e.g. the two 522 channels) or CV/gate. Done!
Alternative Approach: handmade bassdrum
Aiming for a compact hand-made bassdrum: I already have decay envelopes (from Stages). Add a A-111-3 oscillator and the 2hp MMF we have in the other case for LP duties, that’s 6TE. Meaning we get ourselves a bass drum, and still have 6TE left (8 if we can do without the Unity). Definitely something worth considering…
Note that with either approach, we still have two individual components to lug around.
So what if I decided that I allowed mysef to get both additional modules (but only where I need them) and yet another case?
Let’s start with the case: I always considered Tiptop’s Mantis a nice design. It’s affordable, comes with an integrated, powerful PSU, is deeper than my other skiff cases, has that variable angle stand, you can get a decksaver and a carrying bag for it. Plus, at 2x104TE it gives us 24TE more than what we have right now.
Let’s add a complete kick drum that people seem to be happy about: Befaco’s Kickall – at 6TE, it’s also pretty small. And finally stick with the Mutable Instruments focus as of late, and add a smaller copy of their Grids drum pattern thingie – something which was on the recommendation list of @mylarmelodies for quite some time (maybe still is).
If we get rid of the 522 (because we now have three drum voices) and getting rid of the MMF we had never used, we still have space to spare. Let’s replace the 2hp VCO with a Twin Waves (to give us two very powerful digital oscillators) and we still have space for – Nebulae! A pretty cool setup if I may say so myself.
Let’s see where this train of thought will lead me. And meanwhile, there’s a video with the original setup mentioned above. Enjoy!