Last updated
Korg Inc.
FormerlyKeio Electronic Laboratories
Type Private
Industry Electronics
Founded1962;59 years ago (1962) (as Keio Electronic Laboratories)
FounderTsutomu Kato
Tadashi Osanai
Headquarters Inagi, Tokyo, Japan
Products Electronic musical instruments
Subsidiaries Vox
ARP Instruments
Website www.korg.com

Korg Inc. (株式会社コルグ, Kabushiki-gaisha Korugu), founded as Keio Electronic Laboratories, is a Japanese multinational corporation that manufactures electronic musical instruments, audio processors and guitar pedals, recording equipment, and electronic tuners. Under the Vox brand name, they also manufacture guitar amplifiers and electric guitars.



Donca-Matic DA-20 (1963) KORG Donca Matic DA-20 (1963).jpg
Donca-Matic DA-20 (1963)
Tuning of Sebastien Erard harp using Korg OT-120 Wide 8 Octave Orchestral Digital Tuner ErardHarpTuning.jpg
Tuning of Sébastien Érard harp using Korg OT-120 Wide 8 Octave Orchestral Digital Tuner

Korg was founded in 1962 in Tokyo by Tsutomu Kato and Tadashi Osanai as Keio Gijutsu Kenkyujo Ltd.. [1] [2] It later became Keio Electronic Laboratories (京王技術研究所) because its offices were located near the Keio train line in Tokyo and Keio can be formed by combining the first letters of Kato and Osanai. Before founding the company, Kato ran a nightclub. Osanai, a Tokyo University graduate and noted accordionist, regularly performed at Kato's club accompanied by a Wurlitzer Sideman rhythm machine. Dissatisfied with the rhythm machine, Osanai convinced Kato to finance his efforts to build a better one. [3] [4]

The company's first product was an electro-mechanical rhythm device, the Disc Rotary Electric Auto Rhythm machine, Donca Matic DA-20, released in 1963. [2] The name "Donca" was an onomatopoeic reference to the sound the rhythm machine made. Buoyed by the success of the DA-20, Keio released a solid-state version of the Rhythm machine, the Donca matic DE-20, in 1966.

In 1967, Kato was approached by Fumio Mieda, an engineer seeking to build keyboards. Impressed with Mieda's enthusiasm, Kato asked him to build a prototype, and 18 months later Mieda returned with a programmable organ. Keio sold the organ under the name KORG, created by using the first letter of each founder's name plus "RG" from their planned emphasis on products targeted for the organ market (emphasizing the letters R and G in the word "organ"). [3]

KORG Prototype No.1 (1970).jpg
Prototype No.1
KORGUE (1972).jpg
MiniKORG700S (1974).jpg
miniKORG 700S
Korg PS-3300 - reduced light spot.JPG

Keio's organ products were successful throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. Concerned about competition from other organ manufacturers, Kato decided to use the organ technology to build a keyboard for the then-niche synthesizer market. Keio's first synthesizer, the Korg miniKORG, was released in 1973.

During the 1970s, Korg's synthesizer line was divided into instruments for the hobbyist, and large expensive patchable instruments such as the PS series. In the early '80s, Korg branched into digital pianos.

Korg M1.jpg
M1 (1988)
Triton (1999~2004)
KORG OASYS (expand top panel).jpg
OASYS (2005)
Korg Kronos X 88.jpg
Kronos X (2012)

Korg is credited with a number of innovations. The "key transpose" function was Kato's idea after a singer at his club needed her accompaniment played in a lower key, which the accompanist wasn't able to do. Korg was the first company to feature effects on a synthesizer, and the first to use a "sample + synthesis" sound design. The M1 workstation, released in 1988, sold over 250,000 units, making it the bestselling synthesizer ever at that time. The M1 is still to this day regarded as the perfect workstation. [3]

In 1989, Korg recruited the design team from Sequential Circuits as they were relieved of their duties by then-Sequential owner Yamaha. Yamaha Corporation has always been a major partner of Korg, supplying them with circuitry and mechanical parts. In 1987, shortly before the release of the M1 Music Workstation, Yamaha acquired a controlling interest in Korg. The takeover of the company was amicable, with Kato drawing up the terms, and the two companies continued to independently develop their product lines and compete in the marketplace. After 5 successful years, Kato had sufficient funds to repurchase most of the Yamaha share in 1993.

