Korg Kronos: Combi creation tutorial with KARMA - part 1

Note: this independently contributed article has not yet been reviewed for accuracy by Karma-Lab.

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Prerequisites/Reference

This combi creation tutorial follows on the footsteps of two earlier tutorials:
Korg Kronos: Mastering KARMA level 1 - Tutorial 1
Korg Kronos: Mastering KARMA level 1 - Tutorial 2

You should consider working through them prior to this one, since they will familiarize you with the module controllers that are going to be discussed in later parts of this tutorial.

(These were based on the earlier article, for M3, Oasys and M50 users: "KARMA 2: Tutorial - Mastering Level 1 ("KARMA Player") KARMA usage", which was broken into two parts (one for single Modules and one for Combis).

Selecting Timbres and assigning them to the four KARMA modules and to the keyboard

There’s a lot of information on the fine details of programming KARMA at KARMA-Lab (URL), however most of it was written with the M3 and Oasys in mind and though it’s possible to work out how it applies to the Kronos I thought it would help those Kronos users new to KARMA to have a KARMA Combi guide written for the Kronos.

What follows is based on the Combi 101 tutorial for the M3, however where the Combi 101 tutorial shows you how to create a specific Combi I’m just going to stick to general principles, so what you create will be of your own making. The Combi 101 video contains specific examples, tips and detailed screen shots of the procedures described here and gives a blow-by-blow video demonstration of the procedures involved. I highly recommend watching it.

Note 1: To describe which screens contain the parameter settings I will use the notation Combi P[x] -> ([parameter] Page) -> [parameter] Tab -> section/check box/menu-item to describe where in the Kronos’ display screen the settings parameters are located.

Note 2: In this guide I use the following terminology to describe certain parts of the Combi layout. ‘Channel’ refers to the Midi Channel. ‘Timbre’ refers to the program sound(s) played by the KARMA modules or by the keyboard and pads. ‘Track’ refers to the Combi slot that contains the Timbre. For example I could have the Kronos Grand ‘Timbre’ (Program I-A 000) assigned to ‘Track’ 3 (of the possible 16 Combi tracks) which is sending/receiving Midi on ‘Channel’ 4.

There are four main stages in ‘Karmafying’ a Combi :

1 Selecting Timbres and assigning them to the four KARMA modules and to the keyboard

2 Fine tuning the Timbres

3 Setting up the Master Layer controls

4 Assigning different KARMA settings to the eight Scenes

Each of these Stages are described in four tutorial documents found on KARMA-Lab wiki (work in process)

Part 1: Selecting Timbres and assigning them to the four KARMA modules and to the keyboard

A) Preparation

If you are going to create multiple KARMA Combis it helps to have a starting template that can be saved to a spare slot so that all the preliminary setup work just has to be done once. The saved template Combi can then be copied into your Combi bank/slot ready as a starting point for new KARMA Combis.

  1. Open an initialised Combi in a free Combi User Bank. For example, I have chosen a bank for Combis that I use just for creating KARMA Combis (U-B in my case)
  2. Set up the midi channel outputs of the Modules in Combi P7 -> KARMA –> GE Setup / Key Zones so that Module A outputs to midi channel 2, Module B to channel 3, Module C to 4 and Module D to 5 (KARMA module inputs from the keyboard or pads are received on global channel G1 as standard) – (this is how the KARMA modules are set up in all the Kronos Combis)
  3. Turn off ‘midi thru’ for all modules
  4. In the Combi P2 -> Timbre Parameter Page -> Midi Tab change all the ‘status’ of the timbres to ‘off’ for all 16 timbres. You can also turn the timbres off on the Main P0 -> ProgSelect/Mixer Page, in the ‘status’ line of checkboxes
  5. In Combi P1 -> EQ/Vector/Control -> Pads tab turn the Velocity setting in ‘Fixed Velocity’ to ‘On’ – this means the modules will receive a fixed level of signal, as varying levels of velocity will effect some of the trigger values received and generated by KARMA and we want to work with a consistent level of velocity input (this can be changed later)
  6. In Combi P2 -> Timbre Parameters -> Pitch set the Bend Range for the 4 Module Tracks to +12. This is so the bend range of the Modules matches the internal KARMA setups
  7. Save the Combi for use as a template for future Combis – (I use the last slot in the Bank).

