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The Ultimate Guide To The Nord Modular G1 – How It Works, Who Uses One + Where To Buy It!

The Nord Modular G1 – Multitimbral Digital Modular Goodness!

The Nord Modular G1 is a polyphonic, multitimbral digital modular synthesiser and as part of the Nord Modular range, it was significant at the time of it’s manufacture for being a half hardware, half software synth. In a pioneering move, the Nord Modular communicated with software on a computer via a MIDI connection where users could program synth patches which were then played via the hardware instrument. 

The Nord Modular was visually a unique synth as well. In hot pink, it had a small and compact keyboard which is normally a divisive factor amongst synth enthusiasts, although in the case of the Modular, it is designed much less as a classic performance synth and much more as an experimental instrument with an endless variety of possibilities. It’s computer software, named the Nord Modular Editor, was a visual representation of a synth’s control panel which showed images of patching between over 100 different modules, allowing users a large variety of creative freedom. Another unique and wide ranging feature of the Modular was its ability to approximate additive, subtractive and FM synthesis, whereas most hardware digital synths only imitated one of these. A relatively successful synth, it lasted six years from 1998 until 2004, after which Clavia, the Modular’s manufacturer, introduced the Nord Modular generation two, or G2, in response to perceived flaws amongst it’s customer base. 

Where Can I Buy A Nord Modular G1?

When it was first released, the Modular was a highly ambitious bit of technology both in it’s complexity and variation as well as in the unique software-hardware hybridisation which Nord put its faith in. As a result, some troubleshooting was sometimes needed- the MIDI connection, while useful, was not infallible and confused some computers and operating systems. Otherwise, the Nord Modular was a technologically advanced synth with a programmable LCD screen and a choice of the Nord Modular Rack and the Nord Micro Modular depending on space available. 

The Nord Modular worked by storing patches in flash RAM, with the maximum being determined not by the number of patches but by their size and complexity. It had four voices which could then be expanded to eight and on to maximum 32 in the patching stage depending on patch complexity due to the Modular’s 4 part multitimbral capacities.

The Nord Modular has 6 VSM oscillators including triangle, sawtooth and pulse waves, and 8 LFOs with four random pattern generators and a total of 16,000 patterns. It has a parametric filter and well as high pass, low pass, and band pass filters, plus shelving EQs, ADSR and AD envelopes, and 9 memory banks with 99 memories in each – giving a total of 891 – as well as a sequencer and MIDI capabilities for all knobs and controls. Although the keyboard is small, it does have octave shift buttons; in addition, it has four assignable audio outputs, two audio inputs, and pedal inputs with on/off function, control, and sustain. 

Some differences exist in the Nord Micro Modular, but only those necessary because of it’s smaller size- there are two audio outputs instead of four and three assignable knobs instead of the rack mounted Modular’s 18. The Micro Modular doesn’t have pedal capabilities, but both iterations have full MIDI transmission for all parameters except master, as well as clock sync and the ability to upgrade the computer software. 

Despite it’s innovation and the uniqueness of it’s hardware and software hybridisation, the Nord Modular didn’t achieve the industry wide adoption or fame of synths such as the Minimoog or even some of the SEM technology of Dave Smith or Tom Oberheim. Users tended to fall squarely into the fully software camp or the community of hardware purists, often more focused on vintage analogue synths, and digital synthesis had become less popular after the 1980s. Nevertheless, the Nord Modular did relatively well and was successful enough for Clavia to improve on it with the G2, which was more powerful, with greater polyphony, and additional time based effects, although the G2 itself was discontinued in 2009. 

The Nord Modular G1 had its own fair share of effects. Its sequencer had four modules and it came with reverb, chorus, and distortion, although the biggest creative freedom came with the almost unlimited amount of connections it could be patched to create. Ultimately this was a synth where considerable effort would have gone into the design and programming of its software and yet it still managed to create hardware which was flexible, innovative, and high quality. 

How Much Does A Nord Modular G1 Cost?

Despite the fact it was a professional synth with a pioneering design and made quite large waves within the music community, not as many artists habitually use the Nord Modular as some other vintage synths, especially those by Moog and Roland. Of course, Clavia is a lesser known manufacturer in a marketplace which has been dominated by Japanese and American brands. Nevertheless, the Nord Modular was significant enough that is is quite hard to find. 

When buying the Modular there is naturally a range of options to choose from as it came in both the Micro and Rack editions. Online second hand instrument retailers such as are the best chance of finding a legacy product such as the Modular- on there it is currently selling at £687.35 as a relatively high tech and sophisticated piece of kit. Having the requisite computer programmes to run its software is something to bear in mind before buying. Alternatively, Amazon and eBay may also occasionally churn up the Modular, and as it had a relatively long run there are enough copies that with significant digging it may be possible to track one down. Failing the online retailers, Facebook musicians’ forums are also a good bet. 

*prices generally seen on auction sites. If you see them cheaper, you may be on to a bargain.

Who Uses Or Used The Nord Modular G1?

Artists who used the Nord Modular, though not as common as those who favoured Moog or Yamaha products, include Nine Inch Nails, who used it in a music video, as well as electronic musician Apparat and electronic duo Autechre, showing the Modular’s appeal to artists in a wide variety of genres. 

Alternatives To The Nord Modular G1?

There are many different alternatives to the Clavia Nord Modular G1 whether as hardware or software. These are as follows: Nord Modular G2, Nord Mini Modular, Elektron Monomachine, Max MSP, Reaktor and many more.

However, when we compare it to the real thing it’s noticeable that the alternatives don’t quite stack up. They are a great option though for people with a lower budget.

Classic Nord Modular G1 Videos, Tutorials & Demos

A playlist of videos running through the top 100 patches on the Nord Modular G1, sound editing and mapping, as well as some creative patching. Some great tips in here so be sure to check them out!

Other Classic Synth or Drum Machine Products?

The famous Roland synths, drum machines and effects include: SH 101, MC 202, TB 303, TR 606, TR 707, TR 808, TR 909, Juno 60RE-201 Space Echo. Behringer Deepmind 12, Behringer K2, Behringer Model D, Elektron Machinedrum, Korg MS-20, Moog Model D, Moog Grandmother, Oberheim OB-6, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha DX7.

Where Can I Find A Nord Modular G1 For Sale?