Modular Synth Masterclass with VCOADSR

17 February, 2016

VCOADSR (pronounced by saying the name of each individual letter listed) is the stage name of Phil Bilsby – an electronic music producer and artist based in Brighton, known for making interesting and engaging electronic music ranging from dirty modular techno to experimental electronic soundscapes.

We were incredibly lucky to have him visit us at BIMM Brighton, bringing with him a unique piece of production equipment, made up of both analogue and digital components. Phil had set up before the students arrived, which allowed them to enter the room to a ten-minute demonstration showing exactly what this impressive looking piece of kit was capable of.

Our students were so fascinated by what it could achieve that the first thing they wanted to know was how much it cost! Phil went on to explain that, yes, it was a very expensive piece of equipment which was actually the smaller version of a much bigger ‘beast’ he has at home. He explained that he has built both DIY modulations himself from scratch, using small components he finds online on websites such as eBay, and that they’re both constantly evolving and being improved upon:

“It’s like Lego – you make your own toy and build it.”

Phil wanted to show the students exactly how his instrument was constructed, so he proceeded to rip the unit apart, stripping it back to just the machine without the cables, before rebuilding it piece by piece.

Modular Synth Masterclass with VCOADSRa Masterclass with Modular Synths with VCOADSR

He explained that many people use this kind of modular synth equipment as ‘sound therapy’, but he was keen to bring it out and play it live, because that’s where he gets his enjoyment from. He said he’s constantly redefining his sound “on the fly” in order to achieve the result he’s looking for, and spends about four hours and a lot of playing about before he’s satisfied with the tone provided by a new module piece.

Phil talked the room through the set-up of the various components and showed how they all linked together, giving examples of how each piece reacts when connected to all the others. Our students were visibly captivated watching the ‘magician’ at work, particularly by his style of experimentation:

“You just don’t know what you’re going to get!”

Phil finished up with an in-depth chat about the industry, the different music you can make, and much more. He then pulled out a Doepfer Ribbon Controller and passed it around the classroom, giving students a chance to experiment with some of the kit. Our students came up with some pretty cool ideas of their own, giving Phil himself something to think about.

We’d like to thank VCOADSR for coming to visit us at BIMM, and for leaving our students inspired and in total awe of his talent. In fact, many have agreed with Phil that DIY is the way to go… and we think they may be on their way to the local DIY store as we speak to purchase a soldering iron of their own!

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