Inspired by @Aria_Salvatrice’s post describing their layout and module selections from practicing with VCV Rack:
I thought it would be a good idea to extend the question–does anyone else cultivate a fixed rack for the bulk of their work?
I’ve been considering building one for ages, but always end up just starting from my basic mixer+reverb+delay+output template and adding things as I go.
How do y’all decide what stays in? When to make changes? What do you consider your ‘essential’ modules?
Of course your answers will be specific to your needs, but I’d love to hear folks’ thoughts.
A while ago i “copypasted” one of Lightbath’s mutable only rack in Vcv, and i still often use it.
This way no need to think about what modules to add, i’m limited to what i already have. Also sometimes i take an old patch of mine and remove all cables, only rule is “no adding any other module”
Btw here is the patch if you want to try
Mutable instruments rack.vcv (11.9 KB)
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.
This // a bit off-topic // but as a noob on the subject – do you store these on some public cloud or just for Yourself? I like to record / make songs on my soundcloud, but the free version is soon getting out of space. soundcloud, because it was one of the first services I saw that I can store my music on, and have access to it for example via my iphone.
I’ve been trying to do this recently, initially to make sure I explore the vult modules I recently purchased but lately in an attempt to get an idea of what I want from a real life rack. I haven’t got very far with it yet though.
Just for me, so I can curate heavily what I share! I share a bit more on VCV communities because sometimes I want to share a neat/stupid patching trick I found interesting but isn’t a legit song, but with the rest of the world, so far it’s just one album of live jams on bandcamp.
That makes me think - I could really use a rolling buffer recorder. You know, how for example modern gaming GPU and consoles can be constantly recording the last 15 minutes, and if it’s good you can commit it to file. Gonna post this into the ideas thread, haha.
- Delete the libraries that you don’t use so much or you’ve never used (it’s easy on VCV download them all and get lost)
- From there start to think on what do you use often and which type of sound do you like and try to build a patch by limiting yourself - for example “no more than X chans or no more than X OSCs”.
I guess you need to do some research and understand better what suits best for you
On that topic, would there be interest (especially from people who make text/video tutorials) to workshop together a good beginner’s system? Like, a small curation that makes judicious choices to be ripe with exploratory potential, capable of making a full drums + bass + chords + melody song, low CPU enough to run on your average laptop, versatile enough you can patch things at random and often get fun noises out of it?
My own aesthetic is definitely way too maximalist to have good opinions to offer on such a system, but i think it could be a good way to help beginners get over the paralysis of having too many choices
I think this is a great idea. One or more “standard” racks for beginners, for challenges, etc. Also, maybe clones of classic synths?
I have heard discussion of this before. Maybe on this forum.