B) Selecting sounds for the four modules: Module A

Where I refer to the ‘standard’ Module setup I’m following what is a generalised setup used in many of the Karma Soundset programs that can be purchased from KARMA-Lab. (Drums on Module A, Bass on Module B, Synths on Module C & D) - though there are plenty of the factory Kronos Combis that don’t follow this setup.

  1. Module A is often used for drums. In the Combi P0 -> Play -> ProgSelect/Mixer page (the Combi Main page) chose a drum kit programme for Timbre 1. (Studio Standard is useful as a ‘default’ kit and will show what the module is doing with the kit. Some of the dance kits are set up differently and may sound strange – you can change kits later to refine the sound) – remember input notes will go into module A on the Midi global channel but will send their output to Midi channel 2 which we earlier assigned to Timbre 1, where we have now placed the drum program. Turn the ‘status’ of the Timbre to ‘Int’ so it will sound. The timbre can be switched on or off on either in the main Combi Play page or in the Combi P2: -> Timbre Parameter -> MIDI tab
  2. In the Combi P0 Play -> KARMA GE page in Module A make sure the module checkbox is set to ‘run’ and in the category drop down menu select ‘Drum’. This will show you a list of all the KARMA Drum Generated Effects (GE’s). Choose one that sounds like it will play the sort of pattern you are after or something simple (basic 16 or 8 beat) – you can audition other GEs later to refine your choice or go for something with a different feel
  3. When you choose a GE it will load a template for the Real-time Controls (the sliders and switches on the surface of the Kronos) into the Combi P0 Play -> Control Surface -> RT/KARMA tab for the module, based on the RTP ‘type template’. This is not the same as the GE categories. The GE categories refer to different types of patterns sorted by instruments (drums) or styles of playing/effects, (gated, melodic, strum, etc), making it easy to choose the sort of GE you’re after. The RTP type refers to a particular standard layout/template used for the real-time controls. This means that whenever you have a particular type of RTP loaded then the control surface will be the same for RTPs of the same type. This makes it easier to understand how to control different types of RTPs; once you’ve learnt the standard layouts. (Ref: KARMA-LAB wiki http://karma-lab.wikidot.com/karma2:rtc-model-all-layouts)
  4. Check that it runs. Turn on the KARMA and Latch buttons and either play a note on the keyboard or trigger a pad. (If it doesn’t play check out the Kronos Operation Guide in the Appendix/troubleshooting KARMA on page 248)
  5. Once you’ve got it running then in the Drum category menu try out different drum GEs while KARMA is running to find one you like. The GE will start to play when a new one is selected from the drop down list. You don’t have to close the menu, which makes it easy to quickly chop and change to audition different GEs
  6. With the Drum Module it’s useful to have it run constantly from the first trigger (key or pad press) so that it won’t retrigger every time a new key is pressed. In the Combi P7 KARMA page -> Trigger tab set the note trigger to ‘1st’
  7. Play around with different kits, GE’s, Tempos and (maybe) ‘Time Sig’ till you have a drum groove you like the feel of. (Don’t worry about the actual sound as that will be changed later using Tone Adjust, EQ and FX’s). After the drum GE name there is a name in brackets. When it says ‘All’ then the GE will apply to nearly all the drum kit programs. When it says (Dance Kit, Jazz Kit, Prec Kit, etc.) that means the GE is suitable for the named type of drum kit, (though you don’t have to stick with these recommendations)
  8. Save your work so far. It is easy; all you have to do is press ‘Rec/Write’ and the KARMA setup is saved with the Combi. It is worth saving your work as you go along and when you complete each module or make modifications to your settings. It’s also worth saving the Combi into a new slot so that you can go back to an earlier point if you make changes later that don’t work out and you want to go back to an earlier setup. When you have finished your Combi you can re-initialise the old Combis and move the finished Combi up the list.

