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Opinion: Maven Fiction – Modular Isn’t For Musicians

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of opinion. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the SynthTube Zone.

Ok enough joking, there’s a lot to unwrap about a Eurorack-focused SynthTuber dropping a thumbnail boasting “It Isn’t For Musicians!” accompanied by a frowny face pointing at the $720 Endorphines Ground Control.

Obviously, we are Modular Biased about this subject, so it’s time to (respectfully) dive in.

If you haven’t already, take ~5 minutes to watch the featured video. Maven Fiction opens with a legitimate question:

Is developing such a strong relationship with a format of synthesis or piece of gear detrimental to the actual musician? Or, is it made for someone else entirely?

Eurorack (and modular hardware as a whole) is designed specifically not to tie you down to a certain format of synthesis. Or gear. The whole foundation of this modular thing is interchangeability and varied signal paths. Not locking creatives down.

Want to plonk Mordax DATA down in its own 3D enclosure with Befaco ChikiPower. DIY that thing.

Want a 32HP Deopfer case for YouTube videos? Do it. Want a 7U Intellijel hybrid performance case that gets asses on the dance floor? You go Danny Goliger. Want bigger? Colin Benders would like a word.

The form factor and output of Eurorack systems are as varied as the humans who plan, buy, learn, and wield them.

After some comments about how modular could be treated as a completely unrelated hobby to the endeavor of professional music making, Maven Fiction says he’s seen a pretty obvious trend that the majority of people into modular aren’t musicians at all, thus the end goals are different.

Now we get into the murky water of how one defines “musician” and whether the end goal of being a musician is to publish tracks on major streaming platforms.

We’re not sure this falls squarely in the confirmation bias zone, but it’s not too far off. Definitely subjective. If you’ve got a YouTube channel focused on introductory synthesis concepts and modular basics, there is a high chance you will attract viewers who are newer to music-making as a whole.

Now you get to feast on a little word salad:

“Price helps gatekeep modular from most, making it somewhat more exclusive. And the fact that those who can afford it don’t even need to be musicians doesn’t make it some elite format, it doesn’t even make it a good format for making music, it is a good format for making music, but not related to the cost, but relevant to those that can actually make good music. That’s why most the stuff you hear is dreadful, and I don’t mind saying it.”

We don’t mind saying, “What?”

Yes, Eurorack is expensive. No, you don’t need 15U 800HP. You can buy used. You can DIY. You can learn from or incorporate VCV Rack for free. You can be talented immediately. You can take years to reach an artistic goal. It doesn’t matter. Good music is subjective.

Eurorack, just like any other tool, is not the cause of unfinished work (if that is your end goal).

Things transition into a Red Means Recording-esque push against falling prey to the Cult of the SynthTuber, fiendishly siphoning cash from our wallets with deceptive sponsored content and awesome modular jams. No one goes to synth stores, or talks to fellow musicians, or understands that you can purchase and try a module and then confidently sell that hardware for ~80% of its value on Reverb and other marketplaces.

Maven Fiction circles back to his own processes, pointing out that modular has some merit of being incorporated into a “global workflow” and is preferred over soft synths.

The video finishes suggesting you check out another of their videos on how to patch more effectively, after spending 5 minutes telling you this expensive hobby isn’t for musicians.

If you’re not convinced and still want to waste time on modular, feel free to check the video description for affiliate links to purchase VCOs, sequencers, mixers, EGs, LFOs, and VCAs on Amazon. If that’s not enough, you can book a direct 1-on-1 modular consultation with Maven Fiction.

From afar, this seems like being caught between life as a YouTuber and life as a musician. You can’t do both with 100% focus and that’s just fine. Helping people enter the modular community is amazing. Teaching synthesis is amazing. Modular synth channels are invaluable and the overall messaging is positive.

That said, when you drop blanket statements on the internet, whether it’s to stir up controversy or because you honestly believe them, expect some pushback.

Modular is for musicians.

Update: it’s worth linking to this excellent piece by Adam Douglas for Attack Magazine: Are Modular Synths Too Expense? And What Is “Expensive” Anyway?

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