Ring Modulator effect help needed

  • OK guys and gals, i need to confess my complete ignorance and beg for the mercy and assistance of the community.

    I’ve been listening to a lot of things like King Crimson, David Torn, Reeves Gabrels, Bill Frissell etc recently in search of inspiration for “out there” ideas.

    I have always been attracted to the “idea” of a Ring Modulator. It just seems capable of creating so many weird and wonderful sounds. However, I have been playing around with it for some time and can’t for the life of me find anything even vaguely useable.

    I’m not ready to give up but I need some guidance to tame this beast.

    Can anyone point me in the direction of some classic tracks to listen to which use a ring modulator in a prominent manner?

  • The key thing to understand is that ring modulation is and always has been a mathematically-based effect and not one that operates in traditional musical scales.

    For this reason it's been used for textural variation for many decades in synthesisers, especially in sound-design and "ambient" applications.

    This is also why, in the video above, the demonstrator suggests tuning the oscillator to the key you're playing in. It's always been associated with dissonant, metallic-sounding tones due to its aforementioned mathematically-based operation, so unless you're going for something "completely-out-there", tuning it to, say, your root note, would IMHO be the minimum requirement for you to have any hope of fitting it into a musical context as demonstrated in the video.

    Also, because of its "non-musical" harmonic tendencies, it can be useful on drum-and-percission signals, which by their very nature contain more odd-order harmonics than most "musical" sources. Of course, there's no reason why one couldn't feed such signals through the Kemper and use the effect on them too.

    HTH, Alan.

  • Thanks guys.

    Damian, I’ve watched a number of videos on Ring Modulators but hadn’t seen either of those. They were both really useful and interesting. As a Scotsman I obviously like the potential for bagpipe imitations ?

    Nicky, I wasn’t aware of the need to tune to the root note. I’ll play with this when I get home from holiday.

    As I’m on holiday for another week I have plenty of time to listen to music while chilling so any examples of famous ring modulator use in songs would be really interesting.

  • Nicky, I wasn’t aware of the need to tune to the root note. I’ll play with this when I get home from holiday.

    It's not mandatory of course 'cause of musical "taste" and whatnot, but due to the fixed-mathematical action it imposes on everything passing through it, tuning to the root should theoretically give you the best chance of hitting the jackpot in a game of happy coincidences. A fifth up from the root might IMHO provide the second-best chance.

    The key thing, as I said earlier, is to understand that unless such a strategy is implemented, the likelihood of pleasing-sounding results, especially musically-speaking, is extremely-slim, not least because statistically the vast majority of settings for the effect lie between the 12 notes we use in western music.

    Another thing to consider is that you could use much-higher settings that lie well-outside the notes you're gonna play, dialling the mix back at the same time. This approach should allow you to add interesting harmonics without their affecting perceived pitch. Once again, it'll be a crapshoot as to which notes sound more-musical and which less-so, but at any rate, with the mix dialled-back, this shouldn't matter in many contexts, meaning that in effect you're adding artificial harmonic variation, albeit "random" in a musical context but "fixed" in a mathematical one, if that makes sense.

  • I personally use it for a rotovibe sim , with or without an exp pedal

    check the thread here with rig & clips

    extract : A short notice about the rotary, you can achieve a simple but beautiful 'rotovibe' with a speed control.

    Just activate : Ring Modulator then adjust settings to Pedal off / MIX 47% / Manual 5.1 for a slow roto or 5.3 for a speed one, 5.2 is great too.

  • Jon Lord (R.I.P.) formerly of Deep Purple used a ring modulator A LOT on his Hammond. Check out his intro to the Made In Japan version of Lazy. The first couple of minutes in the track.

    Also look into the Youtube video of Deep Purple @ Cal Jam. He uses it in the intro to You Fool No One. At 2:58 into the video.

    I've seen fusion guitarist Wayne Krantz use one live, although he sometimes overuses it.
    Starting at 6:34 into the video.

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