Genos master compressor

There is an on-going discussion at the PSR Tuturial Forum about the Yamaha Genos™ master compressor.

I did a little “effect sleuthing” and determined that the Genos master compressor is the same algorithm as the Yamaha Montage parallel compressor, PARALLEL COMP. This effect is part of the Montage v1.5 update. The same update added the universal compressor down (UNI COMP DOWN) and universal compressor up (UNI COMP UP) algorithms. All three algorithms can be used as a Montage master effect. On Genos, the parallel compressor is a master effect; the universal compressors can be used only as insertion or variation effects.

How did I run this down? I compared the parameter definitions for the Montage PARALLEL COMP effect algorithm against the parameters of the Genos master compressor. They match exactly. Yamaha often share effect algorithms across their top-of-the-line equipment.The Montage parameters are:

  • Type: Natural, Rich, Punchy, Electronic, Loud
  • Compression: 0 to 100
  • Texture: 0 to 100
  • Output level: -18dB to +18dB (0 to 120)
  • Input level: -18dB to +18dB (0 to 120)

The parameters for the universal compressor algorithms match up, too. However, the Genos user interface (UI) does not allow access to the 17th parameter, Side Chain Input Level. Yamaha need to remove the 16 effect parameter restriction imposed by Genos. (This restriction prevents access to the rotor ramp parameters in the new rotary speaker algorithm, too.)

If you’re a Montage person, you’re probably wondering, “What are ‘Natural,’ ‘Rich,’ etc.?” I’ll quote the Yamaha Genos Reference Manual here:

  • Natural: Natural Compressor settings in which the effect is moderately pronounced.
  • Rich: Rich Compressor settings in which the instrument’s characteristics are optimally brought out. This is good for enhancing acoustic instruments, jazz music, etc.
  • Punchy: Highly exaggerated Compressor settings. This is good for enhancing rock music.
  • Electronic: Compressor settings in which the electronic dance music’s characteristics are optimally brought out.
  • Loud: Powerful Compressor settings. This is good for enhancing energetic music such as rock or gospel music.

Frankly, I don’t know as much about audio compression as I should. Fortunately, Sound On Sound Magazine has an excellent article about parallel compression. The article has terrific background information about all forms of compression including DOWN and UP compression. DOWN compression is the conventional form that we are most familiar with.

Parallel compression puts a very high ratio (limiting) DOWN compression block in parallel with the original audio signal, i.e., it mixes the original signal and the compressed signal.

                ----------------------
               |                      |
     Input ----|                      + ----> Output
               |                      |
                ----> Compressor ---->

Massive gain reduction is applied to the loudest passages. According to SOS, “This means that at those points, its involvement in the mixed output signal is virtually insignificant; the output signal is completely dominated by the original input signal coming via the direct path. As a result, those loud but delicate transients are left completely intact and unchanged — which is the primary aim of this technique.”

No gain reduction is applied to quiet signals below the threshold. Thus, the parallel paths, direct and compressor, pass the same signal. When the two signals are summed (mixed), the quiet passage is +6dB louder. Again, quoting SOS, “this simple form of parallel compression leaves the loud bits unaffected and raises the quiet bits by 6dB, the total reduction in dynamic range is only 6dB.”

I hope this information helps. I recommend reading the SOS article; it has several graphs and goes deeper into this studio technique.

Copyright © 2018 Paul J. Drongowski

Suggestions and questions to Yamaha

The Genos manual should at least mention that the Genos master compressor performs parallel compression. A short explanation would help people apply and tweak the master compressor.

The Genos universal compressor algorithms support side-chain. How can we use side-chaining? How do we get a signal into the side-chain input?

Yamaha engineers are building effect algorithms with more than 16 effect parameters. The Genos user interface needs to provide access to more than 16 effect parameters and to store them.

Genos voice editing: Blending the split point

Recall that our goal is to create a Yamaha Genos™ custom voice with an overlapping split zone between upper and lower instruments. The first step started with factory preset voices to build a split voice using Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). The second step used XML Notepad to change the high and low note limits. These steps are demonstrated in the third article in this tutorial series.

The next and final step in our project goes way beyond “extra credit.” The split voice that I created has hard cut-off points for the lower and upper voices. I wanted to take things further and produce a smooth blend across the key range where the upper and lower voices overlap. This problem proved to be more involved than I first thought! Solving this problem turned into a learning experience. 🙂

If you want to experiment on your own, download the ZIP file with the PPF file, UVF files and Java code (SplitVoices_v1.0.zip).

Many synthesis engines implement a form of key scaling in which a parameter (e.g., amplitude, filter cut-off frequency, etc.) changes across the notes of the keyboard. Key scaling allows subtle effects like making higher notes brighter than lower notes. Amplitude key scaling changes volume level across the keyboard. My plan is to use AWM2 amplitude key scaling to make a smooth cross-blend of the upper and lower split voices.

The example voice that we are creating consists of a bassoon in the left hand and two layered oboes in the right hand. I call this voice “2 Oboes & Bassoon” because it is very similar to an MOX patch that gets a lot of play. The table below summarizes the voice design.

Element Name Note lo Note hi Vel lo Vel hi Pan
1 Oboe Hard v3 G#2 G8 101 127 0
2 Oboe Med V3 G#2 G8 1 100 0
3 Bassoon Med St R C-2 E3 1 100 0
4 Bassoon Hard St R C-2 E3 101 127 0
5 [V-645 El-1] G#2 G8 1 127 0

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the velocity ranges are slightly different than the ranges in the third article. I found that the ranges used in the original MOX patch design made a more playable, easier to control voice.

At this point, I must caution the reader that I’m about to dive into the guts of an AWM2 voice. I assume that you’re familiar with AWM2 synthesis and its voice architecture. If not, I recommend reading the Yamaha Synthesizer Parameter Manual and the introductory sections about voice architecture in either the Montage, Motif or MOX reference manuals.

I suggest exploring a few Genos factory voices using XML Notepad or Notepad++ in order to see how the voices are structured and organized. Drill down into the XML voiceEelement entities. You will see several elementBank entities which are the individual key banks within the voice element.

