Review: Korg microARRANGER

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Two problems that songwriters regularly face are finding sounds that are inspiring and knowing what their songs will sound like with a band. If you don’t have a studio and musicians at the ready, you might consider an arranging keyboard as a solution to both problems. Korg’s microARRANGER compact keyboard can help you try new sounds and arrangements on your songs—and you don’t need to be a keyboard player to use it.

The most striking feature is its compact size (the price is pretty small, too). This is a very light and compact unit. Keyboard players will likely find the smaller-than-normal key size of its 61-key, velocity sensing keyboard to be a drawback, but this unit seems to be more designed for portability than playability. While one could use it in live performance, it would probably be to play back songs that you’ve used it to arrange. There are some useful performance features like fill-ins, intros and endings that are easily accessible, along with a neat feature to cross-fade sequences.

The microARRANGER has a built-in stereo speaker system that produces a reasonable sound for working with a song, but if it’s the inspiration of a song coming together you are looking for, you will want to plug this into a full range stereo system or PA. With good headphones or a good stereo the fundamental sounds (pianos, guitars, drums and bass) are pretty impressive. With 660 preset sounds and 128 user programs from Korg, along with 32 drum kits, you’ll have all the sounds you need. There are also four stereo effect processors with 89 effect programs, so your songs will have a professional sound.

The major feature of arranging keyboards is the musical styles they support. This unit supports 304 styles with a lot of variations. This is great for trying your compositions in different moods or musical styles. While understanding how to use the microARRANGER’s style features is not something you can just jump right into, a few minutes with the quickstart guide and poking around the keyboard will have you creating song accompaniments pretty quickly. Common features like setting tempo and following bass notes or chords are easy to set up. You can pretty much just pick a style, tap in a tempo and put your hand down on chord and you’re off.

Once you are making music with the microARRANGER, you’ll want to record your performances. There are a couple of ways to do this. What you’ll use depends on what you’re most comfortable with. There is a ‘backing’ sequencer that can capture everything in one pass, as you play. What you play, along with each part the unit’s style engine plays, will be captured on a separate sequencer track, so you can use the sequence as it was recorded or edit it at a later time. If you are more comfortable with step recording, you can enter everything in beats and measures—handy, if you are not a keyboard player. There is also a more computer-like, one-track-at-a-time song sequencer with 16 tracks and a capacity of 56,000 notes.

The unit has an SD/SDHC card slot for data storage, importing new styles, sharing data with a computer or other keyboard. Sequence data is compatible with Standard MIDI Files, so you can import it into your DAW or software sequence for further editing.

If you take Korg at their word and embrace this little box as your ‘composing assistant’, it can be a powerful tool for songwriters. While the microARRANGER is not a solid keyboard for professional players to take on the road, it certainly has a lot to offer in terms of sounds styles, sequencing abilities and portability.

Avg. Street Price: $499.00

MSRP: $749.00

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