Korg M01D Review: Music production on the go
There have already been two Korg games released on the DS, and both have given aspiring musicians the tools to create some impressive tunes on the go. Detuned has stepped it up with the latest release on the 3DS, Korg M01D, cramming as much as they possibly can into this small digital download to give musicians enough tools to create impressive tunes.
One thing to keep in mind - there is no game to be found here. Korg M01D is strictly for music production. If you're hoping to delve into some rhythm games, I'm sorry to report that there are none to be found.
The old school interface
Even though it's on the 3DS, you might expect that the game won't boast any crazy 3D graphics. However, it does emulate the look as well as the depth of the old LCD screen on the M1 keyboard workstation, which is actually a really neat touch.
I don't consider myself a music production aficionado, but I can work my way around Apple's Garageband and the like. I'm not sure whether my experience with Garageband or even some slight work with Fruity Loops contributed to my understanding of Korg's interface, but it's important to note that Detuned made it relatively easy to understand. With that said, if you're coming into it blind, you can check out the Manual (through the HOME button) for some really handy tips on how to get around and get accustomed to all the different terminology like Kaoss Pad and Syn Seq.
As easy as the interface is to understand, it is slightly clunky. Getting from one menu to the other can be somewhat tedious, and scrolling through the functions like copy, select, delete and insert by pressing a single button over and over again can get pretty annoying. Still, this is a synth from 80s we're talking about.
The process of actually making music is also made somewhat easy, but will require some getting used to when using functions like copy/paste and select.
Tapping into a Sequencer block will take you directly into the editable piano mode, where you can place blocks along a fixed timeline, which can range from 4 to 16 beats. Laying down notes is as simple as placing a block down with a tap of the stylus. By holding the stylus down and dragging it, you can sustain the note. It's all relatively intuitive.
The bells and whistles
You can use up to eight instruments at a time, which means you can make some pretty elaborate songs, memory willing. These range from various keyboards and pianos, to guitars, strings, bass, synth, and more. Each of these categories can have as many as 16 different instruments. What's even more impressive is that there are three separate sound banks; from the M1 keyboard workstation, the 01/W and then EX, which are exclusive to the M01D.
That brings the total number of different instruments to a whopping 339. That's sure to give your songs some crazy variety. You can also edit each of these sounds on the spot by altering its attack and release (for tones), as well as its volume and pitch (for drum kits).
The M01D also comes equipped with a Kaoss Pad, which lets you alter a song in real time. For instance, when choosing a tone in the Kaoss Pad, dragging your stylus along it will play that tone's pitch. Choosing a drum kit, however, will produce a steady beat, and depending on where you drag the stylus along the pad, it'll produce a different drum beat, or a drum fill, or make the drum beat more elaborate. It's an extremely handy tool for those that don't want to produce their own drum beats, or just want a simple beat done in record time.
The Kaoss Pad itself is highly customizable. For instance, say I load up a keyboard sound into it. I can then choose the key as well as the scale at which the pad will react to my stylus. The same goes for drum kits. If the beat that the Kaoss Pad is producing doesn't match the tone of your song, you can change the pattern to something like Rock, Hip Hop, R&B, D&B or one of several other options.
Lastly, you can bring up the Piano roll, which lets you improvise a song or try out a melody before laying it down. You are held back by the limitation of the 3DS, meaning there is no multitouch, so you can't play two notes at the same time.
Customizability is king with Korg M01D, which is something you want in music production software.
Sharing your sound with the world
Once you've created your masterpiece, you have the option to upload it to the internet as well as set it as your Streetpass, so any other musicians you happen across will get your song wirelessly. The one problem with uploading it to the internet is that you need another person with the Korg M01D to be on at the same time, attempting to download it. M01D also comes with the extremely handy Midi Exporter, which will turn any of your songs into Midis, so you can share them with your friends online.
While it's a shame there is no option for MP3 exporting, the Midi files sound just fine. There are also several methods of turning your Midi files into MP3s online.
An impressive piece of software
When taking into consideration that you're essentially working with an emulated piece of hardware from the 80s, it's actually quite impressive. Sure, you won't be able to get as elaborate as you could with other, more expensive programs, but for $34, the M01D exceeds expectations and turns what was originally a giant keyboard into an impressive music production software that fits in your pocket.