You should see a blockComposition entity, too. This entity has parameters for the oscillator, pan, LFO, pitch, filter and amplitude synthesis blocks. For our purposes, we need the amplitudeBlock because the amplitude key scaling table is located within this block. The table is located within the levelScalingTable entity. See the example screenshot below. [Click screenshots to enlarge.]

An amplitudeBlock may be located in either of two places within the XML tree:

  • It may be part of the blockComposition belonging to the voiceEelement, or
  • It may be part of the blockComposition belonging to each elementBank entity.

In the first case, the parameter amplitudeBankEnable is OFF. In the second case, the the parameter amplitudeBankEnable is ON. Please remember this setting because it was a hard-won discovery. If it seems like the amplitude scaling is not taking effect, check amplitudeBankEnable and make sure it is consistent with the XML structure! The voice definition is flexible enough to allow block parameter specification at the voiceEelement level and, optionally, for each key bank at the elementBank level.

Knowledge of the XML structure is important here. I found that the bassoon voice elements defined the amplitudeBlock at the elementBank level. That meant an instance of the levelScalingTable for each of the seventeen (!) elementBank entities. Since the table contents are the same in every element bank, I did major surgery on the XML tree. I created a single amplitudeBlock at the voiceEelement level and deleted all of the amplitudeBlock entities at the element bank level. Fortunately, XML Notepad has tree cut and paste. I also set amplitudeBankEnable to OFF. (Eventually.)

Once the XML tree is in the desired form, it becomes a matter of setting each levelScalingTable to the appropriate values. A scaling table consists of 128 integer values between -127 and +127. It is stored as one long text string. Each value is the amplitude level offset associated with its corresponding MIDI note. MIDI note numbers run from 0 to 127.

At first, I used the level scaling tables from the “SeattleStrings p” voice as source material. This voice is a nice blend of the five string sections: contrabass, celli, violas, second violins and first violins. Each level scaling table emphasizes its section in the blend. Here are two screen snaps plotting the level scaling tables for the celli and first violins.

Although I abandoned this approach, in retrospect, I think it’s viable. I abandoned ship before I understood the purpose of amplitudeBankEnable. Also, I had not yet developed enough confidence to shift the table up (or down) 12 values in order to compensate for the octave position of the waveforms.

Instead, I decided to control the table contents and to make the tables myself. The MOX (Motif and Montage) define amplitude level scaling using four “break points.” Each break point consists of a MIDI note and level offset. The offset is added to the overall voice volume level and defines the desired level at the corresponding MIDI note. The offset (and resulting volume level) is interpolated between break points. (See the Yamaha Synthesizer Parameter Manual for details.) I wrote a Java program to generate a level scaling table given four break points. The program source code appears at the end of this article (bugs and all).

Here are the break points that I used. I took inspiration from the MOX break points for its “2 Oboes & Bassoon” patch.

                      BP1      BP2      BP3      BP4
                   --------  -------  -------  -------
    Bassoon Med    A#-1 -75  A#0  +0  A#2  +0  E3 -103
    Bassoom Hard   C-1  -75  A#0  +8  A#2  +0  E3 -103
    Oboe Med       A#2  -85  E3   +0  F#5  +0  C7 -103
    Oboe Hard      A#2  -63  E3  +14  C5   +4  C7 -103

I ran the program for each set of break points, generating four tables. Table plots are shown below. [Click to enlarge.]

Each table file contains one long line of 128 integer values. In order to change a level scaling table, first open a table file with a text editor (e.g., notepad, emacs, etc.), select the entire line, and copy it to the clipboard. Then, using XML Notepad, navigate to the appropriate levelScalingTable in the XML and replace the content of the #text attribute with the line in the clipboard. Save the UVF (XML) voice file. Save early, save often.

Copy the UVF file to the correct YEM pack directory as demonstrated in the third article. It’s important to be careful at every step in the process because we are making changes directly to YEM’s internal database. We don’t want to introduce any errors into YEM’s pack representation and cause a malfunction that needs to be backed out. Be sure to keep plenty of back-up copies of your work just in case.

Fire up YEM, open the “2 Oboes & Bassoon” voice for editing, and test. Enable each voice element one at a time and play the keys in the overlapping zone. You should hear the instrument fade-in or fade-out as you play through the zone.

With the offsets given above, I needed to shift each of the tables either “up” (bassoon) or “down” (oboes) to get a better blend. If you take a little off the front of a table (say, 4 values) be sure to add the same number of values to the end of the table. The table must be 128 values in length.

The blending issue is best resolved up front by defining different break points. Of course, the table files must be regenerated, but this is a little bit safer than trimming and lengthening the tables in-place within the XML. Laziness has its advantages and dangers.

If you require background information about YEM, the first article in this series discusses Yamaha Expansion Manager. The second article covers XML Notepad and how it can be used to work around limitations in YEM. The third article, mentioned earlier, demonstrates creation of the basic “2 Oboes & Bassoon” voice.

There are a few other posts related to voice editing with YEM. Check out this short article about creating a PSR/Tyros Mega Voice using YEM. Take a peek at the article about the design and implementation of my jazz scat voices. Then, download the scat expansion pack for PSR-S770/S970 and Tyros 5, import it into YEM, and take things apart.

One final note, I produced the plots shown in this article with the GNU open source GNUPLOT package. Visualization is essential to getting things right. There are other tools to visualize level scaling tables such as spreadsheet charting.

