Effects are a great way to expand the sounds of your drum machines. While you may never get tired of the classic sound of Roland drum machines, adding effects can take your rhythms to new and exciting places. There are plenty of ways to get the most out of your TR-8. These can include making use of the expansive onboard effects, adding guitar effects pedals or experimenting with modular effects units. Over this 3 part series, we’ll look at the benefits of all approaches and in this article, we’ll demonstrate how to enhance your drum sounds with AIRA Modular EFX.
Running a drum machine through your modular setup might not be the first thought on your mind when making music, but it is a great way to spark creativity and discover sounds that you could only dream of. There is no right or wrong way and the results can inspire completely new ways of working with sound.
In this article, we’ll take a look at Roland’s AIRA Modular EFX range and explore the sonic possibilities when they are used alongside the TR-8 drum machine.
The AIRA EFX modules can be used within a modular Eurorack system or as separate desktop effect units. Whether you have been in the modular game for a while or are looking for a place to start, these are incredibly versatile, powerful modules.
Contributed by Gareth Psaltis for the Roland Australia Blog
AIRA Modular Customizer
The AIRA Modular Customizer turns your EFX module into a virtual modular synthesizer. The Customizer has six slots available per patch and these can be filled by any combination of the 15 sub-modules available. These sub-modules include:
LFO, ADSR, NOISE, SAMPLE & HOLD, RING MOD, FILTER 6dB, FILTER 12dB, TONE, AMP, MIXER, STEREO MIXER, CURVE CONV, GATE DIVIDER, TRIG TO CV DELAY TIME, MIDI CLOCK TO GATE.
Version 1.5 of the AIRA Modular Customizer brings sixteen new sub-modules that take the BITRAZER, DEMORA, TORCIDO and SCOOPER beyond standard effects modules. These 16 new sub-modules include:
SHORT DELAY, TUBE CLIP, COMPRESSOR, NOISE GATE, 3 BAND EQ, LOGIC OPERATION, CROSS FADER, SWITCHER, ENVELOPER, TRIGGER TO LFO RATE CV, FILTER 18dB, FILTER 24dB, FORMANT FILTER, SAW OSCILLATOR, SQUARE OSCILLATOR, MIDI NOTE TO CV/GATE.
Now you have the ability to save various patches within the one EFX module, making it a versatile, powerful effects unit. Use the SAVE feature to take your intricate studio process to the stage. To use the Customizer, simply drop a sub-module in place and drag a virtual wire from OUTPUT to INPUT.
Use the AIRA Modular Customizer to expand your drum sounds. Your modular synth setup just got a whole lot bigger with additional LFOs, ADSRs, VCAs, mixers, noise sources and more – all under-the-hood of your AIRA EFX.
For a detailed look into the function of each sub-module, refer to our extensive overview, Inside the AIRA Modular Customizer.
DEMORA – Modular Delay
- High resolution, smooth and clean delay effect
- Stereo input and output – WIDTH knob and stereo effects
- Clock sync can be added with the Customizer app
- 20 microseconds to 20 seconds delay time
- CV/Gate parameter control including delay TIME, FEEDBACK and WIDTH
TR-8 + Demora:
Another great trick is using CV to control the TIME knob. Move from totally deranged flange-style effects, to unusual morphing sounds that are reminiscent of vintage sci-fi sound design. By experimenting with different controls and exploring the power of CV, you will create sounds you didn’t think were possible!
In the sound example below, the TR-8’s toms & clave are being sent into the Demora, which is being controlled by my own custom LFO patch created in the AIRA Customizer app. A sin LFO is being used to control the time of the Demora, and a tri LFO is controlling the feedback. A Square Oscillator as an LFO is being used to control the TIME of the Demora.
TR-8 + Demora LFO x 3:
The result is unexpected and awesome. The slightest changes to any of the control parameters results in complex textures that are not typical to standard delays.
TORCIDO – Modular Distortion
- Classic Roland distortion sound
- LO BOOST to maintain and boost low end frequencies, ideal for drums
- CV/Gate parameter control including DISTORTION amount, TONE and TUBE WARMTH
- TUBE WARMTH parameter perfect for adding organic saturation to your drums or synths
Adding distortion to your drums can add punchiness, saturation and warmth. The Torcido is the perfect accompanying distortion effect for your TR-8 drum sounds. Versatile in sonic range, the Torcido can produce a plethora of distortion tones from soft, warm overdrives to extreme, high gain distortion. With CV controllable tube distortion and an amazing LO BOOST feature, your drums will have never sounded so alive.
Whether you’re recreating the classic distorted 909 kicks found in hardcore & techno of the 90’s, or just wanting to warm up your drum sounds, the Torcido is perfect for finding your niche sound.
The LO BOOST button allows you to push up the bass frequencies of the incoming signal. The TUBE WARMTH knob is perfect for adding warm saturation and a vintage character. The DIST knob allows you to craft the amount of distortion, from subtle to full destruction of the signal. The TONE knob is perfect for shaping the timbre of the distortion you are adding to the signal.
