About pj

Now (mostly) retired, I'm pursing electronics and computing just for the fun of it! I'm a computer scientist and engineer who has worked for AMD, Hewlett Packard and Siemens. I also taught hardware and software development at Case Western Reserve University, Tufts University and Princeton. Hopefully, you will find the information on this site to be helpful. Educators and students are particularly welcome!

A few after action thoughts

A few more thoughts after writing my Genos snap review

Articulations are gonna take practice

The Yamaha Genos™ is a mini, ready-to-play, orchestral library. The player has a large number of physical controllers including joystick, articulation buttons and aftertouch. This is what draws me to Genos.

One big take away: exploiting all of this capability is going to take practice, practice, practice.

Fortunately, the Genos has a few features to ease the process.

The DEMO touch button is your friend. Each voice has a DEMO button that plays a musical phrase. The phrase typically triggers one or more articulations. The appropriate front panel button (ART1, ART2, ART3) lights up when the associated articulation is triggered.

Another helpful feature appears in the Voice Part Setup display. (Hit the front panel VOICE button to go there.) Genos displays a small icon next to the voice name for each available articulation. [See image below. Click to enlarge.] It’s a way to learn quickly what to try or do.

The Genos Data List PDF is another helpful resource. The Data List has a table of all Super Articulation 2 (SArt2) voices, including the articulations supported by each voice.

Reflections on my technique

It really is humbling to record yourself and listen to the playback.

I recorded my noodling and doodling while evaluating the Yamaha Genos. There were a few decent moments in the two hour recording and a number of musical divots:

  • Lost the beat when my left hand ran out of keys in the lower split.
  • Playing certain instruments (e.g., oboe) beyond the comfortable, natural range of the acoustic instument.
  • Pointless, wandering improvised solo lines.

The first two divots are partially due to unfamiliarity with the split point and positioning of the left and right hand voices. In retrospect, I didn’t drop the left hand voice an octave (via the Genos MIXER panel) and wound up playing the bass line quite close to the lowest keys. This problem is easily fixed technically when programming splits and layers for actual use. (Once I get a Genos. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Without setting the left hand range properly, I’m playing away and, suddenly, my little finger is hitting the end cheek (or whatever that inert block of plastic or metal is called). That moment of frustration just enough to throw me off tempo. (The huge reason why I hate 37-key keyboards.)

Playing outside the natural range of the acoustic instrument is mostly on me. I wanted to test the full range of the oboe (for example) and that was a deliberate choice. I usually assess a musical score ahead of time to determine if and when I can play a higher oboe line. However, a big “however,” I know there are times when I botch this — live in front of a congregation. My face flushes and I desperately think about how I am going to gracefully get myself out of the situation.

The third divot is all on me. Alot of my improvisations were down right embarrassing — solo lines that made noise and went nowhere. Some of the meandering was due to the Genos evaluation — pushing buttons to change a voice or randomly flogging the articulation buttons to see what they would do. However, some of the meandering is due to distraction and lack of engagement in what I was playing.

Self-reflection led me to a few rules that I need to follow when improvising:

  • Be full engaged with the music.
  • Don’t become distracted by the technology while playing.
  • Be deliberate. Play with authority. Don’t be tentative.
  • Play with intention.
  • Have a musical guide.

The best moments in the recording are when I was fully engaged with either the score or the backing track. I can sense this while listening. Without engagement, I’m a dead duck and I should just kick back and comp in sync with the beat. (Of course, comping requires a level of engagement, too!)

Being deliberate goes along with engagement. When you’re deliberate, you’re involved. It raises the energy level and mental concentration. All good.

The notions of intention and having a musical guide are very important. Intention means having a message and a direction. Know where you’re going and what you want to say. Otherwise, it really is random noise, even if it’s played in the pocket.

By “musical guide,” I mean a lead sheet or other kind of score. The lead sheet may be mental rather than paper. It’s a structure. With the structure in place, you can make the changes and play around the melody. It’s no wonder that many jazz improvisations start and finish with a head.

I hope these reflections help you out while I hope that I live up to them myself.

Let’s talk money

It always comes back to the money. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Genos is not a cheap instrument. A large part of its cost is the research and development that went into the instrument. Yamaha outdid themselves with new SArt and SArt voices. (Yamaha finally broke the waveform memory barrier imposed by their previous generation hardware.)

However, let’s be rational about the price and strategize. Nobody pays MSRP (list price) for a car and you’re not going to pay list. Everyone advertises the Minimum Advertised Price (MAP), $5,499.99 in the United States. If you put in modest effort, you’re not going to pay MAP either.

Don’t just click “Add to cart.” Call. Don’t just call big on-line retailers. Support small dealers. That’s “deal-er.” Aside from good customer service, this is one of the main reasons why I call Audioworks CT.

You may choose to buy Genos somewhere else, but a little bit of phone shopping can save you rent money.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos: First contact (snap review)

Before I dive into Yamaha Genos™, I need to send a big shoutout to Frank Ventresca of Audioworks CT. I tested and bought my PSR-S950 from Audioworks CT. I’m ba-ack, having had a good experience the first time — largely due to Frank’s customer service. If you’re interested in trying and buying an arranger keyboard, I recommend visiting Audioworks CT and/or giving Frank a call.

For me, it’s about 140 miles one way from home to Audioworks CT. Preparations are similar to getting ready for a long day hike — only with sheet music instead of boots. The long car trip means that testing time is limited. I try to hit the driving sweet spot between morning rush on I-495/I-290 near Boston and the afternoon rush from New Haven and Hartford, leaving me about two hours to play.

After arriving at Audioworks CT, I found a three tiered stack: Yamaha Montage, Korg Pa4x and Yamaha Genos, from top to bottom. Thanks to a tip from Stephen on the PSR Tutorial Forum, I expected to see the Pa4x. With that foreknowledge, do I A/B the Genos and the Pa4x? I chose to focus solely on the Genos given the two hour window for testing. Frank, BTW, invited me to stay longer, but I knew that I needed to avoid traffic Hell later in the day.

I warmed up while Frank finished a business meeting. No music stand, so I used the Pa4x as a very expensive music rest. Once Frank was available, he quickly installed the Genos music stand.

I decided to listen through headphones rather than use Audioworks’ house system. It’s a good system, but I decided to go with my usual, lightweight headphones (Roland RH-7A). Headphones also freed up the LINE OUT which I connected to a Roland MicroBR digital recorder. This setup let me hit record, play and forget.

At the time of this writing, I pulled a few snippets among the noodling and posted them here. I’m trying to get my first impressions down fast and don’t want audio production to get in the way of my initial thoughts.

Before recording, I set the Genos EQ to flat and turned off the master compression. Audio is recorded direct to MP3 (192 kbit/sec). Not the best quality, but I was afraid of overrunning the rather small SD card in the MicroBR. After setting initial levels, I tried to forget that the MicroBR was there and that the red light was ON.

It’s humbling to listen to my noodling. Hats off to everyone’s main man Katsunori UJIIE, who seems to rip this stuff effortlessly!

