Ditch the laptop: How to make music with a Roland JD-Xi, Korg Minilogue and Moog DFAM

If your music is mostly sequences, this computer-free live performance setup can cover a lot of ground. Like its bigger brother the JD-XA, the JD-Xi is sonically  well equipped, with two powerful 64-voice digital parts (which can be used for poly or mono sounds), a great-sounding drum part for beat making, a super-tight sequencer for internal composition or sending MIDI/clock out to other gear, and a fat-sounding analogue mono part for basses and leads. Add in the Korg Minilogue and Moog DFAM and there's not much you can't do in terms of live synth-based music.

The JD-Xi offers unprecedented versatility in a very compact form factor, for a very compact price. With this particular setup, however, it’s wise to do some prep first, so sequence your drums, basslines and any other parts into the JD-Xi and put them into the ‘favourite’ slots, which you can then move between seamlessly live or in the studio without the sequencer stopping (unlike the JD-XA). Make as many sequences as you like for your set (one for each tune, or one per section, perhaps), then, once again, store them into the favourite slots for easy/quick recall. 

Next, take a MIDI out from the JD-Xi to the Korg Minilogue’s MIDI in, and set the Minilogue to receive external MIDI clock, so that its sequencer syncs up with the Xi’s. You can now sequence in real time on the Minilogue while the Xi is playing its own sequences, to add further layers, atmospheres, arpeggiations or modulations.

Take the Sync Out from the Minilogue to the DFAM’s ADV/Clock inpu, so that the DFAM sequencer advances when it receives sync pulses from the Minilogue. Now you have a fully synchronised portable setup for live performance and recording, with plenty of sonic flexibility.

Me, myself and Xi

For performance and recording with this setup, the JD-Xi is the hub. Generally, you’d load a sequence from a favourite slot (be sure to save them all with the required parts muted/un-muted), then mute and unmute the drums, analogue part or other digital parts (as required) to change up your track and keep your audience engaged. 

You can then play over the top of the JD-Xi sequence live on the Minilogue and/or record in a complimentary sequence, or use the arpeggiator to add a more rolling feel, while tweaking all the real-time parameters on the Minilogue’s front panel (filter, envelopes, noise, delay effect, etc). Your Minilogue sequences and arps will stay fully in sync with the JD-Xi’s MIDI clock, keeping everything locked nicely. 

Then, when you want, you can add the DFAM into the mix, either with a pre-prepared front panel setup, or tweaking away to work another percussive, melodic or atmospheric layer into your performance.

Note that at any point in your set/recording, you can move to a new sequence in the JD-Xi seamlessly. Just remember to turn down the Minilogue and DFAM’s volume/filter to bring the focus back to the JD-Xi before moving to a new sequence on the Minilogue, then adding the DFAM back in as a percussive layer. Also, don’t forget to use the JD-Xi’s front panel controls (including the filter cutoff/resonance dials on the analogue and digital parts) and onboard effects to add further space, depth and modulation/evolution, as well as the ‘interactive chord’ mode, which enables you to transpose your sequence by playing chords on the keyboard. 

Finally, like the JD-XA, the JD-Xi also features a decent vocoder section and mic, so don’t be afraid to experiment with that, too!

The pros and cons

This is a flexible, compact live setup that can fit into a medium-sized flight-case/suitcase for travelling, yet does a lot sonically and sounds awesome. It’s particularly good for those who like to work with sequences, as it includes three compact sequencers that can work together in sync and are easily tweaked using their respective front panel controls.

Muting parts in and out on the JD-Xi is easy for builds and drops (hold Shift and press any part button), and the JD-Xi drum part is surprisingly powerful as well. What’s also nice is that you can play pads, leads and basslines interchangeably between the JD-Xi and Minilogue, and with both allowing real-time motion recording, you can record filter, effect or sound tweaks and play them back in real time.

Finally, as well as being a great drum box, don’t forget that the DFAM is also a fantastic melodic/bass synth - it’s a fully-fledged dual-osc monosynth, after all!

For more laptop-free music-making features, grab the August 2018 edition of Future Music.

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