Korg MS-20

The Korg MS-20 is an old semi-modular synthesizer. Patch cables are used to further modulate the sound. It has two resonant filters capable of high-pass, low-pass, notch and band-reject. This synth is great for screaming dirty sound. The patchbay has a very unconventional and confusing design. At first sight it seems that all inputs and outputs in the modulation matrix were placed completely at random. It doesn’t make sence. That makes it hard to figure out the signal path and requires at least a basic understanding of signal flow in a synthesizer. On the other hand it’s fun to experiment not knowing exactly what you’re doing. It’s definitely not a synth for beginners.

It is also possible to route any external sounds through the filters. This has been used a lot for filtering vocals and beats.

The MS-20 has a very unique sound. It’s not as warm and much less polite than other analog synths from the time, but the MS-20 definitely has an edgy character. It can be very dirty, screaming and nasal. A favorite synth of mine. So synthetic yet still organic sound.


Audio demo samples:

(external delay and/or reverb added)

Sequence A multitrack. All MS-20 sounds except the chords (JD-800).

Bass LFO with slow LFO controlling filter.

Bass attack A massive and deep sounding bass.

Trancey sound Also with slow LFO controlling LP filter.



Patches with audio samples:


Bass Sequence Bass with slight pitch rise on attack pitch drop on delay. LFO setting makes the bass sound like it’s sequenced.


LFO stutter LFO Nice old school synth sound.


Ringmodulation Ringmodulation generated by EG1 pitch.



Lead with ringmodulation VCO2 set to “ring” waveform. Turning VCO2 pitch will cause ringmodulation effect.



Random filter S&H modulation causes random filter setting.



Random pitch S&H modulation causes random pitch. Classic weird Sci-Fi stuff!



Noise tail Pink noise controlling delayed LFO. Adds a nice hoarse quality to the tail of the sound.



Organic electo reed White noise is routed to ‘signal in’ to create a breathy reed sound. The pitch EG is set at 1 to generate an ever so slightly drop in pitch upon release.



Screaming Lead Set bender wheel at the buttom and then raise it for scream!



Random filter play Random filter settings every time you play a new note.



Up&Down The pitch of the VCO’s rise and fall simultaneously. VCO2 is set to opposite polarity than VCO1.



More MS-20 patches to come soon