MOX performance to PSR style (part 1)

After my initial success with the SmoothItOver style, I decided to convert several more Yamaha MOX workstation performances to PSR-S950 styles. I will post the new styles real soon now.

I changed tactics. Some of the Yamaha MOX performances are based on phrases from older model, non-arranger keyboards. For example, I suspect that the “Club Jazz” phrases are taken from the Yamaha S-80 synthesizer. Yamaha is good at mining old keyboards for MIDI phrase data; Roland and Korg do the same. As far as I can tell, Yamaha “Club Jazz” has not ever been an arranger style and it surely is not implemented on the PSR-S950 or current Tyros models. Several of the funkier performances that I wanted to port use “Club Jazz” phrases. Thus, I needed to develop a method of my own to mine MOX performances directly from the MOX.

In order to make a PSR/Tyros style, we first need to get the MIDI phrase data for a performance into a standard MIDI format (SMF) file. That is the subject of this post (part one). Then, we need to translate the SMF file into a style. That will be the subject of part two — a future post.

A MOX performance consists of one to four parts where each part has its own distinct voice and set of arpeggios (phrases). When you jam with a performance, you trigger the arpeggios using the left part of the MOX keyboard by playing a note or a chord. The arpeggiator follows the root note or chord that you play and modifies the phrase data (e.g., transposes it) on the fly. The modified MIDI phrase data is sent to the appropriate tone generator. (This is the typical use case. The internal engine is far more flexible than this scenario!) You change arpeggios by pressing one of the special function buttons (SF1-SF6). Each of the four parts goes to the corresponding arpeggio, that is, pressing SF3 for ARP3 changes each part to its own ARP3. Thus, each performance part plays its own pre-programmed phrase.

We are going to capture the arpeggio MIDI data using performance record mode. Performance record mode is your friend! (Please see my page on getting started with the MOX.) This mode records MIDI data as you play chords and switch through arpeggios. We are going to play a special kind of song that captures the MIDI data for all of the arpeggios.

First, we need to determine the song structure. Some of the arpeggios play MAIN sections, some play FILL sections and some play BREAK sections. MAIN sections are usually four bars long and FILL/BREAK sections are one bar long. Select ARP1 and play a CMaj7 chord. Listen to ARP1. Is it a MAIN section (four bars long)? Is it a FILL/BREAK section (one bar long)? Do this listening exercise for each ARP. Then jot down a song structure such as:

    ARP#     Section    Starting measure
    ----     -------    ----------------
    ARP1     MAIN A     1
    ARP2     MAIN B     5
    ARP3     MAIN C     9
    ARP4     FILL A     13
    ARP5     FILL B     15
    ARP6     BREAK      17

The starting measure is when the section should start in the song. It tells us when to switch to the next arpeggio when we play the song in performance record mode. Please note that we intend to play each of the fills twice in order to capture enough data for four fills in the final PSR/Tyros style. Yamaha’s performance sometimes have more mains or fills, so you need to be flexible and ready for anything downstream in part two.

Hit the record button to go into performance record mode. Choose “SONG” and the song number. The MIDI data will be written into this song. Set KeyOnStart to ON. This arms the left side of the keyboard. Turn off the metronome click; you won’t really need it. (Page 34 of the MOX Owner’s Manual describes performance record mode in case you are confused at this point.) You’re now ready to play the special song.

Select ARP1 by pressing SF1. Hit a CMaj7 chord on the lower end of the keyboard to start playing (and recording) the song. During measure 4, hit SF2 to queue up ARP2. ARP2 begins to play in measure 5. Hit SF3 during measure 8 to queue up ARP3. ARP3 begins to play in measure 9. And so forth. Hit STOP after measure 17 to stop recording. The MOX then finishes recording and switches to SONG mode. At this point, you can save the MIDI data in the SONG by hitting STORE or you can go back to performance mode and try again. Since the song is short, it isn’t a big deal to play it again if you make a mistake.

When you have the song, the final step is to write the song as an SMF file on a USB drive. Hit the FILE button and follow the procedure for saving a song as an SMF file. (Hit SAVE, set the name, set the save type to SMF, etc.) In part two, we will translate the SMF to a PSR/Tyros style using PC-based software tools.

Why play a CMaj7 chord? The phrases in a PSR/Tyros style must have a known chord root and chord type. CMaj7 is the conventional chord root and type for styles. The CMaj7 chord forces the arpeggiator to voice phrases for a CMaj7 chord thereby making the final MIDI data style-ready.

Before leaving the MOX behind, you should jot down a few performance notes that will help during the latter stages of the porting process. Jot down the MOX voice for each part. This will help you to select style voices for the PSR/Tyros. Pay careful attention to the guitar and bass voices. Are they Mega Voice voices? Do the voices incorporate FX like slides, scrapes, etc.? You may need to dig into the voice programming to find out if a bass voice uses bass FX. Guitar and bass effect notes are usually mapped to C6 or higher. You will need to give FX notes special treatment during part two.

One or more performance parts may be designated for live soloing or comping. The arpeggios for such parts are turned OFF. Usually, Yamaha provides a right hand part for soloing. They may also provide a pad in the left hand, that is, a pad plays if the left hand chord is held. In rare cases, the right hand may even trigger its own arpeggio! Make note of any special performance behavior that you want to emulate on the PSR/Tyros.

That’s it! At this point, you have an SMF file to be translated to a style. Check out part two and part three of this series.