Walk the Walk

Not exactly what I was aiming for but ….

Two multi-effects devices – the Korg Mini Kaoss Pad 2S and the Zoom MS-70CDR.

The Zoom is an epic pedal. CDR stands for chorus, delay, reverb, and there are a whopping 86 types to choose from. Plus you can chain up to six effects in series (on the one pedal!). Plus it’s stereo. Plus patch memories. Plus onboard tuner. Plus the price! It’s so cheap!! For this video I have a stereo delay, a filter delay, a modulated delay and a plate reverb applied in that order to the volca keys. The quality of some of the effects falls short of the more expensive pedals they’re meant to be mimicking, but for the price you can’t complain. Ever since the volcas came out, people have been bugging Korg to produce a volca mixer. I’d like to add …. if you do, please incorporate sends and something like the MS-70CDR.

The Mini Kaoss Pad is also a multi-effect (100 types), but you can only use one at a time. Each effect has two parameters wired to the X-Y touchpad for creating all kinds of motion in the sound. It’s a DJ tool, not a guitar pedal, and I’ve still to get to grips with it. Maybe in the next video.

1996 – Korg Trinity Plus

Continuing the retrospective. Fast forward a decade. 1996-ish? No more bellowing into a tape recorder. No more bellowing at all in fact. I’d given up on singing, instead playing melody lines on a synth. This prompted one of my friends to comment that my stuff sounded like the (crap) muzak covers you hear in shops. Which in turn prompted me to spin a musical cocoon from which I didn’t emerge until very recently.

In the nineties, the only instrument I had was a Korg Trinity Plus. But what an instrument! Beautiful PCM-based sounds, analogue modelling synthesis, multiple drum kits, tonnes of insert and master effects, and best of all a 16 track sequencer. Felt like a moon landing compared to my old Model T mono, the Teisco 60f.

Thin skinned no more, here are a few unfinished pieces, replete with crap muzak melody lines. Still blissfully unaware of EQ and compression techniques, still believing layered reverbs were the solution to any problem. But all performed, arranged and sequenced on one machine. It doesn’t sound that impressive now, since the phone in your pocket can do as much and more, but at the time it was heaven.

Korg Trinity Plus 01

Korg Trinity Plus 02

Korg Trinity Plus 03

Korg Trinity Plus 04

Pretty camp, eh? If left to my own musical devices, what comes out mostly falls into two categories – pseudo-disco and pseudo-classical. There wasn’t much rock in our house when I was young. Plenty Bee Gees, Boney M and Abba though. I expect that’s where the disco comes from, but the pseudo-classical? Who knows.

I still have the Trinity and roll it out occasionally. Some of the patches have aged a little, but it’s still a smooth machine.

Snowflakes Are Resting

Testing the “flux” function of the volca keys with a Tomita-ish piece.

The first time round is just the volca keys, the second with a Mini Kaoss Pad delay, and the third with the volca bass doing a passable theremin impression over the top. Listen to the tone of the volca bass. Can’t praise it enough.

The volcas are basically 16 step sequencers, but there are ways to get more out of the volca keys. First off, it has settings for 1/1, 1/2 and 1/4 tempo. If you set to 1/2, the sequence cycles once to every two cycles of the volca beats for example, so the unit’s 16 steps last 32 steps in all. At 1/4 they last four cycles, i.e. 64 steps. But even if you set the keys to 1/2 or 1/4 tempo, there are still only 16 notes in the sequence – they’re just spread out over double or quadruple the time. You can sustain those 16 steps, but you can’t play anything between them.

Luckily, the keys has another mode – “flux”. Flux allows you to play and record notes freely across any tempo without the 16 step restriction. The resolution isn’t infinitely fine though – after a bit of experimenting I found its limit at 8 notes per step – but still, that gives you 16 x 8 = 128 steps stretched over four cycles to play with.

Here’s how to input the notes cleanly ….

  1. set “tempo range settings” to “full”
  2. set flux on, tempo to 1/4
  3. tempo dial all the way down to minimum
  4. connect to the volca beats with the keys first in the chain
  5. set up a snare metronome on the beats ….
  6. set the beats snare on 1, 4, 8, 12 steps
  7. stutter time to 1.2 and depth to taste
  8. use active step to activate only the steps you want to record
  9. record notes

If you use the volca key’s Tempo Delay or an external delay, you can get some very nice sounding arpeggios.

Active Step is also useful during performance. Instead of enabling and disabling single steps, you’re dealing with groups of eight notes. I expect you can do all kinds of things with 128 steps if you plan ahead a little. If you use the keys in polyphonic mode, that’s 128 sustaining chords in 16 groups of 8.

Since the tempo is set to 1/4, and the tempo dial to something low, the beats will be crawling along. I was thinking though, you could maybe run the sync signal through a delay to multiply it x8 to get the beats and bass moving at a cycle of 16 notes rather than 16 steps. Something to try later.

1985 – Iain and Me

One year later, I think, and me and Iain are upstairs jamming.

Nice one Iain!

At the time I was using two borrowed keyboards – a Hohner String Performer and a Korg Sigma. I loved that string machine. In fact, I love the sound of string machines full stop. I bought a couple in auctions a few years ago (a Roland RS-202 and an RS-09), I snapped up the GForce Virtual String Machine when it came out, and last year added the Waldorf Streichfett to my arsenal.

The Streichfett was a huge surprise. I couldn’t believe that a modern company would bother to reprise the string machine sound in such a small, cheap and useful package. It was as if I’d made an unconscious wish and it had come true. Fantastic little machine.