Korg Volca Keys MIDI Out Mod


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!

Low-Gain Live​ at Honey, Minneapolis

Although I have weeks worth of back-logged synthesizer sounds of my own I am honored to defer today’s entry into One Synthesizer Sound Every Day to Logan Erickson, otherwise known as Low-Gain. At my request Logan played the closing party for the Eyeo Festival along with Eskimo Spy and Ostracon, so I can claim partial responsibility for his work that evening. But all the credit for these searing, synthetic soundscapes goes to master-modular-meistro Low-Gain himself. Isaac Halvorson was on hand to record the night, and Logan has shared his set for us all to enjoy repeatedly. Click here to download, or listen below.

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/.

Weird Sound Generator Meets Memory Man

This evening I introduced the Weird Sound Generator (WSG) to the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man delay. The two of them hit it off and the next thing I knew was that someones jack went into someones input and some completely unprotected signals went down. A little mood lighting later and… here’s the result of the union.

WSG Meets Memory Man

The Visible Pocket Oscillator

I really love this instrument. It’s simple to build and operate, yet the variety of sounds possible is broader than you would expect. This is the third Posc I’ve built. The first one I assembled into a small cardboard box. Let’s call it the Cardboard Posc. I disassembled the Cardboard Posc to build a prototype sound object for a dance piece.

For my third version I decided to build it into a transparent plastic case, formerly packaging for my iPod Touch. Let’s call it the Visible Posc. Right now it’s held together with a rubber band, but I’ll probably replace it with a screw or something to open it up for battery replacement. For more checkout these posts:

Saucer Sled Synth
POSC Pocket Oscillator