Book Review: Patch & Tweak With Moog

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Categories: Noise.Kitchen Distro

Author: Freddie Hudson

Sometimes it’s wise to supplement your own research with that done by others, and while YouTube videos are ever-popular, we believe that books are an excellent resource for learning: online content is rarely vetted for quality and truth, and can also be quite a time-consuming process with plenty of distractions  — not to mention shoddy and frustrating instructions which don’t apply to your set up or instrument. 

As part of our small but perfectly formed library, we keep stock of three books in the Patch & Tweak series. These high-quality hardback books are not only a wonderful resource for spot-checking information on modular and semi-modular instruments (with beautiful yet simple diagrams of patch ideas), but also include well-researched interviews with notable musicians.

For the first in a series on our books, we take a look at ‘Patch & Tweak with Moog’. We wanted to look at this first because the title might put visitors to the shop off the book: Moog might be one of the most legendary names in the history of synthesizer production, but they’re notoriously expensive, and few people own one. 

So, why this book? The main reason is that the knowledge within these books is universal, and applicable to modular synthesis, and synthesis as a whole, way beyond that of one manufacturer. 

It’s also worth revisiting the reason why Moog became so popular, and this book does exactly that: Bob Moog’s unique patchable designs are what put synths on the musical map, raising their esteem from basic toys sneered upon by many musicians, to the new wave of modern instruments, eventually paving the way for Eurorack. 

PTM tracks this journey, coloured with interviews with names such as Trent Reznor, Suzanne Ciani, Daedelus and Hideki Matsutake (the ‘fourth’ member of the legendary Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra). Throughout the pages, the current suite of instruments (as well as the ones which established the brand) are carefully analysed, showing how the designs allowed for unrivalled playability and customisation through patching. 

The great thing about the book is that this is not exclusive knowledge to Moog instruments: anyone with a modular rack can learn from the way Moog programmed their instruments, and reassemble their construction with the right modules. 

The constraints of Moog are also laid bare, with open discussion about their weaknesses and difficulties, as well as why they are worth their money — this isn’t a hero-worship book for die-hard fans, but a deep-dive into some of the reasons why the manufacturer has the following it has. 

Around this content, the book is jam-packed with beautiful illustrations of creative patch ideas, often providing suggestions for affordable modules which can be used to emulate a Moog feature, including some nice compliments regarding Bastl Instruments Dynamo! It was a refreshing discovery to find that it’s not all about Moog, although there is of course a certain focus.

In the pages spanning between, you’ll find valuable insight from experts about building your own rack, and accessible information about synthesis, from the basics of what an oscillator does to complex envelope sculpting and how to apply this effectively in your production. This book, therefore, is more like a hackable guide to the world of modular, filtered slightly — but not unbearably — through the lens of Moog. 

In some ways, we prefer this book to the generic Patch & Tweak book we also have in stock for this reason: that book has a more complex task of discussing the entire world of modular, whilst ‘with Moog’ can focus on more specific sounds and ideas, granting you the knowledge you need to sculpt your basslines to Moog’s impeccable standards. 

Perhaps you’re on the fence about buying a Moog instrument, and would like to get to grips with the patchable or semi-patchable layout of the instrument first? This is undoubtedly for you. If you’re already an owner: there are so many tips and tricks within that soon you’ll find greater harmony with your prize possession.

That said, if you’re uncertain about buying something orbiting the world of Moog, the standard Patch & Tweak is an excellent second choice. Overall, these books represent one of the most valuable resources we can recommend for getting to grips with modular synthesis as a whole, with practical patch guides that you can immediately replicate in most systems.