Category Archives: Musical Instruments

Posts about musical instruments, may be hard- or even software

Korg announced the Kronos 2

There have been some rumors, since the Kronos X 88 has not been available for purchase for quite some while now. Meanwhile Korg announced the Kronos 2, so the most obvious new features are now known.

The changes can be classified as »minor improvements«. The piano engine has been updated, the touch screen now accepts drag and drop (e.g. to open the lid of the grand piano), the setlist mode allows to adjust the size of the text and to select colors for the particular buttons, and last but not least, the cheap plastic cheeks have been replaced by wooden panels.

I have no clue whether Korg will provide the software updates for users of previous models. For my uses, the improvements are of minor concern, thus I don’t care. No new audio engines have been added (I hoped the Wavestation software plugin would find its way to the Kronos), I haven’t read anything about more memory slots for programs (21 banks are a lot, but little in case most of them are already filled with factory sounds), and the limitation of the effects slots in multi mode still seem to persist.

IMO Korg do a great Job these days. The Kronos is an absolutely outstanding machine since its first incarnation, turning the engines of the competitors “to dust”. For about 4k € you get 9 synth engines in one device, tons of factory sounds for almost any genre, drum tracks, a sequencer and so on. The machine is useful in the studio as well as on stage. The only thing that hinders live usage is its size, weight, and missing handle bars of the 88 and 73 key incarnations.

Update 2014-11-19: V3 will be available for previous models.
Update 2014-12-05: OS 3.0.2 is available (german language).

A summer full of organ music

On sunday the 2014-09-14 the last Vesperale of this year’s season took place in Wissembourg, performed by Pascal Reber. It was the 50th Vesperale since the inauguration of the Dubois organ. We heard rumors of people involved that there are plans to continue next year.

I’ve attended each of the 50 Vespers (and the other concerts), except for three times last year due to some vacation. The last two years, a friend of mine also was involved. Fortunately he owns a car. The deal is simple. He’s driving, I’m cutting and converting to mp3 the bootlegs recorded with the Zoom H4N :) .

It’s a bit weird. We align each summer weekend to this particular event, dropping other activities (like hiking or biking) and do not hesitate to spend hours getting there, just to enjoy the sound of this special instrument. But obviously it is worth the effort.

Besides the Vespers in France, the Internationaler Orgelsommer Karlsruhe provided five occasions to listen to the two organs (Steinmeier and Remy Mahler) of the Ev. Stadtkirche. We attended three times to listen to Sul Bi Yi (Seoul), Ben van Oosten (Den Haag), and Olivier Latry (Paris). Their performances were outstanding, especially the one of Sul Bi Yi.

Will we continue next year? I presume our motivation didn’t decrease yet. I’m addicted to sounds, with a focus on keyboard instruments like electronic synthesizers, and pipe organs, which can be seen as ancient additive synthesizers.

John Bowen Solaris

John Bowen Solaris (by Brandon Daniel from Sunnyvale, CA, USA, via wikimedia commons)

John Bowen Solaris (by Brandon Daniel from Sunnyvale, CA, USA, via wikimedia commons)

As the synth addict I am, I’m completely overwhelmed by the machine John Bowen has designed. I had no occasion yet to put my hands on a real device. However, musictrackjp provides a great overview, regardless I do not understand japanese :) .

Even via the internet, one senses the organic character of its audio engine, e.g. by listening to the string sounds. In case you’re after a machine providing aggressive solo sounds, the fun starts at 10:30. If you know how to recreate this mooguesque sound using an Access Virus, a Korg Z1, or a Korg Kronos, please let me know.

The device emulates components (oscillators, filters) of several classic synthesizers from Sequential Circuits, Oberheim, Moog, and Waldorf. The latter emulation provides the original wavetables of the Microwave, which I sold about three years ago. A unique selling proposition are its two modulation rotors, which can be used for a lot of animations.

The price tag is almost 4k €, and it usually requires preordering. A lot of money for »just another subtractive synth«, though I presume it is worth every ¢.

Korg MS-20 Envelope 2 Behaviour

For quite a while now, Korg put a lot of efforts in resurrecting some of their legacy machines. This includes, for example, the Wavedrum, the Polysix, and the MS-20.

The Kronos includes the latter two as software engines. While the emulations sound pretty good, I have a hard time getting used to the MS-20 emulation, due to the behaviour of its second envelope generator. A couple of resources (like the ones here and here) shed a little light on the issue. There’s a wee small hint provided by the imprints of the patch panel.

