My patchy dirges

Heyoes!

After exploring VCV for two weeks or so, it’s time for me to start getting my money’s worth out of the whole 0 Euro I invested into it so far, and make full songs rather than small sketches with it.

In general, I use Reason as my DAW to make music. I’m not interested in using VCV as a fully self-contained system, I want to integrate them together. My ideal software would be Reason, with front-patched VCV modules living directly in the rack. Once the official VST is available, I hope to get close to this ideal.

For now, I’m using loopback devices on Windows: VB-Cable to create virtual audio channels, Loopmidi to create virtual MIDI channels, and ASIO4All to create virtual audio devices combining multiple real devices. A bit wonky, but reliable. By contrast, Bridge has many performance issues for me, and Reason doesn’t support sending MIDI to separate channels, so it is hard to integrate, and VeeSeeVST agreed not to compete against the upcoming paid VST, so while it works well today it has no future.
Let me know if there’s interest in documenting this loopback setup in more detail, but there’s not much more to it, just install the software and pipe it together.

So! Here’s a little squelchy abrasive techno tune I quickly banged out today to put VCV to use. All the synth voices come from VCV, the drums are done with Reason, and the effects are a bit of both.
It’s really just four straightforward monosynth voices done with VCV, I still have trouble getting very musical results when trying too many weird patching ideas at once.

The Banquet of Mutuals Turns Into Bi v. Pan Discourse and Dessert is Canceled:

No video, only a Soundcloud link, because of my setup I can’t easily record audio and video at the same time. But here’s rack pics!

The two programs sure look like they’re meant to be used together, don’t they?

Playing around with VCV naturally pushes me towards crafting harsher sounds, I’ll have to try to do something different in a future song.

2 Likes

Wow j’aime vraiment beaucoup ! The synth sounds are awesome!
Very nice song :slight_smile: Looking forward to listening more from you !
Welcome to the community :wink:

Thanks for sharing your music and the details about using Reason with VCV Rack. The screenshots are awesome, and I agree that the synths sound great. It will be fun to hear other things you do!

Thanks for the nice comments!

Today I spent some time trying out making a voice-controlled song (plus getting TouchOSC rigged up to VCV). Here’s a live jam of it:

Donated my Upload to the Algorithm so my Soul will be Reborn as a Powerful Vocaloid

(please get used to the long and stupid song titles, it is a thing i do)

This one only uses VCV. The patch uses the microphone, detects the current note, coerces it to the C minor scale, makes a chord from it, vocodes the note rhythmically, and plays the chord.

Here’s the patch, if you wanna try it out: https://patchstorage.com/vocoder-song-control-the-entire-song-with-the-mic/

If you try it out, I’m still very new to VCV: any idea how to simplify it? I might be doing things the hard way. Suggestions welcome.

3 Likes

It’s a super fun patch and video. It’s hard to believe that you’re new to VCV Rack. Again, I’m excited to see what you come up with next.

Thank you! Well, I have a lot of experience with Reason, and while it’s a studio rack metaphor, a lot of similar CV techniques are possible (although many users don’t really explore them) so I could get started quickly.

Another track I finished today:

Freshest Blingees in the Malaise Game

Another song using both Reason and VCV. This one is very light on the patching tricks and has no generative behaviors. Once again, just a stack of four synth voices. I focused on making those voices expressive, using velocity, mod wheel and pitch wheel.

The pitch bend wheel thing gave me a bit of trouble. Is there a standard way to implement pitch bend in VCV? I’m just adding the V/OCT and a scaled down PW input, and I had to use a tuner to discover the magic value for five semitones (9.129%). I know the modular crowd isn’t a huge fan of the whole 12-TET thing, but sometimes it’s comforting to have old-school western pitches, you know.

There is some amount of subtle randomization happening in the Reason player devices (e.g. the bass notes during the break are 100% random), so I ensured that the video I took was also the final rendering take. Because of the loopback setup I use, the VCV parts cannot be rendered offline, they have to be frozen to audio first. So if the computer can’t keep up… welp.
I’m glad that VCV names and shames CPU-hungry modules, because sometimes you plop in the most straightforward utility there is, like a LFO, then you turn it the meters and see it takes 5% CPU. I wish Reason did the same with its Rack Extensions, a shame they have a financial incentive not to do that.

(After rendering it, I actually noticed that for some reason one modulation source stopped working - I had to relaunch VCV a few times while writing the song for similarly mysterious reasons. Ah well, it didn’t affect the song this much, and I plan to fix the mix a bit to tame the bells anyway. Worth remembering to always restart VCV before rendering a song)

I feel kinda weird I’m neglecting all of VCV’s potential to use it for more traditional songwriting, but hey, its fault it can compete with all my other synths. At this point, another paid Rack Extension or VST synth would be an almost impossible sell for me, if I want to dial in a preset quick I have a lot of workhorse synths (Antidote, Expanse, Thor, Europa), but if I want to craft a new sound I’ll reach for VCV almost every time now.

Tonight I patched up and performed a quick little live techno-ish jam, completely different from the previous song I posted where I use VCV as a collection tamed synth voices in a sequencer, in this one I embrace randomization fully.

Put Your Hands Up for Staying Home Tonite

I bought the main Vult plugin today, and thought it’d be fun to use its many rude filters to make some techno-ish thing with the resonance cranked to the max. I’m using a 15 years old garbage MIDI controller where the knobs no longer react properly and send wobbly data, but it just adds to the character of the song.

I mostly see this kind of experimentation as something that will enrich my sequenced songs, but I think if I want to continue performing with VCV I should really make myself a standard system, a fixed rack I learn inside-out, map to my MIDI controllers and TouchOSC, something I can perform without the mental overhead of remembering where to find the controls I need.

1 Like

For the last few days, I’ve started to put together my own virtual modular system, my very own instrument, something that feels like I crafted it rather than a one-off patch, something I can learn and perform live.

It seems most people make new songs with VCV starting with an empty rack they fill with what they need and nothing more, while people who use modular hardware have setups that evolve slowly, limited by the money they can throw at their hobby. I’m not big into formalism and genre essentialism so I think any approach that yields fun results if fine, really. And since I came to VCV from Propellerheads’ Reason, the first approach makes a lot of sense to me.
I’m young enough that software is the real thing to me. Software is what I’d rather use. I’m not using VCV as a stepping stone to buying €18954 of inferior gear with patchcable my dog would chew up and that lacks total recall.
But I think it’s also fun to craft your own modular system, make difficult choices to put up a system that’s versatile but small enough to wrangle, to learn it in-depth, to know it intimately, to push it to its limits… So I decided to do that in the virtual world, and to also map it to TouchOSC so I can can control it from phones and tablets, in addition to my MIDI controllers.

So, it’s still a work in progress, but here’s my system! It’s limited by my computer specs (takes 50% CPU when idle) and the complexity to navigate it, but hopefully versatile enough to get a lot out of it. It’s highly focused on randomization and on slow evolving techno jams. No serious sequencer, if I want one I’ll grab other software rather than do it in the rack

Here’s a pic of it:

(I don’t trust this forum to let you see the full size pic, so here’s an alternative at 100% zoom: https://aria.dog/upload/2019/10/system.jpg )

It’s not set in stone yet, or ever, so feel free to get indignant I didn’t add a module you consider essential!

And here’s two random TouchOSC pages, so I can perform it from tablets:


I haven’t mapped it all, but I started jamming with it, and I like the results! Here’s a quick excerpt of my experiments with it yesterday, improvised live:

As I have two sound cards, I’ve also rigged up a headphone mix, so I can preview things before I cue them up, hopefully I can use that to make smooth sounding sets. Excited to finish mapping it to touch controller, learn how to operate it in depth, and try to get fun performances out of it!

3 Likes

I’m in the former camp but I suspect that if I had any kind of controller then i’d move towards the latter. So much of what we do in the rack is creating systems that decide which notes to play, when you’re personally playing the notes (or using a hardware sequencer) the rack becomes more of a soundsource.

1 Like