Connect with us


Modular Memoirs Part 5: The Eventide Misha



We review an interesting sequencing module in this episode in our chronicles of a new Eurorack setup

In this installment we’ll tackle using a sequencer within a modular setup, since it’s a very common method of creating music used by many modular artists.

I’m working with the Eventide Misha sequencing module, and this article will serve both as an overview of integrating a sequencing module within a Eurorack setup and a review of the Misha. 

The Eventide Misha is for all intents and purposes a sequencer, but one with an idiosyncratic approach to generating sequences that is likely to both inspire and frustrate some users. We’ll explain shortly.

Sequencers in the modular synth world are devices that can store a set of voltage values within their memory, then play them back at various tempos. Since everything in the modular context is a voltage value (notes, sync messages, LFOs, velocity, and so on), sequencers can be used for much more than just musical notes.

Within this narrow definition, the Eventide Misha fits the bill as a sequencer in the sense that it allows a user to program a set of voltage values into its memory, which it can then play back at any given tempo.

However, there’s a catch – the Misha only allows for notes that are present within a given scale to be played, and further, each note in the scale can only be used once in a given sequence. Misha is based around the musical concept of tone rows popularized by classical 20th Century composer Arnold Schoenber coupled with the idea of an interval instrument similar to the one pioneered by composer Leon Gruenbaum.

The module. The Misha’s front panel features a top double row of patch points organized as inputs and outputs. Here you’ll find MIDI in and out (requiring a MIDI to 3.5mm plug adapter not included), three sets of CV/gate outputs and inputs, and a clock input for syncing to other modules.

There’s also an audio out for the built-in sine wave oscillator, provided so you can hear a sequence. It’s there to make programming easier, but of course the real magic happens when the CV and Gate outputs are connected to more interesting sound sources.

A Micro-USB jack allows for firmware updates (but alas not direct connection to a DAW), and there’s a microSD card slot for saving and loading programmed sequences. 

Misha’s main operational interface features Record/Stop and Play/Pause buttons, two pressable knobs to access the various parameters on the color LED screen, four programmable buttons, and a row of nine colorful buttons that act as the primary input method.

Lastly, two shift-up and down buttons let you switch quickly through several of the modes in the menu for real-time changes. All of the buttons can have multiple functions based on the combinations you press. To say that the Misha’s panel is jam-packed with features would be a bit of an understatement.

Workflow. The basic workflow of the Misha goes something like this: select one of the 100 preset scales available (custom user scales and presets can be saved in the included SD card), hit Record, and mash the interval colored buttons until all the notes in the scale are played, at which point the Misha goes into playback mode automatically.

Your sequence can then be changed in real time using the various buttons to transpose by interval, change the key, and change the tempo and clock sub-division for fun rhythmic flourishes. All of this can make for fun and unpredictable results based on the series of intervals chosen and how exotic the selected scale is.

Misha’s Chord mode lets it generate polyphonic chordal sequences. These appear at the MIDI out or the three sets of CV/Gate outputs connected to other VCOs. In true Misha form, the chord notes are based on the preset scale, and they use a wide range of chordal inversions that can be selected and changed in real time. The results can be musically intriguing, and they don’t quite sound like anything I would normally come up with.

While the deep sequencing capabilities of Misha are enough to keep one busy for countless hours on end, there’s a third way to use it as a real-time MIDI processor. You can connect a controller keyboard to its MIDI ports and feed the results into a separate DAW sequencer for some truly mind-blowing results.

Connecting a MIDI controller into Misha doesn’t yield the usual expected playing behavior from the keyboard. The C5 key corresponds to the Misha’s Home button, while the white keys above and below represent intervals and not actual notes. The black keys offer advanced functions akin to the configurable User buttons on the Misha’s faceplate.

This means, for instance, that repeatedly pressing A5 doesn’t play the same note over and over, but rather a series of ascending notes in 3-step intervals. A4 on the other hand plays a series of descending 2-step intervals.

If you want to repeat the same note, C5 or E5 must be pressed, regardless of what the actual repeating note is. The benefit of using an external keyboard is that intervals up to + or -9 can be played, as opposed to the Misha’s front buttons being limited to + or -4 intervals. Also, note velocity is fully recognized, while the buttons only output a set velocity value.

This type of behavior can be incredibly disorienting at first, requiring you to rethink everything you know about playing a keyboard. However, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.

Soon I was performing complex runs and arpeggios that would have taken me months of practice to master. I was able to improvise a piano piece based on a pentatonic scale in no time, adding orchestral strings as a background to create a pensive mood that would have been difficult to achieve otherwise.

Playing chords on the keyboard yields equally inspiring results, since the notes pressed correspond to different intervals that Misha automatically maps to the chosen scale tones. This makes for an incredibly powerful method of harmonic composition that would have otherwise required rigorous planning and a hefty music theory knowledge. Just a few minutes of noodling on a Messiaen Dom7 scale resulted in an unsettling and moody starting point that could then be expanded upon.

It’s my opinion that using Misha as a real-time MIDI processor rather than just a sequencer is its most powerful capability. I could lose myself for countless hours just exploring the multitude of scales and chord options, ranging from traditional ones to microtonal and experimental variations.

My only wish is that Eventide will consider releasing a software plug-in version of the Misha that would allow for this type of workflow from within a DAW without having to run external MIDI cables from a modular set up. (Eventide also offers a stand-alone enclosure.)

There is so much more to the Eventide Misha, and after several weeks I feel as if I just scratched the surface of its potential. The ability to customize scales, to affect the sequences in real time, to create sequences of sequences and save them to a microSD card, to fully configure CV and MIDI functions, to drive VCFs and other CV inputs… it all gives the Misha an astounding amount of depth, usefulness, and flexibility.

While this one-of-a-kind sequencer might not be suited for everyone, its approach to interval-based composition is unique – not just within the modular synth ecosystem, but also in the larger world of DAWs and software-based music production.

I’d encourage all musicians and composers to take a good look at the Eventide Misha, and treat it “outside the box” as not just a modular sequencing device but as an innovative way to approach composition and performance that’s likely to yield results that wouldn’t be easy to get any other way.

Price: $599

Click here for more info

Continue Reading