Quick-Start

If you are eager to start making music with Mono right now, this couple of pages should get you started. There is a printed version of it in the box to be used as a cheat sheet. Projects 1 to 4 are full of ready-made patterns.

Panel Layout

Synthesis section

  1. Oscillator section : 2 oscillators with quantized frequency, bipolar detune and continuously variable waveform controls. Mod section with Thru-Zero Frequency Modulation (TZFM) and hard-sync from oscillator 1 to oscillator 2.
  2. Mixer section : set oscillators level. Above a certain oscillator level, the filter will softly saturate said oscillator, resulting in interesting timbre.
  3. Filter section : state Variable Filter with cutoff, resonance, continuously variable state, and bipolar envelope amount controls, as well as a keyboard tracking “Follow” switch. Filter is self-resonant at maximum resonance.
  4. Main envelope : a classic ADSR envelope. It is rettringering, meaning a new note will restart the cycle.
  5. Output volume : pretty self-explanatory, although it’s a digital control so it can also be modulated (Audio rate amplitude modulation ? Oh yes.)
  6. X-Modulator : parameter-dedicated modulation oscillators with 4 types - low frequency, low frequency synced, audio-rate, audio-rate quantized -, 4 waves - sine, triangle, square, sawtooth-, rate control and bipolar amount control.
  7. X-Envelope : parameter-dedicated AD envelope with attack, decay, and amount controls.

Each of the 20 synthesizer parameters have their own dedicated X-Mod and X-Env (even sync and follow), to access it, just gently move the knob of the parameter you want to select, the parameter LED will turn on.

Sequencer section

  1. Menu switches :
    • Run : start and stop the sequencer player
    • Pattern : select current pattern
    • Tempo : set tempo using up/down switches, step switches, or X-Mod amount knob for vinyl-like speed adjust.
    • Hold Func + Tempo to randomize something, see randomize bubble
    • Up/Down : select current octave. Hold func + Up/Down to rotate pattern. Press the 2 buttons to enter Mod Note mode, see mod note bubble.
    • Accent/Glide : Hold and press steps to add accent or glide. Hold func and press to undo/redo. Every single actions on Mono can be undoed.
    • Record : enter/leave record mode, in record mode, incoming notes from external and internal keyboard will be recorded, knobs movements will be recorded as automation as well.
    • Delete : Hold delete and press a page or step switch, or rotate a knob to delete associated data.
  2. Step switches : these 16 switches along with the page selection switches allow to edit the 64 step-sequence, and access other settings such as length, pattern, and synth settings.
    • Add note : press the switch to add seleted note
    • Edit note length : hold start position, then press end position
    • Edit pattern length : hold Func, press step
    • Change pattern : press pattern, press step
    • Manually enter tempo : hold tempo, enter digits with steps, release tempo
    • Edit settings : see settings cheat sheet
  3. Mini keyboard : Allow to select the note to be added on a step (shown by bright LED). Pressing the switch will play the associated note. The LED will reflect the current scale.
  4. Page switches : Select current page

To Copy/Paste : Hold func and press copy first (copy will blink), then select the item to be copied (step, page, knob automation, pattern or project). Hold func and press paste (paste will blink), then select the paste destination.

Settings : Hold Func and press desired settings, select value, press func to exit

Connectors

  1. DC IN : Use the included PSU power adapter connected to a power outlet.
  2. POWER : Turns the unit on and off.
  3. USB : Use an A to B USB 2.0 connector cable to a computer host.
  4. MIDI OUT : Midi data output, use a standard MIDI cable to connectto MIDI In of an external MIDI device. Outputs the currently playing sequence.
  5. MIDI THRU : Forwards data from MIDI IN. Use a standard MIDI cable to connect another MIDI device in the chain.
  6. MIDI IN : MIDI data input, use a standard MIDI cable to connect to MIDI Out of an external MIDI device.
  7. ACCENT OUT : Outputs a 5V gate signal at each accented steps, use a standard Eurorack cable.
  8. CV2 : Outputs one of the configurable source as an analog CV, use a standard Eurorack cable.
  9. GATE OUT : Outputs the current pattern note trigs as a 5V gate signal, use a standard ¼” Eurorack cable.
  10. CV OUT : Outputs the current pattern pitch as a 1V/Oct signal, use a standard Eurorack cable.
  11. RESET INPUT : CV clock reset input, use a standard Eurorack cable.
  12. CLOCK INPUT : CV clock pulse input, use a standard Eurorack cable.
  13. MAIN OUTPUT : Use a ¼” mono phone plug (unbalanced connection)

Mono vocabulary

Project : Top structure of mono data archtecture, holds 64 patterns, global settings and Mod Notes.

Pattern : A sequence of steps to be played in a loop

Step : An element holding informations to be sent to the synthesis engine to “play” sound.

Synth parameter : A parameter directly controlling the internal CVs of the underlying analog synthesis engine, such as Wave, Freq, Cutoff … Even though the envelope is digital, envelope parameters are considered synth parameters as well.

Modulation parameter : A parameter that modulates a given synth parameters. Each synth parameters have dedicated modulation parameters.

Patch : Every synth and modulation parameters that forms a particular sound. Each pattern holds its own patch.

Note trig : An information held in a step, triggering the synth engine with a given note.

Parameter offset : An information held in a step, offsetting the value of a given parameter for the duration of that step.

Mono sound architecture

Mono data architecture

Randomizer

Hold [FUNC] + [TEMPO] and :

  • Press a [PAGE] key : add between 1 and 4 random notes to the page, the added note are always in scale.
  • Press a [SEQ] key : Randomize every parameter of said step except its pitch
  • Press [GLIDE] or [ACCENT] key to add random glides and accents
  • Move a parameter's knob to create a random automation
  • Remember you can always undo if you don’t like what you hear

Mod note mode

In Mod Note mode, the keyboard no longer act as chromatic, each of the 8 bottom mini keyboard [NOTE] keys has its own set of parameters, its own timbre in a way.

