Los Angeles producer, DJ and recovering publicist, Lubelski has released his new album Universal Groove today on his label co-founded with Rybo Percomaniacs. The album expands on the Desert Hearts, Burning Man brand of tech-house he has been putting out over the past few years into more melodic deep house and a touch of LA-techno. He likes to use a lot of gear when making his music, so we decided to have him give us tips to making your own modular rig. Now that a lot of touring has been postponed and canceled, producers will have time to work on new music, experiment and try new stuff in the studio without worrying about wasting their precious week days in the studio between weekend touring.
Stream & buy the full album now and read on for his tips to making your own modular rig. He also gives his five favorite rigs if you want to get one to start or expand on your current set up.
"I’d like to start off by saying building a modular rig is a totally subjective endeavor. How the rack operates the best for me obviously won’t be the best for anyone. You have to experiment until you find the ideal setup for yourself and what you are trying to create.
Secondly, there are some great tools to use like modulargrid.net that allow you to virtually build your dream setup as well as see the top hundred used modules in other people’s racks.
Since I used my rig on a majority of the album, whether it was the bass lines, the leads, the effects, or the percussion, I decided it would be great to rearrange everything to really perfect the signal flow across the system moving forward.
1. Signal Flow
Signal flow is everything on modular rack. Most of my sequencers, gate and CV outputs are on the top of the modules, so I put them on the bottom of the rack to keep the cables out of the way of the modules’ buttons, knobs, and screens. My Intellijel Metropolis was the core “brain” of my ideas. I thought it would be best to situate it close to my midi module to clock it from my computer and not have to use insanely long patch cables to do so. As a general rule of thumb, I like to keep this general pattern from bottom to top: (1) CV Control, Effects, Mixer, (2) VCOs and Filters, (3) CV, Effects, Utilities.
2. Trial and Error
Sometimes the way I organize my case doesn’t always work out the way I want it to, given that I’m working with limited space. I’ve rearranged this particular case maybe four or five times. Figuring out which modules help you create the sounds you want and a bit of the sounds you didn’t know you wanted is the biggest difficulty of dealing with racks like this. Trial and Error is also what makes modular racks so fun, if you don’t like a module or simply don’t use it very often, there are massive online communities ie Modular Synthesizer Sales and Trades and Eurorack Synthesizers where you can trade or sell them. If you don’t know where to start, this is a great place for novices and experts alike.
3. Muscle Memory
It is great to create flexibility in your case with a down/up approach, like I prefer, as oppose to left/right approach, but its even better when you can remember where every module is in your case. This especially goes for larger cases. Knowing where to easily grab CV or sounds from will immensely help your workflow.
4. Patch Cable Rack
I currently don’t have one of these, but having a dedicated place to store your patch cables will save you tons of time. Those brief moments of trying to untangle cables and having a pile of them on your desk, can clutter your clarity and momentum when trying to create something interesting. That time adds up!
5. Record Everything
I can’t overstate the number of times I started a patch and found something great to use, then realized I forgot to hit the record button. Recreating something you really liked is incredibly difficult with the unfathomable amount of combinations and possibilities a modular rack provides.
Top 5 Modules:
1. Intellijel Metropolis and Atlantis
These are technically two different modules, but they were totally meant for each other. The Metropolis is a 303-styled sequencer with an awesome amount of capabilities like clock division, swing, scale settings, sequencing options, etc. I use it pretty much every time I step into a patch. The Atlantis is Intellijel’s ode to Roland’s legacy synth the SH-101, which includes five waves like Pulse, Saw, Sub, Noise, and Sine, as well as its own built in filter, modulators, and envelope. Together they make a powerful duo. I used this combo for a majority of my bass lines and leads on my album.
2. Make Noise QPAS
Make Noise crafted one of the most brilliant filters I have ever used. They have a reputation for their visual aesthetic as well as adherence to quality. The QPAS filter is no exception. I run nearly every sound through it before it hits my mixer, to give it some extra harmonics, sharp resonance, or grit. Using my Metropolis to sequence the frequency cutoff helps me create some really unique tones that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. This module gave my leads in tracks off Universal Groove like “Network 4 Networth” and “Slippin” that extra oomph I was looking for.
3. Mutable Instruments Plaits
Plaits is a half digital, half analog physical modeling module. The means it recalls the sounds digitally, but has that analog warmth that just really isn’t present without a ton of processing on VSTs. It’s very similar to my Intellijel Plonk, but a definite favorite of mine, when it comes to create melodic percussive leads. Plonk and Plaits were the main source of my lead sounds in my album track "Blue Faces" with Morpei and Rodney.
4. Make Noise Morphagene
Probably the most interesting sound design module in my rack. I can upload or record sounds and loops to a small SD card on the module. It acts as a looper, a granulator, and a drum rack. Using my Malekko Varigate to jump to through the splices in a recording or abusing the morph and gene size settings on this module allows me to create textures and sounds never before heard and never again emulated. This in combination with my Grayscale Supercell was used for a ton of the FX and tension builds in the album as well.
5. Make Noise Maths
It’s the number one most essential module for anyone’s rack, as is shown by modulargrid.net’s top 100. It’s a utility module that can act as a mixer for CV or Audio, it can slew and attenuate sequences, envelopes, and CV, as well as output constant voltages, generate self-cycling LFOs, and much, much more. Anywhere you hear glide or wobble in my songs in the album, you can bet I used Maths to help me out.