Exploring the Korg RK-100S Keytar


A friend of mine loaned me his Korg RK-100S KEYTAR last weekend. Wow – what a fun and inspirational instrument! More than simply a controller the RK-100s has the same synth engine as the MicroKorg XL (including the vocoder). Like the MicroKorg XL you can edit presets via a computer editor.  All this in a great form factor with a wood body and two ribbons.

This being the case, how about a set series of articles exploring the creative and expressive possibilities of the RK-100s? Ok, sounds good. 

For this first article, I experimented with using the RK-100s on battery, and as a sound source for the Elektron Octatrack.

Form Factor Inspires More Play

First off, I found that the combination of being able to run on battery, having a dedicating synth engine, and the form factor lead me to playing a lot more throughout my day. Because it has it's own synth engine you don't end up tangled in cables or having a dependency on a computer or external synth. Just turn it on and play. 

I spent the weekend dragging this thing all over the house playing it on coffee tables, on keyboard stands, and across my lap (it's a little over 7 lbs so it's super comfortable to play on your lap). You can play also play it vertically while sitting as well becuase and the little wing that juts out the back keeps it from slipping off your lap – you know – Spock style ;^) Well Spock style with the RK-100S propped on your left leg, but you get the idea. This also begs the question that if you play an RK-100S on a starship full of hippies, would you end up jamming with someone on a bicycle wheel? I hope so. Moving on…


The funny thing is in the first 5 hours of use I probably only used it as an over-the-shoulder keytar maybe 5% of the time. Mostly I played on tables and on my lap. 

One Output Jack to Rule Them All

In the photo at the top of the post, you can see I just plopped it down on a coffee table. The output jack function morphs depending on what you plug into it. Headphones, check. 1/4 instrument out, check. Stereo out to the Octatrack, check.

In Use – First Experiment

It didn't take long to get the hang of the workflow (I'll post more on this in future articles). To select presets you use the toggle top-left of the keybed. It can store 200 presets (which you can manage with the computer editor). If you find a preset you like, you can add it to a favorite location (see p. 9 in the manual). 

The RK-100S is equipped with the favorites function, which allows you to assign your favorite programs to the eight favorites buttons. A total of 40 programs (5 banks × 8 buttons) can be stored.


you hold down one of the 8 bottons top right of the keybed for a few seconds and this prest is stored as one of 8 favorites. I found some fun presets in the factory library, stored them to favs, then did a jam where I performed live into an Electron Octatrack. I did some looping with various patches to create a core riff. I then performed over the top using the ribbons to manipulate this sound. 

The Octatrack was also running on battery BTW. Check out this post on that subject.

Here is a snippet on soundcloud.  

First Impressions

After my first round with the Korg RK-100S I found it fun, inspiring, and immediate. As I said, I ended up playing a lot more music because I had it around. I know there is a bit of a stigma around the word "keytar", but the RK-100S has me over this. It's loses that plastic toy feel of some other keytars I've used. It's gorgeous, expressive, and fun. I've not enjoyed a keytar as much since using my old Yamaha KX-5. I'm imagining using this in all sorts of contexts. As a keytar for fun jams, as a MIDI controller on a stand in the studio and at gigs, as a synth to build signature sounds on. 


Mark Mosher 
Electronic Musician, Boulder, CO
http://bouldersynth.com (meetup)


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