One of the most underestimated aspects of music production is creating a soundstage. We’re all familar with left, right and center, but it doesn’t end there. There’s also front and back. We can create an illusion of a 3D space by playing with volume, EQ, echo and reverb.

A near sound is bright, clear and easy to pinpoint in the L/R/Center field. The sound will be reflected in the soundstage. A big room will have a long slapback time and a big reverb. Far sounds are dim, diffused and hard to place. The slapback reflection will not be there, but it takes time for the sound to reach us. So a sound with a regular interval will take more time to reach us when it’s far away. A regular synth will not be able to do this, so normally one would revert to a DAW with careful automation. It should be possible to do it on a modular synth. Here’s our wish list of modules:

We want a simple ping. Any VCO will do, even a sample player will work.
We’ll need to have a VCA that has two channels, otherwise we can’t pan. We also need a stereo output at the end. You just can’t do a big soundstage in mono! We also need a filter to dim the sound when it’s far away. We’ll need a sequencer to handle the ping gates. Ideally, we need to slow it down when the ping moves back, and speed it up when the ping gets closer. Finally we’ll need a reverb that supports a slapback and has automation for size.

I used the MakeNoise Shared System to create a demo patch of a ping that moves in a large imaginary space. DPO makes a bleep, which is sculpted by Contour and some exponential FM. Maths drives two cycles where EOR and EOC trigger the next cycle into a big loop. The first loop controls the timbre of the sound by dimming the Optomix and making the Erbe-Verb space bigger and pre-delay smaller. The WoggleBug pans the RXMX. One of Erbe-Verbs outputs goes to RXMX and one goes to the Echophon’s feedback in, so the reverb trail gets an echo with some pitch shift. The Erbe-Verb gets the feedback-out, but not the original ping.