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mini-article on KARMA Wave-Sequencing by Stephen Kay Print E-mail

In a nutshell, KARMA Wave-Sequencing is a completely separate thing from "regular Korg Wave-Sequencing". It uses the same name, because it can achieve a similar sounding effect. But "regular Korg wave-sequencing" and KARMA Wave-Sequencing are connected in no way (other than a KARMA GE can be generating its normal notes and controller output values and sending them to a Program that has Korg wave-sequencing involved, if you follow me).

Wave-sequencing, as it has traditionally come to be defined, means changing the PCM waveforms of a sound while you are playing it, in some sort of sequence. The typical sound that immediately comes to mind is the sort of "floop-chicka-click-diddle" percussive rhythmic sequences popularized in the Korg WaveStation by sounds such as "Ski Jam", "Pharaoh's Jig", "The Wave Song" etc. In these, basically a 16th note stream of waveform changes is cycled through while holding down notes, creating an ever-changing barrage of snippets of drums and percussive sounds. Other less "in your face" uses allow musical waves to gradually fade and morph between sounds, also a popular WaveStation type sound.

KARMA, at its most basic, generates notes. There is a destination program for a particular GE within the synth architecture, so, for example, a GE might be playing a string of 16th notes on a piano patch. What if KARMA had the ability to not only tell the synth what note to play, but a waveform sound for that note? That is KARMA Wave-Sequencing. Each note as it is generated can switch the PCM waveform internally to a desired wave, in whatever kind of sequence desired, including randomized pools of choices.

A few points, and pros/cons of the two methods:

KARMA Wave-Sequencing:
  • allows each note that KARMA generates to specify a Waveform ROM/RAM selection.
  • Choices may be made from Random Pools of multiple waveforms on given steps of the pattern, and varied in real-time.
  • The entire "wave-sequence" pattern can be shifted (offset) to completely different ROM/RAM choices, in real-time.
  • As the effect is to change the waveform of a note right as it is being generated, it is tied to note generation, and cannot change waves on sustained voices, (which regular wave-sequencing can do) - a new note has to play to change to a new waveform. However, you can turn off (filter) KARMA's note generation, and have KARMA change waveforms behind the scenes while you play notes on the keyboard yourself, and the waveforms will change at different times (this is quite cool, actually!).
  • You can select your own waveforms for some of the Wave-Sequence GEs and create custom patterns.
  • Sits on "top of" the Korg voicing architecture, so can be applied after-the-fact to any Program in any Combi/Seq.
  • Cannot have different voices playing different waves at the same time - all notes generated at the same moment will have the same waveform.
  • As the effect is part of KARMA, any of the notes it generates (including additional pitches not played from the keyboard but supplied by the chord analysis and intelligent transposition, clusters of notes, melodic repeated notes etc.) can become part of the wave-sequence pattern.

Korg Wave-Sequencing:
  • changes the waveforms of notes you are holding, so is capable of cross-fading and morphing between waves, creating very expressive evolving pad sounds in addition to the more well-known percussive loops.
  • part of the program architecture, so cannot be independently applied to different programs other than the one that contains the sequence (unless you edit the program.)
  • Multiple notes can be triggered sequentially at different times, and each note can start its own wave-sequence so that they all run at different points on top of each other.
  • Is limited to using the pitches you play on the keyboard, along with fixed pitch offsets that may be programmed for each step of the pattern.


Example Combi: A000 Particles & Waves

A really good example of KARMA Wave-Sequencing is Combi A000 Particles & Waves. With KARMA On, play one of the chord buttons, and hear a wave-sequencing kind of sound. Change the 8 different scenes in the Master Layer (the row of switches two above the sliders on the control surface), and hear the waveform pattern changing radically to included different sounds, different note patterns, etc.

Press the [KARMA GE] tab on the main Combi page (technically, page 0-6), and you will be on the "KARMA Play" page, so named because you get an overview of what KARMA is doing here while you are playing with the Combi, without getting into massive edits. You can assign GEs, and play with the Control Surface settings, and see a visual display that shows the notes and controller information being generated. (Note that this display is very similar to what you will see if you go to 0-9 Control Surface, on the RT/KARMA tab. The difference is that the KARMA GE page is all about KARMA, and doesn't show which scene is selected, while the Control Surface page shows an overview of the whole control surface, but doesn't provide as much KARMA detail.)

Anyway, you will be, by default, looking at the Master Layer (which corresponds to the "Module Control" button in the upper left corner of the OASYS. These controls allow you to interact with the KARMA Wave-Sequencing (from the Master Layer):

Slider 6: Waveform Select
Slider 7: WaveSeq Randomize

But first, just change the 8 scenes on the control surface, watching the GUI change and listening to the results of different settings. Many different variations of the percussive wave-sequencing type of thing, being changed in real-time.

FYI: in the Master Layer, switches 1, 2, 3 and 4 (first row above the sliders) generally control the 4 KARMA Modules (or however many are being used) in all of the Combis. In this example, if you turn off switches 2, 3, and 4, you will get only Module A, which is doing the KARMA WS. You can also use the "Solo" checkboxes at the top of the KARMA GE page we are looking at now.

Now, pick a scene like Scene 3 (the default start up scene), and play with Slider 6 "Waveform Select" - this will change the waveform patterns that are being selected to several different variations. Slider 7 "WaveSeq Randomize", controls an amount of randomization to the choices. (You have to picture the WaveSequence GE grid, which has a bunch of rows and columns, with multiple cells in each column. An exponential curve varying the weighting of the choices from the lower values in each column to the higher values in each column is hooked up to Slider 7. When it is at 0 (-99), you get the lowest programmed choice in each column, no randomization, and when it is at 127 (+99), you get the highest programmed value only. Moving it in between allows more and more of choices towards the middle of the programmed "pools of random choices".

The following picture of the WaveSequence grid from the KARMA software can aid in understanding this:

click here to see full size image
Click to enlarge

You can see in the above image that there are 16 waveform choices to the left of the grid, from the thousands of multisamples in the OASYS, and the grid contains "pools" of choices in each column.

So in the OASYS example (Combi A000), Slider 6 "Waveform Select" is selecting completely different patterns for this grid, composed of different selections of waveforms and different arrangements of the cells in the columns and rows. So Slider 6 completely reconfigures the grid, the waveform choices, which cells are on in each column, and Slider 7 "WaveSeq Randomize" varies the Random Pools Weighting Factor, which influences which choices are made from the pools in the columns.

Another good one to play with is Combi A013 Funk In The Year 2525. Solo Module D (turn of switches 1,2,3 in the Control Surface) and play with Slider 8 "Wave Seq Offset" in the Master Layer. Then switch Module Control to Module D, and play with the sliders and switches in there to make the GE generate different rhythms and sequences of notes, along with the Wave Seq changes.

A video of this combi being performed with is available at the Karma Lab Video Page.

A third good example is Combi A028 Citadel In Space. In this example, KARMA Wave-Sequencing can create note patterns with different waveforms on each note, or simply give the effect of "changing the program" (Scene 3 features a guitar, Scene 5 features pan flute, etc. - these are caused by KWS changing the waveform and then staying on that waveform, rather than changing each note.) There is also a video performance with this combi available at the above link.


Example Program: A056 Dyno E.Pno

An example Program (single KARMA Module) that uses a GE with the WaveSequence RTC Model is A056 Dyno E.Pno. When you turn on KARMA, and start the generation, the wavesequencing is OFF. But use Switch 6 to kick it in. Then you can play with Switches 7, 8, and sliders 7 and 8 for more WaveSequencing Control. And in this example (if you really want to dive in), you can go to page 7-5 [GE RTP], switch to parms 17-32 at the upper right, and the last 8 parameters allow you to select and dial in any of the OASYS Waveforms (by number) to the steps of the WaveSeq pattern. Referring to the MultiSamples section of the Voice Name List is handy at this point.

The following screen shot shows GE RTP (Real-Time Parameters) 17-32 for this program, showing all of the KARMA WS control, with the last 8 circled, showing where the waveform numbers can be adjusted. Note that they can also be set to "-1" (off), which puts a space or rest into the sequence where that spot would normally be played.


Click to enlarge

In a final twist to all of this, it is possible to "KARMA Wave-Sequence" Korg Wave-Sequences. In other words, Korg Wave-Sequences show up as choices in the multi-sound list, when the oscillator type for a program is set to "Wave Sequence". With KARMA, you can select between different Korg wave-sequences for the oscillators with each note if desired. But a more useful application would be to switch to a certain wave-sequence, play a few beats or bars with that sound, have KARMA switch to a different wave-sequence, etc.

You can see this in the OASYS Virtual GUI. Select [Mode: Program] > [HD-1] > [Osc/Pitch] > [Osc1 Basic]. Here we see that MultiSample 4 is set to a type of "Wave Sequence". KARMA Wave-Sequencing can be changing this value in real-time as notes are being generated.


2005 by Stephen Kay - developer of Karma Technology