Monday, October 11, 2010

Lesson 2 - Korg DS-10 Notation

"Sorry for the *slight* delay dear readers. I had to finish a project which came in last week. It is still on going perhaps until the end of this week so I'll do my best to deliver what Ive promised."

The Notations

If in case you have no idea what notations are, they are simply code patterns on how to play a certain melody. For the case of Korg DS-10, we need to access the SYN1SEQ (button #4 from my previous lesson). Pressing that button will lead us to the screen below.

To understand how a "notation" works for a Korg DS-10, lets try to make a notation from the image depicted above.

Inside the highlighted "Square Area," you will see a "keyboard like" drawing. And on one of those keys, you will see a guide labeled "C3". Our point of notation would start from there. If we would scroll the key slider way "UP", there would be C4,C5,C6 and C7 markers. All in all, there are 8 Markers (C0 to C7). These keys are octaves (same note but with a different pitch) of a real keyboard. Also, in each octave, there will be a total of 12 keys. The last thing that we need to understand is that in each pattern, there are, by default, 16 steps. The number of steps is equal to the number of notes that can be executed per pattern. Dont worry of you do not understand some technical terms yet. In time, it would all make sense as we make more melodies.

For our first notation, let us try to convert the image from the sample above into a notation:


Now, lets analyze the notation. The number "1" is the step indicator. If you would count them all, there are a total of 16 steps per pattern (it can be trimmed though, but for now, lets leave it as it is). Next, there is a minus "-" separator and is followed by "C2" which represents the key octave. Beside the octave we have number inside the parenthesis which serves as the note indicator. Now, each notation is separated by a comma "," which means that on the 4th step, "4-X(X)", it means that there are no notes to be played.

Now, for a little exercise, we will make the bass line of billy jean (this was supposed to be for a future issue, but I would like to make this issue meaningful already). By the way, instead of a comma, I decided to make each notation separated with a return key to make it easier to understand. Please tell me which notation is better (separated by a comma or an enter key)

Billy Jean Notation (Bass Line on SYN1 SEQ at BPM=120, SWING=50, STEP=16)


After plotting the notation, hit the Play button (button #4 as depicted by the image above) and here the bass line play.

Please leave a feedback on the rules of the Korg DS-10 notations. Email me at

Next Issue: Drum Pattern Notations.


  1. i think you should use the actual letter notation for the notes, especially since you have the piano keys always displayed. I know it's aimed towards people with 0 knowledge in music theory or instrument playing but it's so universal. Counting would make more sense if the "base" (or marker as you say) is always the root of the scale you are currently using. In that case, you'd be counting the degrees from the root which is something that's done all the time (for chord making for example).

  2. Thanks for your valuable suggestion. I really appreciate it. By the way, perhaps you would like to contribute (if you have the time) with the ongoing discussion at:

    the process of making a "proper" notation is being discussed at the moment, and I am planning to revise this section once it has been standardized.

  3. Scales are all about counting. If you look at a major scale, there's supposed to be a half-step between degrees 3-4 and 7-8 (the white keys on a keyboard). When looking at the DS-10 grid, cells are a half-step apart pitch wise, that way, it's super easy to find all the notes in the scale (you don't even need to know the names of the notes) by counting from the root. For a minor scale, it's 2-3 and 5-6. This is why i suggest that if you want to count, you should really count from the root of the scale but i can see why you would want to count from C since it's marked.