Small Systems: Ergonomics

Don’t get your spaghetti on your knobs! It’s time to talk about the ergonomics of small systems!

Ergonomics are a bit easier in small systems. There’s less to manage, and I think it’s worth taking advantage of that. Here are a few things that I find make synthesis more enjoyable.

  1. Organize your modules. Don’t just slap them in the nearest  XXhp space, consider your work flow. Being thoughtful can help keep the knobs out of the spaghetti.
  2. Avoid tiny modules. Eurorack isn’t exactly a huge format to start with. Being an hp miser leads to painful patching and uneasy wiggling. Even without cramped module designs it can be easy to bump the wrong knob, and patching can be like threading a needle. Don’t make your life harder.
  3. Choose a good case design. I love the Roland SYR-E84 for the lovely angle you can set it at. It’s great for desk work, or for setting up at standing height. I don’t get stiffness or soreness in my neck from using it. (Though, if you’re a modular masochist, then enjoy the pain.)
  4. Use stackable cables wisely. In a small system a handful can go a long way. Over time you get a pretty good grasp for the outputs you’re likely to mult with them. Just go ahead and use stackables there to start with, so you’re less likely to de-patch and re-patch. For 84hp I like 4 yellow, 2 red and 2 green stackables. Not too many, and just the right sizes.
  5. Think about your work-space. It’s general organization and ergonomics. Cable hangers are a small thing with big benefits (no desk spaghetti). Have mixers, pedals, keyboards and other outboard gear in order and in reach. I have the occasional rethink on my whole setup. And I  have been benefited by the lessons of a handful of iterations of my work-space.
  6. Sit or stand… I find that having my synth set up to use while I stand inclines me to use it more. I don’t know why, but I do. Maybe because I do a lot of desk work during the day. Figure out which way works for you.
  7. Try and give it a place to live. I like that I can move my small system around. But I like having a place where it can stay set up. Where I can take a ten minute break and wiggle. If I have to set-up and tear-down every time I take an notion to wiggle, I’m far less apt to do so.

Ergonomics won’t make or break a good patch. But they can make wiggling more pleasant. Furthermore, I recognize that not all these things may be feasible in all situations. Do what you can to make the experience enjoyable for you, in your situation. Heed this advice, or ignore it. But whatever you do, wiggle on!


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