Learning Modular: Going to Synth School

I had no idea who Chris Meyer was several months back, when I blogged on why we should support our community content creators. Thankfully several readers dropped his name in the comments when I posted, so I had to go check out Chris’s work at Learning Modular. Then, a few months back I subscribed to Chris’s Patreon for Learning Modular. With this came access to the lovely Eurorack Expansion Course, and I had the brilliant idea to watch all the videos and then blog on it. That never happened. I watched a substantial number of videos, then decided to see how many videos there were. I will sum up the number as, “a whole lot.” More than I was going to get through anytime soon, or not so soon. I wrote up a small post on facebook sharing my thoughts on the course (it’s excellent). I had commented that I thought he presented some good foundational principles there which had helped me. Chris got in touch and said, “actually I have a course that’s intended to teach the foundations of synthesis” (that’s a paraphrase) and he gave me access to The Comprehensive Starter Course.

The Comprehensive Starter Course, contains 38 videos. Chris walks us through a bit of history, talks briefly about the various formats of modular synthesis, and then using the Eurorack format takes us on a journey through the basics of synthesis. Now, for myself, I’m not really a neophyte anymore. I wont call myself a sage of synthesis by any regard, but I’ve spent a lot of time with this, both in research and in use. That said, there were still plenty of times I found Chris shedding light on things I had not known, or bringing to my recollection things I’d forgotten. I must apologize to Chris because, on more than one occasion, my viewing was interrupted by a trip to the synth to explore an idea he brought forth… And that right there is what good teaching is about. Yes, it’s good to have that sort of lexical knowledge of things, but teaching should do more than puree facts and pour them into our brains. Good instruction also motivates and inspires with its ideas and ideals.

I feel that the course is comprehensive, though not exhaustive. That is to say, Chris covers all the basics, without necessarily digging into every nook and cranny. He has done an excellent job of culling not only the catalogue of videos in this course, but the content of each presentation. He has a way of presenting what we need to know, without bloating the lessons or dragging things out unnecessarily. By my estimation the lessons average about six minutes long, generally ranging from about five to ten minutes in length, with a few outliers here or there. This makes referencing a video again later on a much easier process. Also, if you’re like me and forget where you were because you had to go to the synth (or got interrupted by kids) watching the video over again is by no means a painful process. On top of all this, Chris has excellent production quality in all of his videos, so you can really focus in on each lesson. Also, I love the use of visualizations. Chris uses an oscilloscope to show us wave forms and harmonic spectra at times. It really helped me to understand what was going on.

I don’t know about you, but throughout my school and college years I had all kinds of teachers. You get the teachers fresh from college, full of zeal, but they need a few years of practice to really dial it in; teachers who are jaded by their experiences; those are so clueless you wonder how they got the job in the first place; those who’ve been there so long they forget how they got there. Then you have those rare teachers who just know their stuff. They know what they’re about and they know how to get you to know it too. I really feel like Chris is one of those teachers. In my mind Chris is Professor Synthesis. He really understands and appreciates synthesis and is ready to share that with us.

If you are thinking about starting into modular synthesis, especially Eurorack, I strongly recommend the Comprehensive Starter Course. If I could time travel back to when I started into modular synthesis, I’d tell myself to buy this course and watch it end to end. It would have saved me a lot of time, and probably some money too. Even if you have already started, but you recognize you still have a lot to learn the course is still valuable. Three years into my journey I found the videos informative and enjoyable, and learned along the way. Though I’ve been focusing in on the Starter Course, don’t forget Chris’s Eurorack Expansion course, aimed at those of us who are already going and have the basics, but are trying to figure out where to go next. Chris offers a few instructional videos, along with a growing catalogue of overviews and more in-depth looks at specific modules. (Thanks to this course Chris has me really wanting a Frap Tools Sapel).

Neophyte, sage or anywhere in between, I believe you will find that Chris has a set of videos that can help you out on your journey, and I strongly recommend checking out his catalogue of courses. And don’t forget his other articles and every so handy glossary of terms, if you are ever struggling to figure out what “one of those” is. And don’t forget, if you want to support what Chris is doing, or get access to some of those sweet courses, you can also gain access to them as a Patreon supporter!


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