The Korg MicroKORG is undoubtedly one of the best-selling synthesizers ever made in the history of synthesizers. You have probably seen it at many live concerts and heard some of its sounds on many records. It’s a great synth by all standards. But is the Korg MicroKORG good for beginners?
The Korg MicroKORG is an excellent synthesizer with a ton of features and sounds. However, it’s not a good synthesizer for beginners. That’s because it’s not intuitive to edit and program sounds, especially for beginners. This makes it difficult to learn sound design on the MicroKORG. Also, the tiny keys on the MicroKORG can be frustrating to play for many beginners.
For a complete beginner who is new to synthesizers, there are a couple of reasons why the MicroKorg may actually be a good synth for you. However, there are more reasons not to pick this up as your first synthesizer.
So to be transparent, I’ll talk about what makes the MicroKorg a great synth even for beginners, as well as the reasons why you shouldn’t pick one up if this your first synth. I’ll also give you some workarounds if you are really keen on the MicroKORG.
Afterward, I’ll give you my recommendations on alternative synthesizers, which are a perfect fit for beginners, and explain briefly why you should consider them over the microKorg. If all of this sounds interesting, let’s dive right in!
What Makes the Korg MicroKORG Such a Great Synth?
If you are reading this, I’m sure you have seen so many great reviews about the Korg MicroKORG. It’s a great synth that took the synthesizer industry by storm and is loved by many. But what exactly makes the MicroKORG a great synth?
1. Incredible-sounding presets
The MicroKORG comes with 128 factory presets. 16 of these presets are vocoder-based presets, and the remaining 112 presets are made with microKORG’s powerful synth engine, which we will talk about next.
These were really nice-sounding presets back when it was released, and many MicroKORG owners still enjoy playing them. These factory presets were also used on many records back then, and hit songs have been made with MicroKORG’s presets.
The presets were relied on by many keyboard players who are not synth nerds. They simply just turn it on and go through the presets to find one that will work with the song they are making. The factory presets are the main reason why this synth is found in many homes and professional recording studios.
Korg also made it incredibly easy to find patches by categorizing them under different genres. The patches are categorized under eight categories — Trance, Tecno/House, DnB Breaks, HipHop/Vintage, Retro, Electronica, SndFX/Hits, and Vocoder.
So, if you are a beginner looking for good sounding presets right out of the box, then go ahead; the MicroKORG may be a good fit for you.
2. Built-in speakers in the MicroKORG S
In 2016, Korg released a new version of MicroKORG known as the MicroKORG S (check it out on Amazon). This version has the exact synth engine as the original MicroKORG with a few upgrades.
One of the upgrades is a built-in speaker. In fact, the MicroKORG S is one of the few synths with built-in speakers. And the speakers sound quite nice compared to many other speakers in synths. Here is an article where I talked about the best synthesizers with built-in speakers. I recommend you check it out.
This means you can use the MicroKORG without plugging it into speakers or using headphones. That comes in really handy sometimes when you want to go on a trip with your synth without any extra gear. Speaking of traveling with your synth, that ties into my next point.
One thing I love about the MicroKORG is how portable it is. It weighs just 4.85lbs and 20.63″ wide. This makes the MicroKORG very lightweight and can fit in many backpacks.
You can also power them with 6 AA batteries. Combined with the built-in speakers on the MicroKORG S, you can take your synth anywhere and play it whenever you want. In the couch, at the park, on the flight, or anywhere you can possibly think of
Why The Korg MicroKORG Is Not Good for Beginners
If the MicroKORG is such a great synth, why don’t I recommend it to beginners? Well, here is why.
1. It’s not intuitive to program
Korg MicroKORG is not a suitable synth for beginners because it’s difficult to program sounds. You have to menu-dive before you can tweak many of MicroKORG’s parameters. To edit or create sounds, you’ll have to learn the Edit Matrix of the MicroKorg.
Many experienced sound designers and synth nerds don’t fully understand how this matrix works. So, only a few MicroKORG lovers have spent enough time to understand how it works and how to fully use its capabilities.
However, the Edit Matrix of the MicroKORG can be quite challenging and confusing for someone who’s just getting started with synths. That’s because, first, you need to learn synthesis, and second, you need to learn how to access the synth parameters using the Edit Matrix.
Using the MicroKORG to learn synthesis is such a pain. That’s mainly because it does not have dedicated knobs for many important synth important parameters.
Learning the MicroKORG’s Edit Matrix is also another skill you’ll have to spend some time learning to make the most out of it. That’s no issue, in my opinion, because every synth has a learning curve to it.
However, it’s not a good synthesizer to pick up as your first, especially if you are new to synthesis and sound design. And I think most beginners have little to no knowledge of sound design.
2. Tiny Keys
The keys on the MicroKORG are very small in size. Korg made them small so they can reduce the size of the unit.
However, small-sized keys can be really uncomfortable to play. There is no depth to the keys when you press them; it feels cheap and toyish. Also, if you have big fingers, small-sized keys will not be the best option. They will be quite uncomfortable to play.
The 37 keys on the MicroKORG can be quite limiting to beginners with a piano or electric piano background. Even if you have no problem with the 37 keys, you should definitely get a synthesizer with full-sized keys as your first synthesizer.
You should enjoy playing and exploring your first synthesizer rather than getting frustrated with it. That’s because an excellent first synthesizer will either motivate you to continue exploring synthesizers or discourage you from playing your instrument more often.
How to Get the Most Out of MicroKORG As a Beginner
Although I wouldn’t recommend the MicroKORG to a beginner, if you are really keen on getting it, here are some tips on how to make the most of it.
1. Control with Behringer BCR2000
After researching the MicroKORG, I stumbled on an article that shows you how to control the MicroKORG with the Behringer BCR2000 Midi Controller. With this setup, you will have a dedicated knob on the BCR2000 to control most of MicroKORG’s synth parameters.
This means you wouldn’t have to learn the MicroKORG’s Edit Matrix. That’s because you’ll have access to most of the parameters on the synth and control them directly on the BCR2000.
First, you’ll have to get the Behringer BCR200 Midi Controller (on Reverb) and then follow the instructions laid out in this article to set it up with your MicroKORG. Check out the video below to see how it works.
2. Control with Sound Editor
Korg makes a computer-based sound editor for all of their synthesizers, and the MicroKORG is no exception. With this software, you can edit the sounds on your MicroKORG directly on your computer.
This means you will have access to all the synth parameters and control them in the software. Here is the link to download the Sound Editor from Korg’s official website. Although editing sounds on the MicroKORG with the sound editor is not the most intuitive way, it’s way better than the Edit Matrix.
You’ll need a USB to MIDI In-Out Cable to connect your MicroKORG to the computer in order to link the app to the synthesizer. I recommend the LiDiVi USB Cable (on Amazon) because I’ve owned one for years and have had no issues with it so far.
Korg’s sound editor works as it should. However, it lacks that visual appeal — the user interface is not that great. Here is where Patch Base by Coffeeshopped comes in.
Patch Base is a third-party sound editor software that works with many synthesizers, including the MicroKORG. It has a much better user interface with buttons, knobs, and faders that looks like a real actual synthesizer. It’s available for Mac and iPad. You should definitely check it out.
3. Use a MIDI Keyboard
If the 37 keys on the MicroKORG aren’t enough for you, or the keys are too tiny for your liking, you can always connect a MIDI keyboard to the MicroKORG and play.
If you don’t know what a MIDI keyboard is, it’s essentially a keyboard that sends notes data to another device. They don’t produce sounds on their own; they simply send the notes you are playing to another device to play them.
If you are looking for a 61 key full-sized keyboard, I’ll recommend the Novation Impulse 61 (Amazon). I own this midi keyboard personally and trust me, they are great! The keys feel premium, and they are one of the most versatile keyboard controllers out there. You should check it out.
Best Synthesizers for Beginners
There are many synths out there that are perfect for beginners, and the MicroKORG, in my opinion, isn’t one of them.
As a beginner, here is what you need to look for when buying your first synth.
Firstly, you should go for a synth that is easy to tweak and effortless to learn. It’s a great idea to find a synth with many dedicated knobs so you can see and change any parameter as quickly as possible without any menu-diving.
Having dedicated knobs will help you learn and understand synthesis and sound design fast. It also makes the synth much more interesting to learn, play, and experiment with sounds.
Also, if you have big fingers, you should go for full-sized keys if this is your first synth. You’ll enjoy playing them more often compared to tiny keys.
With that in mind, here are two synthesizers I’ll recommend for complete beginners.
1. Korg Minilogue
The Korg Minilogue, ever since its release, has had a reputation for being one of the most beginner-friendly synthesizers out there, and I couldn’t agree more.
The layout of the Minilogue is very straightforward and easy to understand. Also, every parameter on the Minilogue has a dedicated knob or switch. This makes it way easier to tweak sounds and learn synthesis.
You’ll get 100 factory presets right out of the box, and they sound modern and ready for most genres made today. And you can edit and save your own patches as well.
I actually wrote a detailed comparison of the Korg MicroKORG and the Minilogue. I highly recommend you check it out here. There is a lot to learn in that article. You can also check out the price and reviews of the Minilogue on Amazon.
2. Yamaha Reface CS
Yamaha reissued most of their popular synthesizers and keyboards into tiny little synthesizers, and they call it the Reface series.
Included in this series is the Yamaha Reface CS. This is an analog-modeling synthesizer that is extremely simple to use. It is laid out in a way that you can immediately start making sounds and play. Every parameter on the Reface CS has its own fader — no menu diving required.
It also has a built-in speaker and can run on batteries. This means you can take it along with you, everywhere you go and jam. Check out the price and reviews of the Yamaha Reface on Amazon.
In summary, MicroKORG is an excellent synth by all standards. However, it’s not a great synth for beginners because it’s difficult to tweak sounds. You’ll have to menu-dive, which can be a lot of stress, especially for beginners.
As a beginner, you should go for a synth that is easy to program and learn. That will motivate you to play it even more, rather than giving up on it. I hope this helped you make a decision.