Each project has 5 pages of Mod notes, scroll with [UP] or [DOWN] key. When the mode is activated, both [UP] and [DOWN] key LED are on.

To edit one of the moded note, hold a mini-keyboard key and set its parameter. You can then add steps of the selected moded note, or play live and record it.

Settings cheat sheet

Swing : Set the swing amount from none to max (16 values) with a [SEQ] key.

Scale : Set root note with [NOTE] keys, and scale with the [SEQ] keys.

1 Chromatic (default)
2 Major
3 Melodic minor
4 Harmonic minor
5 Arabic
6 Dorian
7 Aeolian
8 Phrygian
9 Gypsy
10 Mixolidian
11 Romanian minor
12 Gypsy minor
13 japanese
14 Spanish
15 blues

Transpose : Set transpose with [NOTE] keys for semi-tone transposition and [UP]/[DOWN] key for octave transposition.

Beat div : Change the beat division of the current pattern with a [SEQ] key, from 1 step per beat to 16.

MIDI/Clock : Set MIDI channel with [SEQ] key, and clock source with [PAGE] key.

1 USB 2 MIDI 3 CV

Pot Mode : Sets potentiometer mode.

1 Jump 2 Passthru 3 Relative

Bend Rg : Sets pitch bend range from 1 to 16 semitones with [SEQ] key.

CV2 Src : Sets the CV2 output source.

1 Osc1 freq
2 Osc2 freq
3 Cutoff
4 Envelope
5 Output level
6 Clock out

Param Snd : Enable/Disable CC parameter send.

1 Disabled 2 Enabled

Pgm Rcv : Wait to receive a project file as sysex.

Pgm Dump : Dump the current project as a sysex file

Intro

What is Norand Mono ? Well, (not so) simply put, it is an analog monophonic synthesizer with a large set of performance-oriented digital features. At the heart of this small synthesizer lies an all analog signal path, with uniquely designed circuit blocks. The circuits are not cloned from anything, they are original designs (at least to my knowledge, of course). Each of these analog blocks are voltage-controlled by powerful Digital-to-Analog converter, which allow for high-definition, independent audio-rate controls and modulations. The “brain” of the synth is a last-generation microcontroller running at a whooping 480MHz, which allow to smoothly compute these voltage source outputs.

Mono’s interface is split in three distinctive blocks :

The synthesis block : where most of the sound timbre is crafted, this is the top part of Mono, the synthesis block controls such as osc frequency, filter cut-off, etc, are called synth parameters.

The modulation block : where you can program modulations for synth parameters. This is not a single LFO and Envelope, every single synthesis parameters has its own, the modulation block controls are called modulation parameters.

The sequencer block : where you can record, edit, and play sequences of notes, parameters, modulations … On mono, everything is “sequencable”.

Now anyone with a decent understanding of synthesis can just power on Mono and start making music. Although, I want this manual to toroughly explain each elements. The synthesis part of this manual explains a lot of what Mono can do that other synth can’t do, it’s pretty technical but an important step to master the synth.

“So you expect me to read ?!”

Well … yes ! Mono is designed to be programmed by the user from scratch. Of course there are some presets, but they are not supposed to be your go-to when starting new sequences. The 303-like look is not there just because I find it beautiful, but what was amazing with these old-school synth was the spontaneity, ease of use, and instant fun. Now of course the more complicated and feature rich the synth is, the less spontaneous, thus the boring, RTFM part. The point of this manual is not just to give you a list of the features and stepby-step instructions, but how you can use these features in real world sound-design examples !

Synthesis Engine

Intro

By the looks of it, Mono has everything of an East Coast synthesizer. There is a clear signal flow from left to right, starting from the oscillators, through the filter, and finally to the amplifier. But the contextual modulations (X-Modulator and X-Envelope) let any users alters each synth parameters so deeply that one can effectively use west coast synthesis techniques to craft the timbre. Indeed, one can easily make a good sounding patch using a single oscillator with mono ! Let’s dive into each parts.

East coast synthesis

East coast synthesis usually describe subtractive synthesis techniques, where the sound designers start with an oscillator rich in harmonics, and then shape the sound by removing (subtracting) harmonics with filters.

West coast synthesis

West Coast synthesis describes a different approach. It tipically feature oscillators with simple shapes, that are then heavily modulated using FM and waveshaping techniques to create complex timbre.

Oscillator block

Mono offers 2 analog oscillators with continiously variable waveform, thru-zero frequency modulation, and hard sync. For the electronic geeks among us, the oscillators are based around a unique discrete asymetric integrator. In “layman” terms, it means that the triangle core waveform is not perfect, it is a bit “skewed”, which gives it and the sinus wave a slightly richer harmonic content.

Each oscillator have 3 parameters. The big [FREQ] knob adjusts the pitch in semitones, from C0 to C8. The [DETUNE] knob has a range of two semitones, with a pitch perfect 440Hz tuning in the middle.

The [WAVE] parameters smoothly fade from sinus, to triangle, to square and finally to sawtooth wave. You basically go from the dullest of sound to the richest in term of harmonics.

The two mod parameters gives you additional sound design tool : the [SYNC] key synchronize the wave cycle of oscillator 2 with oscillator 1, the [TZFM] parameter modulate the frequency of oscillator 2 · the carrier · with oscillator 1 · the modulator ·. It is analog thru-zero frequency modulation, which have a very rich distinctive sound.

Finally you can adjust the amount of both oscilltors fed to the filter with [OSC1] and [OSC2] parameters. At high gain, the oscillators overdrive the filter, so you can also use this parameter creatively.

