Korg DS 10 – How to turn your old DS into an instrument

posted in: Gear, Production | 0

Hello and welcome back to my blog! Today I’m going to show you the Korg DS 10. A cool way to recycle your old Nintendo DS – to make music with it!


We Gen-Z people didn’t grow up with an SNES or a Dreamcast unit. Almost everyone had a Nintendo DS. It is a great handheld with lots of good games and classics like Mario Kart or the countless Pokémon games. Now that we’ve grown up though and there are better ways to play games, most DS devices probably just lay around somewhere in a box, not used for many years.

In order to change that, let me introduce to you: ‘Korg DS 10 Synthesizer‘, a synth and step sequencer game for your DS!

Korg-DS-10-Cover
Korg DS 10 Cover | © 2019 XSEEDGAMES.net

Well, it is not just a game but a fully functional music making application!

And as the name already gives away, it’s partially by Korg, the makers of many many iconic synthesizers and other electronic music devices.


Demo

Before we finally dive deeper into what you can do with this ‘game’ im just going to show you this thing I made in roughly half an hour.

Jam with Korg DS 10

What is the Korg DS 10?

To start this off, let’s get a basic overview of what the DS 10 actually is. It’s a 16 step sequencer which lets you create whole songs with up to 16 different patterns you can arrange in any possible order.

You’ve got 4 different drum sounds and 2 synths to work with and you get to choose between 3 different effects.

Doesn’t sound too spectacular yet, but when I had a closer look at what the DS 10 has to offer I was surprised at how detailed it really gets.


The Synths

The two synths you can use are both the same but they’ve got everything a basic synthesizer has to offer. Two oscillators per synth with four waveforms for each oscillator to choose from (saw, triangle, square, white noise). You can change the octave each synth plays in and there are knobs to change the ADSR envelope as well as a basic filter (LP, HP, BP).

All in all, basic but not special in any regard.

But I wanna get freaky!

Well, go for it then. Use the ‘patch’ mode to modulate the sound OR make use of the ‘Kaoss’ mode.

Korg DS 10 Kaoss Pad
Korg DS 10 Kaoss Pad

You don’t know what that is? How dare you!

Just kidding, this thing is exclusive to the DS. If you tap on it (remember, the DS has touch) a blank area pops up, designed for you to go wild on it with the stylus pen. It works kinda like a graph – you tap somewhere (or hold the position) and the pad recognizes the x and y value of the spot you tapped on. If mode 1 is selected (there are 3 modes) x defines the note you play and y how fast the gate shuts.
I really like how they’ve used the features of the stylus pen here, it’s an opportunity best used.


The Drums

You have four different drum sounds to choose from when sequencing something in the DS 10. And as every drum sound is just an additional synth layer you can edit those individually as well. You’ve got the same options and especially for the drums it makes sense to choose some of the pre-installed presets. Yeah, there are presets as well! And you can save your own edits too!

Korg DS 10 Drumpads
Korg DS 10 Drumpads

You may be wondering where the differences between the synths and the drums are since the synth behind the sound is always the same.

Well there are two key differences which absolutely make sense. The synth instruments have the ‘Kaoss’ mode I mentioned and a piano roll you can use to play around.

For the drums on the other hand this is not the case. Instead you get four drum pads which can be used to play and the sequencer layout shows you all four sounds at once, much like in FL Studio.


The Sequencer

The sequencer itself is probably the best thing about this ‘game’. You can’t only select the individual steps played by each instrument but you can also choose gate, volume and pan settings for each step!! Even the x- and y-position of the ‘Kaoss’ mode are customizable for each step which basically makes this sequencer a 16 step fx automation sequencer too!

This really lets you make much more of the five sounds than you might initially think.


About the effects

The fx section is probably the weakest part of the DS 10 application. At least in comparison to the rest of the features. There’s a delay, a flanger and a chorus to use on either synth 1, synth 2, both synths, the drums or all sounds at once. Also you can only use one fx at a time. The fx settings themselves are as basic as it gets. To be fair though, I should mention that a sync option exists for all fx rates.


Everything else

In terms of controls, everything is done by using the touchpad. And you better use the stylus pen because all the buttons are way too small – even for baby fingers.

What I also really appreciate about the DS 10 is that you can go from 10 BPM as the projects tempo all the way up to 250. So there’s a lot of room to experiment. You can also dial in the swing amount and make your song more than 80 bars long. You can save up to 18 sessions and load them up at any given time without having to delete any current progress. This is straight up DAW material right there!

What should also be mentioned is that instead of selecting the steps you can just hit the record-button while playing back the song OR pattern and use the piano roll or drum pads to play your stuff live. This works for the ‘Kaoss’ modulation as well.

To give you an example of how crazy you can really go, here is a quick experiment. The most important aspect of this recording was automating the Kaoss settings.

With just a couple of creative VST plugins you can make it sound like this:


And now for coolest part: There’s a multiplayer mode! *jaw drops*

Yes, it’s what we’ve ever wanted and it’s been there for years. I didn’t try it myself but you can work on your sessions with a friend. There’s even a ‘Data Transfer’ option which lets you send or receive presets and even whole sessions!

Before we conclude todays topic, here’s another Demo. This time it’s a bit more abstract.


Summary

To sum that all up I have to say the ‘Korg DS 10 Synthesizer’- DS game really takes the cake. It’s way cooler and more versatile than most phone apps I know and it was very intuitive and easy to get into. And I’m not even that much of a synth nerd.

You probably need to have at least some knowledge about working with gear like this but it’s worth getting into if you want to have the most portable soft synth to take anywhere, anytime. With a price point at around 30 bucks it’s also way cheaper than, let’s say, a Pocket Operator, so a good budget option if you’re short on money.

Or you just download the ROM file from the internet and transfer that onto your R4 card with an SD-card slot (not that I’ve done that or anything).

And thanks to the headphone jack you can just plug the DS into your computer and record everything you made into your DAW and expand on these ideas or just export the raw audio.

So here we go, probably the best way to musically utilize your old Nintendo DS again.

Even if you don’t have an old DS to try this out yourself, I hope I could bring you some joy with this spotlight on a very special way to make music.


Glad that you tuned in again! Make sure to read the first blog post from last week as well 😉

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