Modular synthesis intro, part 3: How to get started

Tuesday 31 January 2017, 10:56

I will assume that you've already read part 1, which describes what a modular synthesizer is; and part 2, which says that you shouldn't buy one. Your spouse isn't allowed to kill me because I did warn you, and your cat has already formed an opinion on your intelligence anyway. In this final installment I'm going to offer some suggestions on how to get started with modular synthesis. Very much depends on your own reasons, which are ultimately known only to you, for why you've decided to do this. I can only offer some insights that may be helpful for what I think are typical newcomers.

Modular synthesis intro, part 2: Don't do it!

Saturday 21 January 2017, 14:27

When I started the market research for my business, I put together a profile of who'd be buying my products. I imagined my customers as the kind of people I've met in the modular synthesis hobbyist community. These are people with a fair bit of disposable income (typically because of having California "tech" jobs and no family except cats), who already have medium to large modular systems worth $5000 or more. They are already familiar with the concepts, have been doing modular synthesis for a few years already, and are looking for something extra to add to their existing installations.

Modular synthesis intro, part 1: What is it?

Thursday 19 January 2017, 13:15

My mother asked me to explain what I'm up to in one sentence, for inclusion in the annual Christmas Letter, and I said that I'm making electronic musical instruments. That's a pretty good summary as far as it goes. But people often want more detail on what modular synthesizers are all about, and this is the first of three postings I'm writing so that I can have a place to which I can direct the curious. In this episode I'll summarize what modular synthesis is. Next time, I'll explain why you shouldn't get involved in modular synthesis, and what to do instead. And in part 3, I'll give some advice on how to get started with modular synthesis, for those who foolishly ignored part 2.

I may update these postings a bit in the future, if they prove to have any lasting value. And as a reminder, my company is North Coast Synthesis Ltd., and I'll some day soon be selling synthesizer modules from my Web storefront, which is not open yet. You can register your address on that page if you want me to send you an email when it opens.

Introducing North Coast Synthesis Ltd.

Wednesday 11 January 2017, 19:43

The synthesizer project has reached an important milestone: my business is now incorporated, under the name North Coast Synthesis Ltd. The Web site will be at, which currently just redirects to a password-locked Shopify storefront, but will become public and have some real content in the near future. Watch this space, that site, or my Twitter account, for further updates as they happen.


Wednesday 14 December 2016, 10:34

僕の新しい仕事がアナログシンセのデザインです。 LaTeXでユーザーマニュアルを作りたいです。 ドキュメントの中で回路図を書きたいです。 今日、Circuit-Macrosで回路図を書き方の勉強しましょう。 よろしくお願いします。

これはTeX & LaTeX Advent Calendar 2016に僕の寄贈です。昨日はmarimo-nekomimiさんの日です。 明日、Yasuhide Minodaさんの日です。

Setting up shop, and shopping

Wednesday 30 November 2016, 07:45

On the 30th of last month, I was on vacation in Hokkaido, Japan. One month before that, I had just arrived in Sweden for a short stay between leaving my apartment in Denmark for the last time and my return to Canada after living abroad for just over two years. One month before that was my last day of work at ITU Copenhagen, and possibly my last day of paid academic work ever, after 15 years in the research business. Now I'm in Toronto writing a Web log entry; and one month from today, I expect to be on the West Coast visiting my family for the winter holidays. Five consecutive 30ths in five very different geographic and cultural spaces.

Quick thoughts on the US election result

Wednesday 9 November 2016, 14:58

Well, I'm disappointed. And I'm more than a bit surprised, but not another whole bit more: I'm 1.89 bits surprised. That is the negative logarithm to base 2 of 0.27, which was the probability put on a Trump win, and the best estimate available to me of how likely it was to happen. Flip a coin twice and get heads both times, or draw a card from a 52-card poker deck and have it be a heart? Either of those is 2 bits worth of entropy (that is, of surprise), slightly more surprising than last night's main result. Not something that should shock anyone for the reason of unlikeliness, not from the point of view of the information we had 48 hours ago. Feel free to be shocked for other reasons.

Moving in

Monday 7 November 2016, 11:33

I wrote my previous update on the train back to Tokyo. My trip to Japan was basically over, but I still had a substantial amount of travelling to do.

Japan 2016: days 8, 9, 10, Hokkaido and back to Tokyo

Monday 31 October 2016, 22:57

On my second full day in Hokkaido (Sunday), it started snowing very lightly as I set out in the morning. The flakes melted as soon as they hit anything solid, but it was interesting to note. I spent the morning walking through the local parks and making a leisurely way to the Bankei Ridge Winery, which is the oldest (established 2001) and also the smallest winery on Hokkaido. It's not exactly a major wine-producing region; grape wine isn't all that popular in Japan to begin with, and the climate (similar to coastal British Columbia) is such that growing grapes isn't easy.

Japan 2016: day 7, Maruyama and Kissyou

Saturday 29 October 2016, 17:18

Saturday was my first full day in Sapporo. I started with the hotel breakfast, which was pretty good. They had a good selection of Japanese-style breakfast items and even some limited Western-style breakfast food. Someone who refused to eat Japanese-style breakfast would at least not go hungry, although such a person would probably have plenty of trouble with the language, and the little Japanese-only card you're supposed to place on your table to show whether you're just temporarily away at the buffet, or have finished and left.