Although limited compared to other big monosynths (only 2 oscillators ?! No noise ?! What is this ?), this oscillator block allows for a huge landscape of timbre, ranging from subtle bell-like sounds to very harsh saturated noise, all this without even touching contextual modulation. Adding the later makes for an very complex oscillator system. Just a simple exemple : use the X-Modulator at audio rate on the Freq parameter of both oscillator, and you get a 4-operator hybrid FM synth (for normal people, this translate to “You can do some pretty cool stuff with this synth”).

Oscillator Sync

I’m lazy so here is the wikipedia definition : As one oscillator · the master · finishes a cycle, it resets the period of another oscillator · the slave ·, forcing the latter to have the same base frequency. This can produce a harmonically rich sound, the timbre of which can be altered by varying the synced oscillator's frequency. And here is a nice schematic with sawtooth wave exemple.

Thru-Zero Frequency modulation

FM (Frequency Modulation) is a very deep subject with whole books written about it, I’ll do my best to explain it shortly. Let’s start with what FM is : the output of one oscillator · the modulator · is used to control the frequency of another oscillator · the carrier ·. This will in turn enrich the harmonic content of the carrier, by effectively “spliting” each of it’s base harmonic. There are two main type of FM : exponential and linear. Unlike exponential FM, linear FM can reach zero hertz, which basically stops the oscillators, which is not very pleasing in term of musicality. Thru-zero FM alleviate this problem by introducing “negative” frequency. When the oscilator reaches zero hertz, it will reverse it’s cycle and start oscillating backward, and when it crosses zero hertz, it will reverse again back to “positive” frequencies. Note that I put negative and positive in quote, in the real world there is no such thing as negative frequency.

Filter block

Mono’s filter is a resonant filter with low-pass, high-pass and band-pass output. Like the oscillator, it is a unique design : discrete integrator cells arranged in a three cell 18dB slope state-variable filter. It features a stable self oscillation at maximum resonance and it is precisely tuned like the oscillators. When driven hard, it saturates the input signal asymetrically · only the negative voltage is clipped ·.

The [CUTOFF] parameter sets the frequency, from C-1 to C10. Although you wont necesarily ear it because it is smoothed, the filter knob is quantized to semi-tone (just the knob, not the modulations). This is a controversed feature, but this is the only way to make the filter resonance perfectly tuned with the oscillator.

The [RESONANCE] parameters goes from very attenuated cutoff point to self-resonant, with lots of nice things in the middle. The resonance peak is quite shallow, which allow to “scan” the harmonic content of the input when swept.

The [COLOR] parameters continuously fade from band-pass, to low-pass, to high-pass output. On these type of continous outputs, you’ll usually find band-pass in the middle, but I find that quite boring, so there’s that. There are some very interesting timbre in between each output. For exemple, put the knob halfway betwen low-pass and high-pass, and you get a resonant all-pass filter !

The [FOLLOW] key toggles keyboard follow : when enabled, cutoff frequency is linked to the current note pitch.

Finally the [ENV AMOUNT] parameter adjust how much of the main envelope contour is applied to the cutoff frequency parameter. It’s bipolar : no effect in the center position, positive envelope in the clockwise direction, and negative envelope in the counter-clockwise direction.

Amplifier and main envelope

There is not much to say here, the [VOLUME] parameters surprisingly adjust the output volume. The envelope is a (somewhat) classic exponential ADSR envelope with no retriggering.

There is a case where it doesn’t behave like a classic analog envelope though : Usually when given a short trigger, an ADSR will perform its attack cycle only if very short, and then the release cycle. If the trigger is too short or the attack is long, it wont even reach the maximum level. If this was the case here, the attack parameter would be useless when using the sequencer.

Here is how it works instead : when the gate is shorter than the attack time, the envelope acts as an AD envelope : it will perform a full attack cycle, and then a decay cycle down to 0.

Modulation

Intro

This is where all the fun begins … Remember your old synth where you get to play with one LFO that you can assign to a 2 or 3 parameters ? Those were great ! Then the digital era introduced “Modulation matrix” which are admitedly much better in terms of synthesis possibilities, but are kind of a pain in the ass to work with. One of my favorite feature with software synths is the fact that one can have an unlimited amount of modulators for every possible synthesis parameters, Mono implements this without menu-diving or 200 potentiometers.

Contextual modulators

When you select something in a software, you usually get a contextual menu apearing somewhere. Mono’s X-modulator and X-envelope works in a same way. When you slightly move a parameter’s potentiometer, it will be selected (a selected parameter is indicated by a bright LED). You can then edit that parameters AD envelope and modulator.

Every single parameters of Mono has its own envelope and modulator with their dedicated settings, there is no limitations. That’s 20 Modulators and 16 AD envelopes. the main envelope parameters don’t have envelope, that wouldn’t make sense.

To help you remember which parameters have a modulation activated, their pot’s LED are slightly lit. If you have tons of modulation on a patch and you are lost, you can also double click and hold the [FUNC] key, the potentiometer LED intensity will reflect the modulation of each parameters as long as you hold [FUNC].

X-Envelope

The X-Envelopes are AD envelopes triggered by the sequencer’s note trig or incoming MIDI. Like the main envelope, they always complete their attack cycle before going to the decay cycle. The [ATTACK] and [DECAY] potentiometers controls attack and decay times, and the [AMOUNT] potentiometer controls the envelope amount. Like the filter, it is bipolar, you can have negative or positive envelopes.

X-Modulator

The X-Modulators are simple oscillators, I didn’t call them LFO because one of their best use case is in audio rate mode.

The [WAVE] key cycles between sinusoidal, triangle, square and sawtooth waveform.

