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Learning Curve of The ER-301

So I am wondering a few things.

  1. How long did it take you to become “fluent” with the ER-301? At what point can one be sure or unsure that the work flow of the ER-301 is for them? I understand the subjectivity of this question. Just looking for thoughts.

  2. What is the one main conglomeration of material that one studying the ER-301 should read/study? The wiki? A particular thread? I know that everyone is still learning but I thought there must be some strong source to get your head wrapped around things a bit tighter. I understand the overarching concept, but it’s large piece of gear to approach with only that general understanding.

  3. I do understand that the best thing to do is simply USE the module, but using it can be very mentally exhausting and it always seems to work better when you have some goal in mind. But if the goal is to learn the ER-301, well, that’s a fairly open ended goal.

Thank you for any thoughts.

  1. I never did become fluent. I guess I decided that it wasn’t for me after several nights wrestling with the interface and then deciding that it wasn’t worth the time I was giving it and that music making should be fun. I still have it though and I am watching the response to this thread to see if any good avenues for learning appear.
  2. AFAIKT there isn’t one authoritative source of information. Usually the tutorial videos are recommended, unless things have changed recently. Again, I hope you get a good answer.
  3. “Just go play with it” is a non-answer. It’s unhelpful and condescending. You should not have to settle for that.
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i’m a noob (have basic knowledge: adsr, sample and hold and all that kind of stuff) and initially Neil Parfitts video’s were my guide. start with: Getting Started with the ER 301 0.4 #1 (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj63K66wb7BEXDNzOhDpTJA).
watching does video’s and try the stuff i saw myself gave my some initial skills to use the er 301.

then i started experimenting, it’s not that you can damage the ER 301 while ‘programming’ , maybe you don’t get the results you expected (but that is also a bonus). I did put programming between ’ ’ as for me it doesn’t feel like programming, internal patching maybe a better word. The ER 301 has is own dynamic in that regard.

i still got the feeling i’m scratching the surface (i don’t use a lot of internal modules especially the math-stuff), but i get the things i want to do done (that is sample manipulation/sound design with samples) And i have to say, it’s very good at that.

So, in the beginning a learned a lot fast (i spend 3 or 4 days around 3 hours with the er301 (i watched the videos by forehand)) to get to know the basics. Then i started experimenting with these basics and got my own first patches (to make music) . I’m still learning, but in a much slower pace but i use the module all the time. But i’m not a person who wants to understand everything and everything, i ‘only’ want to know the stuff i use.
it is a one of a kind module, but i like it a lot, a very very lot.

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  1. Not quite there yet, but getting closer. I’ve had the ER-301 about four months.
  2. @NeilParfitt videos.
  3. I started building all kinds of things that I could reuse. Learned a lot this way. Also I have a new musical project, one of the goals is to (if possible) only use the 301 and the Teletype.
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  1. It did not take me long at all. I have a background of DSP programming in C++, Max and a few other languages and so I mainly had to understand how things are done on the ER-301. I had watched Neils videos on the ER-301 before I got it and I pretty much felt “right at home” from the start.
  2. I think this is sort of problematic right now. You can read the wiki, but it only contains a core of information, whereas most of the tips and tricks and in-depth explanations are hidden somewhere in this forum. I think people who have been on the journey for a longer time have a leg up there, as they started with a less complex ER-301 and could read about the features as they were added.
  3. This question often comes up with programming languages (which I think the ER-301 is sort of akin to). My take is that it’s much less beneficial to build the typical “training programs” that are often recommended, but rather to start with a deep-dive personal project. Figure out something you really want to build, even if it feels insurmountable at first and try to break it down into small parts that you feel like you could build one at a time. Then just go through it and solve the problems as they come up (either by trial & error, searching through the wiki and forums or by starting threads about your questions). That’s the way you learn the most in my experience. And it’s way more motivating than setting out to learn something without the right application for it in mind.
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  1. I’ve had the ER-301 around a month now and while there is a lot I can still learn, especially about creating one’s own custom units, I felt like I got a handle on the workflow within the first couple nights and am happy with the internal patches I’ve been making after the first week or 2. That said, I spent time in grad school learning things like MAX/MSP (& PD,) and LISP programming in Common Music and the idea of nesting units within units in the 301 is similar to how I was taught to approach LISP coding, so I guess I had some sort of conceptual preparation at least. . .

  2. @NeilParfitt 's videos! The reason I felt comfortable with the 301 so quickly was largely because of Neil’s videos. They were recommended to me when I was looking at getting a 301, and when it arrived I started watching them and following along on my module. I highly recommend them!

Beyond that, I have been reading this forum regularly and found useful info and inspiration here as well.

  1. This goes back to #2. Just diving in could be confusing if you aren’t used to the interface (and why would you be if you’re just diving in?. . .) However, after the first few of Neil’s videos I felt comfortable enough with the basics to start pursuing specific ideas I wanted to accomplish. Rather than just USING the 301, start by following along with the videos. As you get comfortable with things, try to implement some basic ideas and grow from there!

