The KORG Microsampler

 

Be kind and tender to the Frog,

   And do not call him names,

As ‘Slimy skin,’ or ‘Polly-wog,’

   Or likewise ‘Ugly James,’

Or ‘Gape-a-grin,’ or ‘Toad-gone-wrong,’

   Or ‘Billy Bandy-knees’:

The Frog is justly sensitive

   To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay

   A treatment kind and fair;

At least so lonely people say

Who keep a frog (and, by the way,

They are extremely rare).

 

Some day a scholar will write the story of Korg from the perspective of the drugs they were taking that month. No other instrument maker, nay, no other manufacturer of anything has come up with quite their psychedelic variety of forms. Look at this thing, ask yourself – is there any possibility that it was not made by Korg? Would you for one moment believe that Yamaha could even conceive of such a thing?

 

Yes, each control is down the bottom of some kind of moon crater. You normally find these machines with every crater filled with cigarette ash and potato chip crumbs. My Frog has managed to avoid this fate – “I used it for an hour and then packed it up” says the vendor. As you would. Note the two slots up the back. No one I know has ever come up with a convincing reason for their existence. Chariots of The Gods stuff, people.

 

Sensible

 

Do you see how every key has a red light above it? As you play keys, they light up. When it’s playing a sequence, they blink like a kind of cyber piano roll. Just like Kraftwerk in 1981.

 

So, sampling keyboard in 2009. Why? Sold in the age of Ableton Live? Well, for me it’s the perfect tool for Severed Heads live shows – that’s the honest practical reason. Small, saves all the samples to flash memory internally, built to make funny noises. Sampling keyboards used to be the thing, but they were also physically very big and sonically very small.

 

An ASR-10 of the sort I once used could hold up to 16Mb of sounds. This holds about 21 minutes of sound at the highest rate, about 172Mb. It also weighs 2Kg compared to the 2 imperial tons of an ASR. Advantage Frog.

 

Disadvantage Frog: it is brutally a sound-effect machine. Samples loop completely or not at all, so no clever loop point stuff. No dedicated filter, although a goodly array of effects.

 

Like much hardware of the time it responds to the threat of software, in this case Live. Note the wheel at mid left with numbers 1-16; these are sequencer phrases. When you dial one up, the sequencer will only switch on the bar – so you play one, dial up your next choice, have it switch over smoothly and dial the third – very much like Live. And the effects respond in the same performative manner. The hope was that people would prefer this over a laptop. Perhaps now they would, with laptops so uncool.

 

Hard to believe that the same people could have invented the MicroKorg – which is I think the most popular synthesiser of all time, and then The Frog, which died a horrible consumptive cancer-like death. My one has extra stickers on it pleading its case – try me – just hold this button and speak here – anyone? – oh please God, just love me, someone.

 

I love you Frog.

 

THIS TOY IS QUITE SIMPLE TO USE

IT'S A SAMPLER - SO THE NOISES ARE UP TO YOU

THE SOUND QUALITY IS VERY GOOD

IT WAS CHEAP AND IS NOT VERY COMMON

 

ITS RATING IS ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID

It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.