The [TYPE] key let you select one of the 3 types : LFO (LED off), synced LFO (LED blinking), and Audio Rate (LED on). LFO mode gives you rates between 40 seconds and 100ms, synced LFO has 12 different sync values, and resets at the biginning of the pattern. At audio-rate you get a tuned modulator ranging from C0 to C8. In audio rate, the X-modulators follows oscillator 1 frequency. The waveform are anti-aliased before analog conversion.

A few examples

Kick drum

A kick drum starts with a simple tone with a pitch envelope.

  • Open the filter
  • turn up oscillator one
  • Set oscillator 1 wave to sinus
  • Set a low frequency to oscillator 1
  • Select Oscillator 1
  • Set X-Env Attack to minimum
  • Set X-Env Decay center
  • Slowly turn X-Env amount clockwise while triggering Mono
  • Et voilà, the beginning of your own amazing kick

Evolving phase effect

When 2 oscillators frequency are very close, it leads to interesting phase effect. If you modulate that frequency with an LFO, the effect will evolve in time, leading to even nicer subtle changes.

  • Open the filter
  • Turn up both oscillator
  • Set both oscillator frequency to the same pitch
  • Select oscillator 1 detune
  • Set X-Mod to LFO or Synced LFO
  • Set X-Mod Rate as you see fit
  • Slowly turn X-Mod amount, either way
  • Let the magic happen

Pinged FM sound

Most string instrument have a rich harmonic content at the beginning, and then slowly fade to a more muffled sound. In East-Coast synthesis this is usually imitated with a enveloped low-pass filter. West-Coast approach usually involve FM instead, here is one way to do it :

  • Open the filter
  • turn up oscillator 2
  • Set oscillator 2 to sinus wave
  • Set oscillator 1 and 2 frequency 1 octave appart (or not)
  • Select FM parameter
  • Set X-Env Attack to minimum
  • Set X-Env Decay center
  • Slowly turn X-Env amount clockwise while triggering Mono
  • The more you open it, the bigger the effect

Filter FM

Mono’s filter responds really well to frequency modulation, it’s a cool option to add harmonic content to any patch.

  • Start with any patch you want
  • Select filter cutoff parameter
  • Set X-Mod to audio-rate
  • Set X-Mod rate dead center (frequency will be the same as osc1)
  • Turn X-Mod amount left or right to add FM
  • Changing X-Mod wave gives different FM “flavour”

Sequencer

Intro

Mono’s sequencer does everything you’d expect from an integrated sequencer, and more. I tried to implement everything that made sense, without clutering the interface too much. The sequencer was designed to give musicans a way to fully customize sequences by recording automation on any desired parameters. The powerful clocking system makes mono extremely versatile, wether you are in the studio, in live situation or even in DJ sets. Mod Note mode replace notes by user defined timbre.

Projects and basic pattern operation

Projects

Mono holds 32 projects in memory. When booting up, the last saved projects opens. Projects needs to be saved to be persisted in memory, save by holding [FUNC] and hitting [SAVE]. To load a project, hold [FUNC] and hit [LOAD]. Projects are organised into pages of 16, use the [PAGE] key to select a page (projects 1 to 16 are on page A, projects 17 to 32 on page B), then hit a [SEQ] key to load the desired projects. Don’t forget to save the current project before loading another one ! Saving and loading is very fast (less than a second) and doesn’t break tempo, you can safely load and save in the middle of a live show.

  • Projects can be changed while the sequencer is running
  • While in project load mode, hold [FUNC] + [PASTE] and press a [SEQ] key to copy the current project to the desired slot. Note that the previous projects of that slot will be permanently erased.

Patterns

The 64 patterns of a project are organised into 4 pages, hit the [PATTERN] key to open pattern selection mode, then select a [PAGE] and hit a [SEQ] key to set the current pattern. For exemple, press C, then 5 to select the C05 pattern. Temporarily holding a [SEQ] key will play the pattern as long as it is held, the previous pattern will resume playing when releasing the key. Press [PATTERN] again to quit pattern selection mode. You can also hold the [PATTERN] key to select a pattern.

  • Patterns can be changed while the sequencer is running.
  • Patterns can be changed with program changes messages.
  • While in pattern selection mode, hold [FUNC] + [COPY] and hit a [SEQ] key to copy the desired pattern, then hold [FUNC] + [PASTE] and hit the destination [SEQ] key.
  • Hold [FUNC] + [DELETE], and hit a [SEQ] key to clear the desired pattern. Note that undoing a pattern clear can only be done once, if you clear a pattern, make a new one, and clear that, you wont be able to recall the first cleared pattern.

Pattern control

Press [RUN] to start the playback of a pattern, press [RUN] again to stop and reset. The [SEQ] keys LEDs indicate the playback position. If a pattern contains more than 16 steps, the [PAGE] keys LED indicate the position. The currently selected page is indicated by a dimmed LED.

Pattern Length

Hold [FUNC] and hit [LENGTH] to open the pattern length setting. You are now familiar with the next step : select “page” length with a [PAGE] key, then the actual length with a [SEQ] key. For exemple for a 50 step pattern, press [PAGE] D and [SEQ] 2 (3x16+2), should be doable even after a few beers. Hit [FUNC] to leave setting mode.

Tempo

When clocked internally, there are several ways to change the current tempo.

  • Hold [TEMPO] and press [UP] or [DOWN] to increment or decrement the tempo by 1.
  • Hold [TEMPO] and enter a number with the 0 to 9 [SEQ] key. For exemple, for 135BPM, hold [TEMPO] press [SEQ] 1, then 3, then 5, and release [TEMPO].
  • Tap the [TEMPO] key in a steady rythm at least 4 times to set a tempo manually. After four consecutive taps, the average tempo of the taps will be calculated. By continuing tapping, the average tempo will keep on updating.
  • Hold [TEMPO] and rotate the X-MOD [AMOUNT] potentiometer to speed up/slow down tempo by +/-16%, the pot center being 0. Similar to a turntable pitch fader.