Korg has since diversified into digital effects, tuners, recording equipment, electronic hand percussion, and software instruments. [5] [6] In 1992, Korg acquired Vox, then primarily a manufacturer of guitar amplifiers. [7] Korg was the exclusive distributor of Marshall Amplification product in the US for decades. This arrangement ended in 2010. [8]

Kato died of cancer on March 15, 2011. [9]

MAXI KORG 800DV (1974).jpg
MAXI KORG 800DV (1974)
KORG PS900.png
900PS (1975)
Korg PE-1000 (Univox K4).jpg
PE-1000 (1976)
Korg MS-20 (this is next).jpg
MS-20 (1978)
Korg VC-10 Vocoder.jpg
VC-10 (1978)
KORG times three.jpg
Korg Λ, Polysix, and Trident


See also

Related Research Articles

Digital synthesizer Synthesizer that uses digital signal processing to make sounds

A digital synthesizer is a synthesizer that uses digital signal processing (DSP) techniques to make musical sounds. This in contrast to older analog synthesizers, which produce music using analog electronics, and samplers, which play back digital recordings of acoustic, electric, or electronic instruments. Some digital synthesizers emulate analog synthesizers; others include sampling capability in addition to digital synthesis.

Electronic musical instrument Musical instrument that uses electronic circuits to generate sound

An electronic musical instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound using electronic circuitry. Such an instrument sounds by outputting an electrical, electronic or digital audio signal that ultimately is plugged into a power amplifier which drives a loudspeaker, creating the sound heard by the performer and listener.

Roland Corporation is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, electronic equipment and software. It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka on April 18, 1972. In 2005, Roland's headquarters relocated to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. It has factories in Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, and the USA. As of March 31, 2010, it employed 2,699 employees. In 2014, Roland was subject to a management buyout by Roland's CEO Junichi Miki, supported by Taiyo Pacific Partners.

Drum machine Electronic musical instrument that creates percussion sounds

A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument that creates percussion sounds, drum beats, and patterns. Drum machines may imitate drum kits or other percussion instruments, or produce unique sounds, such as synthesized electronic tones. Most modern drum machines allow users to program their own rhythms and beats. Drum machines may create sounds using analog synthesis or play prerecorded samples. Some drum machines have buttons or pads that allow the performer to play drum sounds "live", either on top of a programmed drum beat or as a standalone performance. Drum machines have a range of capabilities, which go from playing a short beat pattern in a loop, to being able to program or record complex song arrangements with changes of meter and style.

Music technology (electronic and digital)

Digital music technology encompasses digital instruments, computers, electronic effects units, software, or digital audio equipment by a performer, composer, sound engineer, DJ, or record producer to produce, perform or record music. The term refers to electronic devices, instruments, computer hardware, and software used in performance, playback, recording, composition, mixing, analysis, and editing of music.

Digital piano

A digital piano is a type of electronic keyboard instrument designed to serve primarily as an alternative to the traditional acoustic piano, both in the way it feels to play and in the sound produced. Digital pianos use either synthesized emulation or recorded samples of an acoustic piano, which are then amplified through an internal loudspeaker. They also incorporate weighted keys, which recreate the feel of an acoustic piano. Some digital pianos are designed to also look like an upright or grand piano.

A music workstation is an electronic musical instrument providing the facilities of:

Yamaha Corporation Japanese company known for its musical instruments

Yamaha Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation and conglomerate with a very wide range of products and services. It is one of the constituents of Nikkei 225 and is the world's largest piano manufacturing company. The former motorcycle division was established in 1955 as Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., which started as an affiliated company but later became independent, although Yamaha Corporation is still a major shareholder.

Electronic keyboard

An electronic keyboard, portable keyboard, or digital keyboard is an electronic musical instrument, an electronic or digital derivative of keyboard instruments. Broadly speaking, the term electronic keyboard or just a keyboard can refer to any type of digital or electronic keyboard instrument. These include synthesizers, digital pianos, stage pianos, electronic organs and digital audio workstations. However, an electronic keyboard is more specifically a synthesizer with a built-in low-wattage power amplifier and small loudspeakers.

Korg M1 Synthesizer

The Korg M1 is a synthesizer and music workstation manufactured by Korg from 1988 to 1995. It became the top-selling digital synthesizer of its time.

Korg Triton

The Korg Triton is a music workstation synthesizer, featuring digital sampling and sequencing, released in 1999. It uses Korg's HI Synthesis tone generator and was eventually available in several model variants with numerous upgrade options. The Triton became renowned as a benchmark of keyboard technology, and has been widely featured in music videos and live concerts. At the NAMM 2007, Korg announced the Korg M3 as its successor.

Sequential is an American synthesizer company founded in 1974 as Sequential Circuits by Dave Smith. In 1978, Sequential released the Prophet-5, the first programmable polyphonic synthesizer, used by artists including Michael Jackson, Madonna, and John Carpenter. Sequential was also pivotal to the development of MIDI in 1982, which synchronizes electronic instruments by different manufacturers.

MIDI controller

A MIDI controller is any hardware or software that generates and transmits Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) data to MIDI-enabled devices, typically to trigger sounds and control parameters of an electronic music performance.

Stage piano Electronic musical instrument

A stage piano is an electronic musical instrument designed for use in live performance on a stage or a studio, as well as for music recording in jazz and popular music. While stage pianos share some of the same features as digital pianos designed for home use and synthesizers, they have a number of features which set them apart. Stage pianos usually provide a smaller number of sounds, with these sounds being of higher quality, unlike regular digital pianos and home synthesizers.

Yamaha MM6

The Yamaha MM6 is a compact synthesizer manufactured by the Yamaha Corporation, and was first introduced in January 2007. The MM6 includes fairly high quality samples for the price of the keyboard, however it is still a professional level piece of equipment. The default samples that is provided on board the MM6 are based on the Yamaha Motif series workstation sound sets. This keyboard comes with 418 patches, and 22 drum kits, all based upon those that available with the Motif series workstations.

The Korg CX-3 is a clonewheel organ that simulates the sound of an electromechanical Hammond organ and Leslie speaker. The CX-3 was first introduced in 1979.


The Korg OASYS PCI is a DSP-based PCI-card for PC and Mac released in 1999. It offers many synthesizer engines from sampling and substractive to FM and physical modelling. Because of its high market price and low polyphony production was stopped in 2001. About 2000 cards were produced.

The timeline of music technology provides the major dates in the history of electric music technologies inventions from the 1800s to the early 1900s and electronic and digital music technologies from 1917 and electric music technologies to the 2010s.


  1. "L'Histoire de Korg". Musicarius [le blog].
  2. 1 2 "The History Of Korg: Part 1". www.soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  3. 1 2 3 Julian Colbeck, Keyfax Omnibus Edition, MixBooks, 1996, p. 52. ISBN   978-0-918371-08-9
  4. File:MiniKORG700S (1974).jpg
  5. "The History Of Korg: Part 2". www.soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  6. "The History Of Korg: Part 3". www.soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  7. Dave Hunter, "50 Years of Vox [ permanent dead link ]" , Vintage Guitar, June 2010
  8. Gordon Reid, "40 Years of Korg Gear" , Sound On Sound, Oct 2002
  9. "Korg Mourns the Passing of Chairman Tsutomu Katoh Archived 2011-09-09 at the Wayback Machine ", Keyboard Magazine, March 15, 2011