C) Selecting sounds for the four modules: Module B

  1. Module B is often used for Bass. In the Combi P0 -> Play -> Program Select/ Mixer page (the Combi main page) chose a Bass programme for Timbre 2. Input notes will go into Module B on the Midi global channel but will send their output to Midi channel 3 which we earlier assigned to Timbre 2, where we have now placed the bass program. Turn the ‘status’ of the Timbre to ‘Int’ so it will sound
  2. In Combi P0 Play -> KARMA GE page in Module B make sure the module checkbox is set to ‘run’ and in the category drop down menu select ‘Bass’. This will show you a list of all the KARMA Bass Generated Effects (GE’s). Choose one that sounds like it will play the sort of pattern you are after – you can audition other GE’s later to refine your choice or go for something with a different feel. Notice what the RTP control setup is for the Bass RTP real-time controls in the Combi P0 Play -> KARMA GE: or Combi P0 Play -> Control Surface - > RTP/KARMA tab. These will be the same for all the Bass (BL 1 Bass/Lead) RTP templates
  3. Check that it runs. Turn on the KARMA and Latch buttons and either play a note on the keyboard or trigger a pad
  4. Once you’ve got it running then in the Bass category menu try out different Bass GE’s while KARMA is running to find one you like. When you trigger the module you’ll hear the drum module start at the same time. If you want to audition the Bass GE without the Drum Module playing then either; ‘solo’ the Bass B Module; or turn the Drum A module off; or mute the drum Timbre on Track 1 of the main Play page
  5. In the Combi P7 -> KARMA page -> Trigger tab set the note trigger to ‘1st’ and that way it will play in sync with the Drum Module A. Experiment till you get a drum and bass groove that you like. You can transpose the bass oscillator up or down by an octave in the Combi P2 -> Timbre Parameters -> Pitch page if it sounds too high or low with a particular GE or Bass program/timbre. You can also adjust the volume balance between the bass and drums on the Combi P0 -> Play -> ProgSelect/Mixer page
  6. Save your work.

D) Selecting sounds for the four modules: Module C (& D)

  1. Essentially the same procedure applies for the other two modules. These modules are often used for other melodic or harmonic instruments or extra percussion. Select your Timbres in the main Combi P0 -> Play -> ProgSelect/Mixer page, turn the Timbres on to ‘Int’ and make sure the Modules are set to ‘run’. The Gated GE’s, the Chord Rhythm and the Strumming GE’s are good for harmonic polyphonic or chord patterns. You can set the volume and pan for these timbres in the Play main page. Again you can transpose the octave, to get the pitch sounding right, in the Combi P2 -> Timbre parameters tab. It’s also worth setting the Trigger Mode to ‘1st’, though these can be changed later if you wanted to retrigger a module in the middle of a measure while the Drum and/or Bass Modules play in sync without re-triggering. At the top of the KARMA -> Trigger window you can select a Quantise value for triggering/re-triggering to ensure you don’t come in on an off-beat
  2. Remember that Module C Midi out is set to Midi channel 4 and Module D Midi out is set to Midi channel 5
  3. Play around with the volume mix of the four modules and check how they sound in various configurations by turning individual modules on and off, till you find a combination of Programs and GEs that fit together well
  4. Save your work.

Note:
* Changing the Timbre/Program in P0: Play -> Progselect/Mixer won't change the currently assigned GE, (however if you are using the 'Copy Program' command in the drop down menu you can check the 'with KARMA' checkbox to import the default assigned GE along with the program)
* When changing the 'Gated' GEs you will need to retrigger the Module running the GE, by pressing a key or a pad, as 'Gated' GEs work differently to the other types of GE.

