Novice question about the Eurorack module choice


I am newbie of Eurorack modular synthesizers. Although I have used synthesizers for several years, I have several digital and analog synthesizers, including MOXF, Juno DS, Deepmind 12, MiniBrute, Analog Four, but I want to have my own Eurorack, mainly for make some ambient music, can someone recommend me some modules suitable for ambient music?

I am familiar with the principles of analog synthesizers, but after I watched some videos about Eurorack, I am very curious about how those drone sounds like nature are produced? I think it is difficult to make these sound just using LFOs and some VCOs and VCFs etc. After some searching, I found that there is something called Quantizer that can achieve similar functions. Is there anything similar like Quantizer? Or can anyone recommend me a basic configuration of a suit of Eurorack to achieve Ambient music production? Just searching and watching videos on YouTube didn’t help me much.

Any information will be appreciate.

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Might I recommend you start with a very simple setup - a sequencer (Metropolis would be a good choice) and a few VCOs (Dixie 2+, Rubicon2). You could go with a physical modeling synth like Plonk as well. That combo should keep you busy for a while and allow you to become comfortable with the Eurorack environment. After that you could start adding other modules for modulation, etc.


Thanks for your reply. Plonk? Physical modeling? sounds interesting, I will try it.

A quantizer just takes an input signal and constrains it to musical intervals. Intellijel’s quantizer is called Scales and it works great for ambient music, or any genre really. You can check it out here:

I would recommend investigating generative music techniques, like the Krell patch. In my opinion that’s why eurorack seems so well suited for ambient music. Personally I would steer you away from a more straight up sequencer like Metropolis toward something more random and less riff-based for ambient music, but everyone has their own approach and that’s the beauty of the medium!

Quadrax is a great tool for any system too:

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There are definitely a lot of other ways to ‘sequence’ without a sequencer. I agree with ScottMFR. When I first built my rack I got a standard sequencer, and I have found that I never use it for ambient music. I find with a good clock generator and quantizer and a lot of modulation sources (lfos, envelopes, vcas, etc. etc.) I have never needed it.

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What do you mean by “drone sounds like nature”?

Eurorack gives the user a lot of ways not only to produce an initial sound, but to process and alter it as well. Besides a ton of different filters, there are wavefolders, resonators, LPGs, FX, etc., that you can use. There will be a certain amount of trial and error involved in putting together a system you’re happy with; expect to sell and replace some of the modules you buy as you develop a clearer idea of what you want. We all could list for you the modules that most aspiring ambient modular synthesists buy first, but I’d feel bad if you buy them, don’t like them, and lose money selling them off.

A few things I will mention, at the risk of being obvious, are:

  1. A source of randomness. ScottMFR suggested looking into the Krell patch. Make Noise has a YouTube video on how to do a simple Krell patch on their 0-Coast semi-modular synth. A key component of that patch is the random voltage generator (similar to a sample & hold LFO). You could get something as simple as a module that produces random voltages; more interesting would be a sample & hold module plus a noise generator (and/or other sources) to feed it.

  2. Slow modulation. Drones get really boring really fast if they are static; have a way to slowly change the timbre, volume level, etc., over time. Sloths is popular for slow modulation (can go down to 30-40 minutes per cycle), but there are other modules you can use that are perhaps more flexible, especially if you don’t need that degree of slowness.

  3. VCV Rack. Try out modules on your computer before you commit to buying anything. Mutable Instruments modules are very popular (some might say too popular) for ambient, and I think all of their modules are available on VCV Rack.

A sequencer can be used in ambient music, but that depends on you. For example, maybe you want to do something quasi-tonal, and have your drone follow a specific progression; set up the patch to trigger the sequencer to advance a step once every couple of minutes or so. Or maybe have a short melodic fragment that plays every once in a while, with no immediate repeat/loop (or have it on infinite loop, but have it fade in and out, so it isn’t always audible). I like using randomness, but sometimes I feel like it’s a crutch for my lack of compositional talent, and I should try to impose a little more structure.

And something I’ve been considering, that may or may not interest you, is a harmonic oscillator. If you’re looking for something different from a standard VCO, a harmonic oscillator - one with separate controls and gate inputs for each harmonic - can be a good alternative. Slowly modulate the harmonics at different rates, maybe trigger individual harmonics randomly like separate voices - it all seems like a good idea in my head, at least. :sweat_smile: VCV Rack, here I come…