Genos is an instrument

One shouldn’t have to say this, but the Genos is an instrument in the same league as Montage or Kronos. With the limited time available, I concentrated on Genos as a performance instrument first and as an arranger keyboard second. This approach is consistent with my musical priorities: church gig first, fun and possibly one man band (OMB) second.

As a liturgical musician, I play with a pianist on acoustic piano and a 12-string guitar. That’s a lot of rhythmic content right there. Much of what I play complements piano and 12-string guitar. Subconsciously, I fill in and hear these missing parts when practicing. Hopefully, you will fill in this context, too. If and when you hear the audio snippets, I’m playing fuller than I would with the group. There is always a tendency to “be the whole band” when playing alone. Apologies in advance.

The focus is on emulation of acoustic instruments, orchestra and pop. You won’t hear any synth and given the short trial time, you won’t hear many styles (unfortunately).

The FSX keyboard is a more robust keybed than the PSR-S950. The FSX action is heavier. You do get what you pay for. The FSX affords aftertouch; the S950 does not.

The Genos has three front panel articulation buttons to trigger voice articulations. The voice display shows the available articulations for each selected voice. (Nice.) The voice display also shows a drawbar icon for organ flute voices. Touching the drawbar icon brings up the drawbar display. (Extra nice.) I made extensive use of the voice DEMO touch button in order to play and sort through voices quickly.

The user interface is responsive. I didn’t get a sense of lag as reported by other players. I discovered that the MENU front panel button is your special friend. It brings up two pages filled with touch buttons leading to all internal settings. It’s kind of a “site map” for the Genos.

Strings

The Genos is like having a compact orchestral sample library in a portable, immediately playable keyboard. Think Garritan Personal Orchestra.

There are two major options for strings in addition to legacy voices: Kino strings and Seattle strings. The Seattle strings first appeared in the Tyros 5 before they were explicitly identified and advertised in the Montage. The Kino strings have a different character and the violin sections are panned separately left and right. Both options have multiple bowing and playing techniques (legato, spiccato, pizzicato) plus articulations. The options are also broken out into sections as well as the standard ensemble voices.

The Kino strings have more power and are more in your face than the Seattle strings. Dare I say, more bow? Where is Dave Stewart when you need him? (This review would be wittier if written by Dave Stewart, too.)

The voice DEMO feature is really handy when approaching a deep keyboard like Genos for the first time. I quickly settled on the “warm” variation of the Kino strings and Seattle strings. Either choice (Kino Seattle) would work as a bread and butter ensemble patch. I give the edge to Seattle because, well, they would sit better with piano and acoustic guitar, given our repertoire. Tyros 5 people, hold up your heads with pride.

With the loss of our group’s flutist, I’m play a lot of exposed solo lines using violin, oboe and flute. The Genos offers four Super Articulation 2 solo voices: Celtic Violin, Jazz Violin, Classical Cello and Pop Cello. The Celtic Violin is a good fit with our liturgical repertoire. The Genos cellos are quite good, definitely a big cut above the MOX6 that I currently play. I wish that I had more time to check out the cellos.

Meta-comment: Exploiting the Genos, especially its articulations and ensembles — will require practice, practice, practice.

Woodwinds

In the case of woodwinds, I need both ensemble voices (or layers) and solo voices (mainly oboe and flute). The Genos does not disappoint in either category.

I quite easily built and tried a few layers. It wasn’t difficult to create a workable reed plus horn layer — another bread and butter, every Sunday patch. Less is often more. It isn’t necessary to layer up a preset woodwind ensemble with French horn; sometimes a mellow oboe or clarinet will do.

The Genos has two SArt2 oboes (classical and pop) and an SArt “MOR Oboe.” The Classic Oboe is bright and thin, able to cut through strings. For exposed lines, I would prefer the Pop Oboe or MOR Oboe voices that have a warmer, fuller sound.

The SArt2 Classical Bassoon and Pop Bassoon are quite pleasant without moving into comedic territory. (Peter and the Wolf.)

Brass

The Genos has a mess’o’horns and classical brass. Symphony horns are quite useful in liturgy as pads and mid-range filler. Fanfare brass is too much except for the obvious holidays when all sorts of sonic mayhem can be let loose. The Genos has a wide range of horns from mellow to a brighter more open tone.

The brasher instruments (trumpet and trombone) are available solo and in sections. All quite good. Trombones are especially useful due to their wider range and deeper timbre.

The demo phrases for certain brass voices are way hotter level-wise than the strings or woodwinds. I had to adjust the audio record level way down to prevent clipping. Unfortunately, this affected the level for everything else that I recorded during the day. Sorry, I just spaced out and didn’t reset the level. (Argh!) So, you may need to adjust the audio volume at your end.

Drawbar organ

Huh? That’s not classical. Our church means gospel and a little Hispanic music, too.

I enjoyed getting into the Genos drawbar organ. There’s no undiscovered clone killer here, but Yamaha’s drawbar emulation will work in a lot of churches (and stages, too). I’m already quite familiar with Yamaha’s emulation having played both the MOX and PSR-S950.

The physical drawbars are a treat. The knobs are shaped like, er, classic drawbar knobs. The bars can be changed and played in real time, something that I miss on the MOX and to a large extent, the S950. If you select a preset, the physical position of the sliders does not directly relate to the sound, of course. The sliders are not motorized. When a slider is moved, it won’t change the sound until the slider “catches” the current internal bar value. That’s why Martin Harris “warms up” the sliders before playing the bars in his demo videos.

The new rotary speaker simulation is an improvement, but won’t knock the Neo Ventilator from its perch. Here, Yamaha have some work to do immediately:

  • The Drive parameter doesn’t seem to have any effect on the sound. (Thanks to Uli from the PSR Tutorial Forum for pointing this out.) Pushing the Drive to 10 doesn’t add any overdrive.
  • As mentioned in an earlier post, the rotor slow/fast and fast/slow times cannot be adjusted; only the horn (de)acceleration times can be adjusted.

Yamaha needs to fix these divots.

The rotary speaker sim is set too fast out of the box. This gave me a chance to dive into the DSP effect editing menus. I made the changes without too much difficulty and without a manual. Good job. I just wish that I could change the rotor (de)acceleration times, too.

This seems to be a good place to mention that sound programmers universally tend to set the times too fast, especially the ramp times. Players love it when it takes a while for those old, vintage belts and pulleys to spin the rotor/horn up and down. A lot of real B-players habitually hit the half-moon switch to keep the Leslie in its intermediate, changing state. Watching Gregg Allman do this in 1971 was a revelation that stuck with me for a lifetime!

Wot? No pipe organ? Genos carries over the quite excellent handful of pipe organ voices from Tyros 5. They’re good. Move along.

Pop instruments

Now that the main job is done, it’s time for the funk and blues.

You probably noticed by now that I haven’t said anything about the CFX and C7 acoustic pianos. You’re right and you won’t hear another word about them from me. They’re covered elsewhere, everywhere.

I did try the Suitcase Rhodes (oh, why this charade about names?), the Wurlitzer and the Clav. All will do the business. The Suitcase is still waaaay too polite for my taste in fusion. Think the fuzzed out bliss of “Mahavishnu.” That’s a 70’s Rhodes.

