Dear Time-crunched Musician

I get feedback from various sources (mostly online) about the OD modules. Some of it is positive, some of it is negative. Some of it even helps me understand my own goals better. I’m going to talk about a particular kind of feedback that pops up every once in awhile. It basically boils down to “I’m a busy person. Your stuff is too complicated and requires me to remember too much. When I finally have a moment to sit down to play on my synth, I don’t want waste time on relearning how to use it.”

I can definitely appreciate that my stuff is not great for long spans of disuse punctuated by the occasional short bouts of usage. However, I have an excuse. It never even occurred to me to consider this situation, let alone design for it! I think I just subconsciously assumed that such a user would run screaming away from the chaotic and arcane world of modular synthesizers. :laughing: This is obviously not the case though.

However, after much thought, it has become to quite clear to me that designing for this kind of usage scenario is not interesting to me at all! I know. It’s a horrible thing to say :scream: :laughing:

I think I’m not wired for it. And just to be clear, I don’t think a manual will solve it because I get the same feedback on the ER-101/102, a closed system which has a very complete manual paired with firmware that hasn’t changed in years. Besides, even my manuals are complicated.

So how do I help the time-crunched musician to avoid falling into the trap of purchasing one of my complicated monstrosities?

Perhaps I should put a warning on each product page?

:warning: Beware of complexity. Not recommended for the time-crunched musician. :warning:

I’m not joking! :sweat_smile:

Anyway, I generally rely on word-of-mouth for advertisement. I can see that for some people, my designs “just make sense” and this allows them to just turn it on and hit the ground running without much hassle. However, I have never intentionally designed for this to happen. If and when it happens is just a lucky alignment of cognitive styles. These “aligned” users then naturally report to the world: “The ER-XXX is totally easy to use. I didn’t need to look anything up.” I suspect this is how the majority of the unsuspecting time-crunched musicians get duped because I’m pretty sure I’ve never claimed that my modules are simple.

So let’s be clear, they are not simple designs. My modules are not specifically designed for casual or occasional use. Although some might successfully use them that way, that was never a design goal.

Apologies to those expecting otherwise! :bowing_man:

Yours Truly,
Brian

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I think it is a great idea to put a warning on the product pages!
But i also think that “Beware of Complexity!” should be sufficient.

Like me, there will be other potential users who have to consider themselves
time-crunched musicians. After a considerable amount of learning and practicing time, i’m pretty sure some of them will still be able to appreciate the complexity of OD instruments without having to use them on a daily basis.

I think this particular warning might send wrong signals to some of the time-crunched musicians.

It very much depends on a variety of aspects. preexisting knowledge of and experiences with, computer music, menu diving, mathematics, sound design strategies, audio engineering, modular synths, complex problems in general, user interface design and what not… i consider myself lucky to have quite some interest and knowledge in all these things. and i think that is why i can concentrate on other things for a while and quite easily come back to my er301 after being distracted from it… i’d argue that OD modules are recommended to some of the time-crunched musicians. i believe that a big part of this very community could be time-crunched… 2 cents.

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I’m definitely in the time-crunched category, but I’m also in IT, so maybe that’s the reason why I have no problem ‘getting’ the ER301. There are plenty other synths that I owned that I don’t gel with though, because I forget keyboard shortcuts or their particular flow never stuck or so. E.g. I had an octatrack, which I got to know very well. But then I left it alone for half a year and completely lost my muscle memory for it. I didn’t feel like relearning it, so I sold it. So be it. I accept that. The octatrack wouldn’t be the octatrack without its complexity and given workflow.

I tend to think about this like I think about a guitar: you have to spend considerable time learning it and then continue to spend time with it, if you want to be any good. There is no instant gratification there, and that’s totally OK. Nobody goes complaining to Fender that they can’t manage to play… but in the synth world people seem to expect instant playability and gratification more and more. I think that’s not necessarily a good evolution.

Anyway just my 2c too :slight_smile:

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I think it might be good to emphasize that these instruments require a lot of study, and have their own paradigms. I am going to be totally honest and say that for me sampling in the 301 has been too much hassle for me most of the time, so I use a digitakt for bread and butter sample playback. People don’t get a guitar and expect to be proficient instantly or without practice, the only challenge is there isn’t someone designing a wholly new guitar every year like you have with synths.

