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Review: Korg Kaossilator

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I’ve always been a fan of techno but I’ve always only played folk guitar. What’s a fella to do? You go get the Korg Kaossilator, that’s what.

This amazing little box, $199 on ThinkGeek, is a tiny sequencer/synth that is about as big as the average guitar tuner. It has 100 audio presets which are basically generated sounds synthesized using an X/Y touchpad. For example, for synthesized wind instruments you can change the pitch and loudness by pressing on different parts of the touchpad. For drums you hit different quadrants for different instruments – tom, high hat, etc. My apologizes for this little demo:

Then you create loops. You can set the loop length, between 1 and 8 beats, and record for that length of time. It overlays the recording and repeats it until you tell it to stop, thereby allowing you to create a backbeat and then play over it. It has a headphone jack and RCA audio out and runs on four AA batteries, included.

The best thing about the Kaossilator is that it stays in pitch no matter what you do. If you pick the key of C, everything you swipe, tap, or tickle will be in key. There are no bum notes. This means you can feasibly tune your real instruments correctly and then play along to your Kaossilator-made beats, something I’ve always wanted to do.

It takes a bit of practice to actually make music but initial noodling is quite easy. It’s essentially an instrument you can pick up and play immediately but to master it – meaning use it in compositions with a mix of instruments – is a bit trickier.

If you don’t know how to play an instrument, the Kaossilator is a great place to start. Expect my cover of Don’t Fear the Reaper with Bluegrass guitars and drum and bass backbeat soon. There is, after all, a cowbell noise. Ooots ooots!

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