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Modular - the meaning is plain - the original solid state synths were modular - each of the various components in it's own package - the idea being to break away from traditional thinking - plug something into something else... there were no rules, per se... There, of course is ALWAYS a basic routing to produce sounds and even that can be altered. Hence the beauty of the idea -
Dividing large systems into smaller parts makes it so much easier. Even room sized Modular systems can be broken down into 3 basic parts: Input/sound generation - sound modification - output... that's it, really. However there are more way to configure this simple path than one might imagine. there are VCOs (voltage controlled oscillator), VCFs (voltage controlled filter), and VCAs (voltage controlled amplifier. Basic, meat and potatoes, synth. The Minimoog is a classic example of an "M & P" synth...
There are Many sites available from a "google" search to give you any historical data or building data.
No historical data here...
Building a Modular synth is not as difficult as it might seem... In the early days, it was not uncommon for synth folks to also be "tinkerers" and builders, and the line between "musician" and "Technician" were VERY blurred. Building your own musical instrument - understanding what makes sound and how you can manipulate it is a fun journey! Over the years, since the mid 1970's, I've "tinkered" with modular synths and I am more than happy to share what knowledge I have with anyone who may be interested in pursuing it and by the same token looking to learn more myself. Though the output of my music is done in the digital domain, I have a deep love for the modular world and am heading back to the solder iron, and parts, to carry on with what I started way back when. I have no engineering background - I've learned by doing (surprisingly I learned enough to have a career as an engineering assistant in the Laser field.)
I am hoping that you catch the Modular "bug".
The same goes for guitar pedals - analog stuff - I can't program for beans, so forget the computer interfaces and such - besides there are plenty of those out there at a fair price. and there's no rule against using synth sound modifiers with guitars (Edgar Froese, anyone?) It's relatively easy to bring out note evelopes, "pluck" envelopes, etc, for controlling modules from your guitar... VERY old school as they say...
There is something almost primordial in having a room filled with blinking lights, patch cords and some of the most remarkable sounds you could ever imagine!
Here is a very basic monophonic synthesizer... (yup, one note at a time...) There are basically 2 forms of voltages - the audio and the Control voltages. The "CV" or control voltage, "tells" the VCO what pitch to play - the GATE voltage is triggered when the Key is pressed and stays "ON" until the key is released - some keyboards will also have a "Trigger" voltage - a quick (in milliseconds) voltage that can be used for various purposes... The ADSR is a control module that makes an ENVELOPE of control voltage that, in this case, turns on and off the VCA (output amp,) The ADSR here has 4 controls A (attack), D (decay) S (sustain), and R (release) - these are used to control the contour of the Amp. For example, a piano type sound will have a sharp attack, whereas a string type sound may have a slow build up... Simple, but effective.