One of Scope's most powerful features is the Modular synthesizer platform. Now on version 4, it is one of the fastest platforms to realize your wildest sonic dreams.

I've been using the Modular platform since version 2, with various patches ending up as sound effects tools, or even used to power entire performances. But there are certain patches that stand out in memory, and today I will write about one such patch. The artificial thunderstorm patch.
Some of you may recall this from Sonic Core's demo for Modular III. It's a series of patches I made to create a sound scene of a thunder storm. It consisted of nearby lightning strikes, faraway rumbles, rain, and wind. The rain and wind part I'm sure many seasoned Modular fans can figure out in no time. The lightning was the hard one.

At it's most basic, it's a sine wave with its pitch controlled by tightly designed noise. The overall pitch of the noise is controlled by a bunch of AD (attack and delay) envelopes, giving the impression of a lightning strike that has an intense attack (high central frequency), and quickly decays into a low rumble (lower central frequency)

Most of the modules you see, especially the sample and hold modules, are there just to add a bit of randomness. It was particularly important that the pitch curve was not a clean curve (straight from the AD envelope) because that won't cause the "rumbling". The rumble comes from slow but random fluctuations in pitch and filter frequency. So it looks like a bunch of modules, but they're there just for variety. Which is nice, because imagine doing that on a prefab synth. You want to add a bit of randomness here, here, and there.. but you only have two LFOs. You're stuck.

A fun trick I did with the AD was to mix two of them together to get an extra punchy attack. In the middle column, you see two AD Vintage modules: one with a long decay, and another with a very short decay. The short one is mixed into the long one, so I can have a super fast attack drop-off, and then a long tail. Great for creating the "crack" at the start of the lightning strike, and connecting it to the long boom. You can't do this stuff with just one EG, no matter how much you mess with the curve knob. You just don't get to think like this with prefab synths. Modular is a fundamentally different approach to sound design.

One last interesting thing this patch does is, it triggers itself. In the middle column, up at the top, you'll see a randomSigGen, connected to a compAX. The randomSigGen keeps throwing out random numbers, and when it's over the threshold on compAX, the gate (yellow cord) gets triggered. You can see how the yellow cord connects all the AD generators and sample&hold modules throughout the patch. All those get triggered at once, and bam, you have a lightning strike.


It was interesting to attempt at what seemed near impossible with a modular system, but the results sounded fairly believable with a bit of reverb and delays. Scope Modular is a joy to work with because getting a project like this together is very quick, and I think that really determines whether an idea dies before birth, or really takes shape. I'm pro life when it comes to ideas. I'd like to see it first before I decide to toss it out.  
Ken Suguro September 2010

 For modular patches and info go to


"Thunder and Rain" by Ken Suguro