The SArt2 Funk Alto Sax and Funk Baritone Sax are welcome additions. I look forward to exploring those. The Jazz Flute sounds good to my ears and has interesting articulations. The Classical Flute can jam, too.

I took a listen to the new Active Bass (Music Man Stingray?) Sweet. Should provide new options when sequencing.

Then there’s the mess’o’guitars. I presume that 50’s is Telecaster and 60’s is Stratocaster? With all the DSP at hand, the electric guitars are instant “tone” with all of the right pedal-board effects dialed in. The jazz guitar sounds good. I often reach for jazz guitar when playing pop. (Need more technique, though. Practice, practice, practice.)

The sax and brass demos start out with the new funk saxes. The rhythm section demo includes Suitcase Rhodes, Wurli, Clav, CP80, Active Bass, electric guitars and jazz guitar.

Styles

At this point in the day, my ears and hands were getting trashed. I was hoping to try the styles that have been getting short shrift in on-line videos. Given the time that was left, all I could hit was “Mr. Soul” and “Soul Supreme” with the old chestnut “Acoustic Jazz” thrown in. All good for a fun-time jam.

Neither style was harmed by playing over them. I did jam quite a bit and got a decent Fishbelly Black organ tone out of the drawbar organ and rotary sim. Oh, happy day!

Workflow

You should be able to sense my time urgency at this point because my comments are getting shorter and shorter.

I played along with a few MIDI and WAV audio songs in order to assess the workflow for OMB. Even without playlists and registrations, the Genos has a much smoother workflow than the Montage in this regard. Montage designers should take note because many Montage players incorporate audio and MIDI tracks into their performances, too.

I botched a chance to try Revo drums with a MIDI file. I brought the USB drive that contains my WAV audio and MIDI backing tracks. I played along with “Just My Imagination,” a track that suffers from extreme “machine gun” drum rolls. Darn, with time pressing, I forgot to re-voice the file with a Revo drums kit! Bummer.

Summary

Genos is waaaaaay too much for two hours. Two weeks, two months, maybe.

There you have it. Genos? Yes, I played one. As you can tell from this quick review, I’m more enthusiastic than ever about Genos.

Need more information about Super Articulation voices? Please look here.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos: Position and promotion

The first public European demos started over the weekend. I’ve been watching Peter Baartmans and Sander Tournier put the Genos through its paces.

The whole experience has me thinking about how the Genos is being positioned in regional markets, mainly, western Europe versus North America.

First off, the arranger keyboard culture is completely different in Europe than the United States. Arranger demonstrations are big public events. One recent demo had over 500 attendees in the audience. In some venues, audience members buy tickets! This is unimaginable in the United States (except iPhone).

The European demos show off a broader range of styles. In this aspect, I’m comparing the European demos with videos made for American retailers (Guitar Center, Sweetwater, and Kraft Music). The European demos cover everything from jazz to rock to EDM to classical to traditional European pop. For the latter, think outdoor cafes and biergartens where you can spend hours with a few hundred like-minded souls. Not to mention that acquired taste, Schlager. (And that’s not a beer!)

The American demos concentrate on contemporary musical genres and styles. The Genos has new acoustic and pedal steel guitars, so Nashville and country get special emphasis. Martin Harris highlights the Kino strings coming more from a cinematic or singer-songwriter perspective. These are customers that Yamaha hopes to hook in North America. With all of its articulated sounds, the Genos is a mini-library of sampled instruments both pop and orchestral.

The American videos avoid any whiff of cheese. Unfortunately, many American listeners regard (too) many musical styles as “cheese” and the typical Guitar Center clientele are the worst offenders. Thus, you won’t hear traditional European pop in a video targeted for American retailers. In the U.S., arranger keyboards are regarded as the evil spawn of the cha-cha home organ. After playing Montage and hearing the Genos demos, a lot of folks need to adjust their thinking.

Yamaha run a risk, here, because on-line media is world-wide. I’m thinking about the videos for the Dexibell drawbar organ. A few people saw one video which didn’t fit their musical taste and bad-mouthed the Dexibell to high Heaven. They never moved on to the other videos which had some very tasty jazz.

At this point in the Genos launch, it’s a little difficult to dig out the deeper jazz, soul, R&B, and funk possibilities of the Genos. You need to wade through a lot of video to even get a sniff.

The customer base for high-end arranger keyboards is aging. Even the European audiences have a lot of “gray heads.” (I’m getting grayer by the day, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Yamaha and its dealers want to entice a younger crowd with arranger keyboards. But, they have a dilemma. A young person today does not have the disposable income for a $5,500 (USD street) keyboard, especially when they can make music with their smart phone, tablet or laptop. The entry price to EDM, for example, is much lower than the price of a Genos.


[Source: Yamaha Easy Product Guide, 2017; Click to enlarge.]

Yamaha led the Genos campaign with EDM. This gave the Genos a youthful cachet, but alienated many people in the historical customer base for high-end arranger product. Folks wondered, “Did they drop the big band styles?” However, let’s say that Yamaha did put a schmaltzy big band tune into the Guitar Center video. Instant turn off. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a big band tune. I grew up listening to Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, but that was my father’s music. (BTW, I respect that music; I just don’t play it.) Most people can’t look beyond the end of their own musical nose.

So, where do Yamaha find customers with sufficient disposable income and maybe the time and interest? Back to the 80s! The Genos has some excellent styles that allow note-for-note covers of famous 1980s pop and rock, including synth-heavy 80s pop. We all tend to relate emotionally to the music of our teen years and early 20s. Let’s take 1985 as the midpoint, subtract 20 years and look to people born around 1965 or so. They were teens when 80s music was happening. Thus, Yamaha are targeting people in their late 40s and early 50s — old enough to have the disposable income for a high-end arranger while young enough to rebuild the aging customer base.

Well, I hope this ramble has given you a different perspective on Genos and arranger keyboard marketing. The Yamaha demos are carefully designed and scripted to appeal to target market segments. Where do you fit?

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

First look at new Genos effects

New Genos effect algorithms

To my way of thinking, Genos/Tyros/PSR DSP effects consist of two parts: an effect algorithm and sets of preset parameters for the algorithm. That’s my mental model. Genos adds a number of new effect algorithms and effect presets versus Tyros 5. Here is a terse summary of the additions:

  • Reverb block
    • New presets with enhanced mid-range
  • Chorus block
    • Tempo delay, tempo echo and tempo cross delay added
  • Insertion/variation blocks
    • New distortion effects (not included in Montage)
      • Tweed Guy: Vintage bass amp simulator
      • Boutique DC: Boutique made overdrive amp simulator
      • Y-Amp: Preamp & amp simulator for Guitar
      • Distomp: Preamp & parametric EQ simulator for Guitar
      • 80s Small Box: 80s distortion pedal simulator
    • New EQ & compressor effects
      • Uni Comp: Compressor using “downward” algorithm for making loud sounds quieter
    • New modulation effects
      • Real Rotary (Same as Montage minus horn acceleration parameters)
    • New miscellaneous effects
      • Damper Resonance:Simulates a damper resonance effect for grand piano (same as Montage)
      • Presence: Brings out the hidden presence of the input signal
      • Tyros 5 Loop Fx and Lo-Fi Drum effects moved to “Misc” category

BTW, it’s not clear if the Genos does half-pedal like the Montage. I’m thinking, “No.” Yamaha have reserved Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM) for the Clavinova series. Genos and Montage get the DAMPER RESONANCE DSP algorithm instead.

