Analog gear like the Korg MS-20 offers a unique approach to music production that no soft synth can replicate. Because hardware forces you to be way more hands-on with your productions, capturing random moments and irregular sonics that physical synth makes when you’re recording.
That being said, they often have a catch…
Looking at synths, especially semi-modular synths like the Korg MS-20 can be incredibly intimidating for newer producers working with tools like Serum or Sylenth1. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
Read The First Half Of This Interview On Processing Your Hardware
RTIK is an incredibly talented producer whose signature sound is built using the Korg MS-20 to its full potential and landed him releases on David Hohme’s Where The Heart Is Records and Lauren Mia’s label too! We had the opportunity to sit down with the Italian producer to learn how he makes such excellent patches out of this seemingly-complicated semi-modular synth.
STREAM RTIK’S LATEST RELEASE BELOW
RTIK’s sound is a tasteful blend of dark and ominous textures and dazzling, enchanting melodies. His latest EP, recently released on Lauren Mia’s label, is a masterclass on this unique sound RTIK is using tools like the Korg MS-20 to make his own.
This sound would be impossible to achieve without first mastering the tools of his trade, which makes me even more excited to dive into the following interview to see how he made it all happen using the Korg MS-20.
There is something special to me in the sound of the MS20; so unstable and unpredictable.
I love that I can’t ever recall presets or sounds I’ve already made, which makes every session unique. Some say they don’t like the fuzzy and dirty sound that comes out of it. However, I love it for the kind of music I make.
I like to create a juxtaposition of cleaner, more atmospheric sounds with aggressive ones, and the MS20 finds its place in almost every production. The metallic and fuzzy tone you can generate with it has a special place in my heart, and I love to use it as an element of surprise at some point in my tracks, as it usually stands out.
For example, in my track “In A State (How It Ends),” I wanted to surprise the listener after the extended breakdown and build, so at 4:08, I added some spacey metallic bursts with the MS20, which take the track to a higher energy level. All the synth lead sounds in that section are made with the MS-20. These kinds of sounds are the ones I truly resonate with.
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Which parameters on the Korg MS-20 are your favorite to modulate to create interesting synth patches?
When pushed to the extreme, the high and low pass filter resonances create insane distortion. I move the filter cutoff knobs until I find a sweet spot that matches the tonal frequency of the notes I’m playing and, paired with the oscillators, generates impressive results.
I then play with the LFO to modulate the filters to create more movement and variation in the sound. 90% of the time, a combination of the oscillators, filters, and LFO gives me exciting results to resample later.
I sometimes dive deeper into the semi-modular patching section of the synth, but I don’t enjoy losing too much time going that deep into the sound design part; instead, I’d focus more on the actual production.
If somebody wanted to start using the Korg MS-20 in their productions, where do you advise they start?
Whether it’s the MS-20 or any other synth, spending a day or two learning the basics is fundamental to getting the most out of your synth. Download or open the manual, read it while having the synth in front of you, and note down which things that you know will come in handy to you the most when using it.
It will save you a lot of time down the road. Furthermore, know if this is the kind of synth that will benefit your workflow, as not having presets, or its noisy character can steer many people away from purchasing it.
When do you most often reach for your Korg MS-20 compared to other VSTs?
I’m very familiar with what kind of sounds I can get from the MS-20, so I use it for particular needs or sounds. It’s mostly when I already have a melody down that I can send it via midi to the synth and sculpt the sound I have in my head.
Otherwise, when I’m having a lousy day arranging or producing new tracks, I drop that and have a good design session with it without any particular goal. I may hook the SQ1 Sequencer to it, generate a progression and record the session while playing with the parameters. As I mentioned, I may end up with a few cool sounds and results that will spark an idea for the following tracks or the one I was stuck on.
What plugins are your favorite on the Korg MS-20 to achieve such fantastic patches and sounds?
Since the MS20 is a monophonic synth, it benefits from stereo wideners and reverbs/delays. You can get exciting results when you take the mono signal and get creative with delays.
I often use the Replika XT or Echoboy with the ping pong settings to move the sound virtually when you have your headphones in. Another plugin I have been using for so many years is Tantra by DS Audio; it’s a pretty versatile multi-effect plugin, which I use to create glitches and chop the sound up, creating rhythmic, almost percussive variations with move movement.
You can hear how I used this effect in “Cracked Code” starting at 4:13 when you hear a glitchy synth get louder every 2 bars. Then from 4”26, whenever the first note hits at the beginning of the bar, you can hear a metallic tail that bounces from left to right. The ear candy elements were achieved by running the main melody through Tantra and resampling the parts I liked the most.