Modular Synthesizers Workshop

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This hands-on workshop is a practical introduction to modular sound synthesis and electronic sound creation using VCV Rack. Learn to create a ‘patch’ to produce electronic sound and leave with the tools for limitless sound creation.

Previously the preserve of wealthy and patient music makers tangled up with wires in giant blinking boxes, the joy of creating sounds on a modular synth is now available inside your laptop via the free virtual modular synthesizer VCV Rack. Whether you are an experienced sound creator or curious music fan, modular synthesis with VCV Rack offers virtually limitless audio creation tools and sonic experimentation.

Workshop Logistics

Date & Time:
Two-day workshop meets 6pm – 9pm on
Monday, February 3 & Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Cost: $240
($40 per hour)

Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate.
Previous experience working with music and sound creation tools is helpful but not necessary.

Bring a PC/Mac or Linux Laptop and headphones compatible with your Laptop.
Install VCV Rack prior to arriving to workshop.
Download here.

Workshop Outline

We'll cover everything you need to patch and compose with modular synths over two days. We’ll move from basic technique to hands on applications in your own creative musical context.

Day 1
• Brief history of modular synthesis, terms and techniques with A/V materials and short demonstration on physical hardware
• Introduction to VCV Rack virtual modular, module browser, connecting to your laptop’s audio output
• Making your first sounds by building a basic VCO VCF VCA patch in VCV Rack
• Expanding the sonic possibilities of a basic patch with Gates, Envelopes, LFO, Sequencers, and other specialized modules
• Understanding building block modules: VCO, VCA, VCF, LFO, Scope, Audio Interface
• Saving and recalling and sharing your patches

Day 2
• Further expansion of patching techniques using Noise, Random, Quantizer modules
• Building percussive drum machine patches using multiple voices and modules
• Building generative and ambient patches
• Sharing patches and refining students patches with one on one guidance from the instructor


Ryan Smith

A long time touring musician with the band Caribou, Ryan also produces futuristic techno music under the moniker Taraval, makes modular ambient music in the live electronic duo Bathing, and has a long running collaboration with Jeremy Greenspan of the Junior Boys, both producing experimental electronic music and running the label Geej. He produced a collaborative performance of a 1973 graphics score by avant-garde composer Frank McCarty called Tactus Tempus, a controlled improvisational process for 9 audio visual performers live at Gray Area. He is an expert level user of Ableton and Max For Live, VCV Rack (virtual modular synthesis environment), numerous hardware instruments and an accomplished guitar player.

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Gray Area / Grand Theater
2665 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Monday – Friday
10am – 6pm
After 6pm dependent on events.