KARMA 2: A beginner's guide to KARMA

This article is under construction, and will likely take a while because it's a big subject

All the Level 1 ("KARMA Player") KARMA usage articles are now finished. Enjoy!


You've had your shiny new Korg Kronos, OASYS or M3 for a while now, perhaps for months, but the KARMA features of your rig still seem intimidatingly complex. You've probably figured out what half of the KARMA sliders and switches on the control surface do, but sometimes the others don't seem to do anything obvious at all.

You want to learn more about making the Generated Effect (GE) assigned to a given KARMA Module do what you want it to do, or narrowing down your choices among the large list of available GEs to the few that might give your combi or program the grooves and riffs that you're looking for.

Maybe you've even tried reading the KARMA GE Guide section of the Parameter Guide for your keyboard and have wondered why so many of the listed GE groups and parameters in those groups seem to be difficult to find when you examine the 32 GE Real-Time Parameters visible in the GE RTP pages of your keyboard.

KARMA is not hard to understand and use - - Yes, really!

KARMA can seem overwhelming at first. The Korg-supplied documentation focuses mainly on reference information and while Karma-Lab has produced many tutorials and how-tos about KARMA, a lot of these were created for the original version of KARMA and you might not even have known about these.

What makes KARMA challenging to learn is simply that it's a unique and very new paradigm for music generation. All modern keyboards build upon concepts and structures that have been around in pretty much all keyboards built in the past two decades. This makes it easy to apply what you learned about previous keyboards you've worked with to the newest keyboard in your collection.

But KARMA is different. Unless you've cut your teeth already on the original Korg Karma workstation, then the KARMA features in your Kronos, OASYS or M3 workstation are something completely new and outside of your previous experience. KARMA is also very deep and sophisticated.

So it can be challenging to learn KARMA, but this doesn't mean that it's challenging to use KARMA once you have learned how it works. This beginner's guide will help you to learn KARMA 2.

The most basic concepts that every KARMA user should know

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 are worth reading at least once, even if you only want to use KARMA at its most basic level:

The three levels of KARMA usage

You can use KARMA in many ways, ranging from very simple applications that require practically no real understanding of how KARMA works, to more complex applications that require you dig in and really learn KARMA. One way to learn KARMA is to approach it in three separate passes, or "levels". Start with the first level and spend some time mastering it. Then if you still want to know more, move on to the next level, and so on.

  • Level 1 - "KARMA Player": Learning to use the KARMA control surface on your keyboard to add some real-time variation to the sound of a combi or program. Learning how to swap out the GEs used in programs and combis (or how to choose GEs for your own programs and combis), to completely change the KARMA-generated "feeling" of the program or combi. Also how to set up the scenes for each module (and Master layer in a combi) and control whether the drum track plays in a given scene. Mastering this level includes learning how to define the trigger zones for each KARMA module, how to recognize the RTC model used in a KARMA module and knowing the general effects of the switches and sliders in each RTC model.
  • Level 2 - "KARMA Tweaker": Learning to change the other Perf RTP, GE RTP, and Dynamic MIDI parameters that are visible in your keyboard but not tied directly to the KARMA control surface sliders and switches, to further tailor the sound of a GE beyond what you can do with the KARMA control surface. Mastering this level includes learning how find detailed information for any parameter and being able to determine which ones are likely to help you achieve the sound that you're looking for.
  • Level 3 - "KARMA Designer": Learning how to create entirely new, custom Performances (and GEs) by using the optional KARMA Software for your keyboard model. This requires learning KARMA in depth, and also learning how the KARMA Software interface works. Mastering this level includes having a good hunch how to build a KARMA groove that you hear in your head or to mimic the feel of a groove you've heard in some piece of music.

A guided beginner's course to understanding and using KARMA 2

Mastering each of the three levels of KARMA usage can be accomplished by reading the articles and following the tutorials listed below. These articles are not meant to replace all the excellent information about KARMA in your keyboard's Operations Guide and Parameter Guide (or in the Help and tutorials for the KARMA Software). Instead, they're meant to supplement all this information by filling in the blanks and providing a guided course in learning KARMA.

Note: These articles are all written from the perspective of the Korg M3 keyboard, but the KARMA features and page/tab names are similar enough in the Korg OASYS that OASYS users should have no problem adapting these for their keyboard.

Level 1 - "KARMA Player" (requires only your OASYS or M3 keyboard)

  1. Tutorial - Mastering Level 1 ("KARMA Player") KARMA usage
  2. Understanding the RTC Models
  3. Understanding GE types and categories
  4. Recording KARMA output to external sequencers

Level 2 - "KARMA Tweaker" (requires only your Kronos, OASYS or M3 keyboard)

  1. Tutorial - Mastering Level 2 ("KARMA Tweaker") usage (under construction)
  2. Create tutorial for using KARMA like a standard arpeggiator
  3. The KARMA in your keyboard is only half the picture
  4. Understanding the Perf RTP and GE RTP Parameters
  5. How MIN-MAX-VALUE works in GE RTP parameters
  6. Dissecting a KARMA performance

Level 3 - "KARMA Designer" (requires the KARMA Software for your keyboard model)

  1. Create a type of "roadmap" tutorial that ties together Stephen's PDF tutorials in the KARMA Software package with some much-needed "glue" information for the complete newbie to KARMA Software. Discuss basic patterns for creating/syncing KMP banks with the M3. The two basic patterns for creating a GE (import from MIDI or do it up from scratch). Basic patterns for getting GEs from the M3 into KARMA Software or vice-versa. Where the menu commands are "hiding" in each editor. How to find the Help information for any field or control. The basic process of defining a note series and then tweaking all the parameters to manipulate that note series, and in what general order. Best practices for choosing the 32 GE RTP parameters exposed in the M3/OASYS. (Might have to break this out into separate tutorials/articles: this is a lot for one tutorial.)
  2. Tutorial: Building a GE from scratch
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