Building the Cinematic Sound Design Laboratory

Building a modular sound design rig is hard. Picking the right modules is fairly easy because you basically want them all. I have 168 HP of available space, which is four big rows of modular stuff and two ‘normal’ rows, or two big suitcases and one reasonable sized. It’s a lot of space. Filling them is not difficult. It’s a matter of exploring your musical needs, reading lots of reviews, watching many, many videos and telling yourself you’re OK, you’re not addicted.  No, this post is simply putting all these modules in the right spot so they can actually work together and make music.

Ugly bricks
My rig has a lot of the inevitable modules from MakeNoise and Mutable Instruments, the SMR and the awesome Assimilator from Rossum. When I started, I had a MakeNoise case and a Mutable Instruments case, because it looked good. I even painted some of the modules black to match the MakeNoise Black & Gold theme I like a lot. They have a leather jacket punk look and feel. I went over the edge by painting the aluminum MakeNoise modules black too. Sorry about that, they’re now aluminum again. It is probably an autistic thing bring order to the Universe. For me, most modular rigs look like they glued all kinds of ugly bricks together.

Make Noise
Anyway, the MakeNoise case worked, because it’s an old CV Shared System and the guys must have figured out the most useful combination of modules to patch. There’s a reason why Maths is the left most component in an official rig, and why the Phonogene / Morphagene is in the bottom right. I mounted a little mixer to make it easier to patch different cases together, only to find out that a Shared System ‘only’ has a DPO as the primary oscillator, two two-channel VCA’s and a Sound-On-Sound mixer in the Phono/Morph. There’s always a way to patch from any source to the final out. You can even do CV stereo panning with the Mod Demix and Maths. So the extra mixer was completely useless – and too far away from the other cases. The MakeNoise approach may sound too crazy west coast experimental hippy for the faint hearted, but it’s a sound design dream. And a very ergonomic one.

Morphagene, Assimilator and Clouds
The Morphagene should be part of the Shared CV, but it’s too important for my setup to be far away from other sources. My most important module is the Rossum Assimi8or, which I rebranded into an Emulator 5, and nothing can beat the Clouds. Unfortunately it’s in redesign so I use a µClouds clone with Parasites firmware. This combination is the heart of my sound. I love to drive the Assimilator with six MakeNoise Tempi channels of variation, but the weird clock ‘listen to the beat’ implementation makes it hard to get/stay in sync with a master BPM. Fortunately the Assimilator can also record gates so you can loop a sync pulse to Tempi. But this should not be necessary with a +$ 300 module in 2019. Still, it’s worth every penny for its musicality. It sounds alive. Modular systems should sound alive, compared to their drum computer competition. I am thinking of buying an old Phonogene and make the CV case a futuristic retro case. People are probably dumping it to replace it with a Morph – and they should – but the Phonogene is much easier in a live set and a better match for the mono VCO’s. Again, the Morphagene is brilliant, but the user experience is terrible. REC/SPLICE for recording, SPLICE/REC for entering reel mode. SHIFT/REC for five seconds for deleting. I always take the SD card out when fooling around and keep a backup of my reels because this thing is just dying to delete your recordings when trying to record something new. These old tape recorders had simple buttons that worked like a charm.  Sadly, Tom Erbe forgot about those.

Mutable Instruments
The Mutable Instruments case didn’t work for me. I have a Stages, Tides, Marbles and Ripples on board, along with a Plaits, Warps. Elements, Ears and a Yarns to feed it some midi. I created these cases for sound design, but my VST loaded BatCave studio PC can do  much better than any Mutable combination. This is basically because Plaits is an elemental ‘beginner’ sound source. Very versatile, but in a ‘heard it all before’ category. Elements could have been much more than a Blow and Strike machine. I am a big fan of the Native Instruments Reaktor Prism plugin and Elements sounds small, thin and fake. It sounds a bit better when feeding it some external sources and FM, but it remains ‘mwha’. So exit Elements until Oliver makes it right. Everybody has Marbles built in, but for me it feels like a karaoke machine. So I think about losing my marbles soon, or maybe keep it to modulate and animate stuff. Or maybe read the manual again and check for Parasite updates. But I love Stages and Tides. Make Noise Maths can do anything, but Stages and Tides are more useful for traditional ADSR and LFO stuff.

My central 84 HP 7U case has a Mixology for the final mix and send FX from the TipTop Z-DSP. It’s a big module, but in the end it only has two stereo inputs. So after patching the left and right 104 HP 7U cases from Make Noise I couldn’t patch anything else, rendering the central 0-COAST and Plaits mute in the big picture.