I’ve been trying to decode the names of the guitar effect algorithms. Yamaha seem incredibly paranoid about stepping on someone’s trademark or copyright. Here’s my current guesses:

  • Tweed guy: Fender Bassman (’59 vintage)
  • Boutique DC: Cornell by DC Developments
  • Y-Amp: Yamaha Y-Amp
  • Distcomp: Yamaha stomp pedal
  • 80s Small Box: MXR fuzz pedal simulator

I wonder if we’ll see these algorithms ported to the Montage in an update? Just after the Tyros 5 was released, the T5’s “Real Distortion” effect algorithms were added to the Motif XF (version 1.5).

Yamaha needs to fix this divot

I did a quick compare of Montage effects vs. Genos effects. As mentioned above, Genos adds the new rotary speaker effect algorithm first released in Montage. Here is a correspondence table:

Montage           Genos             MSB LSB Genos preset name
----------------  ----------------  --- --- --------------------------
ROTARY SPEAKER 1  ROTARY SPEAKER 1  99  16  Dual Rotary Speaker Bright
                                    99  17  Dual Rotary Speaker Warm
ROTARY SPEAKER 2  REAL ROTARY       69  32

“ROTARY SPEAKER 1” is the former, go-to rotary speaker effect algorithm (WARM and BRIGHT).

At this level, all looks great. Except, the Genos Data List PDF shows 16 parameters for the REAL ROTARY algorithm while the Montage Data List shows 18 parameters. The Genos leaves out:

No. Parameter               Range                 Value      Tbl No.
--- ----------------------- --------------------- ---------- -------
17  Slow-Fast Time of Rotor x0.21 - x1.00 - x2.00 (14 - 127) 49
18  Fast-Slow Time of Rotor x0.21 - x1.00 - x2.00 (14 - 127) 49

Either the Genos cannot store more than 16 DSP parameters or it cannot display/edit more than 16 DSP parameters.

Whatever the reason, this stinks and Yamaha need to fix this divot. People need to set the (de)acceleration times for both the horn and rotor. They have sinned in the eyes of B-3 purists and must atone.

Genos Firmware V1.10

All is not bleak, however. Genos Firmware version 1.10 has been announced. Yamaha’s quick summary:

  • What’s new?
    • Audio Multi Recording function is available
    • Search function while adding the Playlist
    • Supports use with the Yamaha Expansion Manager (V2.5.0 or later)
    • Supports Expansion Audio Style
    • Wireless LAN status can be checked on the Time display
    • Improved the performance of the instrument
    • Fixed other minor problems
  • Registration Memory can additionally save following parameters
    • Arpeggio Velocity
    • Arpeggio Gate Time
    • Arpeggio Unit Multiply
    • Style Retrigger Rate
    • Style Retrigger On/Off
    • Style Retrigger On/Off & Rate

The update adds support for Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM) voice editing and pack installation.

The update is scheduled for release on 1 November 2017. The Genos Reference Manual and Data List were pulled pending the release of the update. The fact that a quick update was in the works might explain why the V1.0 Reference Manual and Data List were delayed. Big corporations move with leviathan speed. [No real news, there.]

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

First glance at Genos voices

The Yamaha Genos™ Reference Manual and Data List PDF files are now available. Please see your local Yamaha support site.

When I check out a new keyboard, I ask, “What’s truly new and what’s recycled?” The Genos breaks new territory and draws heavily on new Montage waveforms, as well as recycling the good stuff from Tyros 5. Now that the waveform memory barrier is broken, Genos includes all of the Tyros 5 legacy stuff, adopts many waveforms from Montage, and gives many voices a major boost to Super Articulation 2 (SArt2).

Many of the T5 voices are renamed in Genos. One needs to compare the MSB, LSB and program change numbers across models. Renaming drives me crazy! The Telecaster guitar voices now begin with the prefix “50s,” and presumably, the new Stratocaster guitar begins with the prefix “60s.” I guess the Gibson SG is next to be sampled. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have to warn you that my analysis reflects my own musical interests and needs: mainly liturgical music and funk. If you’re looking for pads, synths, etc., there aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

First, the major stuff recycled from Tyros 5:

  • Seattle strings (now explicitly identified as such)
  • Electric piano “body” waveforms.
  • Flamenco guitar
  • Telecaster guitar (now renamed “50s”)
  • Celtic violin
  • Orchestra horns, trumpets and trombones (sections)
  • Classical flute and clarinet

Please don’t consider “recycled” as a negative criticism. These instruments are all quite good.

Now the stuff from Montage:

  • CFX acoustic grand
  • CP80 electric grand
  • Electric piano ambient noises
  • Scottish accordeon
  • Steel acoustic guitar (Gibson)
  • D folk guitar (Martin D45)
  • Bass trombone
  • Oboe and bassoon

Voices that did not make the jump to hyperspace are: euphonium, piccolo trumpet, contra bassoon, Celtic harp. I’m still trying to sort out solo French horn. If these voices are critical to you, I guess you’re buying a Montage.

The Wurlitzer electric piano might have gotten a touch up. I won’t know until I play the Genos. The Montage Wurli included ambient noises. For some reason, The Yamaha euphemism for “Wurlitzer” is “70sVintage”. Arg, I hate this naming nonsense.

Let’s move on the totally new stuff:

  • C7 acoustic grand
  • Kino strings (sections, spicatto, tremolo)
  • Stratocaster guitar (prefix “60s”)
  • Resonator guitar
  • Ukelele
  • Mandolin
  • Pedal steel guitar
  • Active bass fingered and picked (Stringray bass)

There are other new voices like accordions and such.

Woodwinds, in general, appear to have gotten a major update. Many of the voices are now SArt2. I’m very happy to see SArt2 oboes since I use oboe (and flute) in many exposed lines. I’m also glad to see SArt2 funk alto sax and baritone sax.

If you are a songwriter or composer and need strings, look no further. You have choice between two very able and tricked out string “packages:” Seattle and Kino. The Seattle strings first appeared in Tyros 5 and then were heavily promoted during the Montage launch. Kino strings are an all new addition. Genos offers solo cello voices, too. Yeah!