Korg MS-20 Patch Panel Blank

A closer look at the reverse output of envelope generator two indicates that the sustain stage of the envelope provides a voltage of 0 V.

As a consequence, increasing the sustain level will not increase the filter’s cutoff level as it does on many other machines. Instead, it decreases the filter’s level during the attack, hold, decay, and release stages.

Per default, with no patching implied, the envelope generator two affects both the amplifier as well as the filter cutoff. To dedicate the envelope generator two to the filter’s cutoff, simply patch envelope generator 1 to the initial gain parameter of the voltage controlled amplifier, VCA. This will decouple envelope 2 from the amplifier.

Envelope 1 now controls the amplifier, envelope 2 the filter cutoff only. To make the above behaviour audible, set the lowpass filter’s cutoff to about 50% and the EG2/Ext value (which basically means envelope amount) to about 80%.

Set the attack and decay times of envelope 2 to about 50% and listen to the output. The filter will open starting at about 50%, open completely and fall back to 50% during the decay stage. Feels familiar with me.

Remember the filter’s cutoff is set to 50%. Play a couple of short notes while raising the sustain level. Closely listen to the initial level of the filter at each note. It will fall below the cutoff set to 50% the more you raise the sustain level. This means to achieve the common behaviour of the sustain stage, adjusting it also requires adjusting the filter’s cutoff setting. At the same time, the decay will decrease, similar to other envelope designs.

I have no clue whether I got all the details right, but the above is what I think I understood so far. In case you find the behaviour annoying, leave envelope 2 alone and use the Kronos’ envelope generators 3 and 4 to control the filters.

Synth Programming – Access Virus Filter Balance


The Access Virus is a very flexible analogue modeling synthesizer. Besides its oscillators, the two filters contribute to its premium audio qualities.


The two filters can be used in two serial modes, a parallel mode, and a split mode. Filter 1 can be used in both 12 and 24 dB modes. It also provides filter saturation or analogue modeling types.

A depiction of the filter modes (Serial 4, Serial 6, Parallel, Split) can be found here.

Since its early incarnations, the Virus provides an (in)famous parameter called »Filter Balance«. At a first glance it is difficult to understand what it does exactly, depending on the abovementioned modes. The manual only sheds little light on what it does exactly. I hope the following description helps to unveil its potential.

Filter Balance in Split Mode

  • Oscillator 1 (plus the sub oscillator) feeds Filter 1 which is connected to the left audio output.
  • Oscillator 2 (plus 3) feeds Filter 2 which is connected to the right audio output.
  • Filter Balance controls the balance between the two filters (respectively outputs).
  • In case you want to hear either signal on both speakers, set Pan Spread to 0% in the program edit menu.

Filter Balance in Parallel Mode

  • The output of the Mixer section feeds the inputs of either filter.
  • Filter Balance acts as a mixer of the two filter signals (Filter 1 only, both, Filter 2 only).

Filter Balance in Serial modes

  • At the leftmost position of the Filter Balance knob, the Oscillators as routed through Filter 1 are audible only.
  • At the rightmost position of the Filter Balance knob, the Oscillators as routed through Filter 2 are audible only.
  • At the center position of the Filter Balance knob, the Oscillators are routed through Filter 1 and then through Filter 2. In case Filter 1 is set to a lowpass filter with a low cutoff setting and Filter 2 is set to a highpass filter with a relatively high cutoff setting, chances are given that almost no signal is remaining at the output of Filter 2.

It took me a while to understand the latter behaviour, since I thought in terms of simple analogue circuits respectively the routing of the filters as found in the Korg Z1. The actual behaviour of the Balance knob is more complex than just being a simple balance control. The way it is implemented provides a very musical approach, though. Even more when taking into account that the parameter is controllable via the modulation matrix, e.g. using an LFO.

Virus Control Filter Balance Modulation

Klangwelten live at Tollhaus 2013

Once again we attended the annual Klangwelten concert which took place for the 27. time this year. Musicians included:

  • African Heart Beat (Uganda)
  • Ngau Jau (Borneo)
  • Jatinder Thakur (India)
  • Mahindra Khan (Rajasthan)
  • Rüdiger Oppermann (Germany)

Due to an intense working day, I was a bit late, but we decided to attend anyway and didn’t regret. In case you get the chance to visit one of the concerts, do not hesitate.

