Korg USA recently released a collection of electric piano and clav programs for their EDS-based workstations (M3 and M50) as a “thank you” to their many loyal owners. These are some of the most in-demand types of sounds that they constantly get requests for from their users, and they notice so many keyboard/synth players always looking for the “perfect” recreations of these essential electro-mechanical keyboard giants from the past.
In producing these new sounds, long-time Korg programming wizard Jack Hotop (25 years and counting making great sounds for Korg!) took a slightly different approach from his normal programming routine. He explains:
“Having owned and played all of these instruments over my many years of touring and recording I have a good idea of what to do. But this time I decided to take completely ‘literal’ approach to the sounds, looking to all the classic artists and recordings that have defined the vocabulary of how to play and to ‘process/produce’ each instrument. So I collaborated with Korg Product Manager Jerry Kovarsky, and between us we came up with our definitive list of artists and tracks across the many genres of music that for us made up this target list. And between us we own every album, cassette, CD, and bootleg recording imaginable, so we had an incredible listening library to draw upon!“
Jack’s first step was to explore a little-used feature of the EDS engine, the ability to use up to eight multisamples to smoothly velocity switch through samples, with carefully chosen cross-fade zones and even a little bit of layering to create ultra dynamic and expressive instruments with less obvious sample switching.
“The feature has always been there but we never maximized it in the original factory voicing,” explains Hotop. “OSC1 and 2 can do 4-way switching which provides up to 8-way if you need it. This really opens up a world of dynamic range for sounds. I explored combining and matching various samples and using start point adjustments to end up with sounds that are just so playable that I had a hard time calling it work. I couldn’t stop myself from playing after each sound was created,” he laughed.
The next step was the longest and most critical. Referencing different songs Jack set about modeling the EQ, effects and timbral character of each classic track to cover the many nuances and varying character of each artist and track. For the classic tine-based electric piano we all know and love, essential recordings by artists such as Herbie Hancock, Richard Tee, Bob James, George Duke, Joe Zawinul, Max Middleton (w/Jeff Beck), Stevie Wonder, and Jeff Lorber were referenced, to name but a few. For the earlier reed-based electric piano some of the essential references included Roger Hodson/Supertramp, Ray Charles, Joe Sample/Crusaders, Donny Hathaway, Ian MacLagan (Small Faces & Rolling Stones) and more. Finally, the clav sources included classic Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Billy Preston, John Paul Jones/Led Zeppelin, and Max Middleton.*
Each sound comes up ready to play and enjoy, but there are a lot of variations and effect control lurking beneath the controllers awaiting your exploration. Hotop advises, “When you play the sound be sure to try the joystick, moving it away from you often brings in a tremolo effects, and towards you gets even more adventurous. You can lock this behavior using SW2. Slider 8 (on the M3) or Knob4 (on the M50) always controls reverb depth, and the other sliders/knobs bring in a variety of classic chorus, phaser, delay and wah settings based on the type of sound. I also used templates for each type of keyboard, so all the tine-pianos are set up in the same way, all the reed pianos the same, and all the clavs. So once you get friendly with one, the others will be familiar to you.”
Each sound also comes with an associated Drum Track to jam along with, and chord pad voicings to either drive some tasteful KARMA® programming (for the M3) or the polyphonic arpeggiator of the M50. It’s like having Jack there to demo each sound for you!
Reaction to the sounds has been fantastic, with users writing online to thank Jack and Korg for these sounds. Comments have included:
“Wow, very nice! I spent about 2hrs with this set last night. Very, very nice. Korg has once again outdone itself. I knew I loved the M3 when I bought it almost but Korg just keeps making it better. “
“I hate to use all the colloquialisms but – Oh man – these are freakin’ awesome! Every one of these progs has so much personality.”
“Have any of you Korg guys checked out the new “Pro Vintage Keys”? I think they are stunning!! I can’t stop playing them!”
“There are 3 specific EPs designated as “reed” pianos – and they are the best I’ve ever played.”
“Yeah- these new vintage keys really make this a keeper. Those reeds, clavs, and EP’s are amazing. I really love the tube saturated patches. God – so realistic.”