KARMA 2: Understanding and using KARMA's Swing features


You'd like a better understanding of KARMA's swing features, how they are programmed, and how to use them.


In most Programs and Combis produced by Korg and Karma-Lab, you will find "Rhythm: Swing %" assigned to Slider 1 in KARMA's Module Control Layer(s). This is a standardized setting so that you always know where to go to adjust a swing or hip-hop feel.

In a Program, where there is only one Module Control layer, you will find Slider 1 assigned to Rhythm: Swing %.

In a Combi, where there are up to 4 KARMA Modules, you will find "Rhythm: Swing %" assigned to Slider 1 in each of the four independent Module Control Layers for each Module (A, B, C, D), as well as Slider 1 in the Master Layer [M]. In the Master Layer, it will be assigned to control all of the Modules at the same time.

Why this seeming redundancy? Why have Swing on Slider 1 in each Module's Layer, and then also in the Master Layer? Because the one in the Master Layer controls the Swing identically for all four Modules at the same time, making it easy to dial in a swing factor for the whole groove. But for more advanced uses, you can also set different levels of swing for each Module by adjusting it in the individual Module Layers. When the same parameter is assigned to both the Module Layer and the Master Layer, the last moved control takes precendence. For example, you could use the Master Layer Swing % Slider to adjust the Swing to 20%, then go into the Drum Layer and change it to 10%. When you load that Scene, three Modules will be at 20%, but the Drums will be at 10%.

How does Swing work?


As shown in the diagram above, Swing moves every other note a certain percentage of the way forwards or backwards in time. The determination of what constitutes the rhythmic division of "every other" is based on the setting of the "Swing Note" (explained below). The above diagram shows the effects when the Swing Note is a 16th. If the Swing Note was an 8th note, then every other 8th note (and the 16ths in between) would be shifted.

With a Swing Note of a 16th, a setting of +100% shifts a 16th note forwards by a 32nd. A setting of +200% shifts a 16th note forwards a full 16th note so that it ends up on the next 16th note division. Consequently, a setting of +66% corresponds to the "straight triplet feel" common in jazz styles (since it would place the resulting shifted note 2/3rds of the way through the division comprised of the previous note and the shifted note, lining up with straight triplets).

What's this strange range setting?

If you move the Swing Slider in the Master Layer, and look at the KARMA Values Display section of the M3, Kronos or Oasys display, or the popup window over the RT Controls in the KARMA Software for the slider values, you will see that the Swing values go from 0 to 100% over the slider range of 0~125, but a setting of 126 yields a Swing setting of -200%, and a setting of 127 yields a Swing setting of +200%.

This is a specialized setting that was created to assign the useful range of the Swing settings to a slider, while avoiding the ranges that don't have any real musical use.

The full range of the Rhythm Swing % parameter in KARMA is -200% to +200%. However, in general, negative swing settings are somewhat useless for most musical situations. So is the range of +100% to +199% - it goes beyond what is normally perceived as swing into a jerky sort of feel that isn't really very useful.

KARMA's designer felt that having the full range of swing (-200% to 200%) across the slider was wasteful, in that half of the slider's range was essentially useless, while making it more difficult to quickly go to a Swing % of 0, since it would be in the center rather than at the bottom. Hence, this special parameter assignment was developed to solve that problem.

However, settings of exactly -200% and +200% are musically useful. Why? Because they push every other note forwards or backwards by the full amount of the Swing Note Value. For example, if the Swing Note (which is the base note of the swing feel) is a 16th, -200/+200 will push every other note to the previous/next 16th note, essentially turning the groove into an 8th note groove and providing a sort of "half-time" feel that can be quite interesting sounding as part of a KARMA Scene change.

But what if you feel that those missing ranges have been unjustly persecuted and ignored by KARMA's designer? And you'd like to apply a swing feel of -63% and the heck with it? Well, you can do so. The full range setting of -200% to +200% is available in the KARMA Software by changing one of the GE RTP settings in the GE itself; so you could modify the GE and store it in the M3, Kronos or OASYS User GE area, or use it with the KARMA Software. You simply go to the GE Editor > RTParms page, and change the slot 1 assignment from Swing % 0–100,-200,+200 to Swing %.

What the Manual says

Taken from the GE Guide section of the Korg M3 Parameter Guide, these are the most important Swing Parameters to understand:

Swing Note Value [0…3]
Selects the base note value to be used in calculating swing. For example, if you want to add a swing feel to a steady string of 16th notes, you would select a 1: 16th note. Straight 8th notes would exhibit no change with this setting, since they do not swing in such a feel unless they are syncopated. On the other hand, if you swing 16th notes with a 2: 8th note Swing Note selected, the 16th notes are swung in an 8th note feel. While this is not necessarily natural “swing,” interesting shiftings of timings can be produced. Note that the setting of this parameter can be modified by the “Swing Use Multiplier” parameter, explained below.

Swing % [–200…200 (%)]
Sets the percentage of swing/hip-hop feeling to be applied. 0% = no swing, 50% = triplets, while 100% pushes the swung notes all the way to the next value of half the note length set by the “Swing Note Value” (☞p.559). For example, if swinging straight 1: 16th notes, 100% would push the swung notes to 32nds. 200% would push the swung notes all the way to the next 16th. Negative values push the swung notes the other direction. Note that triplet rhythm values may not be affected by swing, depending on internal settings of the GE. Triplets may or may not be swung depending on the setting of the “Swing Triplets” parameter below.

Swing % 0–100,-200,+200
This special variation of the Swing % parameter allows only the most useful settings to be applied as a GE RT Parameter, for assigning to a Real-Time Control. A setting of 0…100 corresponds to 0…100% swing factor, while a value of 101 selects +200%, and a value of 102 selects –200%. Using this ensures that the most useful settings will be available over the widest range of the assigned control, while allowing the useful ±200% values to still be selected.

Notes & Tips

Note that KARMA's range of Swing settings is -200% to +200%. Other devices/technologies, such as the Korg Triton/M50 Arpeggiator, may specify this as a range of -100% to +100%. Therefore, a KARMA setting of 100% would correspond to a setting of 50% on the other device, a KARMA setting of 66% (triplets) would approximate 33%, and so on.

This article is referenced by the Karma-Lab video tutorial series:
House 101: Combi Creation Series, in Chapter 20: Slider 1 - Swing.

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