Korg Volca Keys MIDI Out Mod

volca_midi_out2

Recently I have been looking for a way to sync the Novation Bass Station II (BSII) and the Korg Volca Keys. So what’s the problem? They do not communicate without a third party. As the firmware stands on the BSII, MIDI clock is not sent via the MIDI out port. The BSII cannot be used as a master clock to sync other devices. Fortunately it can receive MIDI clock, but unfortunately the Volcas only have MIDI in. The Volcas have gate clock out, but the BSII doesn’t do gate or CV.

This is particularly frustrating because I bought both synths for an upcoming project and would like them to play well together. To get around this I have been using a third device to send MIDI clock to a thru box then taking outs from the thru to the Volca Keys and BSII. This creates a mess of, what should be unnecessary, cables and power supplies. The upcoming project involves travel and requires battery operation in remote locations without power, so this work-around is not acceptable.

My next thought was to build a MIDI clock box. There are a few examples on the market, but they can be expensive (except for this one). Fortunately DIY solutions, like the Arduino, are fairly easy to build. Another way is to use the Highly Liquid MIDI CPU. Sending the MIDI CPU a signal from a circuit with a 555 timer chip controlled by a potentiometer is a great solution. Using this technique I was able to sync the BSII from a test gate signal. I may finish building this anyway because I have all the parts and it’s an interesting project.

However, the ideal solution would be for these instruments to communicate without additional hardware. Novation has said that they might enable MIDI clock out on the BSII in a firmware update. This remains to be seen, so I can’t get my hopes up. As it turns out Korg, like with the Monotribe and Monotrons, made the Volcas very easy to modify. A simple MIDI out mod sends MIDI clock, note on/off, velocity, and more.

To add MIDI out one simply needs to attach a MIDI jack with three leads to clearly labeled solder points on the circuit board. There’s almost no room inside for a recessed MIDI jack, so I used some spacers and mounted the jack on the right hand side. This also keeps the MIDI lead away from the knobs for playability. Voila! It works beautifully. Thanks, Korg!

Synchronizing Music Technology at Slam Academy

I am teaching a class starting on November 29, 2012 at the Slam Academy in Minneapolis titled Synchronizing Music Technology. The first class class of the four session module is free to attend with no obligation. If you decide to take the module you are eligible to purchase a Korg Monotribe and Korg Monotron for $175. General admission and student pricing is available.

In this course we will examine ways to synchronize musical devices including vintage-to-modern MIDI compatible devices, as well as pre-MIDI analog instruments using CV (control voltage) and gate signals. We will also learn how to sequence and interface these devices with computer software making it possible to create studio and performance setups that integrate decades of music technology.

The Slam Academy is one of a handful of certified Ableton Live training centers worldwide. Most classes are around $200 or less for students and meet for three two hour sessions. I am very excited to be an adjunct instructor at this incredibly forward thinking school for electronic arts. If you’re in the area please stop in for the free intro class on November 29 or consider registering for a module or two.

Handmade Music Minneapolis Number Eight

Checkout the eighth installment of Hand Made Music Minneapolis on July 25, 2011 at 9pm at the Hack Factory.

This time the line-up includes Rifflord playing heavy music on handmade gear, Mike Hutchins talking about the same gear, Adam Loper playing his modified organ and leslie cabinet, and Dust Buns.

More information is available here www.tcmaker.org/blog/2011/07/handmade-music-minneapolis-number-eight/.

Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter Repair

I recently purchased a Roland MKS-80 in need of repair. Several things were wrong with it including the tuning knob, dynamics slider and “insert cartridge” errors when trying to change the patches from the front panel. Without being able to tune the synth or utilize the dynamics, the instrument was effectively unusable, but I decided to buy it anyway in the hope that it could be repaired. After several days and more than thirty hours of research, parts swapping, and troubleshooting I managed to get it working properly. Read on for an illustrated story of the repair process and audio from the fixed unit.
Continue reading