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lesson

Sound Design with the Synth Kit

by Nathan Chan

Published on December 16, 2015

Easy to understand descriptions of all of the bits in the Korg kit and some suggestions on how to use them.

Duration: 1 hour

Lesson Guide

STEP 1 : What's in the kit?

The Korg kit includes 12 bits for over 5,000 circuit combinations! The kit includes: 1 power bit with a 9V battery. I think the USB power is a great addition to this kit for endless playing and live sets. 1 split. This allows you to connect one bit to two other bits. 2 oscillators. There are many uses for oscillators, so it's nice to have two. These pieces will generate the waves we need to make a sound. 1 keyboard and 1 micro sequencer. These are controllers - typically they control the oscillators. 1 delay, 1 envelope, 1 filter. These are effects. They typically go after oscillators to change the sound somehow. 1 mix. This is a 2 channel mixer. It combines two audio signals. 1 random. This is a special piece that can either generate white noise or a random voltage. 1 synth speaker. This is the only output in the kit. It always is at the end of your synth circuit!

STEP 2 : Making a sound

There are a few ways to produce sound using these bits. You always need a power and a speaker to get a sound. First, try putting an oscillator between the power and the speaker. Mess with the pitch and tune knobs to see what they do. Also, compare square to saw waves using the little switch. Another way to make a sound is to use the random bit. If the random bit is on "noise" mode, it will create a static-like noise. No sound is transmitted on "random voltage" mode. The filter is also capable of making sounds. Try turning the "peak" knob all the way to the right, then mess with the "cutoff" knob. The delay can also create a feedback loop by turning "feedback" all the way to the right and the "time" all the way to the left.

STEP 3 : Controllers

The two controller pieces will allow you to control the pitch of the oscillators. If the keyboard comes before an oscillator, you can play notes. If a micro sequencer comes before, you can tune the four steps to different notes. If a keyboard comes before a micro sequencer, you can transpose the sequence. Lots of possibilities here! You'll also notice that micro sequencers and keyboards have trigger outs. This piece of the bit will output the same signal with every step or every button press. This means that if an oscillator comes after a trigger out, it plays the same note every time. This might come in handy later! The micro sequencer also has a "step" mode. This mode means the bit must receive an input signal before it moves onto the next step. Try putting the micro sequencer after the trigger out of the keyboard on "step" mode.

STEP 4 : Effects

The delay is the easiest effect to use. The "time" knob changes the amount of time it takes for the echo to happen while the "feedback" knob is the amount of echoes you hear. The filter is a "low pass filter", which means high frequencies will not be heard the more you turn "cutoff" to the left. It kind of gives the impression of being underwater. The "peak" knob (also known as "resonance") is a boost in the cutoff frequency. There are many ways to affect the timbre of the sound using this bit. The envelope is for shaping your sound. "Attack" and "decay" are measured in lengths of time, with turning to the right being longer. The attack is the amount of time it takes for the sound to increase in volume, while the decay is the amount of time it takes to decrease.

STEP 5 : Advanced modulation

The modulation possibilities with this kit are quite massive. Here a some suggestions to get you started! It might be helpful to split the power if you need to give power to more than one part of the circuit Try putting the envelope before an oscillator. Now the envelope is applied to the pitch instead of volume! Try to oscillate the filter's frequency in. What's the difference between saw and square here? Try to trigger the random bit on "random voltage" mode. You can either randomize the pitch of an oscillator of the frequency in of the filter. Try playing two oscillators at once by splitting the keyboard signal to each oscillator, then mix them back together. Try frequency modulation by putting two oscillators in series. I think the most fun part about this kit is exploring the sounds you can make. I have left out many of the ways you can connect them to create more interesting things. Check out my profile for some more sound design ideas!