Copyright © 2018 Paul J. Drongowski

Source code: GenScalingTable.java

//
// GenScalingTable: Generate level scaling table from break points
//

import java.io.* ;

/*
 * Author:   P.J. Drongowski
 * Web site: http://sandsoftwaresound.net/
 * Version:  1.0
 * Date:     15 February 2018
 *
 * Copyright (c) 2018 Paul J. Drongowski
 *               Permission granted to modify and distribute
 *
 * The program reads a file named "breakpoints.txt" and generates 
 * a Yamaha  * amplitude level scaling table. The table is written 
 * to standard out. The table is one long string (line) containing 
 * 128 integer values ranging from -127 to +128.
 *
 * The breakpoint file contains four break points, one break point
 * per line. A breakpoint is a MIDI note name and an offset. 
 * Collectively, the break points form a curve that controls 
 * how the Genos (synth) voice level varies across the MIDI note
 * range (from 0 to 127). The curve extends to MIDI notes C-2
 * and G8.
 *
 * Exampe "breakpoints.txt" file:
 * A#2 -85
 * E3 +0
 * F#5 +0
 * C7 -103
 *
 * The file syntax is somewhat brittle: use only a single space 
 * character to separate fields and do not leave extraneous 
 * blank lines at the end of the file.
 */

public class GenScalingTable {
    static String[] bpNotes = new String[4] ;
    static int[] bpOffsets = new int[4] ;
    static int[] bpNumber = new int[4] ;
    final static boolean debug_flag = false ;

    final static String[] noteNames = {
	"C-2","C#-2","D-2","D#-2","E-2","F-2","F#-2","G-2","G#-2","A-2","A#-2","B-2",
	"C-1","C#-1","D-1","D#-1","E-1","F-1","F#-1","G-1","G#-1","A-1","A#-1","B-1",
	"C0","C#0","D0","D#0","E0","F0","F#0","G0","G#0","A0","A#0","B0",
	"C1","C#1","D1","D#1","E1","F1","F#1","G1","G#1","A1","A#1","B1",
	"C2","C#2","D2","D#2","E2","F2","F#2","G2","G#2","A2","A#2","B2",
	"C3","C#3","D3","D#3","E3","F3","F#3","G3","G#3","A3","A#3","B3",
	"C4","C#4","D4","D#4","E4","F4","F#4","G4","G#4","A4","A#4","B4",
	"C5","C#5","D5","D#5","E5","F5","F#5","G5","G#5","A5","A#5","B5",
	"C6","C#6","D6","D#6","E6","F6","F#6","G6","G#6","A6","A#6","B6",
	"C7","C#7","D7","D#7","E7","F7","F#7","G7","G#7","A7","A#7","B7",
	"C8","C#8","D8","D#8","E8","F8","F#8","G8"
    } ;

    public static int findNoteName(String note) {
	for (int i = 0 ; i < noteNames.length ; i++) {
	    if (note.equals(noteNames[i])) return( i ) ;
	}
	System.err.println("Unknown note name: '" + note + "'") ;
	return( 0 ) ;
    }

    // Put scaling values for a segment of the scaling "graph"
    public static void putTableValues(int startNote, int startOffset,
				      int endNote, int endOffset) {
	// Don't put any values if (startNote == endNote)
	if (startNote != endNote) {
	    int numberOfValues = Math.abs(endNote - startNote) ;
	    double foffset = (double) startOffset ;
	    double difference = (double)(endOffset - startOffset) ;
	    double delta = difference / (double)numberOfValues ;
	    for (int i = 0 ; i < numberOfValues ; i++) {
		System.out.print(Math.round(foffset) + " ") ;
		foffset = foffset + delta ;
	    }
	}
    }

    public static void main(String argv[]) {
	int bpIndex = 0 ;

	// Read break points (note+offset), one per line
        try {
	    FileInputStream fstream = new FileInputStream("breakpoints.txt") ;
	    DataInputStream in = new DataInputStream(fstream) ;
	    BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(in)) ;
	    String strLine ;
	    while ((strLine = br.readLine()) != null) {
		String[] tokens = strLine.split(" ") ;
		if (bpIndex < 4) {
		    bpNotes[bpIndex] = tokens[0] ;
		    bpOffsets[bpIndex] = Integer.parseInt(tokens[1]) ;
		    bpNumber[bpIndex] = findNoteName(tokens[0]) ;
		    bpIndex = bpIndex + 1 ;
		}
	    }
	    in.close() ;
	} catch (Exception e) {
	    System.err.println("Error: " + e.getMessage()) ;
            e.printStackTrace() ;
        }

	// Display the break point values
	if (debug_flag) {
	    for (int i = 0 ; i < 4 ; i++) {
		System.err.println(bpNotes[i] + " " + bpNumber[i]
				   + " " + bpOffsets[i]) ;
	    }
	}

	// Generate the key scaling table to the standard output
	putTableValues(0, bpOffsets[0], bpNumber[0], bpOffsets[0]) ;
	putTableValues(bpNumber[0], bpOffsets[0], bpNumber[1], bpOffsets[1]) ;
	putTableValues(bpNumber[1], bpOffsets[1], bpNumber[2], bpOffsets[2]) ;
	putTableValues(bpNumber[2], bpOffsets[2], bpNumber[3], bpOffsets[3]) ;
	putTableValues(bpNumber[3], bpOffsets[3], 128, bpOffsets[3]) ;
    }
}

Genos voice editing: An example

Welcome to the third article in a short series about Yamaha Genos™ voice editing with Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). The first article introduces YEM and the second article discusses work arounds for a few shortcomings in YEM.

Time for an example! Let’s create a voice similar to the “2 Oboes & Bassoon” voice on the Yamaha MOX. This voice gets a lot of use in situations calling for a delicate solo voice balanced by a heavier single voice in the left hand. The table below summarizes the basic voice design on the MOX:

Element Name Note lo Note hi Vel lo Vel hi Pan
1 Bassoon Med L C-2 E3 1 100 0
2 Bassoon Hard L C-2 E3 101 127 0
3 Oboe2 Med L A#2 G8 1 100 0
4 Oboe2 Hard L A#2 G8 101 127 0
5 Oboe 2 Med R A#2 G8 101 127 0
6 Oboe1 A#2 G8 1 127 0

This voice is not a straight split. The bassoon and the oboes overlap in the key range from A#2 to E3, so there isn’t a sharp sonic break when the melody moves into bassoon range or vice versa. All three independent voices implement two velocity layers: hard (101 to 127) and soft (1 to 100).