Play modes

You can change the behaviour of the sequencer when a pattern switch occurs with the play mode setting. There are 3 play modes, if you are familiar with Elektron gear, they are equivalent (no need to reinvent what’s already great right ?).

  • Sequential (default) : The pattern switch occurs at the end of the currently playing pattern
  • Direct Jump : The pattern switch occurs immediatly, the new pattern will start from the position where the previous pattern left off.
  • Direct Start : The pattern switch occurs immediatly, the new pattern will start playing from the beginning.

Loop mode

Loop mode is alive oriented features that allow you to play a small part of pattern temporily. It is specially useful in live situation to create movement on-the-fly. To enable it, hold [FUNC] select your start point byt hitting a [SEQ] key, then the end point with another [SEQ] key. The loop will start at the nxt step after releasing the [FUNC] key. To leave the loop, hit [FUNC] again. The full pattern will resume playback as if it was running in the background. Loop mode only works on a single page, selecting a start point located after the end point plays the loop backward.

Song mode

It is posible to chain up to 8 patterns to create a song. When a song is playing, it will play the selected pattern sequentially, and loop back to the first one at the end. To create a song, you need to be in pattern mode, press [PATTERN], the LED should be on. Once in pattern mode, hold [PATTERN] and hit the [SEQ] key of the pattern you want to add to your song in the corrent order (you can add the same pattern several time). Once you release [PATTERN], your song will start playing. To leave song mode, press a [SEQ] key.

Patchless pattern

When playing a song with normal patterns, the patch of the patterns will be called at each jump, so if you have the same patch on several pattern, it will be recalled as it was on each jump. If you are modulating a parameter live, this is not the behaviour you expect from the synth.

To remedy this issue, you can set a pattern in “patchless mode”. A patchless pattern won’t call it’s associated patch when it starts, it will keep the previous pattern patch. This way you can create a song with the same patch by setting each pattern in patchless mode (not the first one obviously).

To set a pattern in patchless mode, hold [PATTERN] and hit [RECORD], the blinking [PATTERN] LED indicate that the current pattern is patchless. Hold [PATTERN] and press [RECORD] to disable patchless mode.

Editing a pattern

There are two ways of adding notes and automations with mono : either by inputing it manually, or by recording it live while the sequencer is running in record mode. Each step contains informations that dictates the behaviour of the synthesis engine at said step. A step can trigger a note with a note trig, but can also contain only parameter offsets which alters the timbre.

Mini keyboard

The [NOTE] keys acts like a one octave keyboard (without velocity of course). You can play note to preview your current patch, use it in record mode, and select the currently active note. When booting up, the active note is C4, the selected note is indicated by a bright [NOTE] key LED. Press a [NOTE] key to change the currently selected note. Use the [UP] and [DOWN] key to change the current octave. There are 9 octaves available, from C0 to C10.

Adding notes manually

Adding note trigs manually on Mono is quite simple : just hit the desired [SEQ] key, it adds a note trig on that step with the currently selected [NOTE]. An active step is indicated by a bright LED. Select the page where you want to add note with the [PAGE] key. To remove a note trig, hit a step with an active note trig, the led will turn off.

Recording notes

You can record incoming notes live using the [NOTE] keys or an external keyboard. Enable recording by pressing the [RECORD] key. The [RECORD] key LED indicates weither the record mode is enabled or not. Recording a note on top of an already active note trig overwrites it. Notes are recorded with a precise timestamp and wont be quantized. To quantize the recorded note you need to reset their microshift value.

Change the pitch of a note

Hold the [SEQ] key of an active step and hit the desired [NOTE] key. You can also change the octave by holding the [SEQ] key and hitting [UP] or [DOWN].

Note length

Single step note trigs, and very short recorded note have a particular behaviour on Mono. Classic ADSR envelope will not do much with a short pulse, if the attack is longer than a few ms, you won’t hear anything … Fortunatly Mono’s envelope are digital ! Basically, when the sequencer hits a single step note trig, the envelope will act as an AD envelope, ignoring sutain and release values. It was actually implemented by mistake, but I found it amazing so I kept it.

Anyway, to edit a note length, hold the [SEQ] key of the desired step, and hit the [SEQ] key where you want the note to end. The length will be visible with dimmed [SEQ] LEDs.

Step parameters

Accent

Accent can be added on a per step basis. Hit [ACCENT] to open accent mode, and hit the desired [SEQ] key to add or remove accents from steps. In accent mode, the active note trigs are shown by a dim [SEQ] key LED, active accents are shown by a bright [SEQ] key LED. Hit [ACCENT] again to leave accent mode. The same can be done when just holding the [ACCENT] key.

Accent parameters

By default an accent slightly increase the amp level and the filter cut-off frequency, but this is entirely customisable. To set your own accent paremeters on the active pattern, start by clearing it by holding [DELETE] and hitting [ACCENT]. Then hold [ACCENT] and turn any parameter potentiometer to the desired value. The value stored in memory is an offset from the initial value to the last position of the potentiometer. For exemple, if the cutoff value is set dead center and you move it 20% to the right while holding [ACCENT], every accented steps will have a higher cut-off frequency by this amount, whatever the current value is, or if there is automation on that step. You can add as many values as you want, be it synth parameters or modulation parameters.

Slide

Slide can be added on a per step basis. Hit [SLIDE] to open slide mode, and hit the desired [SEQ] key to add or remove slide to a step. When a slide is active on a step, all the step parameters will slide linearly to the next step parameters (note as well as parameter offsets). In slide mode, the active note trigs are shown by a dim [SEQ] key LED, active slide are shown by a bright [SEQ] key LED. Hit [SLIDE] again to leave slide mode. The same can be done when just holding the [SLIDE] key.