As you go along, feel free to come here and ask questions. I haven’t been a member of this forum very long, relatively speaking, but it seems like a great group of helpful people who are happy to explore, share ideas, and discuss together. (That is a welcome thing considering how people generally virtually behave on some other sites!)

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re: #2

Usually if I’m showing someone how to use the 301 for the first time, I build a sub-synth. It has all the basic elements to nail home signal flow, patching and how Gate, CV, pitch CV and audio all come together in the 301’s ecosystem. I think there’s a wiki as well as a thread on it

re: #3:

definitely have some sort of soft goal/endgame with what you want to make :slight_smile:

“I want to make something that does X!”

then you can conceptualize what building blocks will be needed to realize it and plonk those unit Lego blocks together. While doing that you’re experimenting with routing. subchains, gain and bias etc etc and eventually you’ll reach the goal (or not!), all while getting faster and more fluid at navigating around.

Then, as you get the hang of it, you’ll see there’s 10 ways to implement an idea. Maybe one is more refined, and/or sparks an idea that leads to something unplanned and really cool… or… maybe it becomes a mess so you toss the idea altogether. It’s no different than making sounds with Eurorack in general (for me anyway).

I recommend the above strategy vs. a blank slate with no plan. That could get frustrating.

Most of my vids: I always have some half baked idea or something as simple as ‘I wonder if it could do _______’… and give it a go… and in turn that takes me down a rabbit hole of discovery.

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  1. Not really that long - but the firmware was a lot less feature rich when I got it. I think mine shipped with 0.1.x. But you don’t have to learn it all at once. You can restrict yourself to just a few units at a time. You can just pick one and try to understand it fully before moving on.

  2. I think it depends on how you like to learn. For me, Neil’s videos were the ticket. I tend to read the wiki more as a reference. But if you prefer manuals to videos, the wiki might be a better starting place for you.

  3. Start small. Take a module that you already have and understand. Or watch a video about a module you think looks useful or cool. See if you can replicate some piece of its functionality. For me its easiest to learn by trying reproduce something known. Kind of like learning an instrument by learning some cover songs rather than trying to start with an original.

Keep in mind that any complex 301 patch is built up of smaller, simpler parts that are usually pretty easy to understand in isolation.

And don’t forget to enjoy the journey. :slight_smile: If you think of “learn ER-301” as some big daunting task to be completed, I think it could get frustrating. Take your time, have fun, fluency will come.

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Most has been said I suppose, but I would like to reiterate and expand to what @Joe mentioned in his conclusion

I have taken quite some time to consider myself “fluent” with the ER-301, maybe like 6 months or even more. But even after 1,5 years of using it as my main module I can’t say I tried (let alone mastered) every built-in unit available. It’s not hard to understand the general workflow and the open-ended paradigm to sound synthesis and manipulation that the ER-301 is presenting. You can do that just by watching some of Neil’s videos. And if you like those aspects you will always love working with the module, even if you’re doing very basic things. In the other case you might as well get rid of it (or don’t buy it), because even if you should master the module inside out you will never enjoy it very much. I went very slowly, but I loved it from day one.

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Hi. A few thoughts —

  1. I might have gained a bit of notoriety among my modular-aware friends by constantly making point about the ease of use, intuitiveness and general joy of using the ER-301. Many times I tried to proof that using ER-301 is not “menu diving”. Seriously, I firmly believe it has the most convenient, well designed and self explanatory UX / UI for such a complex instrument. I watched a few @NeilParfitt 's and @Joe’s videos (for which I am eternally grateful) before purchasing / while waiting for delivery — but from the moment it arrived I embraced it fully into my workflow.
  2. As my learning experience I chose to develop a custom unit — a “clone” of a certain Eurorack oscillator I’ve always wanted but didn’t have at the moment. I learned ins and outs of the 301 while doing it, and it worked really well. I’ve purchased the coveted module since then but still sometimes use my custom unit because obviously it sounds very different (and the original didn’t have linear TZFM). Here it is.
  3. Every question I ever had with the 301 was immediately and thoroughly answered by this community, including Brian himself. I think this is an absolute rare example of a generous, caring and friendly online environment, and I encourage you to ask specific questions here on the O|D forums.
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I felt comfortable with navigation – building usable synths and effects – within the first hour or two.

It took a few days of messing around to get a better feel for some of the units, and some are still a little elusive to me, but really I was making practical and fun chains and custom units right away.

My first and only attempts at doing stuff in the middle layer with LUA were failures, but I’m not highly motivated there because I don’t need that to build what I want.

(I’m a software developer, and have a lot of experience in synths generally and about 3 years in modular.)

Certainty is variable :slight_smile: And that can be a difficult question even for a simpler module. It took me a few months to realize I just didn’t like Peaks and would be better off with some other modulation source.

ER-301 workflow can vary! The way I use it isn’t to build a complete synth, but as kind of a space to summon other modules :wink: or to experiment in.

In the heat of the moment while working on a song, I don’t want to delve deep into building stuff on the ER-301. But I’m totally happy loading up my complex oscillator custom unit, which only took a couple of hours to put together. Or a someone else’s harmonic oscillator custom unit, which I simplified a bit and then assigned each harmonic to my 16n Faderbank over i2c. Or a clocked delay, or noise source or whatever. I almost never use envelopes inside the ER-301, preferring to stick to Maths, Contour, Stages etc.

