Live primer: Using the Korg SQ-64 onstage

(Image credit: Korg)

BACK TO LIVE: A modern take on the old-school analogue sequencer format, Korg’s compact, convenient multi-channel unit could be what your live set needs

What is it?

Released earlier this year, the Korg SQ-64 is a four-channel sequencer, three of which are melodic, while the other is for percussion, making this the ideal sequencer for a complete small rig. The SQ-64 can output via midi, usb or CV, meaning it is a fantastic centre for a small studio, connecting either to your DAW, desktop synths or a modular rig. It is small but solid, with an aluminium unibody construction, making it equally at home on stage as it is in the studio.

Why use it on stage?

The big selling point here is that it has multiple channels of sequencing, each up to 64 steps, so there’s less reliance on mults and clock dividers, freeing up space in your rig for other modules. It can send and receive clock, works with your DAW, if that’s how you prefer it, and it can even be played melodically at a push. The illuminated buttons are easily visible but not too intense for darker stages.

Any downsides?

The lack of a real keyboard will be bothersome for some but if that isn’t a factor for you then the light weight, portability and low profile make it a great touring machine. The chassis is solid too and the controls all feel robust, inspiring confidence on the road.

Setup ideas

The SQ-64 is perfectly suited to be teamed up with multiple modules. It has four channels of pitch, mod and gate for melodic sequences, so you could easily set up a bassline, pads and lead lines, each with animation and control for VCAs and so on. 

On top of that there are eight trigger outs for the drum sequencer. This means that from this one, small metal-bodied device you can run a whole set. The 64-step limit is only half of the story too, as there are savable patterns and projects. One small device. One full setlist in a box!

Live tips and tricks

Drum it down

Running a drum sequence is a real joy with the SQ-64. You can easily mute tracks and/or steps, or edit on the fly. It’s a simple task and everything is very clear on the combination of OLED screen and the red lit step buttons. It’s an intuitive, powerful system.

Make it playable

Although it has no keybed, the SQ-64 can be put into a playable mode, with quantisation to help out where needed. Especially handy on a dark stage. This effectively turns the SQ-64 into a playable pad, where only the notes in the scale you choose will be available.

Make it a piano

If you sequence your drums, then, say, a pad and a bass section, you can take the fourth channel and put it in piano mode. Unlike the scale mode mentioned above this lets you play the SQ-64 like a piano, great in a pinch if you are inspired to play a lead fill.

Make the most of the modes

The big success for the SQ-64 is the assortment of modes. Some sequencers will let you mute channels, which is good for added interest, but the Korg goes way further, with its ability to play the sequence you defined in order, or even randomly. This sounds simple but adds another level to help your performance stand out and let you react to the crowd.

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