That’s my preliminary analysis. Genos is checking off a lot of my boxes and criteria for a new ax. More to come as I dig deeper.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Motif XF          Montage             Genos
----------------  ----------------    ----------------  
CF3               CFX                 CFX
S6                S700
                                      C7
EP 1-3            EP 4
                  Rd                  70sSuitcase
                  Rd73
                  Rd78
                  Rd Noise            70sSuitcase
Wurli EP          Wr 1-3              70sVintageEP
                  Wr Noise
Clav 1-4          Clav 5              Clavi/ClaviFunk T5
                  Clav Noise
                  Upright             UprightPiano
CP70              CP80                CP80 ElectricGrand
                  CP80 KeyOff
Vibraphone 1-2    Vibraphone 3        Vibraphone T5
                  Motor Vibes
Pipe Organ 1-5
                  Tone Wheel 1-6
                  SctAcc Musette      ScottishAccordeon
Nylon 1           Nylon 2
                  Flamenco            FlamencoGuitar T5
                  Steel 2-3           SteelAcoustic, D-FolkGuitar
                  Telecaster (TC)     50sVintageStage T5
Acoustic Bass 1   Acoustic Bass 2
Violin 1          Violin 2 1st        Orchestral 1stVln T5
                  Violin 2 2nd        Orchestral 2ndVln T5
Viola 1           Viola 2             OchestralViola T5
Cello 1           Cello 2             OrchestralCello T5
Contrabass 1
                  US Strings          SeattleStrings T5
                  Violins 1st         Seattle1stViolins T5
                  Violins 2nd         Seattle2ndViolins T5
                  Violas              SeatleViolas T5
                  Cellos              SeattleCellos T5
                  ContBasses          SeattleBasses T5
                  CelticHarp
                  Celtic Violin       CelticViolin SArt2 T5
Trumpet 1-2       Trumpet 3           ClassicTrumpet SArt2 T5
                  Piccolo Tp
Trumpet Mute                          MuteTrumpet SArt2 T5
Soft Trumpet                          SoftTrumpet SArt2
Trombone 1-2      Trombone 3          ClassicTrombone T5
                  Bass Trombone       BassTromTenuto
                  Euphonium
French Horn 1     French Horn 2
French Horns 1    French Horns 2-3    OrchHorns T5
                  Trumpets 1-2        OrchTrumpets T5
                  Trombones 1-2       OrchTrombones T5
Soprano Sax 1-3                       BalladSopranoSax T5
Alto Sax 1-3                          AltoSax SArt2
Tenor Sax 1-2                         TenorSax SArt2
Clarinet 1        Clarinet 2-3        Clarinet SArt2
Oboe 1-2          Oboe 3-4            Oboe SArt2
Bassoon 1         Bassoon 2-3         Bassoon SArt2
Flute 1-2         Flute 3-4           ClassicalFlute SArt2 T5
                  CBassoon 1-2
Piccolo 1-2       Piccolo 3-4

Note :T5" means "Added in T5 and included in Genos"

Genos and the future of Montage

A member of the Yamaha Synth forum asked me for some thoughts about the future of Montage given what we know about Yamaha Genos™. Here is my reply with a few additions.

What’s in the future?

I tend to think about the Genos and Montage as brother and sister in the same way that Tyros and Motif are brother and sister. Different, but they share the same technological DNA and a lot of the same musical DNA (waveforms and voices).

Since the two flagship products are on different development schedules, they tend to leap frog each other with respect to new waveforms and voices. This was certainly true over the 10+ year history of the Motif and Tyros product lines.

I’m now calling this my “Leapfrog hypothesis.” It’s a hypothesis because I don’t have any privileged knowledge of Yamaha’s development process. (I wish I did, but then, I’d be under NDA and couldn’t tell you. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I started thinking about this last year and if you’re interested, please read about it here.

The hypothesis is based on clues from Martin Harris, one of Yamaha’s key developers. The Montage, for example, adopted the much-promoted Seattle strings and Telecaster guitar from the Tyros 5. In return, the Genos has adopted the CFX acoustic piano, electric piano ambient noises and other waveforms from the Montage. Other examples of lateral DNA transfer are VCM effects and Real Distortion guitar effects.

Sound development is so expensive that Yamaha must reuse sonic DNA. It simply cannot afford to fund two independent lines of sound development. As long as the waveform quality is high — and it is — sharing is good for all of us. It spreads out the cost of sound development over a larger number of units and customers. I honestly don’t begrudge the inclusion of some musical style or instrument voice which I will likely never use. If someone else’s purchase helps me to make my kind of music, then I don’t mind paying it forward a little bit.

I don’t have any inside knowledge, but sound development at Yamaha seems to be a continual process. The next top-of-the-line (TOTL) taps into the latest results. Expect larger, detailed waveforms and more articulations in future Montage voices. Also, stereo doesn’t rob polyphony anymore and there will be wider use of stereo waveforms.

So, yes, I would expect the newest voices from Genos to eventually appear in the Montage series: C7 acoustic piano, resonator guitar, Strat, Revo drums, Mega Voices, etc. We haven’t seen the Data List for the Genos as yet, so it’s hard to do a detailed analysis of what’s new in Genos above Montage. Would Montage voices be programmed differently? Sure, Montage and Genos are different platforms serving different needs.

I think it’s safe to say that there will be a re-spin of the Montage hardware sometime. When? That’s on Yamaha’s secret road map. Like the Genos, the Montage sound engine is scalable and can grow into new shoes, so to speak. Everything else in the crystal ball is vapor.

Beyond all that, I see a revenue opportunity for Yamaha by providing new waveforms, voices and related content through Yamaha Musicsoft. If I had a TOTL synth with expansion memory, I would be willing to pay for a sonic upgrade. I currently play a “lowly” MOX6 without expansion memory, so I’m looking for a new platform — either Montage or Genos — based on my musical needs, goals and process.

A most useful paragraph

Here is the most useful paragraph that I’ve read all week. It’s taken from the October 2017 issue of Sound On Sound magazine. Hope it helps you, too.

“These days, many studio engineers create their mixes with a compressor and an EQ sitting across the master stereo bus, whether in their console or DAW software. With the compressor set up to deliver maybe 2-3 dB of low-ratio compression and the EQ adding a gentle boost to the low and high frequencies (and/or slightly scooping the mid-range), the intended result is an enhancement of a mix’s energy and excitement that approximates the effect of that part of the mastering process.”

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski
Except the excerpt from Sound On Sound magazine

Genos quick hits 1

Just a few quick Genos™ hits to get the day started.

Thanks for Gerard on the PSR Tutorial Forum and Frank at Audioworks CT, we have the Yamaha Genos Product Guide. This is a slick brochure put out by Yamaha Europe and went out to dealers. A lot of the information is known, but the brochure is more in tune with a professional product launch.

In a small measure of thanks for the product guide, I’d like to slip in a shameless plug for Frank and Audioworks CT. When the Tyros 5 was released, I tested the T5 at the Audioworks store. Eventually, I bought my Yamaha PSR-S950 from Frank. Overall, an excellent customer experience. Frank specializes in arranger workstations and gigs with gear.

We’re still waiting for the Genos Data List PDF. In the meantime, I will update the list of new Genos voices and styles in my earlier post.

Last week, I re-recorded several MIDI backing tracks to WAV audio. Silly me, I had recorded and converted these to MP3 format the first time around. Worse, I deleted the intermediate WAV files in order to save space.

This task gave me a chance to listen critically to the tracks. I quickly got tired of the monotonous TAT-TAT-TAT of the snare drums. Give me Revo drums, please! I definitely foresee Revo drums in the Montage future, too.