Neil’s videos were invaluable IMHO for picking up the basic navigation very quickly, and getting a sense of the many cool things you can do with audio buffers.

Better to choose a practical goal first. Follow along with one of Neil’s videos. Or build a simple synth, then expand on its features with more modulation and effects.

In my first session with the ER-301, I build a synth that played generative stuff from my Teletype over i2c, with only an output patch cable. Then I added phase modulation, then a tempo synced delay, then I put a filter and limiter in the delay’s feedback path… that sort of thing.

In my second session I built a complex oscillator; it was okay, but I learned from it enough to build a better one a couple of days later which (with a minor tweak) is the one I still use.

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Learning to use the 301 has definitely effected the creative side of making music in modular for me. Before, I would develop simple musical ideas and introduce additional modular elements to explore new territory with a ‘let’s see what happens’ approach.

Now, I spend a lot of time reading the different threads within this ace forum, bookmarking many useful tips and ideas so as to improve my own theoretical understanding of the deviceo. To have a good control of the 301 will pave the way in the future to realise all those musical ideas which for the moment have seemingly been put to one side.

The 301 sound computer is the only module in my rack that has completely challenged my approach to composing music. I’m not in a race so am happy to take my time.

You will appreciate from the response you’re getting to your questios that other forum members are happy to share their thoughts and share their ideas with you, encourage you and give you confidence to enjoy the journey.

Good luck with your endeavours

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Hi User_Friendly,

I have had the ER301 for about 2 months and now feel completely at home with it. However, I must add that I am pretty comfortable with difficult interfaces (like the Octatrack and Old Akai Samplers). The moment I knew it was completely for me was building a live triggering loop based sampler. The sheer adaptability and scope is unrivalled in the modular world.

Neil Parfitt is the MAN!

I spent time with the ER301 copying Neil’s videos so that the ideas would sink in. This was tiring and frustrating. However, in my experience, learning any new interface is. However, once I broke through the pain barrier, it has opened up new possibilities and a power in modular form that I never knew existed.

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I’m still learning and agree with what everybody else has said, but one thing that I’ve found helpful with getting a handle on everything is having modules that allow for directly tweaking CV values and sending in triggers.

The ER-301 UI is great, but without direct control over the internal parameters you lose the immediacy of working with a modular system.

In my case I’m using an Intellijel Quadratt for CV control and a Beatstep Pro for sending in triggers.

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I think if you are going to make a module like the ER-301, then complexity is just a natural byproduct of that. You want a module that can do it all, expecting a learning curve is par for the course. I don’t think the ER-301 is intuitive, but I never expected it to be. Once you learn the underlying conventions, etc. you see that it is well organized, and then it can become intuitive.

All you have to do is just watch the first 3 tutorial videos Neil has done. You’ll get the basics and functionality of the device there. Then you can mess around and see how many things you come up with.

I think a good exercise for anyone complaining about complexity in a module, is to try and think about how you could do it. How would you make the UI, and how would you handle connections, etc. Often what you’ll find is that there are real reasons for things being the way they are.

I also think that the expectation to just be able to pick up something and play it is a little exaggerated. That is an excellent marketing tool, but not the way musicians in general actually make music. They spend years, decades, and sometimes their entire life learning an instrument.

Learning a module, in the grand scheme of things, pales in comparison. So that all being said, look at the 301 as an opportunity and not a thing to be conquered.

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I didn’t wanted too much menu diving and I must say that for me the 301,s UI is wonderful. The more you use it the more it become pretty intuitive.
Neil’s videos will help you without any doubt and give you some simples objectives to reach with the module at first !

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So many great insights have already been shared, so I’ll be brief about my own experience (and try to be additive)…so, two things for me:

  1. After fits and starts, finally figured out that (for me) youtube videos aren’t the most efficient way to consume information…I find reading leads to deeper understanding and better rentention. The complication is that reading the forums is challenging as you start out bc there is so much information. And so, I strongly recommend i) get rooted in the fundamentals and then ii) quickly get hands on with a project. For (i), read the first three sections of a project like http://wiki.orthogonaldevices.com/index.php/ER-301 (up until “Units”…use that as a reference later) and then for (ii) do a hands on work-through of http://wiki.orthogonaldevices.com/index.php/How_to_build_a_simple_drum_rack or http://wiki.orthogonaldevices.com/index.php/Solo_Trumpet_Performance

  2. Take that project that you just completed and modify it. I built the drum rack and then thought up some upgrades I wanted to make to it that I was 95% certain could be done. And so -then- I used the forums and the “Units” section of the Wiki to dive deep to understand how particular things worked, keeping at it until I figured it out. This resulted in a deeping of my understanding and a broadening of my toolkit.

After doing these two things–which didn’t take long at all–I definitely had the “ah-ha” moment of how the framework/architecture works and now I’m able to puzzle out concepts and ideas much more quickly.

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