Korg DS-10

More music/videogame convergence with the arrival of the Korg DS-10 “game” for the Nintendo DS handheld game system. This program emulates a couple of vintage Korg MS monosynths, plus four more stripped down drum synths, plus some effects, plus a basic step sequencer and pattern chainer. Basically you get a little electronic music sketchpad that can run on your DS, which is pretty cool. I have no idea who had the idea to develop this, and no idea why their company gave them the go ahead to do so, but this is a real music tool that was obviously created by real musicians, and is really not a game at all.

Here’s a little demo song I made when playing around with it a little bit.

The softsynths included in the program actually sound pretty good, certainly at least as good as the synths that come with most “real” music sequencers. You can even move around some virtual patchcables to make some more complicated sounds or modulate things. The drum parts remind me of the Electribe ER-1, in that they are all synthesized blips bloops and splats. The program in general reminds me of the Electribe EA-1/ER-1 pair I used to use to come up with ideas, but it actually sounds a bit better and the synthesis is more powerful. It is a little bit more difficult to “play” than the Electribes, as it has several levels of menus that need to be navigated, and you can’t beat the immediacy of just grabbing a dedicated knob or pushing an actual button when you need to, but along with being more powerful than the Electribes the DS-10 is also much more portable and convenient.

The DS-10 doesn’t have any way of syncing with MIDI, which is too bad, but it does allow you to sync up with up to three other DS’s via WiFi that are also running the program, so you can get more synths going simultaneously. You could easily do an entire live set with a few of them hooked together if you were so inclined. And maybe someone can hack a MiDI->WiFi->DS-10 program to allow you to sync it up with a laptop…

All in all, I was really impressed with this program. Good use of the DS touchpad and interface, and it is a steal at under $40. Besides the Electribes, it reminds me of the program Rebirth, the first really cool softsynth that emulated a couple 303s and 808/909s, and stormed on the scene in the late 90’s and changed everything. This is like Rebirth, but better and cheaper and super portable. Back in the day, I would have killed for something like this to learn how to write electronic music with. These days, there are tons of cool and powerful and cheap tools out there for aspiring electronic musicians. So, where’s all the music, kids?

On that note, I need to finish up slowburn this week. I’ve been telling myself to just take as long as it takes, but obviously that hasn’t been working lately. So the official deadline is now Friday.