Korg M3: Creating your first Combi


You want to create your own Combi but you have no idea how to start and are overwhelmed by all the possibilities available within the KARMA Engine. This guide will show you the first steps of creating combi's.

Getting Started

Start by playing around with the programs on the M3. This can be a Pad, Bassline, Piano, or a other program. As soon as you get inspired with that specific program, press the Combi button and select an Initialized Combi. Then copy the program to it and add other Programs and KARMA Modules to get the sound you want. Follow the steps below to see how you can achieve this.


  • Step 1: Startup Phase
    1. Choose a Program you like on the M3 - for this example we will use program U-C021: Flying Machines.
    2. Press the combi button and select a New Initialized Combi (the one with the pianos on every channel).
    3. Select Copy from Program with the Menu Command button at the top right of the screen.
    4. Put all checkboxes to ON and press OK - now we've got a combi which sounds exactly like the program Flying Machines as a starting point.
    5. Activate the KARMA ON switch and the latch button so that the KARMA patterns keep playing when you release the keys.
  • Step 2: Timbre steps
    1. Add a bass sound for your combi by touching the Category Select button for Timbre 2, selecting the Bass category, and selecting program U-A053 Picked Bass 2 SW1.
    2. Add a Guitar sound for your combi by selecting the Guitar category for Timbre 3 and selecting program I-E005 Nylon Guitar 1.
    3. Now go to P3: Timbre Param, and for channel 2 (bass) choose MIDI Channel 2, for channel 3 (guitar) choose MIDI Channel 3. If you selected an Init Combi, then these values are already correct.
  • Step 3: KARMA Modules
    1. Go to P7-1: KARMA GE Setup, and on tab 1 Setup A, KARMA module A is still the same as the one you've selected from the program (by copying it).
    2. Go to tab 2 Setup B for KARMA module B, and activate the Run checkbox for Module B.
    3. Check in the section below (MIDI I/O) that the Output Channels for Module B is set to MIDI Channel 2 (which corresponds to the setting you made in Step 2 above).
    4. You should be able to hear a default arpeggio on the Bass sound if you play the keyboard now.
    5. At the top under "GE Setup", touch the GE Category Select button and choose the ** 06 Bass Pattern** GE category.
    6. Select a Bass GE which you like and adds atmosphere to the feeling you have with the song. In this example we'll use KARMA GE 1052 Reso Bass 1.
    7. Now do the same for KARMA Module C (the guitar) on tab 3 Setup C and select GE 1031 - Proud Strum (which is in the picking category). Don't forget to activate the Run checkbox.
      • Tip: Activate the Solo checkbox if you want to hear only the KARMA module for which you are auditioning patterns.
    8. Try to play some chords to hear the 3 KARMA Modules in action.
  • Step 4: Effects (FX)
    1. After finishing the KARMA modules you need to add FX to your sounds. The basic FX was copied from the program (as a starting point) - let's say that we want to add some chorus and delay FX to the Guitar.
    2. Go to the Insert FX page (P8-1 IFX Route 1).
    3. On tab 1 Route 1 1-8, the menu below channel 3 (the guitar timbre) to IFX3 instead of L/R. You'll hear a delay effect on the guitar timbre, but this is because IFX3 by default is sent at full volume (127) to MFX2, so you're hearing MFX2 right now.
    4. Go to tab 3 IFX Setup.
    5. On Insert Effect 3, set the button to ON.
    6. Select effect 029: Multitap Cho/Delay from the section Cho/Fln/Pha for IFX 3.
    7. Play some chords and hear how the guitar now has a nice Chorus and Delay effect to it.
      • Tip: If you want to hear only the IFX3 effect on the guitar timbre, in the Send1/2 column change both values from 127 to 0. The top value is the send from IFX3 to MFX1, and the bottom value is the send from IFX3 to to MFX2.
  • Step 5: KARMA scenes
    1. Now go to P0:Play and select the Control Surface tab, then select the KARMA button in your Control Assign section. You're now in the right place to set up each of the 8 KARMA scenes.
    2. Before actually making changes to any scene, it's a good idea at this point to save your combi by selecting Write Combi from the page menu at the upper right.
    3. In the third row of the screen, select the SCENE number that you want to set up.
    4. In the Module field just to the left of the scene numbers, select each of your modules for this combi (A, B, and C in this example) and play around with the switches and sliders for each module until you get a sound you like for the scene. In this exercise, there is no point in messing with the switches and sliders in the Master RTC layer (M in the Module field), because you haven't set up the Master layer (this is a more advanced KARMA feature). Likewise, since you haven't assigned any timbres to Module D, there's no point messing with those switches/sliders either.
      • Tip: If you end up with something you don't like, hold down the RESET CONTROLS button and press the KARMA button to revert all the switches and sliders for all KARMA modules in this scene to their previously-saved state. Alternatively, the text immediately beneath each switch tells you the originally-saved setting for the switch and the text below each slider tells you the originally-saved setting for each slider. You can use this info to manually set the sliders and switches back to their original state.
    5. Once you get the modules sounding like you want for this scene, it's generally a good idea to save your combi again before working on the next scene. (But you don't have to saveā€”if you switch to other scenes and come back to this one, your changes are still intact.)
    6. Now repeat this process for each of the remaining scenes. Be sure to save your combi after creating each scene.

Note: It's usually a "best practice" to set up a Master RTC layer for your combis, which is a special KARMA RTC layer that can change any or all of the KARMA modules in the combi at the same time. For example, slider 1 could simultaneously affect the swing feel of all four modules at once, switch 1 could be configured to turn only module A on and off, switch 2 could turn only module B on and off, etc. However, setting up the Master layer is beyond the scope of this tutorial. All of the system default combis follow a very standardized RTC model for the master layer and it's good practice to learn how these work and to do something similar for your Master RTC layer. For more information, refer to KARMA 2: Understanding the RTC Models and KARMA 2: RTC Master Layer.

Split lead Combis

If you prefer to create combis that are "Performance-oriented" (with left hand chords and right hand leads) you have to create zones in your combi. When constructing this type of Combi, it's best to not have any KARMA Modules on the same MIDI Channel as the lead sound. You would edit the timbres that are assigned to the KARMA Modules to use Channels 2, 3, 4 and 5, not GCh or 1. Then the lead sound can go on GCh (which is usually Channel 1). You need to edit the channels in two places: P3: Timbre Param and P7-1: KARMA GE Setup (the KARMA Module Output Channels) - the two must match.

Then, For each channel that you use, you need to set the zone information - here's how it's done:

  • Step 6: Zone setups
    1. Select a Lead sound for Timbre 8 (example).
    2. Go to P3: Timbre Param and select Midi Channel GCH for channel 8.
    3. Go to P4: Zone/Delay.
    4. For Channel 1 - 7 set the Top Note to B4 (if you have moved the KARMA Modules to other channels besides 1, this is not necessary for the KARMA Timbres and may interfere with the range of notes they are generating.)
    5. For Channel 8 (the lead) set the Bottom Note on C5
    6. KARMA has separate Key Zones. In all KARMA modules set the Top Note to B4 (so that your lead sound will not influence the KARMA notes playing) - this is done on P7-1: KARMA GE Setup, tabs 1, 2, 3 and 4.


Don't try to modify existing combis, it's often difficult to get real control on existing combis due to lots of 'hidden' KARMA settings doing things you really don't want (or understand) for your new combi. By starting with the steps above you will get fast results, and when you are comfortable with these steps it's time to dive into the KARMA setups (of other combis) which have lots of great tricks to spice up your combi. But don't start with the tricks as a newbie, you may get lost and will likely will end up frustrated and without a finished combi.

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