E) Splitting the keyboard zones and assigning lead and pad timbres to the keyboard:

  1. You probably don’t want to be triggering KARMA from the full range of the keyboard so it’s good practice to split the key zones so the lower octaves of the keyboard provide the note triggers for the KARMA Modules and the upper octaves of the keyboard are free to solo or play chords while the modules are running. With the split the keyboard range above the split will not input any notes into KARMA. The lower octaves can also be used for chord pads sounds that will sound separately from the KARMA module outputs and will also provide trigger and input notes for the modules
  2. Firstly go to Combi P7 -> KARMA -> GE Setup/Key Zones and in the Module section change the value of the ‘Top’ checkbox to B3. This means that only notes below B3 on the keyboard will trigger the Modules
  3. To split the keyboard for soloing and pads go to Combi P3: -> MIDI Filter/Zones -> Keyboard Zones and change the value of ‘bottom key’ of Timbre/Track 5 to C4 as we are going to use Timbre/Track 5 for the timbre that will use the higher octaves of the keyboard. Also change the ‘top key’ for Timbre 6 to B3 as we will be using this Timbre/Track for the pad triggers. (These changes will be shown in the graphic display at the top of the screen). Leave the keyboard range for the modules set from C-1 to G9 as we want the KARMA Modules to play notes from across the whole keyboard, even if we are only using notes below B3 to trigger the modules
  4. Something to bear in mind is that some of the note assignments in ‘Pads’ may be above B3 so you may need to change the note assignments so that chords played by the pads are constructed in the lower octaves below the split. The Timbres can be transposed later to play notes in octaves above the split key
  5. To set up the Timbre for the upper split turn the Timbre on to ‘Int’ for Timbre/Track 5 and in Combi P2 -> Timbre Parameter -> Midi change the Midi channel for Timbre 5 to Gch (Global Channel) so that any keys played on the keyboard will sound the timbre
  6. In Combi P0 -> Play -> ProgSelect chose a Program/Timbre for Track 5. Experiment with different Programs while the 4 KARMA modules are running till you find one that fits well with the overall sound of the Combi
  7. To set up the Timbre for below the split point do the same as described in point 5) above making the settings instead for Timbre/Track 6. (Choose a Program, turn the Timbre to ‘Int’ and set the Midi Channel to Gch). We can use the lower split to play a slow synth or a pad type sound via the pads so adjust the Pad assignment to play chords with the note assignments below the B3 split point. The Modules can be triggered with a quick press on the ‘Pad’ control screen (or an external pad if you have an external pad controller). The pads will also play a long sustained chord if you hold the pad trigger down. Chord notes can be assigned using the Combi P1 -> EQ/Vector/Controller -> Pads -> Chord Assign screen. For each pad play the notes you want in the chord and then press ‘Chord Assign’ checkbox. If the chord notes are too low you can transpose them up by octaves using the Combi P2 -> Timbre Parameter -> Pitch tab -> Transpose check box for the Timbre/Track and changing the value to +12/+24/etc.
  8. You can also layer the pads using different Program sounds. To do this you follow the same procedure as for the pad sound on Track 6 except you make the settings in Track 7. Both the Timbres will sound simultaneously when the pad is pressed. Relative volume and pan adjustments can be made in the Combi P0 -> Play -> ProgSelect/Mixer page. Remember to change the Key Zone range so that the upper note is set to B3 for the layered Timbre so that it won’t sound when keys are pressed on the keyboard above the split point. Note: You can also assign more than one Program sound to the KARMA modules by setting the Midi Channel out to the same Midi Channel as the Module you want to layer, (though in this case you probably won’t want to change the Key Zone setting)
  9. When working through the next stage of the KARMA setup (Tone Adjustment and Master RTP) it’s worth turning the Timbre to ‘Off’ for the pads in Combi P0 -> Play -> Status check box, alternatively you can ‘Mute’ the Timbre(s) on the same page (using the Play/Rec/Mute’ button). This way you won’t have the pads sounding when you come to work on the Module and Master Layer setups
  10. Save your work.

In summary: We have setup 4 KARMA Modules with their respective Midi assignments and have assigned a Timbre to each Module along with a KARMA GE and a RTP control surface. We have split the keyboard into two zones and assigned a Timbre for soloing/comping to the RH (Right Hand) upper octaves and a slow synth/pad sound to the LH (Left Hand) lower octaves and the chord pads.

Now we are ready to fine tune the sound of the Timbres , which we will do in Part 2.

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