Minimum viable starter setup tips

Hi, I’m just planning my first foray into Eurorack and trying to work out the bare minimum initial modules. I’d like to make ambient type music and use my guitar (I also have a circuit) Having watched a LOT of videos I think I’ve settled on Plaits + Clouds as my first two modules + maybe a strymon aa.1 to handle guitar input. I’m thinking of getting the cre8audio niftycase (not the bundle) which would also cover midi and CV input (so I can hook up the circuit) + a basic mono output.
Does this make sense as a v minimal/affordable setup? I’d really appreciate any thoughts e.g. I’ve been pondering whether to swap out Plaits for Rings

(My planned next module after this initial setup would be marbles to do some random/generative type stuff)

Thanks in advance and apols if I’m asking a really dumb question(s)

Hi Sagey!

I kind of had the same idea as you a while ago. Also got a Niftycase for the same reasons (the Midi to CV mainly). Regarding the output, I would consider getting a dedicated module for that after you’re thinking about using Clouds, which you probably want to enjoy in full stereo. I got myself a 4ms listen for that purpose, which also got a headphones output (one of my priorities).
Regarding the guitar input: try the MI Ears! It does a great job with guitar signals and you also have the contact mic as an extra trigger source.
I also would consider Stages for any setup either as an envelope, lfo source and/or sequencer. You can do a lot of tricks with it in the Clouds combination.
Or two save some money get a Behringer 150 (Ring Mod/Noise/S&H/LFO), if you don’t need an envelope and a sequencer right away. It’s cheap but has sone essentials for starters.
I also can recommend Ripples as a filter which complements a guitar setup very well.

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Hi Sagey. You seem to be on the right track with most of the things you mentioned.

Firstly, I am typing this into abphone with a cracked screen so I can’t really see what I’m writing!

Regarding Plaits vs Rings.

Rings can act just like a stompbox effect if you plug only into the ‘IN’. In my opinion there are alot better stompbox sounds to be had than going ‘only’ through rings. To bring rings alive you will need Modulation. Think of all your guitar modulation pedals. The thing that makes them ‘move’ is the modulation. How often have you thought: i wish it went faster or slower or was a bit less regimented, etc. A modular system breaks the modulation into it’s own sphere which gets much more fun but also more expensive. Also, another modules like a noise source (plaits is good) brings the sound alive. The notes to plaits below also relate to rings.

Plaits will only drone away if you don’t pair it with at least a v/o sequence and a trigger. When i was starting out this was A bit confusing so: v/o is equivalent to which note you choose on your guitar and trigger is when you play the string. As there are many Ways to play a note ie pluck, damp, scratch, hard, soft, etc then you start needing lots of other modules to bring in these nuances.

At a bare minimum most people would add an envelope generator to define the attack and decay of each note. I suggest that you get one that can be modulated (ie: influenced by another factor) so that each note doesn’t sound the same forever. A smoothly moving random source is also a must for mutable modules in my opinion. To change notes you need a sequencer. This is a rabbithole topic. I suggest either korg sq-1 or mutable marbles.

The list ends up going on and on, but from my experience if you dont have at least 2 rows of 84hp then it gets hard to do what you want to the point it becomes a restraint. This is probably not what you want to hear because it ends up getting expensive.

If you haven’t already. You should try out Vcv rack. It is a free, computer based, moDular environment. Most of the mutable modules are free to use there. Omri Cohen has a great youtube channel about vcv rack.

Hope this helps. If you hzave any specific questions I’m happy to help, as I’m sure many others are too.

One last piece of advice. It can be tempting to get lots of small modules. Yes more functionality per HP but usually at the expense of playability.

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My initial feeling would be, in an 84HP case like the Nifty, that you might want to consider treating it as EITHER a guitar effect system, OR a synth voice - but possibly not both.

With Plaits, you could add some other MI, such as Stages, Ripples and Veils and Clouds plus whatever else you could squeeze in for a fun, digital synth with an analog filter.

With the Strymon input or MI Ears or ALM S.B.G., you could add Clouds, Ripples plus some more FX, possibly Mimeophon then squeeze in what modulation you can - Stages, OCHD, Marbles or maybe even MATHS (missing out Stages if you opt for MATHS) and treat it as an echo/filter freak box - perhaps a distortion module (although you’ll have some overdrive if you went for Ripples and ALM S.B.G.)

There are so many choices, it can turn into an addiction if you are not careful. I’ve bought myself a Nifty case and have filled it up with modules that took my fancy - it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a system, which is why my advice to you (with the benefit of hindsight) is to have a clear idea (one idea) of what you would like it to do. I think you might have the most fun, if you are a guitar player, to think of it as a modular FX box. That way, the sounds you get out of it will be truly yours…

Have fun!

p.s. and be warned - with the Nifty Case, you will not be able to fit modules at each end of the case which have PCB boards the same size as the faceplate. I have, in fact, only been able to use 80HP of my case. So modules like Maths and Morphagnene fit at the ends, but Plaits and probably MI Ears would not. Not sure about the MI Clouds - possibly the larger modules have faceplates that are bigger than the PCB boards below. This is a real drawback of the Nifty case, and something you should be aware of before you buy. They mention it on their website, but something for you to bear in mind…

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I have a niftycase and don’t have any problem to place my MI modules.
Marbles at the left, ears at the right.
I didn’t try with others modules but I don’t understand the problem with the border of the nifty ?
Here’s some picture empty and with MI modules (the empty space was to a nanocell which I didn’t receive at the time of the picture)

By the way the wood on the side of the niftycase is extra combo with the ears connected to elements resonator. You can play percussion on the side, the contact microphone will take the beauty sound of the wood.

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Hi Benamad - then you’ve been lucky. The issue I raise is actually on their website for the case, which reads:

  • Please note that the right and left sides of NiftyCASE fit very flush. It is recommended to favor a module with a pcb 1mm or more narrower than it’s front panel for use on the left and right sides of the case (this amount or more of tolerance is fairly common on many modules).

And here is a link to an explanation

I had two HP left, and was considering buying one of the 2HP modules. Luckily, I experimented with putting a Doepfer mult there, which I had already, and it wouldn’t fit. This is because the case is about 1mm in, from where the faceplate fits - it doesn’t sound like much but it is enough for a module not to fit. It isn’t a major problem as I didn’t really know what 2HP module to get (whatever I was going to get was going to be an ‘extra’) but I think it is worth knowing about.

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I’ll second Mimeophon as being a module that works well with guitar.

I haven’t used it myself but have heard some good guitar results through Instruo Abhar. Unlike Clouds which you can play live with the effect, the Abhar is more record guitar in Abhar and then process. Same by and large with Morphagene.

The Doepfer A-196 could be used to pitch track guitar but pll is not the type of effect many people would use much on guitar.

I have mostly been unexcited about guitar through modular. I thought I would find new and amazing sounds but i just really didn’t on guitar. On the other hand I make tracks on the modular to play alongside the guitar. If you end up doing this then drum sequencing and modules come in handy.

Just wanted to say thanks to those that have responded, it is really lovely as someone just starting out to ask a question in a community and have such lovely, useful, informative, positive and constructive responses. Lots for me to ponder on and think about in terms of my first few modules and ideas for future ones. Thank you!