The best way to start out is to create a Genos custom regular voice from an existing factory bassoon voice. Earlier, I had browse the Genos factory preset UVF files with XML Notepad as described in the second article. I decided to start with the Genos “OrchestralBassoon” voice because its programming is similar to what we need. In case you want to browse its UVF file with XML Notepad, the full path to the file is:

C:\Program Files (x86)\YAMAHA\Expansion Manager\voices\genos\EKB_LEGACY\Legacy\Woodwind\OrchestralBassoon.uvf

Here is a table summarizing the four elements which make up the “OrchestralBassoon” voice:

Element Name Note lo Note hi Vel lo Vel hi Pan
1 Bassoon Med St R C#3 G8 1 85 0
2 Bassoon Hard St R C#3 G8 86 127 0
3 Bassoon Med St R C-2 C3 1 85 0
4 Bassoon Hard St R C-2 C3 86 127 0

The lower and upper bassoon elements are split at C3. There are two velocity levels: hard (86 to 127) and soft (1 to 85). We will need to extend the lower bassoon elements to E3. Much later in the process, we might want to change the velocity layers to match after we hear how everything sounds and plays.

Here are ten steps to the finished result. This scenario assumes that you have YEM installed and your personal computer is connected to Genos with a USB cable. The best way to test is to actually play the voice while editing! When YEM is launched and Genos is connected, Genos enters a voice editing mode with the new voice in the RIGHT1 part.

1. Create a new pack “SplitVoices”. [Click on screenshots to enlarge.]

2. Create a new Genos custom normal voice starting with “OrchestralBassoon”.

3. Rename the new voice to “2 Oboes & Bassoon”.

4. Edit the new voice.

Copy “OrchestralOboe” element 1 (upper) to element 1 of the new voice.

5. Copy OrchestralOboe element 2 (upper) to element 2 of the new voice.

The new voice contains the following elements at this point in the process:

Element Name Note lo Note hi Vel lo Vel hi Pan
1 Oboe Hard v3 C#4 G8 65 127 0
2 Oboe Med V3 C#4 G8 1 64 0
3 Bassoon Med St R C-2 C3 1 85 0
4 Bassoon Hard St R C-2 C3 86 127 0

This leaves a silent gap between C3 and C#4. Eventually, we need to change bassoon’s note high to E4 and change oboe’s note low to G#2 using XML Notepad. The lower note limit is slightly out of the oboe’s real world range. The overlap is for blending purposes and the bassoon should hide this musical faux pas.

6. Copy “ClassicalOboe” element 1 to element 5 of the new voice.

The new voice contains the following elements at this point in the process:

Element Name Note lo Note hi Vel lo Vel hi Pan
1 Oboe Hard v3 C#4 G8 65 127 0
2 Oboe Med V3 C#4 G8 1 64 0
3 Bassoon Med St R C-2 C3 1 85 0
4 Bassoon Hard St R C-2 C3 86 127 0
5 [V-645 El-1] C-2 G8 1 127 0

We need to change element 5’s note low to G#2 eventually. We’ll make all of these note changes with XML Notepad.

Save your work by clicking the small file (disk) icon in the upper right corner of the editing window.

7. Exit YEM. Find the new pack and voice file using the file browser. Look in the directory:

    C:\Users\XXX\AppData\Local\Yamaha\Expansion Manager\Packs\

Substitute your user name, e.g., “pjd”, where “XXX” appears in the file path. Identify the new pack by its modification date and time, i.e., the date and time when you saved the new voice in YEM. As seen in the screenshot, YEM stores its packs with very cryptic names. Programmers call this kind of name, a “Global Unique Identifier” or “GUID”. The directory named “{1c2a0107-db86-4600-8e0a-b95993120573}” is the example “SplitVoices” pack.

Click to drill down into the pack directory. Copy the UVF file for the new voice to your own working directory. Launch XML Notepad and open your copy of the UVF file. (Save the original to be extra safe!)

Voice file names are also GUIDs. In the example, the file named “{2a6409fa-77b0-41b1-a374-71d1f4524386}” is the new “2 Oboes & Bassoon” voice.

8. Use XML Notepad to change the note limits as required. The “voiceElement” entities are listed in order and you’ll find the note high and low limit parameters within the fifth “voiceElement”.

The final result is:

Element Name Note lo Note hi Vel lo Vel hi Pan
1 Oboe Hard v3 G#2 G8 65 127 0
2 Oboe Med V3 G#2 G8 1 64 0
3 Bassoon Med St R C-2 E3 1 85 0
4 Bassoon Hard St R C-2 E3 86 127 0
5 [V-645 El-1] G#2 G8 1 127 0

We could also change the velocity limits to make them consistent. Save the UVF file. Copy the working file to the pack’s directory, overwriting the original UVF file for the new voice.

9. Launch YEM and open the voice for editing. Play the keyboard and test the new voice where the instruments overlap. We need to set mix levels for both both oboes (elements 1, 2 and 5) and the bassoon (elements 3 and 4). Change the volume level for each element using YEM. Be sure to save your edits when you’re done!

10. Now that the basic voice is finished, feel free to experiment. Try detuning the oboes to get a fatter sound. Let your imagination run free.

In the next article, we will edit the UVF file to get a better blend across the overlapping note region.

Commentary

I hope to attract Yamaha’s attention to the limitations in Yamaha Expansion Manager which are exposed by this scenario. YEM should display all basic information about a factory voice including the element waveform name, low and high note limits, and low and high velocity limits. We should also be able to change these vital parameters for each element. We should not have to reach for a tool like XML Notepad nor should we have to edit parameters behind YEM’s back by changing files in its database. Yamaha must remove these limitations, otherwise users cannot build split and layered voices of moderate complexity.

Copyright © 2018 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos voice editing: YEM

To date, my experience with Yamaha Genos™ has been generally positive. I’ve got a basic set of registrations set up for church tunes and I just converted the PSR-S950 registrations for rock, pop, jazz, funk tunes. Everything — customized styles, WAV files, and registrations — reside in the Genos’ internal memory.

