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Can you use your modular rig as a guitar synth?

Modular Guitar Synth
(Image credit: Future)

In this walkthrough we’ll create a total patch, using Eurorack modules to shape the sound of an incoming guitar signal, in this case a custom Strat that we’ve built. We’ll be using a humbucking pickup and the volume and tone both set to maximum.

Modular as guitar synth

(Image credit: Future)

Step 1: For this, we plug directly into Ears, which gives some extra abilities that can come in useful. This does mean a 1/4” to 1/8” cable is needed (or an adapter), which for some may not seem ideal but is worth it.

Modular as guitar synth

(Image credit: Future)

Step 2: The obvious use here is to save some money on effects, which is fine, but we can do more. Take the out from Ears and plug it into the input of Rings. Set Rings how you see fit. We use the sympathetic strings mode and adjust the damping and position to roll off guitar harshness in the top end.

Modular as guitar synth

(Image credit: Future)

Step 3: The benefit of Ears here is that it also has an envelope output, which can be patched in many ways. For this, we sent it to the CV input of the brightness control, attenuated internally to suit our guitar and picking attack, giving a nice falloff so that as our plucked note fades, so does the brightness.

Modular as guitar synth

(Image credit: Future)

Step 4: We’re big fans of Mike Oldfield’s guitar tones, that are saturated but smooth. To this end we patched Rings into our favourite filter, the Pittsburgh Modular State Variable. We like some motion in our filters so added an LFO to the cutoff and attenuated the cv until happy.

Modular as guitar synth

(Image credit: Future)

Step 5: This filtered audio then goes to a granular module. We went simple and used Beads, with a small number of randomly spaced grains, that were short with a soft envelope.

Modular as guitar synth

(Image credit: Future)

Step 6: You could stop here, or use Bead’s built-in reverb, but the joy of Eurorack is versatility and options, so we’ll use our favourite reverb, the Valhalla Asgard from the TipTop Audio Z-DSP. We take the left and right from Beads into Z-DSP and similarly both outputs to our interface.

Modular as guitar synth

(Image credit: Future)

Step 7: We noticed a fair amount of noise in our signal but Ears offers an easy fix for this too. Just take the Gate output from Ears and run your audio through a VCA, with Ears’ gate opening the amp while your guitar is playing, closing it again when the note dies. An easy and effective noise gate.

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