In this tutorial we build a simple patch that begins to explore how LSSP handles harmony.

Unfortunately the free Nucleus bundle isn’t sufficient for our needs and you will need to invest in the Voltage Modular Core bundle to gain access to the more powerful features demonstrated here.

Begin a new blank patch in Voltage Modular and add a Song Control module and a Song Part module.

Patch the LINK OUT of Song Control to LINK IN of Song Part as we have done many times now to form a simple Song Control Sequencer.

Click on Song Control’s LOOP and PLAY buttons to set the Song Control Sequencer running continuously.

Next add a Diatonic Triads module and a Progression module and patch the V/BAR OUT socket of the Song Part to the V/BAR IN socket of the Progression module.

The initial modules

Notice the LEDs on the Progression module lighting up one after another. They show which of the module’s S-Poly input sockets is currently active.

Because the Song Part module’s NUMBER OF BARS is set to 8 and the Progressions CHORDS/BAR is set to 1 the LEDs will change once per bar and go through an eight bar cycle.

Let’s begin programming a chord progression by patching the I socket of the Diatonic Triads module to the 1 S-Poly input socket of the Progression module.

This means that the CHORD OUT socket of the Progression module will transmit a C Major chord signal. Three notes with pitches C, E and G.

To hear this chord we need to take several steps. First add a Chord Player module, then (just for testing purposes) add a Poly Octave Oscillator. Then in the cabinet below add a Rhythm Sequencer.

Patch the CHORD OUT socket of the Progression Module to the CHORD IN socket of the Chord Player.

Patch the V/BAR OUT socket of the Song Part module to the V/BAR IN socket of the Rhythm Sequencer. Notice that this makes the Rhythm Sequencer become active as can be seen by the highlighted bar moving across the face of the module.

We then need to make the Rhythm Sequencer’s gate output control the Chord Player’s gate by patching the GATE OUT socket of one to the GATE IN socket of the other.

Then we feed the Chord Player’s MIDI signals to the Poly Octave Oscillator by patching MIDI OUT to MIDI IN.

Finally we connect the Poly Octave Oscillator’s output to the MAIN OUTS 1L (M) socket at the top of the window.

Testing using Poly Octave Oscillator

There’s still no sound at this stage, but if you click on the Rhythm Sequencer’s X – – – button then you should hear a repeated C Major chord playing four times per bar.

A very simple rhythm pattern

The Poly Octave Oscillator has its place but it’s essentially a 1970’s style electronic organ with no velocity sensitivity. What we really need here is a polyphonic sound generator that responds to velocity.

There are several approaches to take. One is to use external hardware if you have any. The other is to use Voltage Modular’s Mini Plug-In Host to deploy a VST plugin. A third is to convert the MIDI to Voltage Modular polyphonic signals and build a polyphonic synthesizer inside Voltage Modular. While rewarding, this last option is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

The first approach uses the MIDI Output module to replace the Poly Octave Oscillator…

Setup for controlling an external sound generator

If you have external hardware then I presume you already know how to interface it using MIDI and setup a piano style patch.

The second approach uses the Mini Plug-In Host module wired up like so…

Setup for using a VST instrument

A VST plug-in can be selected by clicking on the Mini Plug-in Host’s SELECT PLUG-IN button.

Try a sampled piano. If you don’t already have one then Google VST pianos for various options. One possibility is the Versilian Upright No. 1 which is free, quick to download and relatively easy to install (7-Zip unpacks the files with little hassle). Although don’t expect professional results from a free sampled piano as it’s not an easy job to capture the nuances of such an expressive instrument. If you do opt for Versilian then one tip is to turn up its Release control a little as the default setting is rather abrupt.

OK, hopefully you now have a C Major chord playing every quarter note on your piano!

Let’s try sequencing a chord progression.

We will begin with I V vi IV changing ever two bars.

What this means is a sequence of four three note chords and, as by default the Diatonic Triads module works in the key of C, the chords are C, G, Am and F.

Even if you have very little knowledge of harmony the Roman Numerals used may look vaguely familiar. They represent the scale degree that a chord is built on, which is handy as this is independent of the actual scale used.

Uppercase is used to represent Major chords and lowercase is used to represent Minor chords.

If this all sounds totally mysterious then there are countless online resources that cover harmony. Spending just a couple of hours learning the basics will massively expand the scope of what you can achieve.

We already have a cable patched from Diatonic Triads setting up the I (C) chord at the beginning of the first bar.

Patch the V (G) chord from Diatonic Triads to the socket labelled 3 on Progression.

Patch vi (Am) to 5.

Patch IV (F) to 7.

A simple chord progression

You should now be able to hear the chords change. The progression goes on a little journey repeatedly returning “home” to the tonic I (which as we are in the key of C is C).

Using patch cables to program chord progressions might strike you as a little “low-tech” but it opens up all kinds of possibilities.

The chord signals can come from any source capable of producing S-Poly chord signals. This means that all possible chords (including ones using micro-tuning) can be deployed and innovative experimental techniques can be used to generate chord progressions.

The down-side is that the wiring can sometimes obscure what’s going on but what initially looks low-tech might actually be rather high-tech!

Color coding the cables helps a lot by the way. Also adjusting the cable transparency setting is often handy. It’s set quite opaque in these tutorial screen shots but usually one would have the cables much fainter (or even invisible when not patching).

The other approach (and one more practical in a large composition) is to use Voltage Modular’s Poly Bus system to carry chords signals.

It’s rather dull at the moment so click on the Rhythm Generator’s upper RANDOM button a few times to generate some rhythmical interest. Try engaging the TIE button to introduce sustained notes.

Adding some rhythmical interest

When the TIE button is engaged adjacent steps that are ON merge together to form a single note.

We don’t have any velocity control going on yet so the piano sound is still lacking in expression. So patch the VEL OUT socket of the Rhythm Sequencer to the VEL IN socket of the Chord Player. Then either manually adjust the Rhythm Sequencers velocities by “drawing” on the colored bars or use the lower RANDOM button a few times to discover an interesting variation in velocities.

Varying the velocities

Providing that you have a sound generator that is velocity sensitive then things should start to become a bit more alive now. But every bar still sounds identical.

So engage the RANDOM VELOCITY button on the Chord Player and turn up the VELOCITY SPREAD knob to introduce a random element to the velocity of each note in the chords.

Velocity Spread

The result should be a pleasing variation from bar to bar where the three notes from the chords play at different velocities each time. This creates a subtle sense of melody even though it’s still the same old chords looping over and over.

Save the patch as a preset called Tutorial 5 and then experiment with the various controls on Chord Player and Rhythm Sequencer to explore the possibilities of this simple patch.

The finished patch

Tutorial 6