Vespers continued August 4 2013

Today Quentin Guerillot played the following pieces:

Jean Adam Guilain (ca. 1680-1739) – Suite du 2ème ton

  • Prélude
  • Tierce en taille
  • Duo
  • Basse de trompette
  • Trio de flûtes
  • Dialogue
  • Petit Plein-Jeu

Claude Bénigne Balbastre (1727-1799)

  • Prélude et fugue

Charles Tournemire (1870-1939) – Suite évocatrice

  • Grave
  • Tierce en taille et récit de cromorne
  • Flûte d’écho
  • Jeu doux et voix humaine
  • Caprice

Bengt Hambraeus (1928-2000) – Livre d’orgue

  • Introduction sur les Pleins-Jeux

Vespers continued July 28 2013

Today Marc Huck (organ), Caroline Huck-Hiebel (organ), and Eric Hiebel (trumpet) played the following pieces:

  • Jacques Boyvin (ca. 1649-1706) – Prélude du 5ème ton
  • Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) – Extraits de Musique Héroique ou 12 marches pour violon ou flûte et clavier – Marche N° 2 – La Grâce
  • Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) – Extraits de Musique Héroique ou 12 marches pour violon ou flûte et clavier – Marche N° 11 – l’Espérance
  • Michel Corrette (1707-1795) – Extrait du Premier Livre d’Orgue – Grand Jeu
  • Johann Speth (1664- ca. 1719) – Extrait du recueil »Ars magna consoni et dissoni« – Partite diverse sopra l’aria detta la Todesca
  • Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685-1759) – Air extrait de la »Water Music«
  • Leopold Mozart (1719-1789) – Suite en Fa majeur – 3 mouvements
  • Samuel Wesley (1766-1837) – Three duets for Eliza
  • Christian Friedrich Ruppe (1753-1826) – Extrait de 18 pièces pour l’orgue ou piano-forte – Finale, Rondo Allegro
  • Georg Friedrich Kauffmann (1679-1735) – Extrait de Harmonische Seelenlust – Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir

Vespers continued July 21 2013

Today Lydia Schimmer played the following pieces on the Dubois organ:

  • Georg Muffat (1653-1704) – Apparatus musico organisticus – Toccata undecima
  • Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) – Toccata Seconda
  • Heinrich Scheidemann (1596-1663) – Dic nobis Maria
  • Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667) – Partita »Auff die Mayerin«
  • Georg Böhm (1661-1733) – Vater unser im Himmelreich
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Ave Maria Stella – Pein Jeu
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Ave Maria Stella – Fugue à 5
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Ave Maria Stella – Duo
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Ave Maria Stella – Dialogue sur les Grand Jeux

This concert was quite different:

  • Pieces of three composers of the pre-Bach era
  • No Bach played at all
  • Excellent presentation of the french sound of the instrument (thirds, cornet, lingual stops)

I got the impression that Lydia Schimmer has carefully chosen pieces matching the instrument quite well – thanks for the efforts, we enjoyed every single minute!

Vespers continued July 7 2013

Today Thomas Kientz played the following pieces on the Dubois organ:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Clavierübung Teil III – Präludium und Fuge Es-Dur (BWV 552)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Vater unser im Himmelreich (BWV 737)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Vater unser im Himmelreich (BWV 762)
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – A solis ortus cardine – Plein chant en taille
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – A solis ortus cardine – Fugue à 5
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – A solis ortus cardine – Trio
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – A solis ortus cardine – Point d’orgue sur les grands jeux
  • Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) – Fantaisie et fugue en ut mineur
  • Gottfried August Homilius (1714-1785) – Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten
  • Gottfried August Homilius (1714-1785) – Weg, mein Herz mit den Gedanken
  • Gottfried August Homilius (1714-1785) – Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
  • Gottfried August Homilius (1714-1785) – Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn
  • Gottfried August Homilius (1714-1785) – Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ

Due to the warm weather the city of Wissembourg was not as crowded as on other sundays. The concert was of great joy and pleasure as always :) .

Replacing the head of the Wavedrum

I try to play the Wavedrum frequently. I mainly use the finger tips for playing rather than the palm (or even sticks). Unfortunately I did not pay attention to my finger nails, which scratched the original head quite heavily.

As a consequence, I needed to replace the head. As advertised by Korg, I’ve chosen the Remo Ambassador Fiberskyn3 10“ (model FA-0510-00). Replacement is simple. Just remove the 5 screws, turn the rim to the right (gently, so that the cable between the rim and the body does not get damaged), replace the head, put the rim in place and insert the five screws. The manual describes how to tighten them and how to calibrate the sensors.