Microshift, probability, ratchet

Each step of a pattern contain a microshift, probability, and ratchet value, these 3 parameters together allow musicians to create very organic sequence, it’s an excelent way to break the 4/4 monotony that usually entails x0x-style sequencer. To edit one of these parameters, hold [FUNC] + the desired [SEQ] key, and set the value with [MICROSHIFT], [PROBABILITY] or [RATCHET] potentiometer.

  • Microshift : The microshift parameter shifts the starting point of a step forward or backward by up to ½ step.
  • Ratchet : The ratchet parameter multiply the number of note trigs in a single step. From 1 (default behaviour) when the pot is fully counterclockwise to 16 fully clockwise. The trigs are evenly distributed on the time between the start of the selected step and the start of the next step, even when both have different microshift values.
  • Probability : The probability as its name suggests gives note trigs a certain probability to be sent to the synth engine or not. From 100% probability hard left, to 0% hard right. When combined with the ratchet value, each ratcheted note trigs are subjected to the probability parameter.

Parameter offsets or automations

Mono automations works a bit differently from most of the other hardware synthesizer I know of. They are not “step-lock” with a fixed value but rather offset value from the actual position of the potentiometer. When adding a parameter offset to a step, each time said step is triggered by the sequencer the parameter will be “offseted” from the potentiometer position by the amount of the parameter offset value.

Say a parameter value ranges between 0 and 100, and the potentiometer of this parameter is set dead center. Then current value, or potentiometer value is 50. If you add an offset value to a step by holding a [SEQ] and turning said potentiometer a bit to the right, say to 60. Then you are adding a parameter offset of 10 to that step. Now each time the sequencer play that step, it will add an offset of 10 to said parameter, and go back to the current value, or to the actual potentiometer value at the next step.

Each step can hold up to 48 parameter offsets, it is possible to add offsets to every parameters, either synth parameters (filter cut-off, oscillator waves, enveloppe decay…) or modulation parameters (filter resonance X-MOD Rate, oscillator frequency X-ENV amount …).

This features really turns Mono sequencer into a powerhouse, everything can be sequenced, and sequencing parameters doesn’t “fix” the parameters value, but it adds a sequence “on top” of the current potentiometer position, so you can still fiddle with the knobs in live situation.

Parameter offset visualisation

By default, the [SEQ] LEDs doesn’t show which step holds recorded parameter offsets, and the only way to know that a parameter is automated is by using your ears, which can be very difficult on complex patterns. There is way to immediatly visualise everything : double tap and hold [FUNC]. The synth LEDs will change to show different informations.

  • The [SEQ] LEDs indicates weither or not a step holds parameter offset informations. The brighter they are, the more parameter offsets they holds.
  • The potentiometer LEDs indicate if a parameter has offsets recorded somewhere on the pattern, they will also flash if one or more modulation values have offsets.
  • You can as usual select a parameter by slightly moving a pot, this way you can see exactly which modulation parameter have recorded offsets.

Adding parameter offsets

To add a parameter offset on a step, hold a [SEQ] key, and turn the desired knob either way to add an offset, the more you turn the knob, the bigger the offset. The same can be done to modulation parameters, don’t forget to select the synth parameter on which you want to add the modulation parameter offset first (that’s a lot of words,sorry about that).

Recording parameter offsets

One can also record parameter offsets while in record mode : enable the mode with the [RECORD] key, and turn a parameter knob while the sequencer is playing. This will add a parameter offset on each step where a parameter knob position change is detected, so you need to continually move the knob to add offsets at every steps. This is a bit strange at first but it was mandatory, otherwise everything would be recorded at 0 offset as soon as [RECORD] is enabled, that’s obviously not the best behaviour …

Note that when recording automation on the [FREQ] parameter, the recorded parameter offsets will be quantized to the current scale.

To create interesting effects in a pattern, it is possible to unlink the X-Envelope triggers from the note trigs. When doing so, the X-Envelope of the selected parameter will be replaced by the one entered on the [SEQ] keys.

To create an unlinked X-Env sequence, start by selecting the desired parameter, [CUTOFF] for exemple. Then hold [TYPE] + [WAVE], and hit [SEQ] keys to create your unlinked sequence. As you see the bright [KEY] show the unlinked sequence. To disable an unlinked sequence and trig the X-Env with the note trigs again, you need to disable all the unlinked trigs.

Copy paste and clear

To copy a step, hold [FUNC] + [COPY] then hit the [SEQ] key of the step to be copied. To paste, hold [FUNC] + [PASTE], and hit the destination [SEQ] key. Clear a step by holding [DELETE] and hitting the desired [SEQ] key. These step operations acts on every parameters : note, accent, slide, parameter offset and so on.

The same can be done with full pages, use the desired [PAGE] key instead.

To copy a whole parameter automation (every parameter offsets on the pattern), hold [FUNC] + [COPY] and slightly move the potentiometer of the desired parameter. To paste, hold [FUNC] + [PASTE] and slightly move the target parameter. To clear a whole parameter hold [DELETE] and slightly move the desired potentiometer.

You can also copy, paste and clear a patch, to do so, use the [RECORD] button : To copy, hold [FUNC] + [COPY] and press [RECORD]. Navigate to the pattern where you want to paste the patch, hold [FUNC] + [PASTE] and hit [RECORD]. To delete a patch, hold [DELETE] and press [RECORD]. The patch will initialize to the physical position of the knobs.

Undo/Redo operations

Every single actions of the sequencer are undoable. If you are not quite happy with a recorded automation, you can undo it. Hate that change of pitch on the last 4 notes ? Undo it. Not so bad in the end ? Redo it. Simple hold [FUNC] and hit [UNDO] to undo and … you guessed it, hold [FUNC] and hit [REDO] to redo.