After freezing MIDI backing tracks to WAV audio, I play over the audio. Which leads me to a major concern with respect to the assignment of DSP effect units to Genos song parts. Yamaha assigned 16 DSP units to the MIDI song parts, one DSP to each keyboard part, one DSP to the microphone, and one DSP to each style part, etc. for a total of 28 insertion DSP effects.

The 16 DSPs assigned to the MIDI song parts don’t do much for me once I freeze MIDI to audio. So, I’m wondering if those DSP units could be reassigned? Ideally, Yamaha would allocate the DSP units dynamically out of a resource pool. A dynamic assignment (or even a manual reassignment) might free up enough DSP units to implement Seamless Sound Switching (SSS) on Genos.

In SSS, one needs to have reserve DSP units in order to switch to a second voice without a glitch. The Montage SSS scheme effectively forces the voice programmer to reserve adequate DSP resources for the second voice. Seamless Sound Switching is a high demand, user want. I’d love to see Genos SSS in a future update.

Keep playin’ and havin’ fun!

Genos has landed

Thanks to Frank at Musik City for a video showing the Genos™ user interface in action. Aside from seeing the Genos UI, the screenshots reveal a number of new styles and voices. With respect to the styles, some of the new styles may be a reworking of a previous Tyros 5 style. We’ll see and hear as soon as we can test.

We already know about the CFX concert grand, C7 acoustic grand, steel acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, electric pianos (from the Montage), Kino strings, and Revo drums. New to the list are accordians, synths, and Super Articulation 2 (SArt2) cellos.

Funksters, rejoice! There is an SArt2 Baritone Sax. Excuse me while I put my shades on. ๐Ÿ™‚

A few lucky people in the United States have received a Genos. Currently, firmware version 1.02 is shipping. It’s still early days.

List of new Genos styles and voices

Updated: 24 October 2017 AM

The “JS” in a voice name means “Try the joystick!”

Genos new R&B styles
  Mr. Soul
  SuperGroove

Genos new 80s RetroPop
  80sMonsterHit     80sClassic6-8
  80sTeenDisco      80sFunkIcon
  80sPopDiva        80sRetroDisco
  80sEuroPop        80sBritishPop
  80sSynthPop       80sSynthDuo

Genos new Pop styles
  SkyPop            SongwriterBallad
  KissDancePop      UnpluggedBallad
  BoyBandPop        6-8GuitarBallad
  CinematicPop      12-8PopBallad
  BritishDancePop   EpicDivaBallad

Genos new Rock styles
  80sClassicRock    IndieRock
  HighRoadRock      Summer8BeatRock
  70sHardRock       80sEdgyRock
  70sShuffleRock    80sRockDiva
  70sStraightRock   60sBritishSoul
  60sRockGuitar

Genos new Dance styles
  PartyAnthem       HardTrance
  Reggaeton         EDM Anthem
  DubStep           Slow'n'Swingin'
  DangerDance       ChartEDM
  ElectroPop

Genos new styles
  BigBandCrooner    RomanticMovie (Free Play)
  LushBallad        BlockbusterTV
  NashvillePop      AcousticBluegrass

Genos new drum kits (including Revo)
  RockDrumKit       JazzBrushExpanded
  PopDrumKit        AfroCubanKit
  VintageOpenKit    BrazilianKit
  VintageMuteKit    PopPercKit
  JazzStickKit      VocalBeatBox

Genos new woodwind voices
  PopSopranoSax SArt2        SoftAltoSax SArt2
  AltoSax SArt2              SmoothTenorSax SArt2
  FunkAltoSax SArt2          BreathyTenorSax SArt2
  BigBandAltoSax SArt2       BigBandTenorSax SArt2

  BaritoneSax SArt2          FunkBaritoneSax SArt2
  PopOboe SArt2

Genos new acoustic piano voices
  CFX ConcertGrand SArt      CFX WarmPad SArt
  CFX StageGrand SArt        CFX Shimmer SArt
  CFX AmbientGrand SArt      CFX CocktailGrand SArt
  CFX TwoOctaves SArt        CFX PadProduction SArt

  70sBalladUpright SArt      UprightTwoOctaves SArt
  HonkyTonkUpright SArt      ChilloutUpright SArt

Genos new brass voices
  FlugelHorn SArt2

Genos new 70s EP voices
  70sSuitcaseClean SArt      70sSuitcasePan SArt
  70sSuitcaseAmped SArt      70sSuitcaseTremolo SArt
  70sSuitcaseWarm1 SArt      70sSuitcaseWarm2 SArt
  70sSuitcasePhase SArt      70sSuitcaseAmbienceEP SArt
  70sSuitcaseBallad SArt     70sSuitcaseMeditationEP SArt

Genos new string voices      
  KinoStrings SArt           KinoStringsWarmVc SArt
  KinoStringsWarm SArt       ClassicalCello SArt2
  KinoStringsLow SArt        PopCello SArt2
  KinoStringsSlow SArt       SeattleViolins SArt
  KinoStringsNatural SArt    SeattleCellos SArt
  KinoStringsViolins SArt
  KinoStringsViolas SArt
  KinoStringsCellos SArt

Genos new acoustic guitar voices
  SteelAcousticFinger SArt   ResonatorSlapBack SArt
  SteelAcousticPick SArt     ResonatorBluesAmp SArt
  SteelThumbPick SArt        ResonatorMuteVel SArt
  ResonatorGuitar SArt       

Genos new electric guitar voices
  50sVintageRock             50sVintageSpring
  50sVintageDelay            
  50sVintageWarm             
  50sVintagePure             
  50sVintageAmp              
  50sDriveWah

  60sVintagePalm             50sVintageSolo
  60sShadowMute              50sVintageStage
  60sCountryMute             50sHeavyRock
  60sFunkPick                50sDriveWahWah
  50sVintageFull             50sVintageBlues

  60sShadowedLead SArt       PedalSteelGuitar SArt
  60sRockHero SArt

Genos new bass voices
  ActiveBassFinger
  ActiveBassF.Mute
  ActiveBassPick
  ActiveBassP.Mute
  ActiveBassSlap

  80sArpPulseBass            VeloTaureanBass
  80sSynthPopBass            80sUnisonBass
  80sSeqBass                 Powerdrone
  80sArnoldBass              BPF Buzz JS (replaces MW)
  80sRetroPulse              Wobble JS (replaces MW)

Genos new accordian voices
  SuperMusette
  SteirisheHarmonika
  BajanAccordian             
  ScotsAccordian             
  SteirisheHarmonika         

Genos new synth voices
  80sSmallPulsePoly          HyperTrance
  DanceSurvivor              TranceGates
  80sPolyPop                 80sUnisonFat
  PowerOfEmotion             PizzyDanceChords
  SinoSphere                 MiniClassicSoft
  GreenFlash                 80sDreamyVox
  80sDreamStrings

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

The future looks bright

After reading the owner’s manual and watching the first demonstrations, it’s clear that the Yamaha Genos™ is a beautiful face-lift over the Tyros series, but where is the sonic breakthrough?