Although some Genos players are reporting divots and a few serious bugs, my use has been quite reliable and error free. The shortcomings which affect me the most are related to drawbar organ (AKA “Organ Flutes”) functionality. I’ll cover that subject in a separate post.

The church registrations make use of left/right voice splits and layers. The Genos, like Tyros 5, breaks the keyboard into four zones/layers: LEFT, RIGHT1, RIGHT2, and RIGHT3. The RIGHTx parts allow two or three voice layers. If the LEFT part is turned off, the RIGHTx voices extend across the full keyboard. If the LEFT part is turned on, the keyboard is divided into LEFT and RIGHTx zones. The LEFT part plays only one voice (no layering).

The Genos allows considerable flexibility within this model. Please see the Owner’s Manual for details and configuration.

By and large, the LEFT/RIGHTx paradigm is sufficient to cover 90% of my needs. However, sometimes the hard split between LEFT and RIGHTx sounds unnatural. Consider a split with strings in the LEFT and oboe in the RIGHT. If the melody line crosses the split point, uh-oh, the melody shifts to the strings.

Now, it may be possible to avoid this issue through Genos ensemble voices, which are a big unexplored territory for me. I will look into ensemble voices eventually. As a synth guy, I’m used to addressing this issue through voice programming. In the synth world, one can have overlapping zones where both left and right voices are heard — usually good enough to fool the ear. Even better, features such as:

  • Level Key Follow Sensitivity
  • Amplitude Scaling

perform a blend across the split point. Think of this as a “horizontal cross-fade” similar to the “vertical cross-fade” which smooths the switch point between velocity levels.

None of these deep techniques is immediately available through the Genos user interface (UI). Genos voice editing reminds me of the TG-500 Quick Edit mode — a way to make fast voice-level changes (via “offsets”) which affect all of the underlying voice elements at once. Quick edit is not unique to Yamaha having seen and used a similar capability on Roland JV/XP gear.

Enter Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM).

Having a PSR-S950, I nearly and dearly missed Yamaha Expansion Manager. YEM first supported the PSR-S970, S770 and Tyros 5 keyboards, now Genos. YEM is the means to make and install expansion packs. It also allows creation of new voices based on user waveforms (samples). On Tyros 5 and Genos, one can create new voices from preset voices of the “Regular,” “Sweet” or “Live” variety. Super Articulation voices cannot be edited or created via YEM.

My one brush with YEM was the implementation of the Scat Voice expansion pack for the PSR-S970, S770 and Tyros 5. YEM’s voice editing was sufficient to get the job done.

The screenshot below (click to enlarge) shows YEM’s Common voice parameters. YEM has all of the usual sliders and UI gizmos found in a typical computer-based synth voice editor. The Common parameters correspond to the Quick Edit parameters that are accessible through the Genos UI. These tweaks are also the high-level voice parameters found in Yamaha’s XG voice architecture.

The next deeper level of editing adheres to Yamaha’s AWM2 voice architecture. I recommend studying the Motif documentation to learn more about the AWM2 voice architecture, including the Yamaha Synthesizer Parameter Manual. (All manuals are available directly from the Yamaha Web site.) Concisely, a voice consists of one to eight elements. Each element is a mini sample-playback synthesizer with its own waveform, amplitude, pitch, filter and LFO blocks. Through YEM, you can tweak parameters within these blocks as shown in the screenshot below.

When working with user samples, YEM provides access to the key banks which make up an element waveform. In the screenshot above, you can see twelve key banks laid out across the middle of the MIDI keyboard. Velocity for each key bank ranges from 1 to 89. This is a velocity-switched voice, so other elements handle the rest of the full MIDI velocity range of 1 to 127.

I want to mention two major shortcomings of YEM at this point:

  1. YEM does not provide vertical cross-fade to smooth the transition between velocity levels.
  2. YEM does not provide control over velocity sensitivity at the element level.

Lack of vertical cross-fade means a hard sonic change across velocity split points. Inability to control element-level velocity sensitivity prohibits construction of well-behaved Megavoice voices. Yamaha need to add these capabilities to YEM.

As I mentioned earlier, YEM allows Tyros 5 and Genos users to edit preset voices. The screenshot below shows the YEM screen for element 1 in the “SeattleStrings p” voice.

Wow, a big blank where we expect to see the key banks. YEM does not provide access to the individual key banks for the factory waveform assigned to an element. To some extent, this is understandable as they would need to extract and distribute a lot more detail about the factory waveforms with YEM.

However, Yamaha omit vital information:

  • What is the waveform name? A string section? A car horn? What?
  • What range of the keyboard does the waveform cover?
  • How is key amplitude scaling applied to the waveform?
  • How is key velocity scaling applied to the waveform?

These omissions significantly reduce the effectiveness of YEM. Yamaha need to add these capababilities to YEM.

The missing information is available in the Genos voice definition files (UVF) that are distributed with YEM. In my next post on the topic of Genos voice editing, I will describe how to find, access and change the missing parameters.

Copyright © 2018 Paul J. Drongowski

NAMM 2018: And now Yamaha

Yamaha have revamped nearly every model in its previous digital and arranger keyboard line:

  • PSR-S975 Arranger Workstation (MSRP: $2,599 USD)
  • PSR-S775 (MSRP: $1,699) Arranger Workstation
  • PSR-EW410 (MSRP: $599) adds Quick Sampling function – 5 samples (1 Key Follow type + 4 One shot/Loop type) 9.6 sec/sample (maximum) – and Groove Creator
  • PSR-E463 (MSRP: $479) adds Quick Sampling and Groove Creator.
  • KS-SW100 Compact Subwoofer (MSRP: $199) targeted for home keyboard players.

The PSR-S775 and PSR-S975 were announced a few weeks before the NAMM show. The all important Owner’s Manual, Reference Manual and Data List are now available for each model. These documents are very helpful when making purchase or upgrade decisions.

Yamaha are featuring the entire digital and arranger workstation line at Winter NAMM 2018, including the rather wonderful Genos flagship and the lower mid-range PSR-S670. Musicians looking for a MOXF successor will just have to wait a little bit longer.

Copyright © 2018 Paul J. Drongowski

Right on the heels of Genos

Yamaha are announcing two new models in the arranger workstation line: The PSR-S975 and the PSR-S775

The PSR-S975 is an update to the current PSR-S970. New features include:

  • Half bar fill-in
  • Mono legato operation
  • Store and recall of Live Control settings in registration memory
  • More preset styles (523, up from 450)
  • More Super Articulation voices (140, up from 131)
  • More Live voices (99, up from 89)
  • Larger expansion memory (768MB, up from 512MB)
  • Expansion audio styles (128MB maximum)

Expansion packs like Euro Dance and Salsa are pre-installed. [Click image below to enlarge.]

Quoting the Yamaha Web site:

  • 1625 Voices, including Super Articulation Voices, Organ Flutes! Voices. 55 Drum/SFX kits, and 480 XG voices
  • 523 Styles, including 40 Audio Styles, 34 Session Styles, 15 DJ Styles and 3 Free Play
  • Half bar fill-in and Mono legato function
  • 768 MB on-board memory for expansion data
  • Mic/Guitar input for use when singing or collaborating with other performers
  • Vocal Harmony 2 and Synth Vocoder functions
  • Real Distortion and Real Reverb, with an intuitive effects interface
  • USB audio playback with time stretch, pitch shift, vocal cancel and MP3 lyrics display functions
  • External display capability

The PSR-S775 also received a modest refresh versus the PSR-S770.

Observations

I honestly didn’t expect to see a mid-range refresh this January (2018). Genos™ is barely launched in North America with Winter NAMM 2018 just two weeks away. Yamaha normally announces new arranger workstation products in the Fall. From the marketing point of view, it would have been shear madness to refresh the mid-range while launching Genos during Fall 2017.

I suspect that the refresh is in response to the new Korg Pa700 and Pa1000 mid-range arranger keyboards. Korg and Yamaha are really duking it out in these lucrative segments. The S975 and Pa1000 attract “pro-sumer” musicians and the very affordable S775 and Pa700 are near the magic $1000 USD sweet spot.

Fans expecting a “mini-Genos” will just have to wait. Genos is way too hot to spoil by releasing a mid-range model with Genos-like features. Having played and experienced Genos for nearly one month, the enormous difference in street price between S975 and Genos is (and must be!) justified by a wide gap in functionality and sound quality. Value proposition, folks, value proposition.

One must wonder if a similar product strategy will play out in Yamaha’s synthesizer product line. The MOXF is due for at least a refresh. Does Yamaha have a compelling reason to issue a “Half Monty” two years after the Montage launch? A MOXF refresh might be enough to keep customers interested and sales up given the workstation features (sequencing, sampling, …) left out of the Montage. Some change is due simply because Yamaha’s inventory of the old tone generator IC (SWP51L) must be getting low.

The S975 is probably a simple re-spin of the S970 hardware. Yamaha can ride the ONFI NAND flash memory curve for years to come without breaking a sweat. The switch to ONFI compatible memory makes it easy to drop a larger capacity device into the existing printed circuit board footprint.

I’m still trying to discern where Yamaha are going with audio styles. They do have their patent portfolio covering full audio styles. The S975 allocates 128MBytes for Audio Style Expansion. (The S775 does not.) The Genos has a comparable Audio Style Expansion capability which draws from its Internal Memory. My intuition says that something is afoot, but it’s easy to extend one’s expectations beyond the current hardware/software platform.

There are rumors of another Genos update in the works. As with all things Yamaha, we must wait and see. Fortunately, we have excellent instruments to keep us busy and entertained!

Copyright © 2018 Paul J. Drongowski

100 percent Genos

Now that I’ve gotten past the busy Christmas season, it’s time for a quick Genos demo. And I do mean quick!

I was anxious to try the new Yamaha Genos™ FunkAltoSax and FunkBaritoneSax voices as well as the JazzFlute. All three are Super Articulation 2 voices designed for solo lines.

For alto sax, what could be a better test than Junior Walker’s “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” although Junior knocked this one out on tenor. It’s a fun tune to play although I still have difficulty with them triplets. That’s why he’s Junior Walker and I’m me.

So, about the backing track. It started life as a MIDI file purchased from Yamaha Musicsoft. Previously, working in SONAR, I selected new voices, etc. for the PSR-S950 and produced a mix without the (usually) awful melody part. The melody part is for me. Music minus one, great for practice.

Now, instead of SONAR, I copied the S950 MIDI file to the Genos and revoiced/remixed it on the Genos alone. Overall, mixing on the Genos went well. The only two hang ups were:

  1. Figuring out where the S950 “Song Creator” went, and
  2. Getting the Genos to apply and save the new voices, effects, levels, etc.

Song Creator is subsumed into MIDI Multi Recording (Reference Manual, Chapter 5). Even if you have the MIDI song in the Genos Song Player, you must explicitly import the MIDI song into MIDI Multi Recording. Maybe I did something wrong, but MIDI Multi Recording clears the song data when you first enter MIDI Multi Recording, as Genos assumes you’re creating a new song.

The other usage snafu is remembering to tap the multi recording Setup icon and to “execute” the set-up (Chapter 5, page 73). If you don’t execute, Genos does not change the existing Mixer settings (including new voices) when you save. I totally forgot about this aspect of the Yamaha UI because I usually prepare MIDI files in SONAR and do not mix on the arranger itself.

Yamaha, why-oh-why did you keep this skunky workflow? So many people get frustrated by this unnecessary execute step. Just commit the set-up as it is when you tap Save.

I found it very easy to fly around the Mixer making changes. Here is a table summarizing the S950 setup and the Genos setup:

    S950 voice/effect    Genos voice/effect
    -------------------  --------------------
    Strings              SeattleWarm
    Brass p              PopHornsSwell JS
    FretlessBass         ActiveFingerBass
    RockPiano            C7 WarmGrand
    AcousticKit          VintageOpenKit (Revo)
    Room reverb          Real Room (REAL REVERB)

I tried not to over-think the remix, choosing voices fast without a lot of A/B comparison. PopHornsSwell is OK; maybe I could have done better. The active finger bass, C7 and vintage open drum kit are all new to Genos.

