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A Quick DIY Project for the Korg nanoSERIES

July 30, 2009

We'll be reviewing the Korg nanoSERIES USB controllers for laptop-based musicians in our September issue, which will be in subscribers' hands very soon and on newsstands before the end of August. I won't spoil the review by mentioning my findings here, but I will share a pretty cool little DIY project I worked up while doing the review, at a cost of about four dollars total...

In the course of my review, I found that sometimes the nanoSERIES' very handiness could count against them. They were small and easy to carry and pack, but since I wanted to use all three of them all the time, I was stuck manhandling three separate devices that would slip and jostle against one another in my laptop bag or refuse to stay still on angled surfaces. The fact that the three units in a stack had the same footprint as my MacBook wasn't lost on me... I wanted a way to make that footprint semipermanent. I wanted a way to carry all three controllers as a single unit, without adding a lot of weight or making them cumbersome.

After a few false starts I settled on foamboard as a backing material. It's available at any craft supply store for a few dollars a sheet; I used the 3/16" stuff, which is easy to find, thick enough to be sturdy, but not so thick as to be a pain to work with. A 20" x 30" sheet gives you lots of material to make mistakes and eventually get it right.

I set the three nanoSERIES controllers in a stack as I'd want to use them, at one corner of the foamboard, then traced the edges of the big rectangle they formed with a pen:

Then I used an X-Acto knife to cut away the part of the board that would hold the three controllers:

The next step was to attach the nanos to the board. This was a no-brainer; in order for me to be able to detach and reattach the controllers easily, yet have them hold firm, the obvious choice was Velcro. I bought a box of 12 sets of square self-adhesive pads at the craft store, and placed them with the hook side on the board and the loops (the "furry" side) on the controllers.

Now, a couple of things you should know: I found out the hard way that two pieces of Velcro are plenty to secure the controller to the board, but not enough to stop it from wobbling a lot. You'll want to use four pieces, one at each of the corners, as shown above.

Another thing to be aware of is that the Velcro actually adds quite a bit of thickness to the design, and the controllers will rest on the furry pads rather than their own nonslip rubber feet after you've made this modification, so they won't sit still as well when used alone (unless you, clever fellow, add Velcro to wherever else you want to use them!).

Here's a foolproof way to get the positioning right on the board. Each Velcro pad has a hook part and a loop part. First, stick the loop part to the controller, one at each of the four corners, just inside the rubber feet. Then, once those are right, take the hook part (still with the backing over the adhesive) and attach it to the loop part precisely. Once you've done that, peel off the backing, flip the controller over, and carefully press it to the foamboard, thereby fixing all four attachment points at once. I recommend you do the top-edge unit first, then position the second and third units by feel, with the edges touching. With a little care, you'll get it perfect on the first try.

And here's the result:

Pretty cool, huh? It adds nothing to the weight of the rig, and the extra half inch or so of thickness is a little annoying when slipping it into a laptop bag but certainly not a non-starter. My three nanos now live on this board all the time; I can position them on the copy shelf of my workstation hutch at home, or quickly throw them in my bag to take them to work. They don't jostle one another, slip off the tilted copy shelf and fall on the floor, or otherwise misbehave, and I can treat them as a single unit most of the time while still being able to remove the nanoKEY, nanoPAD, or nanoKONTROL for separate use.

Look for my review of the Korg nanoSERIES in the September Recording, and if you have bright ideas for how to use these nanos or set them up ergonomically, drop me a line below, I'd love to hear from you!

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