So making things work is far from easy. I must have removed, refitted and replaced every module a thousand times. Finally I have a rig that could almost work for live gigs, because that’s the second goal: performing live with a modular.

Metapop ADE remix cypher

I was invited by Metapop and Native Instruments to join a live remix competition on the 18th of october, so I took my gear to Amsterdam and tried to create a decent remix in one hour.  Native provided me with the new  Komplete A25 keyboard and the handy Maschine Micro MK3.  The original artist Raiden was on site to pick a winner. Really happy he chose my mix. Personally I think contestant LUVR was the best, and Vasko did a very original Big Room, but Raiden chose mine and now I am a proud owner of the Micro MK3. It’s going to be an important tool in my new Sound Lab, driving a big modular with sequences over multiple midi channels. Here’s the story on the Native Instruments blog 🙂


Tomorrow I’ll travel to Amsterdam for the annual Dance Event where the whole city is a stage. I am invited by Metapop/Native Instruments to participate in a live pressure cooker remix competition – obviously to show how much fun this platform really is. I am a Metapop Mentor, which basically means I try to help producers all over the world as much as I can. But the fun thing is,  that NI did a really big launch for some new affordable gear, new software and three new platforms for loops, sounds and showing off your remix skills. Metapop has grown huge in a matter of weeks, with many, many people trying to get a hold of a 4K grand prize, basically a full studio setup. So people are starting to know me as some kind of ‘authority’. I am not. I am nobody. But when I provide feedback, I make people feel better about themselves. I guess that’s what mentoring is about.

So tomorrow I am going to try something cool. I am not sure about the track we need to remix and how many people are in the game. But I am going to take my field recorder to the lab and collect as many cool sounds to make the track as possible. So it’s going to be a Cinematic ADE Found Sounds Lab Remix. There’s a Brute, there’s a System 8, probably a lot of Boutiques, so plenty of sources on headphones and accessible L/R outputs. Then I will use them in Ableton 10 and Maschine to create the remix. I think they will probably give us an hour. More news tomorrow!



Modular Anonymous

Ok. It just happened. Last week I got the eurorack modular disease. The money black hole. The addiction that beats drugs, alcohol and other bad things. I had to make some choices. Sold my Yamaha Montage 6. Greats synth – maybe the best synth on the planet – but it always gave me a wedding party vibe. It’s not cool as a Bob Moog or a Sequential Dave Smiths. Eurorack is cool. No doubt about it. It’s pure RocketScience. It belongs in the BatCave. And it suits the Cinematic sound very well. I will be creating pages with information about my modular choices. Hopefully this will help you to stay far away from it, or make wise(r) choices. There must be thousands of modules out there, just waiting to be part of your own personal custom synth.

Having seriously second thoughts about my MatrixBrute too. It was supposed to be the nerve center for my forthcoming eurorack adventure. But now both are part of the BatCave studio list, and I was hoping to borrow the Brute’s filters. Didn’t work. Gave it external sound, didn’t work. Patched the Steiner Parker filter, nothing happened. Obviously I don’t understand how all this works, but I will find out soon that all these patch points are for external CV/Gate control only.  As far as the sounds are concerned, nothing screams like a Brute.  But then there’s MakeNoise… So why keep this big, heavy and brutal machine when you can also fit it in a suitcase?
Keep you posted…

Mission Statement

Hi Guys,

Very blog starts with a first post and no audience. This one is no exception. Fortunately a lot has been going on since I came up with the idea of combining cinematic stuff with electronic music. So maybe a new genre was born, but I don’t really think in genres and styles. I love beats, patterns, wide space and emotions – translated to sound.

I am a mentor at, which means I help people to produce their tracks and get better. Which is cool, because I just throw sounds at people and most of the time I just do what feels right.

When making music, I follow my own ‘tingle scale’. When I was young you could run into a track that could make the back of your neck tingle. It’s not just a track, sometimes it could only be a sound or bass riff. I can still remember ‘The Space Between’ from Roxy Music. After a while the effect wears out, but this is basically ‘what makes music good’. It’s personal. My ‘tingle scale’ is triggered by minor chords, pads, strings, dynamics, driving repetition, space and the unexpected / out of place. This basically sums up the style ‘cinematic dance music’.

If WordPress allows, I will be creating four sections on this website with posts about beats, patterns, space and emotion. Hopefully it will help you find your way in this huge universe of VST’s, gear and sounds. My favorite conventional genres are techno, trance, ambient and classical.  I don’t understand Jazz, but people say I’m good at that. So I do that too. And I must say, playing jazz is really cool. It’s not that different from improvising with a modular.  So welcome to the Cinematic Room. Make yourself at home.

You can find my music here: