Korg M3: General workflow for using the M3 sequencer

This draft is still under construction. Pardon the dust.

Note: This article deals specifically with recording to the M3's internal sequencer. If you are looking for information on recording to external sequencers such as Cubase, Digital Performer, Ableton Live, etc., refer to the following articles:


You're finding it hard to wrap your brain around the general workflow for the M3's internal sequencer. Here is a small sample of the likely questions you're having, even if you've previously worked with on-board sequencers in other keyboards or with software sequencers:

  • What's the difference between a combi and a song — why do the pages and tabs for both combis and songs look almost exactly the same but with some minor differences?
  • How do you edit the KARMA tracks or overdub them with RTC slider/switch moves?
  • Why do only 6 tracks actually seem to record data when it looks like there is sound happening on more like 14 tracks when you play the original combi or the song once the combi has been imported into the sequencer?
  • What is the Cue List, and even when I think I've figured out the Cue List, why is there an audible gap between songs when I play back the Cue List?
  • Why does my program sound totally different when I add it to a sequencer track than how it sounds when I play it directly from its original program bank?
  • Why do strange things happen when I convert the Cue List arrangement into a single song?

Normally I'd jump right into the typical workflow steps, but it's helpful in this case to explain some important concepts first so that the workflow steps will make sense.

And before I start explaining some useful concepts, you might find it helpful to review two excellent introductory videos created by Rich Formidoni of Korg:

Pros and cons of the internal sequencer versus external sequencers

  • The internal sequencer is generally much faster as a song-writing "scratch pad" to capture your ideas. By the time you do all the setup in your external sequencer, the inspiration is lost.
  • The internal sequencer makes for a very flexible and useful type of passive combi bank that enables some really neat tricks with SysEx for live performances — even if you record nothing at all! It's also very fast to set up your combis in setlist order within the internal sequencer; much faster than trying to set up a combi user bank to achieve the same goal.
  • If you need to create sequenced material for use in a live performance, some people will find it easier/more practical to do it with the internal sequencer than to lug along a laptop and deal with running your sequences from the laptop.
  • An external sequencer can make it much easier to create complex arrangements, especially if you are editing a lot of automation data (controllers and SysEx) associated with your MIDI tracks.
  • Since most external sequencers can also record audio tracks, you can mix and match combis/programs much more easily than by trying to make different combis/programs work together in the internal sequencer's Cue List. You can also have completely different IFX, MFX, and TFX settings for each different combi/program used in the external sequencer, which is impossible with the internal sequencer. (You accomplish this by storing the MIDI data for each combi/program recording in the external sequencer, then playing the MIDI data back into the M3 and recording an audio track that corresponds to the MIDI track. Then you slice and dice the audio tracks to get your final arrangement.)

Note that you can do some very sophisticated tricks with the internal sequencer. You can visually edit note and automation data, although it's slightly clunky and you need a plastic stylus to do it well. The M3 has a great, intuitive interface for inserting/editing SysEx events. It's awesome. You can even mix and match combis in a sequenced performance via the internal sequencer's Cue List, but you are in some cases severely hampered by the inability to use different sets of effects for each song in the Cue List (they must all share the IFX, MFX, and TFX set in the first song in the Cue List to prevent audible gaps in playback when the M3 jumps to the next song in the Cue List).

Sequencer songs are just combis with a few extra goodies thrown in

First things first, it helps to understand that a "song" in the SEQ section of the M3 is almost the same exact thing as a combi in the COMBI section. In other words, think of the SEQ section as a special type of combi bank and you're already halfway there to understanding the M3 sequencer:

The article Korg M3: Using SEQ mode as a "super combi" for live performance goes into a lot more detail about the differences between using songs and combis for live performance. And the articles Korg M3: Recording 101 for all external sequencers and Korg M3: Sequencer vs Combi in a DAW environment offer two slightly differing viewpoints on the differences between using songs and combis for recording with external sequencers.

But in the context of using the M3's internal sequencer, which is the focus of this article, the main things you need to know about songs versus combis are:

  • Each song slot (S000, S0001, S0002, etc.) is essentially the same thing as a slot in a combi bank.
  • When you save the current (and entire) contents of this sequencer "bank" to external media as a .SNG file, that .SNG file is essentially like one combi bank in a PCG file. So every .SNG file that you create is essentially a custom combi bank that is meant to be loaded into the special sequencer "bank" instead of to one of the regular combi banks.
  • The internal sequencer is set to Multi REC recording mode when you first bring over a combi into the sequencer via Auto Song Setup (ENTER + REC/WRITE). This enables you to arm and record multiple tracks at the same time even if they're all on different MIDI channels. But if you turn Multi REC off, then you can arm only one track at a time for recording, and you select that track with the "track selector" field that is immediately beneath the song title field on most of the P0:Play pages/tabs.
  • You cannot control the play/mute status of what you're playing on the keyboard/pads with the track play/mute/rec buttons on the P0:Play Prog tabs like you can do over in combi mode. Those play/rec/mute buttons affect only what tracks make sounds when you play back your recorded tracks. Instead, to control what tracks you hear when you play the keyboard/pads, you must select that track in the "track selector" field mentioned in the preceding bullet.
  • When you select a particular track and play the keyboard, you might hear sounds from other tracks too in either a layered sound or a split. This is because those other tracks are set to the same MIDI channel as that of the track you have selected.
  • If you record something on a track where other tracks are also sharing the same MIDI channel, then what you record ends up only on the selected track in the P6:Track Edit page. When you play the song back, the midi events on that track are sent to all tracks (timbres, really, in this sense) that share the same channel, so they all make sounds. You need to be careful when doing overdubs and overwrite takes that you consistently use the same track in a set like this with every take, to prevent scattering your events intended to play multiple timbres at the same time across multiple tracks. (Which makes it harder to tell what's going on when you're in track edit or event edit mode later.)
  • In SEQ mode, all 16 tracks can be configured to transmit their events multi-timbrally to an external sequencer (or to pass MIDI and controller data to other sound modules in your setup) by setting the P3:Track Param > MIDI tab Status to Bth on the tracks that you want to send on to external devices. In COMBI mode, the M3 receives multi-timbral input from external sources on all 16 channels, but the M3 transmits events only on channel 01. The bottom line here to most people is that if you want to record what you're playing on the keyboard as well as the output from all four KARMA modules and the Drum Track all at the same time to both the internal sequencer and/or to an external sequencer, you must be in SEQ mode and you must set all those tracks to a MIDI Status of Bth. If you're in combi mode, you must instead record each of those tracks to the external sequencer separately, one at a time.
  • You can easily insert Sysex messages of any type supported by M3 into any of the 16 song tracks or any of the 100 user patterns (RPPR) available for each song. (The M3 has a fantastic dialog for creating SysEx messages in plain English.) Putting your SysEx events in RPPR patterns enables you to trigger the SysEx changes in real time while recording by pressing the pattern's assigned key (which can also be assigned to one of the 8 pads). This gives you the power to dynamically trigger massive changes in the sound of your song with one keypress or pad-press. The possibilities for dynamic sound changes during your recorded performance are endless. You cannot do this to a combi — you can do this trick only in songs. See this great how-to article by JerrytheK for details, along with an .SNG file you can download to demo all the tricks he explains in the article.
  • Let's review: a song is not the same as a .SNG file (you'll often hear people on the forums talk about a "song file"). The .SGN file is a snapshot of the entire contents of the SEQ section — essentially the same thing as a "bank" over in the COMBI section. Each song inside the .SNG file is exactly like a combi — it really is a combi for all intents and purposes—with just a few extra pages and tabs that are related to recording and sequencing what you play with this combi — err — song.

So what are the extra pages and tabs in a song, compared to a combi?

The first cosmetic difference between combis and songs is that what's called a timbre in a combi is instead called a track in a song. They're exactly the same thing, except that timbres can only be set to mute or play what you play live on the keyboard and pads, but a track can only be set to mute/play already recorded data (or armed to record new data), and the play/mute status of a track has no effect whatsoever on whether the keyboard/pads will actually play sounds from the program on that track (as described in the preceding section). When you import a combi into the SEQ section with Auto Song Setup (ENTER + REC/WRITE), nothing about the combi's timbres change except that they are now called "tracks" and can be armed to Rec as well as be set to Play or Mute

The next cosmetic difference is that some of the sub-pages on a page (the tabs along the bottom) are moved to some different pages. Remember, although you can use the SEQ mode like a "passive" combi bank and just use it for playing live, the main purpose of SEQ mode is to record and playback like any MIDI sequencer. So the pages are slightly renamed and reorganized to make sense in the context of recording, overdubbing, track editing, etc. There are also a lot of new page menu commands geared towards MIDI recording and editing. And finally, there are some entirely new pages and tabs that do not exist in COMBI mode:

  • P6 Track Edit - for editing the recorded track/note/controller/sysex data
  • P10 Pattern/RPPR - for creating step-sequencer patterns that can be assigned to a key/pad for 1-press playback
  • P11 Cue List - for arranging and looping the recorded songs (like intros, verses, choruses, etc.) if you're actually using the songs for recording instead of just as a passive combi bank with some extra live performance-oriented features
  • Three tabs on the P0 Play/REC page:
    • PlyLoop 1-8 and PlyLoop 9-16 - for independently looping various tracks in the song in a fairly simple way
    • Preference - for controlling the recording overwrite, overdub or manual/auto punch-in parameters for recording takes, and for setting up the click track and lead-in count.

Aside from the entirely new pages and tabs in the preceding list, every single page and tab from over in COMBI mode is in here somewhere, usually with the same name and on the same page. You just have to learn your way around the differences. You can really see the similarity in the M3 Editor, where it's hard to tell any difference at all when your looking at a combi versus a song in the M3 Editor—-the pages and tabs are laid out exactly the same there.

The basic recording workflow

You almost always start with a combi or program and import it into the internal sequencer. This is much easier than starting with a blank song and then adding programs one by one. Why? Because in the latter case, you have to manually set up every KARMA module and all the track assignments of the modules to the tracks they will act upon, and you must manually set up all your IFX, MFX, and TFX assignments and routings. Also, when you manually add a program to a song, none of the KARMA settings or effects settings come with it, so the program often sounds completely different than when you auditioned it from a program bank. (You can force those settings to come with it, but doing so will overwrite the current KARMA and effects setting of the song, which can make you tear out your hair.)

So it's much easier to always start with a combi that is close to what you want, import it into the sequencer, and then tweak it once it's in the sequencer and you have some recorded data to play back in a loop while you experiment with different settings.

Step 1 - Auto Song Setup and record your first take

  1. Once you've found the combi that is good enough for starters, press ENTER + REC/WRITE to import it into the first empty song slot in the internal sequencer. You are flipped into SEQ mode, recording is armed for all the timbres that were on the global channel (Gch) in the original combi (each timbre is now called a track, and each of those tracks is assigned to channel 01), and the click track is playing.
  2. Press START/STOP, wait for the two-bar countdown to finish, then record the phrase you want to capture as the starting basis for your song idea. When you're finished, press START/STOP again to turn off record-ready mode.
  3. Now that the song is in playback mode, press START/STOP to review what you just recorded. When you've stopped it again, press LOCATE to return to the beginning of measure
  4. The song is named NEW SONG by default, which isn't very useful, so from the page menu in the upper right, select Rename Song and give the song a meaningful name.
  5. Press PAGE SELECT and go to P6:Track Edit. You'll see some dots in the only some of the 16 tracks in the song — probably a lot fewer tracks than you expect.
    • These dots represent recorded MIDI data.
    • You'll have a set of dots in Track 1 and also in the Master track (M, at the bottom)
    • Track 10 might have some dots but only if this song had the Drum Track armed
    • Up to four other tracks might have some dots, depending on how many KARMA modules the current KARMA scene has turned on.
  6. Count up the total number of tracks that have dots in them (minus the M track), then go back to the P0:Play/REC page and count up the number of tracks that are armed for recording (they have the red REC indicator). See how this number matches the number of recorded tracks over in the Track Edit page?
  7. Now flip to the P7-1:KARMA1 GEsetup page and look at the bottom half of the page.
    • There are four rows A, B, C, and D with some red dashes in the corresponding graph lines.
    • Each red dash indicates which track(s) that KARMA module is playing.
    • There's a very good chance that at least one of those modules is playing more than one track.
    • If you add up the total number of KARMA tracks shown in this page, plus the notes you played that were recorded on track 1, plus the Drum Track on channel 10 (if it was on during recording), you'll see that this total does not equal the total number of tracks that actually have recorded data on them over in the Track Edit page (or that were shown as armed on the Play/Rec page). It's very important to understand why this is so, to prevent you a lot of frustration and confusion:
      • What's happening is that while one or more KARMA modules might be playing their output to multiple tracks, all of the MIDI data for that KARMA module is only being recorded to one track of the sequencer. In other words, assume that three tracks are set to MIDI channel 4 and are therefore all being played by KARMA module C, which is set up to output to channel 4. There's no benefit in actually recording the output from module C on all three of those tracks. When the track that module C's output was recorded on plays back that output to channel 4, all three tracks will respond because they're just listening to whatever is being sent on channel 4.
      • When a KARMA module is linked to more than one track like this, the recorded data is always placed on the lowest-numbered track. For example, if module C is linked to tracks 5, 6, and 9, the recorded MIDI data for module C is recorded on track 5 and nothing is recorded on tracks 6 or 9.
  8. Now that you understand which tracks have actually been recorded and how they relate to the keys/pads you played, the KARMA modules, and the Drum Track, you're ready to make informed decisions about which tracks to arm when you start doing your overdubs. For example, you probably don't want to have the KARMA tracks and Drum Track track armed if you're adding new key/pad phrases. On the other hand, when it comes time to overdub some KARMA slider/switch moves to give the KARMA output some more "life" and movement, you probably want to arm the 4 tracks that have the KARMA data, and make sure that no other tracks are armed.

Step 2 - Save each good take in case you need to "roll back" some bad takes

There are two ways to save your work in progress when you're in SEQ mode:

  • By copying the song you are currently working on to a new song slot. This is a fast technique to use during a recording session but it will not save your work permanently if you turn off the M3, so you must also use the technique described in the following bullet before you quit your session and turn off the M3. Assume that you are working with song S001. For a "quick save" during a recording session you would:
    1. Select song S002.
    2. From the page menu, choose Copy From Song and select song S001 as the one to copy from.
    3. Switch back to song S001 and keep working.
    4. Periodically repeat this process every time you get further along with song S001 and want to make a safe copy into song S002.
    5. Because song S002 always contains a recent copy of song S001, if anything goes wrong with song S001, you can reverse this process to effectively restore the latest version that you copied over to slot S002.
  • By saving the entire contents of the SEQ section to a .SNG file on your external media. This is the method you must use before you quit your recording session and turn off the M3. If you forget to do this, all of your work during this session will be lost, because the contents of the SEQ mode are volatile and not stored in the M3's memory when you turn off the M3.
    1. Press MEDIA to go into media mode and go to the Save tab.
    2. Navigate to the folder on your external media where you want to save the .SNG file we're about to create. Tip: The author of this article likes to keep a "SONGS" folder for every sound set I might load into the M3. If I load the Catalyst sound set from Karma-Lab, for example, I have a corresponding SONGS folder into which I place all .SNG files for recordings I make from the combis in the Catalyst sound set. That way, if i'm about to load a .SNG file from my external media, I know which sound set I have to load to ensure that the programs used in the songs in that SNG file will be in the same bank slot they were when the songs were recorded.
    3. From the page menu, select Save SEQ and give this new .SNG file a meaningful name
    4. If you're going to continue working, press SEQ to flip back to the sequencer mode.

Step 3 - Set up a simple playback loop so you can work out some more song ideas

  1. Now we set up the recorded measures from your initial take to loop while you work out ideas for additional tracks or overdubs to the originally recorded track.
  2. On the P0-1:Play/REC page, use the two PlyLoop tabs to mark some useful start/end measures for looping on each track that has recorded data.
  3. Press START/STOP to play your looped section over and over while you noodle out some new riffs/phrases.
    1. While we've got your original recorded measures looping in playback, let's take a side trip to illustrate something important about how the internal sequencer interacts with the KARMA engine.
    2. Stop playing the keyboard and pads. Just let the playback loop be generating all the sounds.
    3. On your M3's physical control surface, press the KARMA button, make sure you're in the Master layer, and then turn switches 1, 2, 3, and 4 off. This turns off all of the KARMA modules, but you're still hearing all the KARMA modules in the playback loop! What's going on here?
    4. This happens because the 4 recorded KARMA tracks contain the original output of the four KARMA modules, based on what you were playing on the keyboard/pads at the time.
  4. Now press the START/STOP button to stop the playback loop, then on the M3 control surface turn on switches 1, 2, 3, and 4 again.
    1. Now play any keys and you'll hear the KARMA modules play. This happens because KARMA is listening to the trigger notes you're playing on the keyboard, and all four modules are active so they're making output.
    2. Now start the playback loop again and play some dissonant chords over the top of the playback. Listen closely to what KARMA is doing when you play these dissonant chords: the original recorded material is playing back faithfully, but the KARMA engine is also playing new material based on the dissonant chords that you're playing over the recorded playback loop!
    3. This experiment shows you that when you are noodling over your playback loop to come up with some new ideas, you should reach over and turn off the KARMA ON/OFF button so that KARMA doesn't react to the new stuff you're noodling on and clash with the KARMA material that's in the playback loop!
  5. You might also have noticed during all this experimentation that if you let the playback loop run long enough, it eventually stops all on its own. In fact, it's stopping after exactly 64 measures because the default song length for a new song that you create with Auto Song Setup is always 64 measures. We'll talk about how to change the song length in a later step.
  6. So let's assume that you've noodled over your playback loop for a while and have come up with an idea for a bass line that you want to add to your initial take.

Step 4 - Prepare new tracks for overdubbing additional material in new voices

Note: I often use the term "overdub" in a generic sense, meaning to keep adding new material to your sequence in one way or another. Please try not to confuse my generic use of "overdub" with the two different recording modes in the M3, called Overwrite and Overdub. When I think of overdubbing new material in the generic sense, in some cases I'll use Overwrite mode and in others I'll use Overdub mode. The difference between the two modes is simple:

  • Overwrite will completely erase everything on the armed track(s) in the measures that you're recording and replace it with the content of your newest take.
  • Overdub will leave everything currently on the armed track(s) intact, and simply add everything in your new take to what's already there.
  • Note that the two Punch-In modes work like Overwrite but only in the punch-in measures. Loop All Tracks is strange and useful beast that works like Overdub but with constant auto-looping through the selected measures and the ability to selectively delete notes/events while still looping in record mode, by using some button-press combos. You have to read the M3 Parameter Guide description for this mode to really understand it (page 208).
  1. First, you need to turn off the play looping that you set up on the PlyLoop tabs. Just uncheck the top row of check boxes for any tracks that are currently looping.
  2. Next, we need to turn off the multi-record mode that is turned on by default when you create a new song via Auto Song Setup. Multi-record mode enables you to record multiple tracks in a single take, which is why the stuff you were playing on track 1 and all four of the KARMA modules were recorded in the first take.
    1. Go to the Preference tab on the far right.
    2. Clear the Multi REC checkbox.
    3. Go back to the P0-1 Play/REC page and notice how no tracks appear to be armed any more: there are no red REC flags. Instead, all the tracks from the original combi are set to the green PLAY mode. (The unused tracks, which are all assigned program INT A001, are still muted.)
  3. Okay we need to take one more side trip to demonstrate an important point about how songs behave very differently from combis.
    1. On both of the Prog pages, set all 16 tracks to Mute.
    2. Now play your keyboard and the pads. Hey! You're hearing the program on track 1 being played! How can this be? If you were in COMBI mode you wouldn't be hearing a thing!
    3. What's happening is this: in SEQ mode, the Play/Mute status of a track affects only the playback of recorded MIDI data! It doesn't affect the keyboard at all (more on this point in a moment).
    4. Press LOCATE to jump to the first measure of the song, then press START/STOP to start playing back your recording. See how you hear nothing at all?
    5. Stop playback, re-locate to measure 001, then unmute all the tracks that weren't muted by default (the ones that have program INT A001 were unused in the original combi and should stay muted unless you use them for new sounds in this song).
    6. Start playback again and this time you hear all your recorded material.
  4. Now go back to the P7-1 KARMA1 GEsetup page and remind yourself of which tracks are being used by KARMA in this song. It can be helpful to write those track numbers down. Also add tracks 1 and 10 to the list. (Track 1 is your main voice that you've already recorded your main material on, and Track 10 is the Drum Track.) This list of the tracks are unavailable for uses as new voices in your overdubs.
  5. So now that we know which tracks we shouldn't mess with, let's go back to page P0-1 Play/REC and choose one of the unused tracks to use for the voice that we're about to create some overdubbed phrases with.
  6. Double-check that the KARMA ON/OFF button is still off. We don't want our overdub generating new KARMA. Instead, we just want to listen to the played-back KARMA output that was recorded in the initial take.
  7. The trick now is to get the keyboard to play something other than MIDI channel 01, which is where all the manually played voices in the initial take were coming from.
    1. Let's go to one of the unused tracks in the song (probably on tab Prog 9-16). Look for the first muted track that's currently assigned program INT A001, which is a default, unused track in the song. Note its track number.
    2. Now go to the P3: Track Param page and then to the MIDI page that corresponds to the unused track you're going to use for your new overdub voice.
    3. In the Status row for that track, press > and choose INT so that notes sent to this tracks MIDI channel will be sent to the M3's internal tone generator.
    4. Go back to P0-1 Play/REC and to the Prog tab for the track we're working with.
    5. To switch your keyboard/pads to actually send their notes to this new track, look at the Track.. field right below the song title row: press the > button and choose this new track from the list.
      • This action tells the keyboard/pads to send their output to this track now.
      • This action also determines which track will be recorded when you overdub/overwrite. Press the REC/WRITE button for a moment and you'll see the selected track automatically become armed with a red REC flag. Press the REC/WRITE button to turn off record-ready mode before continuing.
  8. Now we audition programs to use for this overdub track.
    1. Press the >00 Keyboard button for our chosen track and browse through the likely-sounding programs until you find one you like. Just play the keyboard and pads while you select each program in the list. When you find a program you like, press OK.
    2. Time for another brief side trip. Now that the new program is assigned to your overdub track, let's compare how the program sounds in our song compared to how it sounds in its original program bank.
      1. Note the bank/slot number of the program.
      2. Switch to PROG mode and go find that same program.
      3. Play the program in program mode, then switch back to SEQ mode and notice how the program sounds a little different. Maybe a lot different. This illustrates that when you add a new program to a song, it comes in dry without any IFX, MFX, or TFX or KARMA. When you're "browsing" through possible programs like we did a moment ago, it's a "what you hear is what you get" situation — you're auditioning all those programs dry, which is probably why you felt some of them didn't sound like you remembered them sounding when you go browsing around the M3 in PROG mode.
      4. There's no way around this, really. There is a Copy from Program menu command that you can use to import the effects, etc. of the program into the song, but you generally don't want to do this because it will overwrite the original combi's effects, etc. and that will probably ruin the "sound" of your song so far. The only thing you can do to beef up the sound of the program you've chosen for this overdub track is to route it through the various IFX and MFX of this song and hope you can find some effects to fatten up the program enough to your liking in the context of this song.

Step 5 - Overdub the new tracks

Okay, so you've readied a new track, plopped a new voice into it, and maybe even tweaked that voice by routing it through the song's IFX and MFX, etc. We're ready to overdub some more parts onto new tracks!

  1. On the P0-1 Play/REC page, go to the Preference tab and choose one of the recording modes
    • Consult page 207 of the M3 Parameter Guide to help you decide on the type of recording mode to use, but here's a few general tips:
      • If there's no material already existing in this track on the measures you're about to record, then pretty much any mode works fine.
      • If there is already existing material in this track on the measures you're about to record, then:
        • If you want to replace the existing material, use Auto Punch In or Manual Punch In mode. (For Manual Punch In, you really want to do this with a footswitch attached to the rear panel ASSIGNABLE SWITCH jack, which you can set up accordingly on GLOBAL page P2:Controllers, where you set the Foot Switch Assign field to Song Punch In/Out.)
        • If you want to keep the existing material and simply add new stuff on top of it, use Overdub or Loop All Tracks mode.
      • When using Auto Punch In or Loop All Tracks:
        • The first box is the In measure, and recording will start at the beginning of that measure.
        • The second box is the Out measure, and recording will stop at the end of that measure.
      • The Multi REC option is generally not useful for your overdubs after the initial recording. It's generally only useful if you need to add new measures to the song as you build it up. For example, say you recorded an intro and two verses in your initial take in Step 1, and then you added some additional tracks with your bass line and other backing riffs/comping in other voices. But now you have an idea for the chord structure of your chorus and you want to lay that down after the measures you recorded in your intial take. In this case, you would do typically use Auto Punch In mode, set to begin on the measure immediately following the end of your initial take. You would also select Multi REC mode and then in the P0-1 Play/REC page you would arm all of the tracks that you want to record for the chorus, which would probably be Track 01 plus the same tracks that KARMA stuff was recorded on in your initial take, plus the track that the Drum Track recorded on in your initial take (if you used the Drum Track at all). Finally, you'd probably also want to set KARMA to use a different scene than it did in the original take, to give the KARMA-generated output a different "feel" for the chorus section.
      • TIP: An often better alternative to laying down new song sections is to actually record them as an entirely new song instead of adding them to new measures at the end of your first take. The reason this is often a better way to go is because you can then arrange your various song sections, which are each recorded as an individual song, in the Cue List. This makes it much easier to rearrange your entire song structure. Later, in Step 9 - Use the Cue List to arrange songs and song parts, we'll talk about how to arrange modular sections of a song and string them all together.
  2. Set your Locate point to a useful measure to start from, in case you need multiple tries to get a good take. Touch the measure number in the upper left and dial in the measure you want, then press ENTER + LOCATE to set the locate point to this measure. (Or start playback and stop playback at the point you want to set the locate too.)
  3. Flip back to the Prog tab where the track you're going to record is visible.
  4. Press REC/WRITE to go into record-ready mode, and confirm that the track you plan to overdub is set to red REC status.
  5. Press Start/Stop to kick off your two-measure count-in, then record your new take.
  6. Rinse and repeat as needed until you get a good take.
  7. Save your new, good take by either copying your song to a new song slot or by copying the entire contents of the sequencer to your .SNG file again as described in Step 2 - Save your initial take….

So now you know how to set up a track with a new voice for adding additional tracks and how to record the overdubs. You can use this same technique on existing tracks too if you need to change anything or overdub any new stuff on top of what you've already laid down. In the next step, we'll explain how to overdub the KARMA tracks, especially with slider/switch moves to give the KARMA tracks more "life".

Step 6 - Overdub and create real-time performances for the KARMA tracks

First, the bad news: when you read this section heading "Overdub and create real-time performances for the KARMA tracks", you probably thought that means you can put the M3's internal sequencer in Overdub mode and record KARMA scene changes, RTC slider and switch moves, etc. to some track and thereby fine-tune the originally recorded KARMA output.

Sadly, this just isn't possible with the M3's internal sequencer! There is a more clunky way to achieve this end result, which I'll detail in a moment. First, however, let's explain why the intuitive method isn't possible. It boils down to the MIDI signal path used by the internal sequencer:

  • Keyboard/Control Surface > KARMA Engine > Internal Sequencer > Tone Generator

In other words, the only KARMA information being recorded by the M3's internal sequencer is the output of the KARMA engine: the actual midi notes and SysEx data generated by the KARMA modules, which tell the tone generator what to play and how to play it. You can record the control surface input to the KARMA engine (scene changes, the RTC sliders/switches, etc) onto any track because what you play on your keyboard or do on the control surface is always sent to the KARMA engine and then to the internal sequencer too. But the problem is that when the sequencer plays back those recorded control surface moves, they only go in one direction: to the tone generator, which ignores them because they're used only by the KARMA engine. See the problem? So when you hear all the KARMA stuff when playing back you're sequence, you're not hearing the KARMA engine doing all that in real-time. What you're hearing is the original output from KARMA that was recorded to certain tracks on your very first take. That output is being sent directly to the tone generator, so it sounds the same as when KARMA plays the tone generator directly.

Now, the good news. If you use an external sequencer, you can effectively put KARMA in a different place in the MIDI signal path, which gives you the power to easily overdub KARMA RTC control surface moves in your external sequencer:

  • Keyboard/Control Surface > External Sequencer > KARMA Engine > Tone Generator

When using an external sequencer you can use a technique called "recording a trigger/control track", where you record only the output from your keyboard and control surface to the external sequencer. When you play back the trigger/control track into the M3, it passes through the KARMA engine first. So the KARMA output is never actually recorded to the external sequencer. It is always played "live" from the playback of the external sequencer. So you put the trigger/control track of your external sequencer into overdub mode (where new material is added to existing material on the track), then arm the track for recording and start recording. What happens in this case is that the external sequencer is playing back the originally recorded trigger notes/chords that tell KARMA what to play, so it does so. Meanwhile, on the M3, you are ignoring the keyboard and pads and only making KARMA scene changes, turning KARMA (and maybe the Drum Track too) on and off at appropriate points, making slider/switch moves within your KARMA scenes, uing the X-Y controller, etc. and all of these control surface moves are being sent to your external sequencer, overdubbed onto the armed track and looped back into the KARMA engine. So you're manipulating KARMA in real time and all your manipulations are being merged (overdubbed) with the original notes and chords on your external sequencer. (Alternatively, it's often cleaner to actually record all the control surface moves onto it's own track so that you don't have all the CC and SysEx data mingled with the note data on the original track. As long as you play back both tracks at the same time into the M3, KARMA will respond accordingly.) If your external sequencer is in overdub mode (or you're just recording a new control track), you can make overdub passes of your original chords/melodies and just do overdub takes of KARMA control surface moves (or any control surface moves, actually). For more information, see KARMA 2: Recording KARMA Output to External Sequencers.

