The Prologue is an amazing Flagship polyphonic synthesizer that Korg released in early 2018.
The synth comes in an 8- or 16-Voice model, each containing analog oscillators, with the extra addition of a digital oscillator. In this article, I am going to explain how to incorporate the Korg Prologue into an Ableton Live production or performance set.
We live in an amazing time for music production.
One of the major benefits of using a modern analog synth in conjunction with a DAW is that you have the benefits of phat analog oscillators as well as the ability to easily record midi and automation. If you set up your project in a certain way, you can preserve your initial patches and ideas as well as retain the option to make edits after recording. The examples I provide use Ableton Live with the Korg Prologue, but you can apply these techniques to other DAW and hardware combinations that have similar tools.
To get started, you will want to set up your Midi channels in Ableton Live’s midi preferences.
This will allow you to send and receive midi information from the Korg as well as send clock sync to the Korg to sync arpeggiators and LFO’s. You will also notice (midi out/in) ports for the Prologue.
These ports will send information over the 5 pin din ports on the back of the Prologue.
The physical midi ports may come in handy if you have older midi gear that does not have a USB.
If you need them, you can set them on as needed. Otherwise set the midi in and out ports to off.
Make sure that the Korg Prologue’s audio out is connected to the inputs of your Audio interface and that your needed inputs are enabled in Ableton Live’s Audio Preferences.
It is best to only enable the audio inputs and outputs that you need to preserve CPU power.
You do have a few options when you set up your track layout for the Korg Prologue in your Ableton Live set. You could of course just set up an audio track and record just like you would any other instrument.
Doing it so is quick and easy but your editing will be somewhat limited.
Ableton’s External Instrument device can be located under the Instrument tab in Live’s browser.
Click the drop-down menu for the “Midi To” and select “Prologue (SOUND)”. Then set the “Audio From” to the Audio channels associated with how the Prologue is connected to your audio interface. I recommend connecting the Prologue using inputs stereo if you can.
Now the Prologue will work a lot like any other Ableton midi Device or VST. You can record midi and CC automation into the clips live or program it by hand.
But it is a good idea to make some adjustments on the Prologue.
If you are using the Prologue’s Keyboard as the midi input, you will cause a double midi event. When a note is played it will play the synth directly. Then within a few milliseconds, the note will run through Ableton and sent back and play the Prologue again. We can deal with this in one of two ways.
One way is In Ableton, you can simply set the Monitor to “Off”.
This method will not allow the live midi notes played on the keyboard to pass through to the Prologue. You will still be able to record the midi into a clip. Any clip that is recorded or programmed will play through to the Prologue.
Another way is to turn “local off” on the Prologue.
Enter Edit Mode on the Prologue. Then use the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Global Edit. Next, locate the “Program Sort / Edit Page” buttons to the right of the “Edit Mode” button. Push the 3rd button from the right to select “Global 3”. Then Turn the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Off”. Lastly, make sure to exit edit mode by pushing the “Exit” button.
When you set “Local Off” the keyboard will no longer directly play the Prologue. Instead, you will need to route the midi via the DAW. You will then need to set the track monitor state to “Auto” in Ableton Live. The Advantage to this is you will be able to use the “driver error compensation” if needed and you will be able to seamlessly move from keys, to Push, to whatever input device you want to use. The disadvantage is you need to remember that “Local is off” if you play the Prologue without Ableton Live.
Enter Edit Mode on the Prologue. Then use the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Global Edit. Next, locate the “Program Sort / Edit Page” buttons to the right of the “Edit Mode” button. Push the 5th button from the right to select “Global 5”. Then Press the same button three times to select “Clock Source” Turn the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Auto (USB)”. Lastly, make sure to exit edit mode by pushing the “Exit” button.
Now the Prologue will auto sync to Live if you set up Ableton Live’s midi preferences to send “Sync” out to the Prologue like I mentioned above. The cool thing is when you are not connected to the DAW the Clock will Automatically be internal. So you do not need to mess with this parameter ever again.
Now back in Ableton Live, to record midi notes just arm the track and trigger a clip in session view.
You can also record the midi CC automation of most controls on the Prologue. All you need to do is manipulate the parameters on the Prologue either while doing the initial recording or by enabling the “Session Record Button” on the top middle of Ableton Live.
This really allows for a level of creative flexibility on par with using a VST but instead with an analog hardware synthesizer. Welcome to the future! who really needs flying cars when you can automate an analog synth.
Another awesome feature is the ability to manually set the patch number with the clip under “Pgm Change” this way when you trigger the clip it will trigger the patch on the Prologue.
Everything will function pretty much the same way in Ableton Live’s Arrangement view except you will be on a linear timeline like in other DAW’s.
I would like to add another very important tip.
Set up an Audio track next to the track that the Prologue is on.
open your input/output preferences by clicking I-O on the bottom right side of Ableton Live.
Select the midi track that the Prologue external instrument is on and then select post mixer.
Set the monitor state to “off”
Now you can quickly bounce your clips to audio and save the midi. With the midi saved you can go back to edit the clips later if you need to. Always bounce your clips to audio. Someday you may sell or not have accesses to your synth. This tip applies to softsynths as well, where at some point in the future you may not have the same version, or you may experience other incompatibilities. Printing to audio future-proofs your sessions. By recording the audio you will also be able to quickly create more audio tracks to add more layers of sound using the same synth. Make sure to store the Program Change info with the midi clip. This will allow you to quickly load the patch and edit any part. Don’t forget to save any pre-editing you did on the Prologue too.
Personally, my general workflow is to record the idea. Then do any patch editing and save the patch. Then record any automation into the midi clip. Finally bouncing the idea to an audio clip in Ableton Live. Doing so frees up the synth for other parts as well as gives me the flexibility to go back and tweak apart if I need to.
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