Our signal parameter space is many-dimensioned and infinitely detailed, with analogue control voltages from sources such as envelopes, sequencers and low frequency oscillators. Regular triggers and gates however are blunt, inefficient and in need of an update.
We propose two rich triggers to complement simple binary triggers to make better use of those signal paths. And to open up a new realm of patch possibilities.
The idea is not new: combine triggers with accents, so that strong triggers (typically greater than 5v, here we use a 1v threshold) play louder than soft ones (closer to, but not below, the trigger threshold). We will formalise it slightly differently and combine the notion of a ‘tuned’ dynamic scale, just like we have a tuned 1v/octave pitch scale.
If 6v means as loud as it goes, then 4v means 48dB less. 0 to 1v means no trigger. From 1v to 6v there is 120dB dynamic range.
A signal level below 1v means no trigger. 1v to 6v spans 5 octaves.
Many sounds, such as percussion and plucked strings, have an intrinsic amplitude envelope. Meanwhile our modular patch habits are linked to a de-constructed approach to synthesis. Typically your envelope will control your VCA which controls the volume of what you hear. What if a VCA was incorporated into the envelope, so that you didn’t have to patch up another module? Now imagine that you can send it a special trigger, one which not only starts the envelope, but also sets the overall amplitude.
This special trigger, the rich trigger, can also be an accent to percussion, the cutoff for a filter, or the pitch of a sound generator.
The proposal here is not to replace CVs or envelopes or anything, only to add quality to simple triggers and gates.
Consider the information that the rich trigger carries. Firstly, binary: is it on or off. Second, temporal: how long is it on for. Third, cv: what is the trigger level. Lastly, while on, the level can be modulated: it can change continuously.
These new triggers are of course compatible with other signals in your modular system. You can use the output of an envelope as a rich trigger, or an LFO. Simply add an attenuator to a binary trigger to make it rich. Merge a simple trigger and a CV signal into a rich trigger by gating with a 1v offset. Split the rich trigger into trigger plus CV with a comparator. And the same simple rule of modular applies: patch anything into anything!