So how can you make changes to the recorded KARMA output in the internal sequencer? Only with a combination of some manually-placed SysEx events to change scenes or to turn KARMA on/off, plus some careful Overwrite recording, and liberal use of the COMPARE button.

Work in where to set scene changes, etc. with manually-placed SysEx (very end of preceding measure) so that the following process can be streamlined to only overwrite-recording the slider/switch moves. Also detail where and how to reset a scene to it's original values where desired

  • The COMPARE button is your best friend here. When you've made a new Overwrite take, spend some time carefully comparing the originally recorded measures against the new take. If you don't like the new take and need to do it again, just leave the COMPARE button lit up and record a new take until you get it right.
    • Huh? How does this work? Well, the COMPARE function on the M3 is designed to keep the old take if you make any further edits at all while you're listening to the original take. So the rule of thumb is that when the COMPARE button is lit (meaning you're hearing the original take) is that if you start recording again while the COMPARE button is lit, the M3 throws away your most recent "bad" take and reverts to the original take the moment that the recorder starts running.
    • Yes, instead of using this trick with the COMPARE button, you could just save your SNG file before every new take and reload the saved version if you don't like the new overwrite take, but that's very time-consuming. So get comfortable with using a lit COMPARE button to do retakes until you get a good new take when you're in Overwrite mode.
  • The recording Preferences (on the P0: Play/REC page) have to be in Overwrite mode to actually overwrite the originally-recorded output from the KARMA engine. If you're in Overdub mode instead, you'll get a garbled mess of original KARMA output plus the new output from the current take.
  • You have to actually play the same chords/melodies/riffs/pads that you did during your original take to provide the same input to the KARMA engine, and you have to also make your KARMA control surface moves at the same time.
    • This means you should really do short auto-punch takes on selected measures instead of a basic overwrite. I recommend that you record one full scene change at a time. In other words, do Auto Punch-In only on the measures where you change KARMA to a new scene right up to the end of the measure before you plan to change to a new KARMA scene. Do the whole take with the scene change at the start of the first measure and all the slider/switch moves you plan to make during that entire scene. If you flub a control surface move, just do the whole punch-in over again until you can nail it. Then set up the auto-punch for the next scene.
    • Once you've changed a given KARMA scene from its original slider/switch settings, it's very important to save your SNG file right after you nail a good take for that scene automation. Why? Because if you have to stop your session and come back later, you want the current position of all the sliders/switches to be reloaded exactly as they are. Otherwise you won't have continuity when you go back to that scene again later in the song.
    • This also means you might be better off overwriting only one KARMA track on each pass instead of leaving the Preferences in Multi REC mode and trying to overwrite all the KARMA tracks at the same time. However, you've got no choice but to use Multi REC mode when you're making scene changes or slider/switch moves on the Master RTC layer.
  • Finally, be super careful about which tracks you leave armed for recording on each overwrite pass.

As you can see, it's no picnic to tweak the KARMA tracks on the internal sequencer. You can alternatively go into the track editor and carefully add controller events to tweak the KARMA data being sent to the tone generator. But really, if you need this level of edit control over KARMA, you should just buckle down and start using an external sequencer.

This is the number one reason I consider the internal sequencer as a song-writing scratchpad only. Trying to tweak KARMA in recorded material is ten times easier with an external sequencer. And if you're a gigging musician and you need to have intricate pre-recorded material in the M3 itself for live playback from the internal sequencer, you're still better off creating that material in an external sequencer, then saving it to a Standard MIDI File with a .MID extension, and then on the M3 using MEDIA > Load tab > page menu Load Standard MIDI File to import it into a song on the M3. (See page 421 of the M3 Parameter Guide for details.)

Step 7 - Overdub or Overwrite already recorded tracks


Step 8 - Use the Track Edit page to fine tune note and controller data


Step 9 - Use the Cue List to arrange songs and song parts

Step 10 - (optional) Create some RPPR patterns to play neat tricks

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