Pattern settings

Scale and root note

To set up a scale and a key, hold [FUNC] and hit [SCALE]. Set up the root note with the [NOTE] key and set the scale with the [SEQ] key. Here is the list of the scale and their related [SEQ] key. Scale and root are mostly useful with the randomizer, more on the next section. You can visualize the selected scale on the mini keyboard. Only the [NOTE] key LED in the selected scale are on, with the root note a bit brighter. If you are alergic to music theory, this is a pretty handy tool.

Transpose

To transpose a whole pattern hold [FUNC] and hit [TRANSPOSE], you can select the transposition level with the [NOTE] keys. Use the [UP] and [DOWN] key to transpose to a full octave.

Beat division

To set up the pattern beat division, hold [FUNC] and hit [BEAT DIV]. The selected [SEQ] key describe how many steps are played each beat, default is 4.

Swing

To set up the swing value of the current pattern, hold [FUNC] and hit [SWING]. Set the swing with the [SEQ] key, 1 being no swing, and 16 maximum swing.

Mod Note mode

The mod note mode is a little bonus mode that allow users to create up to 40 custom temporary patch or timbre per projects to be played and recorded. Hit [UP] + [DOWN], both keys LED should be on indicating that you enabled Mod Note mode. The 8 bottom [NOTE] keys each represent a timbre, you can’t use them to play pitch anymore.

The mod notes are scoped to the project, each project can hold 40 mod notes, separated into 5 pages, you can scroll the pages with the [UP] and [DOWN] key.

To set up the timbre, hold one of those key, say the D [NOTE] key, and change any parameter you want by setting potentiometter to the desired position. Every time you play that key, the timbre that you recorded will be played. It is not recorded as offsets, and therefore not limited to the 48 parameters limit. It will virtually turn the potentiometer to the recorded positions. You can add note trigs just as you would do in normal mode to create a sequence.

The next note trig played by the sequencer after a mod note will revert the synth parameters back to the normal values. So you can use these mod Notes to create “accident” in an otherwise simple pattern by playing it live for exemple. Or create weird pattern using different timbre. Go back to normal mode by pressing [UP] + [DOWN] again.

Copy and paste operations

One can copy/paste a Mod note, hold [FUNC] + [COPY], hit the mod note [NOTE] key you want to copy, then hold [FUNC] + [PASTE] and hit the destination [NOTE] key.

You can also “import/export” mod note to the current patch. To copy the current patch to a mod note, hold [RECORD] and press the desired [NOTE] key. Inversely, hold a [NOTE] key and press [RECORD] to copy a mod note to the current patch.

Randomizer

Mono features several randomizing features to assist the musician creative process. They allow to explore the depth of Mono’s synthesis engine. There are differents randomize options : randomize page, step, parameter, accent, slide, and Mod Note.

Page randomizer

The page randomizer is useful to get a pattern going quickly, or to create alternative pattern starting from a base pattern. It adds between 1 and 4 note trigs with random pitch on said page. The pitch is always quantized to the scale of the pattern, this way, you can safely use it in live situation. Of course you can undo/redo this operation, it was designed to be used as an “additive tool”, you can start from scratch on an empty pattern or create alterations on a rythmic pattern, and then undo to go back to the original pattern. The added step won’t contain parameter offsets, probability, ratchet or microshift. They will however be slided or acented at random.

To randomize a page, hold [FUNC] + [TEMPO], and hit the desired [PAGE] key.

Pitch randomizer

The pitch randomizer allows to randomize the pitch of all the active note on the current pattern. It won’t add or remove notes. As you might expect, the pitch of the randomized pitch will be quantized to the current scale.

To randomize pitch, hold [FUNC] + [TEMPO], and hit the [PATTERN] key.

Step randomizer

The step randomizer as its name suggests randomize a single step. It adds a random note trig to the desired step, the pitch is also quantized to the pattern. It will also randomize some synth parameter offsets. The parameter offsets being randomized are selected at random, and the value as well. To avoid going too wild, only the synth parameters are randomized, not the modulation parameters. The Freq and detune parameter are never randomized to keep the randomized step in tune.

To randomize a step, hold [FUNC] + [TEMPO], and hit the desired [SEQ] key.

Parameter randomizer

The parameter randomizer basically creates a random automation on a modulation or synth parameter. There is a 50% chance that a parameter offset is added on each step. The random value is also bounded to a range set by the musician, the offsets will never exceed these values.

To randomize a parameter, hold [FUNC] + [TEMPO], turn the desired parameter to the desired lower bound, then turn it the other way, to the desired upper bound. On releasing [FUNC], the parameter will be randomized.

Accent and slide randomizer

To randomize accent or slide on a pattern, hold [FUNC] + [TEMPO], and hit [ACCENT] or [SLIDE], it will clear the current accent/slide and place accent/slide on note trigs at random.

Mod note randomizer

The Mod note randomizer is the wildest of all, it allow musician to randomize a Mod Note in the Mod Note mode. Since it is not limited to the 48 parameter offsets per step, it randomizes every single synth and modulation parameters. The result will usually be extremely weird bleep noises, but we all love that don’t we ?

To randomize a Mod note you need to enable the Mod Note mode with [UP] + [DOWN]. Hold [FUNC] + [TEMPO], then hit one of the 8 bottom [NOTE] key to randomize the desired mod note.

Project settings

First thing first, let’s be honest, editing settings on Mono is not the best user experience, there is no way to make the process easy without a display, so you either need a good memory, or you need to keep the cheat sheet close. The process is always the same though, hold [FUNC], hit the desired settings, use the [SEQ] and [PAGE] key to select the desired value. Exit by hitting [FUNC] again.