TR-8 + Torcido:
Using CV to control the parameters of the Torcido takes your distortion to the next level. Morphing tones and textures can be created that were not previously possible with typical distortion units. Use the DRY/WET control to mix it into the background of your drum track or take over the signal completely.
In the sound example below, I am using a sine LFO and a tri LFO to control the TONE knob of the Torcido. Even this simple patch has created a dynamic and unique tone.
TR-8 + Torcido LFO x 2:
In the sound example below, two LFOs are being used to control the DIST knob of the Torcido. Using CV with your effects creates a sense of depth and variation to your distortion tone. Sonic exploration can be great for sparking ideas for a track.
TR-8 + Torcido LFO x 2:
SCOOPER – Modular Scatter
- CV/Gate parameter control including SCATTER depth/type, PITCH and FILTER
- Clock sync your loops and the SCATTER effect with the SYNC TRIG input
- Overdub function – sync your loops and layer sounds
- Run your loops through the FILTER to shape your sound
The Scooper module is an extremely powerful and diverse programmable SCATTER effect and looper. It allows you to record drum patterns into the onboard looper, layer the sounds and create complex rhythmic variations by slicing and warping individual steps.
The CLOCK IN gives you the ability to sync to your drum machine or any other clocked device, to keep your rhythms locked. The FILTER works as both a high-pass filter or a low-pass filter, depending on which way you turn the knob from 12 o’clock.
The PITCH shifter can be used as a tuner or as a tool for creativity. When using CV to control these parameters, you will find some extremely unique sounds and ways of working with samples! As you can imagine, this module can do incredible things with vocals, synths, drums and basically any other sound.
When jamming away with the Scooper, some really amazing textures can be created when inputting longer, drone-like sounds. This may be easy with something like a synthesizer or other instrument, but with a drum machine it can be difficult. Try adding reverb or some screeching feedback delay from the TR-8 to the sample loop. Capture a sample and get moving! Incorporating some movement through CV can create interesting rhythmic SCATTER within your drone sample, or whatever sound you have created.
In the sound example below, the TR-8 toms and clave have been recorded live into the Scooper. The sample was then manipulated using 2 sinusoidal LFOs and 1 random LFO. The SCATTER TYPE and PITCH are being altered by CV. The result is an incredible drone that is reminiscent of some distant planet with decrepit technology left to erode. Could it be Tatooine from Star Wars?
TR-8 + Scooper LFO x 3:
An overdub function has also been added to the Scooper with the latest update – AIRA Modular System Program (Ver.1.05). With this feature, you can explore making polyrhythms and unusual syncopated rhythms by layering your drum rhythms over one another.
TR-8 + Scooper Overdubbing:
BITRAZER – Modular Crusher
- Intense bit and sample rate destruction
- High resolution effects
- CV/Gate parameter control for SAMPLE RATE and BIT DEPTH
- Onboard multi-mode filter (LPF/HPF)
The Bitrazer is an intense sample and bit-crushing effect that is capable of producing wild and varying results. Pairing it with the TR-8 can create diverse sounds that can range from crunchy industrial drums to glitchy IDM beats. It can also be used to simply add a little extra colour to your drum sounds. With the addition of programmable CV and the AIRA Customizer app, you can take the classic bit-crush effect to amazing new places.
TR-8 + Bitrazer:
Try introducing modulation (like an LFO or random voltage) to control the SAMPLE RATE, BIT RATE and/or FILTER to see what kind of interesting tones you can create. Use the LOW PASS FILTER and BIT CRUSH features as a live performance tool, or to create dynamic movement in your track arrangements. You could also try modulating the BYPASS or LPF/HPF to create texture and movement in your source material.
The high resolution knobs give the module an amazing feel when changing parameters. A manual filter sweep has never felt so organic through a digital knob. In the sound example below, 1 Random LFO and 2 Sin LFOs were added to the Bitrazer using the AIRA Customizer. Listen to how these LFOs modulate the SAMPLE RATE, BIT DEPTH and FILTER CUTOFF, to produce rich, evolving timbres.
TR-8 + Bitrazer LFO x 3:
Make use of the CV inputs and sequence the Bitrazer’s resonant FILTER with an external sequencer. This would allow you to create rhythmic variations to the tone and timbre of your sounds.
If you are looking for unlimited creative potential, modular synths and effects are the way to go. They provide incredible sonic flexibility, whilst encouraging you to shape sounds that are unique to your vision. With the increasing availability and affordability of innovative instruments and effects units like the AIRA EFX modules, it has never been a better time to experiment with new sound creation tools.
With the increasing availability and affordability of innovative instruments and effects units like the AIRA EFX modules, it has never been a better time to experiment with new sound creation tools.
Using modular effects with your TR-8 will take your rhythms to the next level, but that only scratches the surface of the possibilities you have to work with. The deeper you delve, the more you will discover. You are only limited by your imagination!