The VintageOpenKit is a Revo drum kit with wave cycling. I didn’t need to remap any of the low MIDI notes due to a sound compatibility issue. (See Genos hi-hat happiness for more info about differences and potential issues.) This demo shows what Revo can do for a plain vanilla MIDI drum track. Like the rest of the mix, I didn’t do any tweaking and tweezing with the drum kit.

The Real Room reverb sounds better than the legacy Room reverb algorithm. I A/B tested the mix with the compressor ON and OFF. I left the master compressor ON (Natural preset) since it gave the mix more body. Overall, the track sounds more finished (studio-like) with the master compressor ON. The master EQ is flat. Maybe the mix would sound better with a mid-range scoop and a slight high/low boost?

Recording-wise, I jumped into Audio Quick Record, enabled recording, set a level, and tapped the play button. After a few false starts, I played the tune through — for better or for worse.

Here’s the finished Genos demo: “What Does It Take” (MP4/AAC). Enjoy!

Production talk aside, what’s it like to play? I can’t express the absolute joy it is to play the FunkAltoSax voice. Frankly, I don’t really care whether I sound like Junior (doubtful) or not, so much as engaging with the music and having fun within the moment. I’ve only had a few practice sessions with the ART1, ART2 and ART3 buttons; it helps to know a priori the instrument-specific articulation associated with each button. But, nothing — nothing — replaces the visceral thrill of scooping those sax wails and blasting the growl.

Man, it’s a good time. 🙂

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Java note mapper (v0.1)

Here’s a little bit of Java code to brighten your day.

Two weeks ago, I described the additional hi-hat notes in the Yamaha Genos™ Revo drum kits. The hi-hat sounds replace noises like sequence click, etc. in the lowest numbered notes of the MIDI scale. Thus, a Genos factory style wheezes, zings and clicks when it is played on a legacy PSR or Tyros arranger workstation.

Quite a few people would like to try the new Genos styles, but the hi-hat notes pose a major barrier to conversion (i.e., porting a Genos style to legacy PSR/Tyros). Jørgen Sørensen’s Revo Drum Cleaner suppresses these sounds, but does not remap the Genos hi-hat notes to General MIDI (GM) standard notes.

That’s where note remapper comes in. Note remapper is an experimenter’s kit, not a finished tool. Jørgen (and Michael Bedesem) have written many rather nice tools for the PSR/Tyros arranger workstations. Note remapper gets the job done from the command line, so don’t expect a graphical user interface (GUI) or even a nice installer! It’s an experimenter’s kit.

However, what you do get is source code. Here is the ZIP file containing source, precompiled Java classses (executables), map files and examples.

What else can you do with note mapper? Well, note mapper operates on any Standard MIDI File (SMF). Thus, it’s not just a PSR/Tyros utility. Maybe you want to write a Java program of your own. The source code will give you a good starting point. Copy and modify to your heart’s content.

If you are into converting PSR/Tyros styles, take notice (pun) that note mapper changes both the MIDI note number and velocity according to maps in the files keymap.txt and velmap.txt, respectively. Therefore, you can also map to and from Mega Voices.

Interested? Then please read on. The following text is taken from the README files.

Description

This Java program maps the notes in a standard MIDI file according to a key (note number) map and a velocity map. Use it to map the Yamaha Revo hi-hat/drum sounds. Or, use it to map to and from Mega Voice. It’s all up to you and how you design your key and velocity maps.

The note mapper is launched from the command line (no GUI). There are two command line options:

   -v  Verbose flag
   -w  Write default keymap.txt, velmap.txt and hhmap.txt files

The -w option gives the user a quick start by writing a few default map files. Both -v and -w are optional.

The rest of the command line consists of an (optional) MIDI channel number and the name of the MIDI file to be mapped. The channel number must be an integer in the range [1:16]. Only notes in the specified channel are mapped. The default channel is 10 (the GM/XG drum channel).

The note mapper writes a new file named mapped.mid. It’s up to the user to rename or save this file. If the file in not renamed or saved, it will be overwritten when note mapper is run again.

The note mapper assumes there are two files, keymap.txt and velmap.txt, in the working directory where the note mapper is launched. The note mapper reports an error if it cannot read these two files. The default key and velocity maps preserve the input; the input notes are sent to the output without change.

A map file consists of 128 positive integers in the range [0:127]. Each integer defines how its corresponding note or velocity value is mapped to a new value. Essentially, each integer in the file is loaded into a 128 byte map array indexed by either the incoming MIDI note number or the incoming MIDI velocity value.

The hhmap.txt maps the Revo hi-hat note numbers to General MIDI hi-hat note numbers.

    Revo notes        GM notes
    -------------     ----------------
    13 14 15 16   --> 42 Hi-Hat Closed
    21            --> 44 Hi-Hat Pedal
    17 18 19 20   --> 46 Hi-Hat Open
    22            --> 55 Splash Cymbal

The Examples directory contains two example Genos styles. Be sure to read the READ_THIS.TXT file in that directory, too!

Example command lines

Map the notes for channel 10 in the MIDI file named “Mr.Soul_factory.T552.mid”.

    java MapNotes 10 Mr.Soul_factory.T552.mid

Write the default keymap.txt, velmap.txt and hhmap.txt files before mapping:

    java MapNotes -w 10 Mr.Soul_factory.T552.mid

The default keymap.txt and velmap.txt files do not change/map notes, i.e.,
they are the “identity mapping.”

How to use note mapper to change a style

To use the note mapper on a style, you must split the style into its MIDI and non-MIDI parts using Jørgen Sørensen’s Split/Splice tool. Note mapper, like most commercial MIDI tools, does not recognize or retain non-MIDI data. Thus, you need to run the style through Split/Splice to save the non-MIDI information.

