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  • How to Use Matrix Modulation with Keyboards

    By Anderton |

    Take control of your sound and add expressiveness

    By Craig Anderton


    In ancient times, patch cords connected synthesis modules together to create sounds. But many people didn’t like patch cord clutter, nor various reliability issues (oxidized jacks, loose solder connections, etc.).


    To eliminate these problems, the EMS VCS3 synthesizer (made in the late ’60s) employed a mechanical patch bay consisting of a small, square matrix of tiny pin jacks. Each audio or modulation source (output) fed a row of these jacks, while each column fed an audio or modulation destination (input). Inserting pins at the junction of rows and columns physically connected ins and outs (Fig. 1). ARP synthesizers used a similar concept, but with a slider instead of pins.


    xils-99fa8726.jpg.3f29780925349e17f5b88a24ccb6a2d5.jpgSoftware-based matrix modulation typically includes a list of modulation sources, a list of modulation destinations, and a certain number of “slots” (i.e., a software patch cord). Each slot specifies a modulation source and destination (Fig. 2). The more available destination parameters, the better; if you want to be able to modulate a parameter, hopefully it will be available.


    rapture-8f94eb52.jpg.a26bc3480b2121512c9d4110d7825cd2.jpgIn any event, modulation is the key to expressiveness, and matrix modulation is your key chain. When you need to spice up a patch, jack into the matrix.





      Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.


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