The DB-90 metronome is a VERY handy and flexible tool for teaching music lessons. Beyond easily selecting time signatures and a Tap-able tempo, I especially like:
- it TALKS; in addition to varied click and beeps, it can Voice count beat number names, which is REALLY handy to automate during lessons, so that I can offer meta-commentary/guidance/etc.
- individual levels for all the subdivisions of the beat. This makes it easy to set up only and exactly the metric feel I wish to use, directly (without having to scroll among some list of settings). These faders are:
- the Measure (emphasis on “the 1″)
- quarter note DOWNbeats (“1-“, “2-“, “3-“,…)
- eighth-note UPbeats (the “and“)
- sixteenth-note OFFbeats (the “e” and “u“)
- triplets, (“-pel-” and “-let-“, or as the DB-90 says, “ti” and “tah“)
- In addition to playing Metronome patterns, it can play various DrumBeat patterns (rock, shuffle, disco, etc) using a lo-fi drumkit with
- low- and high- tom/bongo bops…
- it provides a reference Tone Generator, with each semitone from C1 to C6.
- it can Save combinations of tempo/meter/etc settings into Memories, so you can set up a set list to work through.
Using this in a teaching capacity, I found it super handy to program the first 9 Memories to instantly recall time-signatures 1/4 through 9/4 with Voice counting, instead of dialing them in every time.
However, this product comes with ONE FATAL DESIGN FLAW: Whenever it loses power, from battery or adaptor, even switching between the two, it wipes its Memories.
I went as far as re-programming the unit a THIRD time before I decided it was better to replace it with the more-hand-on hardware and robust memory of …
MS-1 MicroSampler to the rescue:
Given the Korg MicroSamper can play any sound sampled, and has a basic sequencer with Tap Tempo, and handy per-sample controls like Mute and Hold, made a MS1 bank so it can BECOME the DB-90.
Firstly This process involved capturing the sounds.
- manually sampling every sound the DB90 could make
- every tick, tock, beep, and mixed across the measure/quarter/eighth/sixteenth/triplet sounds on all the metronome sounds
- all the spoke numbers (“1” to “9”) and subdivisions (“e,” “and,” “uh”… “ti” and “tah”)
- sampling each of the sounds from the DrumBeats, so I could make my own patterns on the MS-1’s sequencer
- sampling the Tone Generator at C1, C2, ..C6, which could be mapped chromatically in the MS-1s Keyboard mode, creating 3 playable octaves of buzzy Reference Tone, where you can shift octave by selecting different samples.
Sampling on the MS-1 was quick. Literally took me 5 minutes to capture the raw source material. I just had to crank the DB-90’s tempo down to 30 BPM to provide ample time between each sound, which I’d catch right onto the desired key-slots using the MS-1’s “Key Gate” mode.
Once samples were on the MS-1, I used Korg’s software editor to do the trimming, parameters (looping, enveloping, etc) and naming of each samples.
I got some better ideas of how to organize the 36 files onto the MS-1’s key bank of samples , and re-organizing them is fastest on the software editor.
I placed the first octave contains all the spoke Voiced counts numbers on the white keys, and subdivisions on the black keys. The middle octave contains all the various mechanical metronomes and drum-kit sounds.
The upper octave contains the reference Tones with C1 on the “F”, and a faked C7 (from adjusting the Pitch on a B6 sample) on the “A” key. Since Keyboard Mode puts the pitched sample on it’s middle C, giving you one octave down and two up, the MS-1 can play Reference Tones from down to C0 up to C9 ! The buzzy Reference Tone up at C9 definitely produces some Nyquist aliasing w/in the MS-1’s 48kHz sample rates.
Once I had all the sounds set into the MS-1’s key bank, I had to program the 16 Patterns to play back the desired Voice-counts and subdivisions. I programmed this Bank to have:
- Patterns 11-16 count 1/4 through 9/4 with subdivisions. These tend to be for slower work on sticking and counting.
- Pattern 10 to play a meter-less click s sound.
- Patterns 1-9 count just quarter-notes in 1/4 through 9/4. Most study w/ odd time signatures doesn’t require subdivisions.
I was tempted to use a few of the Pattern slots to play generic chord progressions using the Reference tone… but I can always do that later (if and when I learn more Keyboard Theory)…
While I lose the DB-90’s little faders to mix to taste, I can use the MS-1’s Mute function to omit what I don’t want. When I don’t mute anything, you hear both 16th and triplets clamoring away w/in each quarter note.
The whole process took one afternoon, including a snack break. Some people spend their Sunday “making beats,” I spend mine “making metronomes”
If you’re interested in getting a copy the “my DB-90” bank for your MS-1, email me, and I’ll be happy to send it do you.
Also, if anyone’s looking to buy a DB-90, this one is in great condition, it’s just dead to me now.