A while back, I serendipitously stumbled across the Korg Monotron when I was searching for something else online. I was immediately impressed with how it looked. The tiny black and white pocket synth resembled a Stylophone. I had actually been considering purchasing a Stylophone after being introduced to it through an Doctor Who audio drama entitled: “The Horror of Glam Rock.”
At first glance, the Monotron looks very similar to the Stylophone. I was both surprised and pleased to find that it is, in fact, a much more versatile instrument.
Before purchasing a Korg Monotron, I did a great deal of research about this unique electronic instrument online. I was already pretty certain I wanted one, but I had to find out more about this interesting little synthesizer. I watched many demonstration videos and read a variety of reviews. I was thoroughly impressed and blown away by the many Monotron demo videos and music videos that various electronic artists had lovingly produced. There is an awesome YouTube video of a cover of the Lady Gaga song Bad Romance that combines the Monotron with the Korg Kaossilator.
Many of the online reviews for the Monotron that I read were enthusiastic and discussed the versatility of the pocket sized synthesizer. They liked the number of different knobs that allow for subtle tweaks in the sound. They were impressed with the richness and fullness of the sound it produces. Many artists also liked the ease in which the Monotron could be modded. The circuit board is even clearly labeled for such tinkering and modifications.
There were also a few reviews that discussed what some people saw as faults in the product's overall design and execution. Many were disappointed by the overall size of the Monotron. They were expecting the instrument to be bigger. A few users wanted the option of a MIDI output. Others complained that the built-in speaker sounded tinny and cheap.
One of the most repeated of complaints about the Monotron regarded the ribbon interface. Some electronic musicians seemed to feel that it was very difficult for them to play melodies on the ribbon keyboard. Many of the artists talked about how they were disappointed at how small the surface of the keyboard actually was. They seemed to expect the device to be larger. Part of the reasoning for this complaint hinged on the fact that their hands were too large to play melodies precisely and accurately on the surface of the ribbon style keyboard interface.
When I finally received my Monotron and had the opportunity to play it, I was amazed at how easy it was for me to play melodies on the ribbon interface. I admit that I do have small fingers, which I am sure helps, but I also play the Korg Monotron with a Nintendo DS stylus and this seems to work very well. I found playing the Monotron to be very easy and intuitive.
I am still amazed by how many different sounds that this little synthesizer can produce. I am always finding new settings that I like for different songs and projects. There are many different traditional instrument type sounds that you can get by tweaking the settings. What I find amazing and fun are the sci-fi sound effects that you can generate with this. From spaceship sounds to sirens and nice relaxing tonal hums, the limits seem pretty high.
Not only does it have an extremely high level of sonic versatility, but it also has a very full and rich sound. I was already pretty impressed when I first played the Monotron through its built-in speaker. Yeah, the sound coming from the tiny speaker is extremely limited, but it is a tiny speaker. No one should be expecting it to produce deep booming bass sounds. The sounds that are produced by the Monotron's little built-in speaker are mostly treble, but most people are going to be hooking it up to other equipment anyway.
When I first plugged in my headphones, I was blown away by the fullness and richness of the sound that this tiny pocket sized synth produces. It is perfect to use as a lead or backup track in any number of music or sound effects projects. I have used it to produce rhythm, bass, lead, and ambient sound tracks.
When I was satisfied with the amount of time I had spent practicing with the Monotron by itself, I hooked my electric guitar into the auxiliary input jack and was blown away again. This diminutive synthesizer makes a fantastic filter. I have years of experience with effects processors and guitar pedals, but nothing I have ever used has pleased me as much as the sounds that are produced by the coupling of my P-90 Les Paul and the Korg Monotron. The sounds that result from the combining of these two instruments are far greater than what you can get from just the Monotron alone. The auxiliary input filter jack adds a nearly infinitesimal amount value to an already useful electronic instrument. The combination is like transforming the guitar into an MS-10 synthesizer except with fewer wires.
Even after months of owning the Korg Monotron I am still very pleased and amazed by this fantasic little instrument. Even if it lacked the audio input filter jack, it would still be an amazing little pocket sized instrument. The fact that you can run other sound sources and instruments through it and use it has a filter while manipulating the sound in real-time is a huge bonus. It is a very powerful electronic instrument and a useful sonic tool that any electronic musician should be proud to have in their arsenal.
One of the best parts about the Korg Monotron is the price. It can be had for about $60 on Amazon or Musicians Friend. This makes it an extremely affordable pocket sized synthesizer that is perfect for modding and circuit bending. Even if you are not into modding your electronics, the Korg Monotron is still a powerful little electronic sonic device.