Korg Kaossilator 2 – Nine things to know, do, or try

For Christmas I got a Kork Kaossilator 2 dynamic phrase synthesizer. I’d seen them online before, and while I don’t really ‘do’ electronic music like that, it looked like fun. It is.

In the first couple of weeks, I’ve figured out a few things, so here are some pointers.

1. Rubber band markers
The interface does, in theory, let you play tunes, but depending on how you’ve set up the scale settings, the x axis might contain dozens of notes, so just shifting your finger along the slightest amount will create different notes. Many of the scales present you with only eight notes if you set it to just one octave, in which case, a marked up rubber band as shown here can really help you see the intervals.

2. Shortcut 1 – jumping to types of sounds
With 150 built in sounds, it can be a hassle navigating through them all, but they’re arranged into groups e.g. Lead, Bass, Acoustic. You can quickly jump between these groups by holding down the SND button and using the slider interface.

3. Shortcut 2 – changing loop length instantly, THAT drill sound
Another shortcut, is to change the loop length without having to go through the unweildy function menu (FNC button). To do this, simply hold down the | or || loop buttons, and run your finger up and down the slider. If you’ve got something in that loop, it can create some cool, interesting faster beats and drilling type sounds.

4. Mic recording with headphones on
You can record sound loops directly into the built in mic e.g. by singing into it. However, if you don’t have headphones plugged in, the output becomes silent while you’re trying to do this – not very helpful if you’re trying to record something in time with what what you’ve already got looping. I’m assuming the reason for this is to stop feedback, sound from the speaker leaking back into the mic loop. But if you plug in headphones, you still hear your loops, and can then record on top of them.

5. Didgerido, Dist Bass, Wobble Bass (Dubstep sounds)
You start realising what voices are going to be used most often for what you want to. For dubstep ‘wob wob wob’ type sounds, try the above voices.

6. Looping acoustic instruments
Looping acoustic instruments can be fun, but I’ve yet to find a way of freeing both hands to play them – you need one hand to hold down the record buttons, and one to actually play the instrument. I can just about manage a banjo roll or simple harmonica tune while recording like this.

7. Using the bassline scale (just 4 notes)
There is a simple way of dealing with the problem I talked about in the first tip, having so many notes in the x axis: choose a scale type that has less notes and set it to one octave. One of the scale types is just called Bass Line, and only has 4 notes. That means the x axis is just divided into quarters, perfect for the rubber band divisions shown above!

8. Timing in handmade drum loops
There are whole drum pattern voices, but also various drum pad type ones, where different parts of the kaos interface represent different singular drums. This means you can play it like a drum machine. However, the Kaossilator doesn’t normalise or tidy up your timing. Whatever you record into the loop, that’s exactly how it plays it, so timing needs to be perfect. One way to help with this is to record a simple pattern voice into loop one, and use that as a metronome track to help time your hand crafted beats into loop 2. Then delete the first loop, and carry on.

9. Understand the limitations
This is all fun, but there are limitations. There’s no undo, so if you’ve layered up lots of sounds successfully on one of the loop tracks, and then add something where the timing’s out, you can’t just remove that, you’d need to delete the whole loop with all your previous work. As I mentioned, it doesn’t normalise or tidy up your timing. Also, some sounds are very loud (the bass ones for example) and will obscure more subtle sounds, like the acoustic ones.

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