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.

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