Korg Volca Sync Issues and How to Solve Them

Ever since I got my Korg Volcas (all 4 of them) I have been struggling with timing issues. The units sync up fine most of the time, but sometimes one of them skip a step or two when I press play and gets out of time with the other units.

At first, I thought the problem only occurred when I sync the Volcas to my computer via MIDI, and suspicion immediately fell on my home made MIDI Thru Box. I later discovered that the same thing also happens sometimes when I use only Volcas with sync cables, so I started doing some research.

It turns out that the sync problems were caused by my mono audio cables! When using mono cables (or a stereo cable plugged into a mono input), one of the audio channels is shorted to ground and this somehow interferes with the sync circuits of the Volcas.

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The solution was straight forward – I took some minijack stereo cables I had lying around, got out my wire cutters and snipped one of the 2 wires in each cable. I covered up the cut with electrical tape to provide isolation and avoid pops when I touch the cable.

I haven’t had any sync issues since and this solution also allows me to plug the Volcas into the balanced inputs on my Scarlet audio interface without having the two stereo channels cancel each other out.

Live Perfromance with 4 x Korg Volca and Waldorf Rocket

I recently watched an interesting video with Saytek on how he does his live performances and got a few ideas for my own.

I started out by creating kick, bass and pad loops in Reason, and imported them into Ableton Live as clips. I then created additional parts with the internal sequencers on the Volca Bass, Beats and Sample and used Ableton Live to sequence the Volca Keys and Waldorf Rocket. I love the  Volca Keys but the internal sequencer is pretty useless in my opinion.

All the hardware synths go into Ableton Live for real-time FX processing and mixing (no multi tracking was involved). I set up the Korg nanoKontrol to control volume on the kick and a couple of other tracks, to be able to fade them in and out.

I played around with the parts for a while and set up a few scenes in Live to outline the arrangement. I maximized the width of the master track in Live and typed in notes along with the scene names to guide me during the performance – a cool trick I picked up from the Saytek video. I mapped one of the buttons on the nanoKontrol to “Scene Up” in Live and used it switch scenes during the performance.

All in all I think the setup worked out pretty well. The notes really did help me bring more structure to the performance but they are also somewhat constraining. I will probably not use performance notes moving forward – I prefer to improvise… after all, making good electronic music is all about fortunate accidents!

Making a Complete Track in GarageBand for iPhone

I recently traveled from Dubai to Vietnam and got bored with the in-flight entertainment.

So I put my iPhone 5 in flight mode, loaded up GarageBand and did a full-blown 5 minute track in about 4 hours. I uploaded the track straight to my sound cloud from GarageBand without any additional edits, overdubs or mastering.

I was really surprised how complete this track sounds. Being my own worst critic I will be the first to point out that the track is far from perfect, but for a single app on a smartphone I think it’s pretty damn impressive.

Take a listen and tell me what you think!