Korg M3: Controlling M3 with external keyboard


You want to use some MIDI capable external keyboard to control M3-XX or M3-M (in this article M3). You may want to drive M3 as a sound module from external keyboard, including Drum Track and/or Karma features, also you may want to use external keyboard along with M3-XX own keybed and use M3 for some timbres and external keyboard for other timbres.


  1. Wiring. Connect your external keyboard MIDI OUT to your M3 MIDI IN with standard MIDI cable. If you want to use MIDI over USB then you need to use computer and some software piece (like Midi OX) for MIDI routing. You cannot just connect two keyboards with USB cable and get MIDI working.
  2. Setting up external keyboard. There are several possible ways to set up your external keyboard depending what exactly you want to achieve and external keyboard MIDI capabilities. Straightforward way is to set up your external keyboard so that it sends all MIDI in one particular channel. For several reasons (explained further in Tips section) let choose and do setup so that external keyboard sends its MIDI messages on MIDI channel 1. You may need to refer your external keyboard user guide to find out how to configure it for MIDI send, however many keybaords just send MIDI on channel 1 by default.
  3. Setting up M3 for receive and play external MIDI. There are few concepts and features of M3 to consider if you want properly to set up M3 for being driven by external MIDI keyboard. We see these concepts and features first from the viewpoint of the aim of this article and then provide some useful setups.
    1. Global Midi Channel. You can set Global Midi Channel (referred below also as Gch) in Global P1:MIDI Midi Basics tab in Basic section "MIDI Channel" (would be better if M3 menu showed here heading "Global MIDI Channel"). Default setting should be 01. Global MIDI Channel concept is explained in M3 Parameter Guide p.379. This is MIDI channel that M3 uses for
      • Sending and receiving performance data in Program and Sampling mode - in these cases M3 palys just one timbre and this single MIDI channel in use is determined by Gch.
      • Selecting combinations via MIDI in COMBI mode. COMBI mode is "multi-MIDI-Channel-mode" where each MIDI channel drives its own timbre(s). So this distinct Gch (that can be set up as any of the 16) is listened by M3 for combi changes (and also combi changes are sent out by this channel).
      • If drum track is set for being triggered by keyboard, it waits triggering signals from Gch.
      • Sending/receiving SysEX messages
      • Driving timbres, effect and external mode devices that are set to listen Gch in various modes.
      • There is useful feature that in COMBI mode M3 own keybed and its controllers (ribbon and joystick) are internally sending their MIDI messages on Gch. Now we see that factory combinations (and well designed 3rd parties combinations) are designed in the way that timbres that should play right from keyboard (i.e not driven by KARMA and/or drum track) are set by default on Gch (see COMBI P3:Timbre Param tabs MIDI 1-8 and MIDI 9-16 : MIDI Channel). Also we see that factory combi KARMA modules are by default set up so that they expect their input (that triggers and controls them) from Gch. If we add here abovementioned detail that drum track trigger is invoked by Gch then we can conclude: If we set our external keyboard to transmit its MIDI on the same channel that is M3 Gch then we can drive M3 in Combi mode from external keyboard as it was M3's own keybed (assuming external keyboard is capable for velocity and aftertouch).
    2. KARMA module. We need to consider one more thing if we want control M3 KARMA from external MIDI keyboard. GLOBAL P1:MIDI MIDI routing tab has control "Enable MIDI In to KARMA Module". This should be checked in order to let MIDI in signals control KARMA module.
    3. Other controls. You can use your external keyboard's other control surface items to control M3. For enabling this set GLOBAL P1:MIDI tab MIDI routing MIDI Filter "Enable control Change" to checked. Be aware that M3 interprets differently control changes sent by Gch and any other particular channel. Refer M3 MIDI Implementation section in Parameter Guide p 649 ff for details and experiment. However common controls like joystick should be working "as expected" (as M3 own joystick) if external keyboard sends joystic control changes on M3 Gch.
    4. Selecting programs and combis. If you want to select M3 programs from external keyboard then you set GLOBAL P1:MIDI tab MIDI routing MIDI Filter "Enable Program Change" to checked and check Bank Change and/or Combination Change to get desired effect. this feature may require little experimenting to produce useful result.


  1. You can choose M3 Global MIDI Channel different than default 01, but this may mess up internal MIDI routing for factory combis. Usually MIDI channels 2-9 are used as KARMA modules output channles that drive different timbres in karmafied combi. MIDI channel 10 is usually reserved for drum track. Choosing any higher channel (e.g 16) for Gchshould be safe in most cases but always is good to check which MIDI channels are used for what.
  2. If you want your external keyborad control some timbres of the combi and M3 own keybed other timbres then you have to set up or tweak combi so that right tracks/timbres respond to right MIDI channels.
    1. Since we do not know the way to make M3 keybed to produce internal MIDI to other than Gch then in COMBI P3:Timbre Param MIDI 1-8/9-16 tab MIDI Channel set these timbres you want to play with M3 keybed to Gch. This also forces to trigger drum track (if set up and used) only by M3 keyboard. Leave Status to INT (then M3 sound engine is used for tone generation, EXT or EXT2 should be used only if you want external MIDI device produce sound for this track/timbre and M3 be silent).
    2. Set up external keyboard send its MIDI some other and free channel (not used by M3 KARMA and drum track and Gch).
    3. In combi set other timbres MIDI to the channel you just set up above for external keyboard.
  3. Global MIDI Channel seems to have no sense in SEQ mode. All tracks in SEQ mode send and receive on their respective MIDI channels. M3 keybed and its controllers send messages (internally and MIDI OUT) on selected track channel. This allows use M3 own keybed for easy recording of all tracks. If you want to use external keyboard in the same situation then you have either to set external keyboard MIDI send channel appropriately for recording each track or record different tracks using the same cannel (that is set for external keyboard) and change MIDI channel afterwards on M3 for playback.
  4. If you want to synchronise M3 with external keyboard tempo, then set Global P1:MIDI tab MIDI Basic MIDI Clock to Auto or External MIDI and set up your external keyboard to send MIDI Clock. Using for example Pa2x Pro you can start and stop KARMA in sync of styles and control tempo.
  5. Be aware of Global P1 : MIDI Basic setting "Convert Position". If set to "PreMIDI" then Velocity and Aftertouch Curve and Transpose settings are applied between M3 own controllers (keyboard, pads) and MIDI Out-SEQ-Tone generator. In this case external keyboard MIDI that arrives to MIDI In is not affected by M3 own AT/Vel curves. If this setting is PostMIDI then M3 AT/Vel curves are applied to Midi In notes before sent to tone generator. In short: If your external keyboard has AT/Vel curves and you want use these, use setting PreMIDI. If you want use only M3 curves (or add these curves to your external keyboard curves) use PostMIDI. See Parmeter Guide p 380 for more.
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