As usual, the answer was right in front of my face all along. First, a few facts and figures:

    Feature                        Tyros 5    Genos
    ---------------------------    -------    -----
    Mega Voices                       54        82
    Super Articulation voices        288       390
    Super Articulation 2 voices       44        75
    Live voices                      138       160
    Articulation buttons               2         3

Back before the specifications were officially announced, I saw a leaked version of these specs. Given the big leap in Mega Voice (MV), Super Articulation (SA) and Super Articulation 2 (SA2) voices, I didn’t think the leaked specifications were credible. Now, I believe.

In short, the new tone generation hardware in Genos enables a very large SSD-sized waveform memory capable of holding all of the waveforms needs for the boost in MV, SA and SA2 voices. The end result is greater musical expression, detail and realism for both the Genos player and audiences.

This blog takes a focused look at Mega Voice, Super Articulation (1 and 2), and why the “great leap forward” is possible in Genos. For PSR/Tyros purists, I hope that you don’t mind my shortened abbreviations for Mega Voice, etc. The short abbreviations are much easier to type without extra punctuation marks.

Background information

MV, SA and SA2 are the trinity of highly detailed, expressive Yamaha voices. All three kinds of voices are based on Yamaha’s sample playback technology AWM2 (Advanced Wave Memory). Super Articulation 2 is based on Articulation Element Modeling (AEM). Both AWM2 and AEM are covered by many Yamaha patents.

Yamaha did not introduce these voices in one fell swoop. Mega Voices were the first to appear. A Mega Voice divides a voice into two or more velocity ranges and assigns a different waveform to each range. A trumpet voice, for example, is divided into:

    Velocity range    Waveform
    --------------    ----------------------
         1 - 20       mf trumpet
        21 - 40       f trumpet
        41 - 60       ff trumpet
        61 - 90       Legato
        81 - 100      Straight
       101 - 110      Shake
       111 - 120      Falls
       121 - 127      Glissando up

MIDI notes above C6 and above C8 are mapped to valve noise and breath noise, respectively. For other examples of Mega Voices, see the Mega Voice mapping table in the Tyros 5 Data List file for details. (Also, learn how to create a Mega Voice using Yamaha Expansion Manager.)

The first three ranges and waveforms correspond to velocity switching as we know it. The second five ranges correspond to articulations as we know and love them in software instruments. The articulations and noises are the sonic sweeteners that make sequenced music sound more human and natural.

Mega Voices are intended for sequencing. They are used in arranger keyboard styles to make them sound less MIDI-ish. Unless you have the finger control of a god, you cannot reasonably play a Mega Voice through the keyboard.

But, wait a minute! What if you put some smart software between the keyboard and the tone generator? The smart software watches and analyzes your gestures (i.e., key presses, releases, button pushes, etc.), and plays either a regular note or an articulated note. This is the basic idea behind Super Articulation.

In the case of the trumpet, for example, the SA software watches the notes that you play and if you push the right articulation button while playing a note, the software selects and plays a shake instead of a regular trumpet sound. The SA software also analyzes note timing and plays a legato waveform when you strike a second key while holding the first key. SA software even responds to note intervals such as playing a glissando when the interval between two notes is big enough.

In the end, Super Articulation makes Mega Voice articulations intuitively playable. I thoroughly enjoy playing the SA voices on my PSR-S950. I don’t have too think to hard at all — just let it rip as I hear it in my head.

Montage and late model Motif- and MOX-series synthesizers implement Expanded Articulation (XA). Take a look at my deconstruction of the Tenor To The Max voice.

Super Articulation 2 takes SA up another notch. Real musical tones are not discrete sonic events. Tones tend to blend together due to the characteristics of the musical instrument itself and/or playing technique (e.g., legato). SA2 performs a digital blending between notes by analyzing gestures and selecting the appropriate waveform from a very large database of waveform segments. Broadly speaking, these segments belong to three categories:

  1. Head: Attack portion of the sound
  2. Body: Main body of the sound
  3. Tail: Release portion of the sound

Consider two notes where the first note is detached and the second note is legato. SA2 plays the head segment for the first note, sounding the attack. This is followed by the body of the first note. SA2 does not play a head for the second note. It blends the body of the first note into the body of the second note. When the second note is released, SA2 selects and plays a tail for the second note.

All of this blending is computation heavy and is very sensitive to timing and latency. The technology behind SA2 is Articulation Element Modeling (AEM). AEM is actually a deep subject and is patented. (See my related post about Real Acoustic Sound.)

Technical breakthrough, sonic breakthrough

Folks who are familiar with software instruments and sound libraries know that all of this comes with a cost. Sample libraries for orchestral instruments are enormous because there are so many different ways to bow, pluck, strike and generally mess with acoustic instruments. Tens and even hundreds of gigabytes are needed to store the highest quality sample libraries. Then, one needs to have a fast streaming device like an SSD and a computationally husky CPU to play the samples without a glitch or hiccup.

Before Montage and Genos, Yamaha’s mainstay tone generator (TG) integrated circuit (IC) was the SWP51L. This venerable chip carried the load in Motif, MOX, CP, Clavinova, and other mid- to high-end Yamaha products.

Like all things electronic, the SWP51L’s time eventually came and went. The SWP51L communicates to waveform memory over a CPU-like bus with a fixed width address. The SWP51L is limited in three ways. First, the fixed width address is not big enough to address the very large sample library needed to support today’s articulation-heavy voices. Second, the address bus cannot be (easily) made wider. Third, the bus protocol is not directly compatible with relatively inexpensive commodity NAND flash memory. Conclusion, the SWP51L does not scale to a big waveform memory.

The Montage and the Genos deploy the new generation SWP70 tone generator. Unlike the SWP51L, the SWP70 is compatible with commodity NAND flash memory — the same kind of memory used in solid state drives (SSD). The Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) bus protocol — and the Genos — is scalable.

Thus, Yamaha is finally free to expand waveform memory to sample library scale.

People make much of “SSD, SSD, SSD!” SSDs use a SATA bus for communication, a bus that can become a bottleneck in itself. Yamaha have found a way to integrate SSD functionality into the SWP70 without the need for a SATA bus. The integration promises greater speed (i.e., memory bandwidth) without the cost and latency of a SATA bus. This design approach is patented. Please read one of my earlier posts about the SWP70 for the gory technical details. Hope you know a bit about computer architecture before diving in!

I’ve also speculated about the role of the SWP70 in the implementation of the Genos file system. This post is highly speculative and has not been verified by reading the Genos service manual.

What does this mean for the player?

The bottom line for the player and audiences is rich sound filled with detail and realism, thanks to big waveform memory, AWM2/AEM synthesis and Yamaha’s sound development expertise. Big waveform capacity and the new mono/stereo tone generation channels in the SWP70 also mean greater use of stereo samples (“Live voices” in PSR/Tyros-speak.)

Please look at the chart at the beginning of this article. No previous generation-to-generation Tyros upgrade has had such a big jump in the number of Mega Voice, Super Articulation and Super Articulation 2 voices. It can only get better from here as the SWP70 is the Yamaha platform for the next 8 to 10 years.