While calibrating the rim sensitivity, one may be tempted to set the low value to 0 instead of something like 7. This leads to some hiss coming out of the Wavedrum though.

The next couple of days will show whether the Remo is more resistent than the original head :) .

Vespers continued 2013

This year the vespers at Wissembourg are continued. Today Heinrich Grimm played the following pieces:

  • Jean-Nicolas Geoffroy (1633-1694) – Offerte en fanfare
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Partite diverse sopra il Corale O Gott, du frommer Gott (BWV 767) – 9 variations
  • Jacques Boyvin (1653-1706) – Extrait de la suite du premier ton – Tierce en taille
  • Jacques Boyvin (1653-1706) – Extrait de la suite du premier ton – Basse de Trompette
  • Jacques Boyvin (1653-1706) – Extrait de la suite du premier ton – Grand Dialogue
  • Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) – Toccata XI – Allegro
  • Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) – Presto
  • Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) – Partita alla Lombarda
  • Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) – Fuga

A friend of mine who attended for the very first time was quite impressed :) .

First anniversary of the Inauguration of the Dubois organ

Almost one year passed since the inauguration of the Dubois organ at the abbey of Peter and Paul in Wissembourg. To celebrate the anniversary a nice concert took place yesterday from 8 PM to 10 PM.

Pascal Reber and Markus Eichenlaub played pieces of various composers. Three have been played using four hands by both artists. A screen has been used so that the audience could see the artists and their helpers working at the console.

I especially enjoyed the »Chaconne en fa mineur« of Johann Pachelbel, one of my favorites which I haven’t heard for ages.

Just like last year the instrument can be heard during the vespers each sunday at 5 PM (August 11 at 4 PM) between June 9 and September 15.

I’d like to thank all who helped to make this happen, especially the many volunteers.

The Korg Wavedrum

I wonder why Korg didn’t name the instrument Kavedrum, since this would better fit other Korg products like Kronos and KingKorg :) .

I had the occasion to play the instrument this weekend. Frankly, I was completely impressed by the sensitivity of its membrane and rim. The built in sounds include really special stuff, and the device invites to play stuff never heard before.

It was designed as a standalone musical instrument. As a consequence, it does not provide interfaces such as MIDI or USB. It cannot be used as a controller to trigger sounds of other instruments. The user cannot upload custom samples, and the device cannot be played by external sequencers. Obviously the product managers had a clear vision in mind.

I also played the Wavedrum Mini. The pad is not a membrane, but a rubber pad. Instead of a rim, it features a clip which can be used external surfaces (tabletops, books etc.) to trigger sounds.

I was impressed how well it responds to user input. However, I perceived the overall sounds less innovative the the one of the Wavedrum (WDX, Oriental, the new Wavedrum Global was not on stock yet).

The third device I tried was the Roland Handsonic, which is available with 10 and 15 Pads. It’s less innovative than the Wavedrum, but it provides external connectivity via MIDI, and responds to user input very nicely.

So which one am I going to buy? None of them. Since I’m a keyboarder and not a percussionist, I’m still content with the m-audio Trigger Finger connected to the Kronos or the computer:

The Kronos cannot cope with it when connected via USB. The first couple of notes will be played, but then the Kronos stops to play further notes. Plugging the TriggerFinger out and in again fixes the issue, but only for a couple of notes. As a workaround, don’t use a USB but a MIDI cable.

Edit: Also see the Mandala.

The very first ROMpler…

Though the Lichttonorgel was not a commercial success, it was the very first sample player ever. It was invented and developed by Edwin Welte, a member of the famous company known for their orchestrions and reproducing pianos. The latter instruments can be seen in action in several museums in the south-west of germany.

BTW: The piano roll they invented still can be found as an editor in many software sequencers to create and manipulate control events.

The Lichttonorgel can be seen as one of the predecessors of the Optigan and Orchestron, a competitor of the Mellotron. New sound disks for the Optigan are still available via, including sound samples.

The Hang and the Duduk

I had the occasion to hear a Hang being played one summer eve of 2012 in Wissembourg. It’s a very interesting musical instrument as it appears to be a combination of a percussion and a pitched instrument, similar to a Steelpan.

Dmitry Yeryomin (aka SynthKeyWizard, SKW) shared samples of the instrument for the Korg Kronos. Don’t miss the video where he plays the samples. It is available at the bottom of the download page. Additionally he shared samples of a Duduk. Don’t miss the excellent video.

Another enthusiast maintains the hangblog.