MIDI/Clock

This setting allow to set Mono MIDI channel and clock source. Use the [SEQ] button to select the midi channel from 1 to 16, and use the page button to set the clock source. there are 4 clock source :

  • Internal [PAGE 1] (default) : Mono uses its internal clock, and [RUN] key to manage playback.
  • MIDI [PAGE 2] : Mono uses the clock received on the MIDI port, playback operation is handled with MIDI start stop messages.
  • USB [PAGE 3] : Mono uses the clock received on the USB port, playback operation is handled with MIDI start stop messages.
  • CV [PAGE 4] : Mono uses its CV clock input as clock. In this mode, each step is triggered by an incomming pulse signal at the CV clock input, and the pattern restarts everytime a pulse is received at the reset input. Note that when using CV clock, some features of Mono can’t work : microshift, ratchet, and swing. This mode really shines lwhen using weird semi-random clock source like a Make Noise Wogglebug.

Pot mode

The [POT MODE] setting changes the behaviour of the potentiometers when the physical potentiometers doesn’t reflect the internal stored value. This happens on synth parameters when switching pattern, and on modulation parameters when selecting another synth parameters or editing ratchet, probability or microshift. There are three modes :

  • Jump [SEQ 1] (default) : Uses absolute value based upon the position of the pot when edited. Turn a pot and the parameter value jumps immediately from the stored value to the edited value.
  • Passthru [SEQ 2] :Turning the pot has no effect until after the edited value equals the stored value (that is, until the edited value “pass through” the stored value).
  • Relative [SEQ 3] : Changes are relative to the stored setting. In relative mode, the full value range is not available until either the minimum or the maximumvalue and the respective lower or upper limit of the pot’s travel is reached. For exemple, say the cut-off parameter has an internal value range of 0 to 100 (chill out geeks, it is 16 bit internally). Say the physical position of the pot is at 80 and you load a program with a stored value of 20. Turning the pot all the way up will only set the parmeter to 40. To get the maximum value you first have to turn down until the value is at the other bound of the range, in this case 0, or fully counterclockwise.

Bend Rg

The [BEND RG] sets the range of the pitch wheel bend in semitones, use the [SEQ] keys to select the range from 1 to 16, 3 being the default value.

CV2 Src

[CV2 SRC] settings allow to change the source of the CV2 output, 4 sources are available :

  • Osc1 [SEQ 1] (default) : The CV2 out outputs the current value of Osc1 frequency in V/Oct, between -5/+5V.
  • Cut-off [SEQ 2] : The CV2 out outputs the current value of the cut-off frequency in V/Oct, between -5/+5V.
  • Envelope [SEQ 3] : The CV2 out outputs the main envelope between 0/+8V.
  • CV Clock [SEQ 4] :The CV2 out outputs a quarter note CV Clock from theinternal clock of Mono. In this setting, a reset signal replaces the accent at the [ACCENT] output.

Update and calibration

Updating firmware

The firmware file is a standard .syx file. To update connect Mono to a computer using the USB cable (MIDI won’t work). Hold [PATTERN] + [RUN] and power the unit. The [SEQ] LEDs will flash. Launch your favorite sysex program (“Sysex Librarian” on OS X, “MIDI SysEx Transfer Utility” on windows and “amidi” on linux have all been tested). Set the output to Mono, and “Delay between messages” at 1ms. Open the monosynth_VX.X.syx file, and press send. The transfer takes about a minute or two. [SEQ] LEDs will show the progress. Once update is done, the synth will boot as usual.

Oscillators calibration

Like every analog synthesizer, the oscillators needs to be calibrated from time to time. Mono’s oscillator and filter are no exception. To calibrate the oscillator and filter, turn off the unit, hold [C] + [D], and turn the unit back on. The calibration procedure will start. The [SEQ] LEDs indicate the progresss of calibration of each oscillator and filter, so it will restart at the beginning twice. The calibration procedure takes about 3 minutes. It is recommanding to calibre Mono when it is hot, after being powered for at least 15 minutes. Note that the VCA is open when calibrating, so either disconnect the output or mute the synth’s channel !

Resonance calibration

The maximum amount of resonance you want to get out of your synth is very subjective. Some people like very distorted self-oscillating resonance, others prefer no self-oscillation. On Mono it is possible to calibrate the maximum resonance level. To do so, turn off the synth, hold [C#] + [D#], and turn it back on. [PATTERN] and [RUN] LED will flash. You can play the synth normally and set the resonance at desired maximum level (best way is to turn down both osc level, hold a note and increase resonance until you are happy with the self-oscillation level). When you’re done, press [RUN], the resonance maximum will be saved.

Midi implementation

Velocity

The velocity value of an incoming MIDI note affects the amplification level of that note, internal default value is 100, any incoming value below 100 will result in a quietter note, any value above it, a louder note.

Parameter editing via CC

Mono synth and modulation parameters can be edited via control change message, it is also possible to select the active parameter via CC. Potentially, the synth engine can be entirely controlled via MIDI. It is also possible to send the parameter automation with the [PARAM SND] setting, on the same CC. This is disabled by default.

CC parameter table

Program change

Mono supports program change to switch pattern, send a program change between 0 and 63 to set the current pattern. Note that play mode will affect the behavior just as it would if you switch pattern manually.

Program dump/receive

Program dump allow to dump a project as a MIDI sysex file to a computer, it is useful if you need room for new projects, or simply as a backup. To dump a program, launch your Sysex software, set it in rception mode with Mono as source, hold [FUNC] and press [PGM DUMP].

To load a project back to mono, open the projects in which you want to receive the sysex file, hold [FUNC] and press [PGM RCV]. On your sysex software, send the project to Mono. As soon as you save the received project, it will overwrite the old one permanently.