The Genos promises to be an expressive instrument which will be fun to play. The knobs, sliders and articulation buttons afford a great deal of real time control. I can’t wait to play one of these!

Longer term, what do the technical breakthroughs hold for the Montage series? You ain’t seen or heard nothin’ yet.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Creating a Mega Voice in YEM

With all of the Genos™ hoopla, let’s not forget about technique and skills! A few interesting questions popped up on the PSR Tutorial Forum and I’m reposting my answers here.

Today’s blog describes how to create a Mega Voice for PSR/Tyros using Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). With this background information in mind, I go on to discuss maximum polyphony in AWM2 and how to count voices against maximum polyphony.

The discussion has a PSR/Tyros focus, but a lot of the information applies to Motif, MOX and Montage, too. If you want to learn more about the Yamaha AWM2 voice architecture, I recommend reading the first chapter of a Motif- or Montage-series reference manual and the corresponding synthesizer parameter manual. (Download these manuals from the Yamaha manual library.)

Creating a Mega Voice in YEM

Regular voices are the usual MIDI voice: 128 velocity levels and only one basic sound. For example, nylon guitar is just the pitched, melodic sound of the notes either louder or softer depending on note velocity.

Mega Voice guitars (and other Mega Voices) are different. Please look at the Mega Voice Map starting on page 16 of the Tyros Data List PDF.

Let’s take a look at the Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes B5 and below, the MIDI velocity is broken into eight (8) ranges:

    1- 20 Open soft
   21- 40 Open med
   41- 60 Open hard
   61- 75 Dead
   76- 90 Mute
   91-105 Hammer
  106-120 Slide
  121-127 Harmonics

Each range plays a different kind of sound. So, the MIDI velocity determines which guitar sound. Then, the velocity within that limited range determines how loud it will be.

Example 1: MIDI note A4, velocity 38 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is loud.

Example 2: MIDI note A4, velocity 2 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is quiet.

Example 3: MIDI note A4, velocity 110, makes a Slide guitar sound.

Now, let’s look at the last two columns in the Mega Voice map, again, for the Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes between C6 and B7, the Tyros plays a Strum noise. The velocity in this case determines the Strum noise loudness over the full range 1-127.

For MIDI notes above C8, the Tyros plays a Fret noise. The velocity determines the fret noise volume and is full range 1-127.

Example 4: MIDI note D8, velocity 127 plays a very loud fret noise.

Put this knowledge into action with YEM

Now you need to figure out how to do this using the voice editor in Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). Each voice has up to eight elements. Think of each element as a mini, controllable synthesizer.

You will need one element for each of the velocity ranges that form the main body of your Mega Voice. In the case of the Mega NylonGuitar voice, that’s eight elements!

In YEM, build one element at a time. Layout the samples for one velocity range of the many body. You may have one waveform or you may have several waveforms. Each waveform occupies a key range. Do not map any waveforms onto the keys C6 and above (yet). These keys are reserved for the noise notes.

When you select a waveform belonging to an element, YEM highlights the color and displays eight resizing dots on the edges of the waveform. Use these dots to resize the waveform. Moving left or right changes the key assignment for the waveform. Moving an edge up or down changes the lower or upper limit of the velocity range to be assigned to the waveform.

If you have a lot of samples, be prepared to do a lot of work! Now you’re learning how much work Yamaha puts into voice development!

Once you have assigned the waveforms (samples) for the main body of your new voice, you can work on the noise notes, that is, any keys C6 and above.

Select the first element. Assign the waveforms for the noise notes to the keys C6 and above. The actual layout is up to you, but you must use only the keys C6 and above.

If your noise notes have only one velocity range, 1 to 127, then you must set the velocity range for only those waveforms (1 to 127). If your noise notes have two or more velocity ranges (not recommended), then you must use more than one element.

So, you can see that YEM has enough editing power to create a Mega Voice. Be prepared to study carefully how Yamaha voices are constructed. Please don’t expect to just jump in, clap your hands, and be finished. I regard Mega Voice development as a fairly advanced, expert job. If you haven’t created a voice before using YEM, then I suggest trying something simple until you understand elements, waveform layout across keys, and velocity ranges.

Counting voices against maximum polyphony

Now that you’re schooled in voice structure, it’s a good time to discuss maximum polyphony and counting voice elements against maximum polyphony.

This has always been a somewhat confusing topic because of the way polyphonic voices are counted.

As I mentioned above, a Tyros or Motif or Montage (AWM2) voice consists of up to 8 elements. Assume that only the RIGHT1 part is enabled and thus, only one Tyros voice is enabled. When a key is struck, the AWM2 engine determines the active elements and assigns each active element to a physical-level, hardware tone generation channel. One or more elements may be active simultaneously for a given note under the assumption.

Assignment and channel use is additive. If RIGHT1 and RIGHT2 are enabled (i.e., two layered voices), then there are one or more active elements from the RIGHT1 voice and one or more active elements from the RIGHT2 voice. This is why layers chew up polyphony.

The number of tone generation channels determines the maximum number of active tones playing at any time — the maximum polyphony.

Be prepared to be confused!

Even if all eight elements are defined in a Mega Voice, not all eight elements may be active at a time. One to eight elements may be active depending upon the incoming MIDI note and the element programming (i.e., the velocity range and note range for each element.) When the synthesis engine gets a MIDI note (consisting of a MIDI note number and velocity), it decides which elements to play. If only one element matches, then only one polyphony voice is used up. If two elements match, then two polyphony voices are used up, and so on.

Thus, depending upon the combination of note ranges and velocity levels, a voice may use anywhere from one to eight voices of polyphony. It all comes down to the particular design (programming) of a user voice.

If you’re not confused yet, hold on, there’s more. In the past, a stereo voice would use two tone generation channels while mono uses one channel. The left waveform is assigned to an element and the right waveform is assigned to its own element. Montage and Genos have the new tone generator, the SWP70. The new tone generation hardware supports 128 mono/stereo voices (channels) of polyphony. That is, stereo elements get mapped to a stereo channel. This is a big deal because it allows greater use of stereo waveforms without cutting too deeply into the available polyphony.

Think like a coder

By now, if you’re a programmer, you’re thinking of pseudo-code somthing like:

    if ((MIDI note number >= lowest key in key range) &&
        (MIDI note number <= highest key in key range) &&
        (MIDI note velocity >= lowest velocity in velocity range) &&
        (MIDI note velcotiy <= highest velocity in velocity range))
    {
        Generate the tone for the MIDI note
    }

This conditional statement summarizes what I discussed earlier.

As usual, there's more.

The AWM2 synthesis engine defines and evaluates other conditions:

  • Detached (non-legato) or legato
  • Articulation button ON or OFF
  • Jump in note interval less than one octave

Motif and Montage people will recognize the first two conditions as Expanded Articulation (XA). PSR and Tyros people will recognize all three conditions as part of Super Articulation (SA). These additional conditions also control element triggering. Think about extending the pseudo-code's condition with other conjunctive terms.

The Motif and Montage voice editors expose the XA conditions. Yamaha Expansion Manager does not expose these conditions. Thus, it's not possible to create Super Articulation voices using YEM.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski