KARMA 2: How KARMA differs from arrangers and arpeggiators


You've used arranger workstations or arpeggiator features on various keyboards, and you're wondering whether you can use KARMA like an arranger or arpeggiator. You'd like to use it to create an exact copy of some hit song so that you can play it live, or design your own arpeggios.

KARMA is not an arranger (but you can try to use it like one)

Arrangers enable you to play fixed, repetitive patterns that are programmed on a sequencer as sections of music, easily imported and turned into styles (well, relatively easily once you understand how the whole note transposition thing works.) They have fills, intro, endings, etc. - everything designed with the one-man-band paradigm in mind.

KARMA is not that. KARMA is more experimental in nature, improvisational in nature, inspirational in nature. The goal behind the design of KARMA was not to reinvent the arranger-style paradigm.

Some people use KARMA-enabled keyboards like the Korg M3 during live performances, but the M3 is not a "1001 styles in a box" machine. The KARMA Performances presently supplied by Korg and others do not allow you to go: "oh, you want a Bossa Nova? Hold on a moment… Tango? No problem! Backstreet Boys, OK give me a sec…"

However, that said, you can create intricate, evolving, electronic, improvisational live performances with KARMA that would be difficult if not impossible to realize any other way.

And having said the above, the problem is not that KARMA cannot do a decent tango or Backstreet Boys imitation, it's that no one has yet programmed one. Anything is possible. But with Korg Products like the PA-1xPro, part of the design philosophy of the unit is to provide those 1001 styles to fit every musical requirement (and it's easier to do so, because it's just making MIDI sequences and turning them into styles.) Creating KARMA Performances is more time-consuming, yet infinitely more variable.

KARMA can be used as an arpeggiator, but it is much more than that

KARMA can emulate nearly any conventional arpeggiator. However, KARMA is designed to be much more than a simple arpeggiator. As the M3 Operations Guide puts it:

Based on the notes and chords you play, KARMA generates phrases and patterns in real-time, generating not just notes but MIDI control data as well. The KARMA architecture allows the various algorithms to be reconfigured and varied in realtime, as you play them. For example, you can create the dynamic tempo changes that occur within a harp glissando, the synchronized changes in volume and tone that occur as part of a brass phrase, the randomness within a drum phrase, the crescendo and diminuendo of a fill-in, changes in phrase or tone of a techno groove, complex interweaving phrases that would be impossible to play on a keyboard, guitar strumming and finger-picking simulations with natural-sounding changes, and backing grooves that follow your keyboard playing in realtime – all under your control. KARMA lets you produce phrases and patterns at a far more musical and flexible level than conventional arpeggiators or pattern playback functions.

The KARMA Software can specifically emulate the Triton Arpeggiator (which is also the arpeggiator found in the M50) in any GE that uses the RTC Model GV1: Gated Vel/Pat 1, but doing so is not editable on the level of those arpeggiators and requires the KARMA Software to actually edit the arp pattern. This cannot be done on the Kronos/Oasys/M3 itself. Stephen Kay has said that a page could be designed for the Kronos/Oasys/M3 that shows only the key elements of a GV1-based GE, in a format similar to the Arpeggiator pages/tabs on the M50, which would provide a simple interface for creating arpeggiator GEs. However, whether such a page makes it into a future OS update for the Kronos/Oasys/M3 is dependent on whether Korg decides to expend the resources to make it happen.

Presently, to edit all 400+ parameters of a KARMA GE (or "arp pattern", if you prefer) requires the optional KARMA Software that goes with a particular keyboard.

Want even more detail on what KARMA is and how it works?

Tucked away in the Miscellaneous category of this wiki are two really excellent articles on what KARMA in general is all about and how it works. These are hiding in the Miscellaneous category because they also apply to the Korg KARMA and its respective version of the KARMA Software, which use KARMA 1 instead of KARMA 2.

These two articles expand on the simple comparisons in the previous sections:

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