Ring modulators... why?!

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Kwesi, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. Ok, I LOVE effects. I mean, why would I hang around here if I didn't :D? There's an arseload of cool junk out there for not only bass but a bunch of other instruments as well. But here's my problem, the vast majority of effects have sounds that can be used effectively in a variety of musical situations but that "vast majority" seems to exclude ring modulators. For the life of me, I cannot understand their purpose and I've never heard one generate anything more than noise. They seem to be fairly well-known and somewhat widely used and I just can't figure out why. I can totally see one being used for sound effects in movies or using soundscapes to create a mood but beyond that, I'm at a loss.

    I did own a pedal that did ring modulation, at one point. For about 4 days I had a WMD Geiger Counter. It actually had some bad ass sounds but 1) It was just too much pedal for me to handle and 2) Every time I heard a hint of ring modulation I wanted to chuck it out of the nearest window. It lived long enough to be sold, thankfully.

    So, can you really make music with a ring mod or are they just fun to dick around with.
  2. Kobaia


    Oct 29, 2005
    Denton TX
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amp Gruv Gear and Mono Cases
    i personally dont get ring mods. unless they follow the pitch signal
  3. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Listen to some DEVO for examples of "really making music with a ring mod". That said, good luck finding any other successful examples. :p

    Adding to the thought-mix: sometimes "dicking around" leads to creative ideas that become useful, and sometimes that use takes a different form. E.g. a stepped sample-and-hold LFO controlling a filter can lead to melodic ideas that can be performed without the effect. Or a delay can lead to rhythmic ideas to be performed without the delay. Etc. The ring mod can give you some great ideas about harmony and dissonance.
  4. the ring modulator it's used extensively on the Beaubourg album, by vangelis. that is a clear example (on a personal note, beaubourg sounds like vangelis just playing random melodies he once learned).
  5. warwick.hoy


    Aug 20, 2006
    Spokane, WA.
    Beta Tester: Source Audio.
    Well,...I use a ring mod (Montreal Assembly C.A. Ring Modulator) pretty extensively in Mecha Shiva,....but Mecha Shiva isn't you everyday band. We are pretty much a trio of loosely organized dicking around.

    Ring Mod into Delay = titz.

    Also,...will you come play ping pong with me?

  6. Knettgummi


    Sep 28, 2011
    I love my Moogerfooger ringmod, but I can definitely understand that it is not for everyone. If you're into jazz-rock or similar contemporary/experimental styles it can be a fantastic tool for creating interesting chromatic, dissonant or microtonal progressions. Artists like the Mars Volta or Stian Westerhus (a personal favorite) make that RM work like all hell (and Mecha Shiva - hey, cool stuff btw).

    Using RM effectively requires a bit of know-how IMO - it's not one of those "switch it on and go"-effects. But if you understand the signal processing that it does and how side-bands work, you can tune (or detune) it much more purposefully.

    The guitarist in my band also uses a ringmod in combination with a pitch-following algorithm - sounds amazing!
  7. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    i think ring mod is a "status symbol" effect; only when you are rich and famous is when people would listen to the noise you make in it as music.


    something like that.
  8. It seems to me that one's better off when you treat the ring modulator as an instrument itself which you trigger with your bass...
  9. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    Pure, unaltered ringmod is tough to use, but with blending, filtering, and tuning the oscilator I think you can get tones that are usable in a (maybe slightly odd) rock band. Plus, it really is a ton of fun to just dick around with one.
  10. bigchiefbc

    bigchiefbc Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2006
    Rhode Island, USA
    There are examples of ring mod to make "musical" sounding riffs, but most of the ones off the top of my head are on guitar. Listen to the solo in Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and the opening riff to Mars Volta's "Eriatarka". And, as Bongo said, there is always Devo. So yes, it is quite possible.
    Spectrum likes this.
  11. 4StringAxe


    Jul 27, 2009
    I want to try the Way Huge ringworm for the soul purpose of just messing around :D
  12. Shish


    Sep 17, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    I put Ringworm after my square synth pedal and blending high-pitch ring mod with synth I get this synth bass that is widely used in pop songs like "Tic-Toc" by Kesha or "Who's that chick" by Rihanna.
    another purpose is bells-like tone. I use Heliotrope for that and I wish I had Frantone Glacier.
  13. Low Main

    Low Main Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    Ring mods sounded cool on Rhodes pianos and some guitars in the early 70's. Depending on the guitarist.

    Probably because there was a high note count and lots of chromatic playing with not much space in the music. Bizarro tone tweakage went well with that approach.

    For bass, seems like the opportunities are more limited.

    Tim Lefevbre does a nice job with his ring unit, whatever it is.

    I'd love to hear Jeff Andrews crank one up.
  14. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    Sample rate reducers make a ring-mod-ish sound that is much more useful, maybe give one of those a try (the Iron Ether Frantabit seems to be the effect du jour around here, I use a Bugbrand Bugcrusher myself). I also like the ring mod in the Line 6 M series pedals because you can wire it up to the expression pedals and push it from tame to insane as the need arises.

    I would also really like to try EHX's Ring Thing but haven't got around to it yet.
  15. gastric

    gastric Professional product tester for hire

    Jun 8, 2009
    Raleigh, NC
    Source Audio BETA tester
    Some thoughts:

    * Set a static ringmod at a fairly high frequency, blend it very slightly, you now have a light layer of "noise" in the top end of your signal. Not unlike the "noise" parameter on a lot of synths.
    * A lot of the BOSS multieffects include an "intelligent" mode for their ringmod effects that make it more or less track the pitch instead of being set at a static frequency. Provides a more "musical" VCO like effect, particularly useful at the lower ringmod frequencies. Of course you can sweep frequencies with expression, too.
    * The new Roland GR-55 includes an envelope function to the ringmod where you can have the ringmod frequency driven up or down. You can control the depth of the envelope, but not the attack or decay. But it's still another parameter to provide something other than a static ringmod. Of course you can sweep frequencies with expression, too.
  16. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    On bass listen to some old Brand X, I think Percy did pretty well with his. :) And if I recall he even built his own in the day.

    Now on other instruments think Jeff Beck, and Jan Hammer. Both did some fantastic solos with ring mod, yeah it's not the easiest tool to make it work, but I think that's what make them cool. Oh yeah I just thought of another ring mod player, how about John McLaughlin?

    But then again I'm an old prog/fusion guy so perhaps it's more fitting in those contexts.

    Long live the ring mod!

  17. jsmilez

    jsmilez Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Merrimac, MA
    It's been a while since I had my Moog ring mod, but If I recall... I'd set the frequency to an octave or two up from my tonic. then I had the multi-pedal simultaneously control the volume and the frequency sweep. "pedal back"= no volume, low freq. "pedal forward"= full volume, frequency at the threshold set with the freq knob. Kinda worked like a volume sweeping whammy with a set frequency limit. pretty sweet, but ultimately It wasn't worth the pedalboard space for me.
  18. icecycle66


    Feb 4, 2009
    I love ring mods. I like to have just a touch more than a smidge of ring coming through the mix and put it in front of some soft overdrive. I think it sounds nice, very sudden yet smooth. An octaver in there somewhere can push out some really nice synthy sounds.
  19. Spencer!


    Jun 25, 2006
    Owner, Pike Amplification & 3Leaf Audio
  20. warwick.hoy


    Aug 20, 2006
    Spokane, WA.
    Beta Tester: Source Audio.
    Hey thanks,....any chance you are into ping pong?