Maybe something along the lines of “don’t expect this to drop into a system without learning it” or maybe explain that your devices aren’t made with any preexisting paradigm in mind, so prior knowledge is only so useful. Like I can switch one filter for another and not have to adjust my mental model of the patch much, but I can’t say that with any OD module.

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well, if someone bought a module without research then you are very rich or …

I think for me the case is to restrict myself as one can do so much with the ER 301
I guess i’m not a very comprehensive user in extensively use all the possibilities.

i managed to restrict myself to the sampling/granular bit and then you can make relatively easy patches without a very deep dive but with a very pleasing result.
( the videos of Neil Parfitt helped me in the beginning to understand the basics, and i think i’m even now not diving that much deeper)

The catch is that you have to ‘program’ a chain to get a sound at all… so , no, there isn’t instant gratification, maybe emphasize the word computer …

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Unfortunately I’ve seen this around a lot. But I’m not totally sure this is in fact about time or just an excuse for an overall society’s lack of interest in things that are not immediate.
No newbie just picks up a guitar or any other instrument and immediately starts playing it properly. Either it follows the traditional musical education or it defines its own style, both requiring a huge amount of time and devotion.
Even “simple and straight-forward” modules are not really simple if you want to take the best of them, either by finding the perfect tone or developing patching skills.

Just like the books, It takes time, patience and requires using your brain. It’s part of the deal but it’s also what will make it worth.

It reminds me a bit of the Oldies station scene in the movie “Demolition Man”, where the radio stations are all about jingles and not music per se, where interest in music is essentially looking for an immediate reward.

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I have spent many hundreds, if not thousands of hours with the modules you designed and they are, in all seriousness, the last musical devices I would give up if I had to choose, aside from my piano. Therefore, I’m very glad to hear that you’re not getting discouraged by such feedback and don’t feel like you have to compromise your designs. I’m sure you know that there are many people who appreciate your designs immensely, but I still wanted to reiterate this!

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that mirrors my experience with / perception of O|D modules (i own all of them) — minus the piano :slight_smile:

i have to confess this might be my case. i’ve been hearing / reading opinions in the vein of “whoa, menu divey”, “ooh, too complex”, “uuh, i’m not a coder” etc, and while i fully respect one’s entitlement to such opinions, i’ve never used a digital musical instrument that’s more intuitive, generous from the UX/UI perspective and easy to use for me as Brian’s modules.

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Very true. It might be deep in menu’s but it is very self-explanatory. Not like you need to remember any keyboard shortcuts or so.

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My 2c: as an electronic musician, I am very glad to have tools like this that align with my depth of knowledge. I consider myself a power user and am consistently diassapointed in the base design of most sequencers, samplers, etc. that barely scratch the surface. So I’m biased, but I also think I’m not alone. Advanced tools like this are sorely needed.

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I think you have a good point. As I have tried more devices I have found myself pulled to things that are a bit more instant than the ER-301, but I often find the lack of flexibility of those devices annoying. It is always a very strange tradeoff between easy understanding, lots of capability, and intuitive performable controls. I think my desires might be divergent from Brian’s, but what I love about the modular scene is that each designer can focus on exactly what they are interested in, and rely on other modules to fill the gaps.

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I’ve got enough trouble dealing with all the competing voices in my own head, let alone having to worry about customers!

I’m 100% in favour of @odevices following his own unique path. ER-301 is a desert island module for me.

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Seems unnecessary?

We live in an age where there is plenty of information available pre-purchase. There are tons of How to ER-301 videos out there that will give a sense of the module.

As musicians, there’s always the chance that something we buy won’t be compatible with us. It can be for reasons other than complexity, such as workflow, ergonomics, the character of the sound it makes, etc.

Even when the O|D production pipeline is in full swing, the units are all hand made, which creates a lead time after the order is placed. Since they aren’t mass produced, I don’t think the units lose much value in the second hand market. I.e. if you buy one and it’s not for you, should be pretty easy to sell with little loss.

Anyway, just two cents.

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Also if they managed to get an ER-301 from Brian, but don’t like it, it is now worth more than they paid for the module, so I doubt there will be any unhappy customers even if they don’t love the device.

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It does seem that GAS kicks in for some before they can get to the “computer” bit of “ER-301 Sound Computer” :rofl:

My sales pitch when discussing the 301 with potential buyers or discouraged owners is essentially to not overwhelm yourself by using it for a ton of things to start. Treat it as a GAS cure - when you are feeling like buying a new module to fit a certain function in the rack, learn that function on the 301 instead.

What really unlocked the module for me in the beginning was using and then dissecting the autogen units. They really are an excellent hands-on learning tool aside from being impressive instruments in their own right.

I also designed and printed a little reference manual which helped in the learning process and still comes in handy if I haven’t been able to sit down at the rack in awhile.

As others have mentioned though, documentation is top notch and clear, the module currently resells at a premium for those that really don’t vibe with it, and whenever I talk to another longtime user they have nothing but positive things to say.

A big thank you for your designs and tireless work @odevices :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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I really appreciate your dedication to your vision and ideas, and I think doing anything else would dilute the end result and make something lackluster for both “power users” and “time crunched musicians”.

To give some background on me as a way of dispelling some of the aura of intimidating complexity around the module, I come from a complete lack of technical expertise in anything related to computers or music tech (Im a psychotherapist with an undergraduate degree in English). I have played musical instruments since elementary school, but I forgot all that classical training when I switched out my viola for a skateboard and guitar with tabs in high school.

I find the 301 to be an essential part of my music when using the modular, and its indispensable to me. I spent maybe 4-5 hours watching Neils videos over the course of the month I was waiting for the module to arrive (in the before times when you could just buy from the website!). At the time I was literally 9 months into modular, but the appeal of the 301 and the granular options pushed me to get one despite looking at the product page and wondering “what is this thing” and “there’s no way Im smart enough to use this”.

Fast forward to now, and I still use it for many of the same purposes I was using it for when I got it: live looping/granular playback of those loops, delays, mixing, filters, oscillators sometimes, custom units like the lpg emulation, and that’s about it. I have a saved “template” that has a lot of this loaded up already so I can just start right away without really having to do much on the 301 itself.

I’m not a power user, and the things I use it for do not require much if any continued “patch memory” or whatever to use. I do make music nearly every day, though not with the modular necessarily every day, but there are weeks where I don’t use the case I have the 301 in. I don’t know what module I could use to replicate these functions. The granular playback is especially unique, and I’ve yet to find something in Ableton that can match what Im doing with it with the same character of sound (Im sure its possible in Max but that’s a time sink too far for me).

I guess I just wanted to say that I think there’s plenty of opportunity in the 301 to be a tool for everyone regardless of level of technical expertise and time. I also would think the 301 would be self-selecting for those who generally have the time to dedicate to learning enough of it to use even with breaks, but I guess that’s not the case :joy:

Also, thanks to much @odevices for your work and modules!

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I have 330 modules (all OD represented). Do I understand every aspect of all of them. LOL-x-infinity. Why would I want to?

These things are tools to make music. I make music with them.

Not knowing/not caring is a door.

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after lot of years messing with cables, patches, synths and stuff all I can say is that (and this sentence includes me years ago) people buy things before thinking if they really need it or just because that thing is cool because makes lot of things, because of the hype, you know so then you get that thing, you didn’t make your research and oh gasp I don’t like it

for me the ER301 is the module that ended my system, it is a dream come true, thanks for this Brian

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I am an ER-301-user since 2018 when I got back to electronic music, started with modular that year, after a 10 year break from producing electronic music, mostly with the computer. Even in the beginning of working with the ER-301, after watching a couple of that great communities videos, I was immediately using the module, and it never stopped. Maybe I used it in the beginning just as a mixer with some AM, some Delay, Reverb… After some time you dive deeper into it (some call it a rabbit hole) and there is so much to discover. This is really an instrument. Easy things can be achieved pretty fast, the complex one take some practice, thinking, or ask other users or even the developer how to solve special problems. The design, the structure, the layout, the sound… everything is so well thought. This is a noncomplex module where you can do very complex things with. …just 2 Cents.

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I’m a time-crunched musician for sure, but either I’m “aligned” with Brian’s way of thinking like he suggests, or I simply don’t expect the module to be anything other than what it is - a complex modular ecosystem in Eurorack format. How would you make that simple? The complexity inspires and excites me, even if I’ve still only barely scratched the surface of that ecosystem in many ways.

But, in my opinion, it’s no small thing that Brian’s design for the workflow and user experience is quite good and clearly thought out, and far more friendly than it has any right to be.

I mean, he could’ve just brain-dumped a bunch of cool stuff with no concern for UX and forced people to figure out a complex scripting language or total obscurantism to figure everything out, but he didn’t. That makes a huge difference in my book.

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