Well that was random…

I’m sitting here listening to this wild, musique concrete patch I put together. It’s modulated entirely by random voltages. Elements is providing modal madness and Warps Parasite brings the Variable Rate Delay to the party, for some tape delay emulation. I feel like I’m drifting somewhere between reality and madness. It’s beautifully surreal.

So what’s the big deal with random sources? I mean… why!? We spend all this time tuning our oscillators, selecting just the right position for each little knob, just the right place for each envelope, each LFO… and then we’re just going to let loose some mad dog amidst it all? Yeah, I didn’t get it either, until I started playing about with Two Drunks.

Disclaimer: Two Drunks is one of the modes on the Tides Parasite firmware. I don’t mess around with actual drunk people.

Random sources are all about unpredictability. This can bring some real beauty to any patch. And if you’re like me and you like to let a patch play (for hours) while you’re doing other things, repetitiveness becomes tiresome. Eventually even the longest envelopes and LFO’s finish their cycles, and then we’re off to the second verse, same as the first. Random sources keep that from happening. Whatever else may be going on in your patch… whatever cycles and sub-cycles of effects and voltage and sound… the random source is doing its own thing, marching to the beat of no drummer at all! (Ok, if it’s clocked it kinda is. But still, you get the point.) Randomness breaks our patch away from the predictable, the dreary, the mundane. It is ever alive and lively!

The essence of it, is that random is all about variety. And as we know, variety is the spice of life. Cliche? Extremely. True? Very.

You can take random sources, as I have in my “musique concrete” patch, and go absolutely mental with them. Or you can use them a bit more sensibly. Maybe you’ll use a stepped random source to create a melody. Maybe you will use a woggly random source to create fun trills with light frequency modulation or some other parameter of your sound. Perhaps you want to randomize your gates with something like Branches, which I absolutely adore! Or you could go straight for a random gate source!

Random sources are a lot of fun. And like a lot of other aspects of synthesis they’re best understood through experimentation. Try them anywhere and everywhere to see how various parameters of your patch react to randomness (and different kinds of randomness too). And an important note. This goes for almost every sort of control voltage, but I find it especially true of random voltages: Attenuate. Offset. Invert. These three very basic tools of control voltage manipulation enable you to dial in the random. Blinds is an absolute powerhouse of attenuation, offset and inversion. So, if you’re shy on these it’s 12hp very well spent.

If you don’t already have a random source in your eurorack setup, I strongly suggest getting one. If you have one but it’s collecting dust, give it some fresh attention. Get out there, explore the world of random! Let it spice up your sound! Let it go absolutely, stark-raving mad in your patch! Or bind it to your will with an offset/attenuator! Whatever you do, get random, and wiggle on!


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Honorable Mentions:
Mutable Instruments Tides
Tides Parasite Firmware
Mutable Instruments Blinds
Mutable Instruments Branches
Mutable Instruments Warps
Warps Parasite Firmware

Unmentioned Honorables:
Make Noise Wogglebug
SSF Ultra Random Analogue
Doepfer A-149-1