Programming the M3 for Full Moon Fever

I've finally started in earnest programming the M3 to cover the Full Moon Fever gig. I felt like I needed to have a pretty solid understanding of the real-time controls, Programs, Combis, and the Effects systems before beginning. In my experience, if you take off half-cocked you end up making decisions about how to do things that end up painting you into a corner later.

My basic strategy is as follows:

  • The M3 will act as the single master interface for selecting sounds. This applies even if the song doesn't require any sounds from the M3 itself (i.e. it uses sounds only from my VR-760). The idea is to make a selection on the M3, and have it automatically configure itself and the VR-760 for each song.
  • Each song will consist of one M3 Combi, even if the Combi only requires a single sound, or no sounds, from the M3. By standardizing on the Combi as a selection mechanism, I can select sounds using a single screen instead of having to remember whether a particular song requires a Program or a Combi. Also, M3 Combis allow you to send different program changes on each MIDI channel, which simplifies automating program changes on the VR-760 and would allow me to integrate additional MIDI devices into the scheme in the future, should I need to do so.  Of course, a Combi will likely contain custom Programs that I put together, but from a selection standpoint, it's controlled through the Combi.
  • Each Combi will be named after the song and filed under a custom category called "FMF". So, using the Combi select-by-category screen, I can easily scroll through all the songs, and select one without having to wade through the hundreds of irrelevant Combis on the M3.
  • The hope is that I can use a single Combi per song because that would simplify things, but there are a couple of songs where I'm not sure that is going to be possible. I'll make extensive use of splits to try to achieve this, but we'll see if it works out.
  • The VR-760 is set up to respond to program changes on a particular MIDI channel and transmit note data from its various sound sections on other channels. This allows me to direct MIDI program changes and notes in whatever way I need, although I hope to only use its "external" mode channel to keep things simple.
  • For piano and electric piano sounds, I'll use the M3's sounds with the VR-760 acting as a controller to take advantage of its 76-note keyboard. Best of both worlds. So the M3 Combi will send the VR a program change to call up a VR program that makes no sound of its own (an empty program) and will also call up its own piano/e-piano Program that responds to note data coming from the VR. Its complicated to explain but it actually works like a charm. Basically the configuration allows me to use either keyboard to control the other keyboards sounds if I choose.
  • The VR will continue to handle organ duties. Its organ sounds blow away the M3's factory organ Programs.  K-Sounds' Organimation proves that the M3's organ sounds can be vastly improved with some better samples and programming, but why bother when the VR handles organ so well?  (Actually I may purchase Organimation one day because it would make a nice back-up should the VR need repair.)
  • The M3 will handle most piano, electric piano, and synth sounds. The VR may cover a few of those sounds in order to take advantage of some hard-to-replicate VR programming that I've already done, but in general I want to take advantage of what the M3 offers for those sounds.
  • To phase out my SH-201, I will rely mostly on sounds from the EXB-Radias expansion card on the M3. So I should be able to replicate those analog sounds very nicely, probably even improving the sounds in most cases since the Radias seems to having a nicer sounding virtual analog engine.
  • All FMF Combis will be in bank USER-G.  Custom programs will be put into banks USER-F (for Radias Programs) and USER-G (for EDS Programs).  These are basically the only banks you can put them in without interfering with Korg's own standard and add-on sound banks.  Even then you will  have to swap out banks if you use 3rd party sounds.  Funny, I never imagined a synth could have 1,800 writable Program and Combi slots each, and still be left with few options on where to put custom sounds!