This is the third part of a series of articles that covers workings of styles inside keyboards and specifically this time, the workings of KORG and KETRON styles. As we pointed out in parts 1 & 2 of this series, styles will not work on brands other than that they were written for. Consequently, for the purposes of clarity, we need to split them up, as all will become apparent.
Their first venture into arranger keyboards was the “KORG I” series. This was followed by the PA80 and PA1X and 2X keyboards and what we came to call the “Silver” range followed by what we call the advanced “Gold” range. This became the base of the PA3X and 4X a vastly improved Arranger Keyboard and the benchmark for future Korg keyboards. The Korg style format is unlike all the other keyboards, this is because of its very complicated chord structure. You can program up to 6 variations of a chord but you then have to tell each part what variation to use in each section as it can be different in each. Korg tends to use one Major chord in the style variations then Major and Minor in Intros/ Endings and Fills leaving the arranger to auto-convert the major chord to whatever chord you play on the Keyboard.
This is not unusual as Yamaha also use this type of system. This system works fine with generic styles but not well with dedicated song styles (however, Roland and Ketron do not). You have to program a Major, Minor and 7th chord for all parts in all sections including the drums. A few of you may ask “Can I use older “Silver” Korg styles on my newer Korg Pa 600 or PA4x”, the answer is yes you can.
Korg put their sounds into banks, GM/XG sounds from the older range. Legacy sounds from the earlier PA range and Factory the sounds from the latest range, so patch commands will be the same and it will use the correct sounds. If your keyboard does not have the sound that was programmed for then it will use the first sound in that bank so a trumpet will always be a trumpet etc. The system also has a chord recognition for “I” series, so it will be able to play styles from this range.
What format’s do we use?
Our Bronze range is for PA50/60 and 80. Silver is for PA1x, 2x 500 and 800. Our Gold range is for all Korg’s from the PA600 up to the PA1000 and PA3 and 4x, all the styles have 3 Intro/Endings 4 Variations, 4 Fills and a Break Fill plus 4 STS settings. The newer Korg keyboards also have a section called PAD, these are preprogrammed phrases that you can add to the styles, you can also add these to our styles if you wish. Korg has done a lot to make their arranger keyboards compete with the others and are now becoming very popular. However they still have a few niggling problems with them, the most frustrating is they don’t always play the fill when you hit the button. You have to press it exactly on the first beat of the bar for it to work correctly. With most other makes of keyboards, they will play the fill from where you trigger the fill (i.e. if you hit it on the 1st 2nd or 3rd beat it plays the fill from that beat. In this way, you can put a fill-in halfway through a bar but the bar length will stay the same.
Korg said they had fixed this for the PA4x but in our experience, it still does not always work correctly. Another niggle is when using a variation if you change to the next variation without using a fill, it plays the next variation from the bar you changed on (i.e. variations are 8 bars long and you change at the end of the 4th bar in say variation B, the next variation you select will start to play at bar 5 of that variation.) Now, this isn’t a problem with generic style’s but can cause problems with dedicated styles as you don’t always want to trigger a fill when you go to the next variation.
Lastly, a lot of Korg’s arranger keyboard samples are taken from their very popular stage and studio keyboards, you can also edit the sounds, effects and drum kits not only the right and left-hand sounds but also in the styles giving you more control over the sound. This is a very useful tool.
I left this one till last as it is possibly the most technical and hardest to explain.
The original MS 4 and 5 arranger keyboards were made for the German amplification company. Solton and branded SOLTON by Ketron Lab. Then came the MS 40, 50, 60 and 100, a lot of people probably bought these because of the advertising slogan Solton of Swing. This was the first range by Ketron with auto-accompaniment that you could write your own styles or patterns as Ketron call them. They kept it simple and catered for everyone. The MS 40 model for the Accordion or Organ player, MS50 Keyboard no speakers for the gigging musician, MS60 with speakers for the home player and the MS100 76 note for the Pro player. All of these laid out the same and all with the same sounds and styles and all used the same .PAT style format. The MS 100 had newer and better samples and some of the styles were different but if you could play one you could play them all and your .PAT styles edited voices registrations everything could transfer from one to the other. Ketron later decided to go it alone and with the release of the Ketron X1 jumped into the big league. This keyboard was a huge step forward and one of my favourite keyboards. It also played a big part in making other manufacturers improve their arranger keyboards to compete.
They still used the .PAT style format and so could load the older styles but this keyboard had Bass, Drums, 5 Chord parts and a Drum Groove track. Many of the sound samples were far more realistic than other makes and the rhythms were excellent, with a lot of live drum grooves in the styles. You could also add these to your user patterns. You could also reprogram your 128 user voicebank with edits of all your sounds and you could create new drum kits. All these new sounds could be used not just for the right and left sounds but also in your own styles. It also had a sound sampler for you to sample new sounds or purchase new ones to add to the keyboard. You could also layer up to 4 sounds for the right hand and even split them over the keyboard. Ketron then moved on to the SD1, XD9 and the SD5, these keyboards are all very similar in design and musical ability and still used the .PAT format for the styles.
Ketron have a different system for their sounds. They have Bank0, this is the GM bank and if .PAT or midi files are written using only this bank it will be fine but you are restricted to the 128 GM sounds. As we all know these can be very basic and all the best sounds are in other banks.
Sounds in Ketron keyboards are spread out over different sound banks. The sounds in these banks may vary in each model and there may even be only a couple of sounds in a bank. Incidentally, Ketron has this annoying habit of putting a sound in a bank then when they bring a new model out they decide to change that sound for something else that is totally different. Frustrating! This means that you may load a style from the MS range and in bank 2 slot 70, you had a Clarinet in the same slot on the X1, you have a Trumpet and on the SD1 you have a Boogiesax. Frustrating! There is also the odd problem with the Drum kits on the X1 and SD1 you had a kit called BEAT when the XD9 came out and Audya and the newer SD range this has been changed to URBAN and sounds nothing like the Beat kit. Because of this, some sounds have been lost such as Melowbar, a fab guitar sound and Horns, a full pad horn sounds. This is simply disappointing!
Since the new SD range came out Ketron has changed the style system completely and gone to a new format .KST, this has caused a lot of concern with Ketron lovers. It should be noted that the SD5 was the last keyboard you could actually write styles on (Patterns). It should be noted with the launch of the SD7 you could only edit existing styles but not rewrite anything. New styles can only be written on a computer program such as Cubase in a certain way then put into the keyboard and converted to the new format as a style .KST you can then edit and save your new style. If you have studied your manual you will have seen this is very complicated and unless you get everything correct, it won't work.
However, all is not lost as Ketron did add a convert program so you can covert your .PAT styles into .KST styles and it works quite well and isn’t very hard to do, although you may have to do a bit of adjustment to volumes, etc. Although you can convert any of the older styles, they recommend SD5 .PAT styles as the best format to convert as there should be no problem with sound mapping. With this in mind, we have changed our Ketron range and by remapping our patterns for the SD5, you can then load this into your SD7 / 90 etc, and following the simple convert process, convert it from .PST to .KST. If you have a SD5, SD5 mk2, Audya, Audya 4,5, Midjay or Midjay/plus you do not have to convert the styles.
I hope this has given you a better understanding of style and why they don’t always work quite as expected. In our next article, we will have a look at using style and giving tips on getting more out of them.