After splitting the style, run the style through the note mapper. The note mapper writes a file named “mapped.txt”. Splice mapped.txt with the non-MIDI data produced in the preceding step. Splicing the mapped MIDI data with the non-MIDI data produces a complete style file (MIDI+CASM+OTS).

Transfer the style file to your PSR/Tyros and revoice the style parts, test the style, edit the OTS, and so forth.

If you don’t like how the mapped file sounds, then you can reuse the non-MIDI data and do another map/splice, assuming that you didn’t modify the OTS.

Compiling

The distribution comes with source code (*.java files) and precompiled class files (*.class files).

You can, of course, modify the source code and recompile. You need the Java development kit which includes the Java compiler, package definitions, and so forth. To recompile, just enter:

    javac MapNotes.java
    javac NoteMapper.java

I have included source for a quick and dirty MIDI file dumper:

    javac QuickDumper.java
    javac QuickDump.java

You may prefer to dump MIDI files using one of the much better tools written by Jørgen Sørensen or Michael Bedesem. See:

The Examples directory

The Examples directory contains two example styles: Mr.Soul and SoulSupreme. Each style has several files, so here’s a little guide.

    Mr.Soul_factory.T552.prs    Original Genos factory style
    Mr.Soul_factory.T552.mid    Original Genos MIDI part
    Mr.Soul_factory.T552.nmi    Original Genos non-MIDI part
    Mr.Soul_mapped.T552.mid     MIDI with mapped hi-hats
    Mr.Soul_mapped.T552.sty     New style file with mapped hi-hats

The *.class files are the Java executable files. Example command line:

    java MapNotes 10 Mr.Soul_factory.T552.mid

The note mapper produces a file named “mapped.mid” which you may rename to something else, e.g., Mr.Soul_mapped.T552.mid.

keymap.txt and velmap.txt are the key (note number) and velocity map files needed by note mapper. hhmap.txt is my initial hi-hat note map.

Workflow

The overall workflow is:

               Mr.Soul_factory.T552.prs
                          |
                          |
                          V
              Jørgen's Split/Slice (split)
              |                          |
              |                          |
              V                          V
  Mr.Soul_factory.T552.mid   Mr.Soul_factory.T552.nmi
              |                          |
              |                          |
              V                          |
         Note mapper                     |
              |                          |
              V                          |
      Rename mapped.mid                  |
              |                          |
              V                          |
  Mr.Soul_mapped.T552.mid                |
              |                          |
              |                          |
              V                          V
             Jørgen's Split/Slice  (splice)
                          |
                          |
                          V
               Mr.Soul_mapped.T552.sty

Copyright (c) 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

NAMM 2018: Half Monty, Full Monty

Winter NAMM 2018 is January 25 to 28 in Anaheim, California. Get your ear protectors ready!

Even though I’ve been concentrating on the Yamaha Genos™, two Yamaha promotions have not escaped my attention.

Back in October, Yamaha began offering a MOXF promotion: Buy a MOXF and get an FL512M flash memory expansion board and the MOXF Premium Content Pack. Not bad. The MOX6 is my gig workhorse and I still enjoy playing it even though I have often pined for flash expansion memory. If you like the Motif XF sound or miss built-in sequencing, then now is a good time to find a good deal on the MOXF and buy one.

This is one of those rare times when a promotion is a harbinger of a future product release. The MOXF uses the previous generation AWM2 tone generation chip, SWP51L. The SWP51L has been superceded by the SWP70 family now deployed in the Montage, PSR-S770/S970 and Genos. The MOXF is the only current product in the synth and arranger product lines based on the SWP51L. Once Yamaha uses up its internal supply of SWP51Ls, that’s it.

So, the MOXF is due to be refreshed (like the MX line) or updated. If you’re OK with the MOXF as it is — and it is a fine machine — then make your move now or wait a little longer for close-out.

Be sure to take advantage of the free flash offer or get you dealer to kick in an expansion board. Yamaha have moved to built-in flash expansion memory and this is definitely the end of the line for the Yamaha flash expansion boards. The boards do not “speak” with the new tone generator and you won’t need them for future Yamaha products.

What would the MOXF replacement look and sound like? Would the MOXF be a “half-Monty?” Tough question.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching both the Montage and Genos as my next instrument for the long-term. Due to the widespread availability of Montage, I’ve had more seat time with Montage (several hours over several days) than the Genos (a two hour go at Audioworks CT). I play an MOX6 and/or PSR-S950 on a daily basis.

Given this experience, Yamaha’s top-of-the-line (TOTL) instruments are more than an incremental cut above middle-of-the-line instruments. In terms of control (knobs, sliders and such) and sound, the TOTL is way above the mid-range.

Hope springs eternal. People are hoping that the next mid-range arranger workstation will be a “mini-Genos.” Similarly, synth people may be hoping for a “half-Monty.”

I think these people will be disappointed. Montage and Genos command a premium price and they both need the feature set and sound to justify the TOTL value proposition. I think the big gap between TOTL and mid-range will persist. In the case of the MOXF replacement, Yamaha aren’t under much pressure to make and sell a half-Monty (e.g., a synth with the Montage’s AWM2 sound set, no FM). The recently refreshed MX, at the low end, has the Motif XS sound set, now ten years old. The MOXF has the very respectable seven year old Motif XF sound set and the sequencing capability that so many people miss in Montage. Thus, Yamaha could give the MOXF a minor spiff and still have a very marketable product in the mid-range.

The same reasoning applies to the next mid-range arranger workstations.

Hey, so I mentioned two promotions. The second promotion is “Buy a Montage and get a pair of HS5 studio monitors for free.” Until the Yamaha promotion came along, Sweetwater was giving away a free Yamaha Reface CS with the purchase of a Montage. The Montage (AKA “the full Monty”) is just turning two years old. I’m a little surprised that the Montage needs a promotion at this point to spur sales.

Might we expect a Montage 2.0 at NAMM? Yamaha have issued a series of successful, substantive updates for the Montage and a major software update might give the full Monty a bit of a shove and a boost.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski