Modular Tips and Tricks: Modulation and the Basimilus
Today’s post is sort of a mash-up of guest post and our series Modular Tips and Tricks, but both seek to answer user questions that we seem to get a lot. Are you new to modular and have a question about Eurorack? Are you an advanced user and have burning technical questions? Do you just want to know something about your new Noise Engineering module? Please submit ideas for this occasional column here.
One of the absolutely most common questions I get from users centers on ways to modulate Basimilus Iteritas Alter. After a few great videos came out recently, people have really started to recognize the worlds that modulation can open up with this module. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a skilled user can get the effect of a whole drum kit out of a single module...and so much more.
I have a few go-tos that I suggest when I answer these emails, based on our experiences and on specific questions. In general, I’m a fan of using gates as CVs with BIA. More on that in a bit, but this is just an introduction to the idea that you can use traditional CV generators/LFOs/what have you, or you can get some interesting sounds in other ways too.
Basic clock dividers work as modulators, but a standard divider may give you somewhat limited options relative to other modules. A couple of exceptions: programmable dividers, where you can assign all sorts of values and have a lot of outs, like Pamela’s New Workout would be great. The Erica Synths PICO trig (which is a sort of hybrid module) is another possible option here. Finally , Noise Engineering’s upcoming Integra Solum (a dual clock divider with 16 gate/trigger outs and multiple modes in 8 HP) gets some pretty awesome sounds. I’ve been testing prototypes in my case and love the versatility of it. I threw a quick video together with four BIA (because it has that much versatility!).
Oh, the options are myriad. Within the Noise-E universe, I'd recommend the rhythm generators Numeric and Zularic Repetitor. There is also Confundo Funkitus which can be used to mix gates (from any 2 sets of 4 inputs) so you could even use that with a clock divider and something else. The 2hp TM is another great option, and while I haven’t used it, I’ve been told that the Delptronics' Triggerman works well too.
LFOs & CV generators
The Noise Engineering Sinc Iter is my go-to. It’s only 4HP, has uni- and bipolar outputs, and ranges over 22 octaves, so it can be used as an LFO or as an audio module. In LFO mode, it does some really great modulation. The WMD PDO did not leave my case for months after I got a hold of it. The Just Friends is a huge favorite in NE headquarters. NE also makes the Mimetic Sequent and Mimetic Multium, which generates randomized CVs and gates and those can make some really fantastic sequences. Later this year, we will also release Clep Diaz, a rhythmic LFO source in 4 HP.
I was going to end the post there, but I then I thought, hey, the more answers, the better! So I reached out to some of our actual users. Here are some of their thoughts on ways they use BIA.
I asked Baseck to talk a little about how he pulled this off. Here was his response:
"It's funny because it's so simple. I don't know what I'd say other then that all 8 cv outputs of the Voltage Block are going into 8 inputs of the Basimilus. First I create a rhythmic gate sequence from the Varigate8+ triggering the Basimilus. I then hold down each step one at a time and use the 8 sliders to fine tune the Basimilus to get the desired sound that I want. I do this for each step. You can look at this like parameter locking on an Elektron machine. You use the sliders to change individual parameters of the Basimilus per step. For example you can make a step a kick drum, another step a hi-hat, another step a snare drum, other steps like parts of a bass line or melodic sequence. The Voltage Block turns the Basimilus into a monophonic drum machine & synth locking your fine-tuned sounds per each individual step. Then I save different patterns of these that act like different saved scenes of sounds & sequences. Then I have fun arranging these different unique sets of sounds and rhythmic patterns in real time."
More info on Baseck:
I figured I should ask a few other users too.
My go-to is usually something like a [Make Noise] Pressure Points + Brains combo, or the Malekko Voltage Block - where I can manually select or sequence several control-voltage amounts and modulate a few parameters together. Decay and Harmonic are two of my favorites to modulate, particularly when Spread is turned up to at least 12 o’clock or higher. I find these parameters in particular give a very noticeable change in tonality without being too extreme of a shift to the timbre. Using a voltage selector/sequencer like these also is great for sequencing the Mode and Range switches to give an even wider range to the sequence. Slow cycling envelopes, or smooth/fluctuating random are also a favorite modulation source. Again the Harmonic control is favorite, but as is Morph and Fold with the random voltages. I also really enjoy very slight modulation to the Attack control, where it’s wavering just around 12 o’clock - where a little bit of noise sneaks in to where the click disappears.
More info on James:
I echo James & Baseck here -- Voltage Block FOR SURE. They are inseparable at the moment. But if you'd like a different answer, then....
I also have used Intellijel's Dr. Octature II. With the 8 outs, you're able to utilize all the CV abilities just like the Voltage Block. I especially like it when CVing the Bass/Alto/Treble so the patch can jump octaves while staying in sync with the rest. I enjoy the rolling through the phases effect mostly though. I'm sure you can also use any multiple envelope generator, like Intellijel's Quadra or a multiple LFO modular like the XAOC Batumi. I go with the Dr since it has 8 outs, and it's becoming a go-to supplement to the BI/Loquelic. Makes for killer character all the way around. I wonder if Erica Synth's new Black Octasource would be a good one, too -- I'll have to check that one out.
Pat also points out that what’s good for BI/BIA is also often good for Loquelic Iteritas modulation. As an example, here’s the Dr. Octature paired with LI, modulating the two oscillator pitches.
More on Pat:
Echoing everyone else pretty much, I swear by the Varigate 8+ with Voltage Block as well. Usually I create a gate sequence in the rhythm that I am looking for and send CV outs of the Voltage Block to the BI. I prefer to utilize the BI more for fills and will set the sequence length on the Voltage Block to something odd like 3 or 7 to give variation and usually with an LFO sent to Fold or Harm but sometimes just right from the Voltage Block with different timings per CV channel. I tend to pair the BI with the Strymon Big Sky a lot these days with an extremely short non linear gated reverb.
More on the Synthwitch:
Teej answers Pat's question right off the bat...
- Erica Synths' Black Octasource: What with the BIA having no fewer than eight CV inputs, one for each knobbed parameter, it feels almost as though the Black Octasource by Erica Synths was meant for Noise Engineering's Basimilus Iteritas Alter. You can use all eight outputs of the Black Octasource to modulate the Spread, Fold, Morph, and Harm(onics) parameters in conjunction with modulating the Attack and Decay settings whilst also switching through the Tone and Range switches, thereby creating an absurd amount of sonic variety. In most use cases, I tend to leave Attack and Decay unmodulated by the Black Octasource, while modulating everything else, using opposing outputs(e.g. North to South; East to West) from the Black Octasource going into the Tone and Range switch CV inputs. From here, you can use the Wave and Rate knobs on the Black Octasource to control the direction and shape of the modulating signals. It is important to not that the Rate knob of the Black Octasource has a center detent which allows for the freezing of modulation -- this adds greatly to performative value, as well as the potential for pick-and-choose sonic alterations on the fly.
- 4ms Company's Quad Pingable LFO: For the clock enthusiast, as most of us are, the QPLFO when married to the BIA can prove to be insanely versatile. In personal use cases, I am using only modulating the four core parameters of the BIA -- Spread, Fold, Morph, and Harm(onics). The Tone and Range switches, as well as the Attack and Decay Parameters, go without exterior CV influence. Typically I have ALM Busy Circuits' Pamela's New Workout on clock duties, feeding clock into either of Noise Engineering's two rhythm generating offerings (Zularic Repetitor or Numeric Repetitor), or both with the Confundo Funkitus playing a performative middle-man role. Either way, we end up with four triggers that we can dedicate subjectively across all four LFOs of the QPLFO. Besides sending all four triggers to the Ping parameter of each LFO, there is some creative fun to be had in multing the triggers (or adding more) and using them to reset the cycle of each LFO of the QPLFO. From on-impact modulating to polyrhythmic modulatory exploration, this combination is one of my favorites for reason.
More on Teej':
My favorite way to modulate the BIA is so simple that it's a little embarrassing. I usually just take gates straight out of a Zularic or Numeric Repetitor and plug them into the trigger, attack and any other parameters. I'll then change the rhythms knobs around, and swap which gate is going where until I get something I like, which is usually very quickly! The little trick though is to set the Attack knob to zero, which will give you snare-like sounds interspersed in the rhythm.* I know using LFOs, envelopes, etc. rather than gates gives way more precision and control, but I get such immediate results this way and some of my favorite BIA recordings use this technique, so I keep returning to it.
For the pitch, I'll often control it with a sequencer that is clocked along with the Repetitor, manually change the bass/drone note with Pressure Points or Voltage Memory, or I'll plug a QuNexus into the pitch and jam on the notes while the rhythm moves along. With this patch the BIA becomes basically a drum machine and bass simultaneously.
I usually have the switches set to Bass and Skin to start, but I always try changing those as well.
*note: on the BI, which has attenuator knobs rather than offset knobs, the Attack should be set to 12:00 to get this result, IIRC!
More on pyraphonic: www.pyraphonic.com
I recently used my BIA in a performance patch as a filtered pseudo-snare with delay for a dubbed out sound. I really love the way it sounded because I got the crisp harmonics in the attack transient of a snare but with an awesome hollow sounding body of a metallic drum.
These were my settings... Attack fixed at noon position, and Tone switches were set to Metallic/ Alto to fill out the desired frequency space.
I typically like to modulate the decay parameter with a Rene sequence and in this patch, was also modulating the harmonic parameter with the same Rene sequence... pretty simple but sounded awesome and really cut through the mix!!
More on Bana:
We are immensely grateful to our friends who took the time to give us some ideas for this post!
Stay tuned to the Noise Engineering blog for more tips and tricks for modular users. And if you have questions you'd like to see answered here, please drop us a line.