My fixed rack went through a ton of revisions, and I’m satisfied it will never have a perfect, fully fixed canonical form. It’s not like tweaking it all the time is a spendy habit when no paid module is required to craft a full system. But I’m trying to get it to settle a bit so I can truly learn it, commit it to muscle memory!!
I’m a pretty garbage keyboardist, mostly because I don’t care to practice that craft (I’ve got an excuse, I’m a multimedia artist, so I’m allowed to suck at every media).
My keyboard is for discovering melodies, not for playing live, and I’m cool with that. The kind of music I wish to make is just as well done with compulsive micro-edits in a DAW than finger virtuosity.
But VCV is different than a keyboard! Playing it does not require virtuosity or even a great sense of rhythm, it just requires you to think fast enough you can make your jam evolve fast enough to sustain interest. It gives me a chance to play music live!
As a result, I don’t take music purely done with VCV too seriously. It’s playing - it’s play, it’s playful, it’s a game. VCV is a serious workhorse I hope to put to good use in serious deal serious DAW songs once the official VCV for DAWs VST is released, but when used standalone, I have zero quality standards, it’s a private performance for me and my dog and I don’t care if it sounds good.
My computer is reasonably beefy (i7 4790, 32 GB RAM, GPU with LEDs of the color of the rainbow, PSU emblazoned with the word “GAMER”), so I’ve found that the limit of a virtual rack isn’t what my hardware can handle without burning down my house: it’s what my wetware can reason about in realtime.
A few things I learned while crafting my system:
- Mental bandwidth is the limit. I can’t stress this enough!! The advice to start small is not about money, or about your crappy overheating laptop CPU - it’s about your ability to keep the entire patch in your mind.
- It’s good to have a deliberate focus. Mine is aleatoric techno. My system is not capable of making intricate ambient sound textures, or well-crafted songs with proper chord progressions and unusual time signatures. It’s only meant to add some fun decorum to a fast four on the floor kick and nothing else.
- It’s better to only have one scrolling axis. VCV isn’t good at zooming in and out, so make the rack no wider or taller than your screen, and build in only one direction. Helps with the mental workload. (And [SHAMELESS ADVERTISEMENT] try out my UnDuLaR module to scroll via MIDI!!)
- Learn to love the Bogaudio collection unless you’re willing to learn to love scrolling a ton. Those humble tiny 3hp modules glue everything together.
- There is no such things as having too many offsetters, too many envelope generators, or too many VCA.
RECORD EVERYTHING. You can delete it if it sucks. You can’t go back to a good jam you forgot to record.