Beats, Bass, Keys - a drum machine, a bass synth, and a lead synth, analog and $150 each. Now with MIDI.

The love of all things volca continues, as enthusiastic owners of KORG’s boxes create their own accessories.

The latest: a sample library (meaning you don’t even need to own the volca), a fantastic editor/control panel package that works standalone or in Ableton Live, and a MIDI output mod.

Free volca beats Sounds: First, let’s have a listen to a dark, dirty, free sample library from Dark Side of the Tune, aptly named Volca Beats.

The Volca Beats was put through multiple gain stages and frequency modulation to create even more depth and range. From quick thumpy sounds for techno and like genres, to beefy Hip-Hop style rhythms, Volca Beast can easily fit into most productions.

All sounds were recorded into analog outboard conservatively, then the Universal Audio Apollo for rock-solid digital stability. These sounds are not normalized, and brought up to about -6 so no digital distortion occurs.

I love the Apollo – more on that soon – though here I think it’s a bit overkill (the volcas sound terrific and grungy, but they’re not what you’d call high-fidelity instruments)! What’s actually best about the Beast selection is that it emphasizes all the sonic quirks of volca beats, digital PCM and analog sounds alike, and brings out that character in a way that suits productions.

If you like, you can even turn them into “pretentious fart noises” a reader on comments recently accused CDM of championing. (Sounds like a concept for an EP to me.)

Download those raw waveforms on Google Drive:
Volca Beast Dark Side of the

And check out the creators’ store:


Control, Edit: Part of the appeal of the volca series is the onboard controls. But it can be useful to add software for fine-tuning sounds, and storing them for future use (since there’s no preset storage).

Since we last checked out Max for Live control of the volcas, you’ve got an even better software choice. Fabricio Poce’s J74 Volca Control controls everything you can manipulate via MIDI, and adds new features for tracking and sync.

On the volca keys, in particular, you get control of nearly everything; you lose primarily only analog filter and beats’ analog drum synthesis parameters, since those lack MIDI support. (Also, it is too bad that Korg didn’t add MIDI implementation for its FUNCtion settings in firmware.)

From the creator:

These tools allow you to control, store and modulate all Volca native MIDI parameters while adding a bunch of new features for synthesis and performance, such as: filter KeyTracking (both VKeys and VBass), Chorus-like effects (VKeys), additional tempo sync LFO (VKeys), Pitch Tuning and modulation modes (VBass), 3x note Polyphony emulation on VBass, MIDI velocity emulation on VBeats, LFO auto-tuning modulation (VBass and VKeys) and Solo/Mute controls on VBeats.
All devices also offer presets storage (load, save, recall), a X/Y Panel for modulation of two parameters simultaneously and a parameter randomizer.

US$8 buys you the whole set, for all three instruments, in standalone and Ableton Live Max for Live versions. I’ve been playing around with them a bit. This is a no-brainer: they’re must-haves. They cost about the same as a round of (cough) volca batteries.


Mod: Add MIDI “Hackable” is a bit of a stretch with the volcas; the boards are fairly tight, so some mods aren’t for the feint of heart. And that’s okay; they do most of the things you’d want.

Fortunately, the one mod you’d probably most want is the one that’s also easiest to do.

After this mod, you get a 16 step sequencer, which can trigger 10 sounds over MIDI, with adjustable tempo. What you don’t get is any functionality provided by the knobs like Stutter, PCM Speed or the various Pitches, Volumes and Decays. Still a very easy and cheap mod (only a MIDI connector and the wires are needed) that can add some functionality to your box. It was done in about an hour with most of the time consumed in where to position the port.

Here’s a great how-to, from Greek hacker Vartan Aivazian:

KORG Volca Beats MIDI Out Mod [Utopian Labs]

  • Computo

    Fart noises make up my favorite Squarepusher track. Pretentious? Farts? I guess they have different customs, wherever that commenter was from…

    • Peter Kirn

      “Humble Farts” – another good band name.

    • Dom Harwood

      Future Gibbon?

  • Henry

    Hmmm, on a more serious note, here is an interesting “dub techno” tune from a bloke called Masaki Takada, featuring a modified volca with individual outputs:
    I’d love to try that!

  • xx

    this is a really cool idea; I’m certianly interested in this kind of functionality for my Volcas, but I’m curious, does anyone know about the legality of selling software tools like this? Like, is it just all kosher to sell a control add-on for someone else’s hardware and put the name on it?
    And then secondly, does anyone have perhaps a resource with ‘best practices’ for recording hardware instruments digitally for later sampling purposes? Trying to figure out what levels I want to record at, to what extent normalization should be used (if at all). I dig that every technique is going to give a different flavor, and I certianly want that, but I also want to know the ‘right’ path before I start figuring how to veer off of it creatively.

    • Peter Kirn

      The branding thing is probably not really kosher. But… there’s no mention of KORG, no real chance of confusion, and it’s pretty clearly good for them in this case.

      That’s really an implementation detail, though – fundamentally, it’s absolutely kosher, and in fact it used to be that there was a robust editor/librarian market.

  • Percivale

    Where does this leave a legitimate Korg iVolca?

  • BH

    I just added MIDI out to my volca beats a couple days ago, and want to warn that the mod took far longer than 1 hour; perhaps more like 3 hours. I don’t work with electronics every day, but in case you’re already thinking that I’m some hack, I’m an experienced woodworker and had a nice soldering iron and drill press to work with.

    The solder job is easy, and if you just wanted your MIDI out port to hang loose out of the battery compartment then you could do it in under 1 hour.

    But I chose to install the DIN receptacle exactly as Vartan Aivazian did, which is probably the best solution and also kind of a pain. The top of the case is solid aluminum plate plus plastic so it took some time to lay out and drill the holes without cracking or melting the case. The DIN receptacle doesn’t fit without hitting the circuit board directly below, as he also mentions, so you need to do significant bending and trimming. After soldering the wires on, I wrapped the bottom of the receptacle in nylon tape since it was still a close fit against the board. Since you’ll be sending tiny bits of aluminum and steel flying all over, also make sure all the components are clean before you reassemble!