MOX performance to PSR style (part 2)

In part one, I described how to capture Yamaha MOX arpeggios (musical phrases) in a standard MIDI file (SMF). In this part, I discuss the translation of the SMF to a Yamaha PSR/Tyros style file. This process should work for any SMF, not just an SMF from the MOX workstation.

The SMF produced by the MOX contains the notes for one or more instrument channels where each channel corresponds to a MOX performance part. If you followed the directions in part one, the phrases are arranged in an order starting with the main sections, followed by the fill sections, and finally, the break section. The SMF is raw (“stripped”) and does not contain bank select, program change, volume or pan messages. This is to our advantage since we are free to assign PSR/Tyros voices and tweak the overall mix. If you apply this process to an arbitrary SMF such as a file from the Internet, you will need to change or remove voice assignments, levels, etc. to make the MIDI data compatible with the PSR/Tyros.

The translation procedure needs four tools:

  1. A software DAW or sequencing program to massage the MIDI data.
  2. Style Fixer to insert an initial CASM section into the style.
  3. OTS Editor to add One Touch Settings to the style.
  4. CASM Editor to modify note transposition information.

Style Fixer, OTS Editor and CASM Editor are part of the excellent suite of tools written and maintained by Jørgen Sørensen. I also recommend Michael Bedesem’s MixMaster program which supports a very wide range of tweaks and tweezes. Right now, my DAW is Cakewalk SONAR LE — a little bit out of date, but it does the job. The directions below refer to SONAR although any well-featured DAW should do such as Cubase AI. You may also edit the style on the PSR/Tyros keyboard itself using its Style Creator. This is good in the latter stages of development when you need to make one or two final tweaks.

You can find links to these and other PSR/Tyros tools through the PSR Tutorial utilities page.

One major warning: A style file contains MIDI data and much more. A DAW removes the extra data (e.g., CASM and OTS) from a style file. Thus, a DAW is best during the early stages of style development. Michael’s program and Jørgen’s tools preserve the extra stuff.

Without further ado, here is the basic procedure for conversion. Be sure to save your work as you go along. Summer’s here and the time is right for brown outs.

  1. Copy the SMF from the USB jump drive to a working directory. Make a back-up just in case.
  2. Read the SMF into SONAR (or your pefered DAW). Save the work in progress as a normal SONAR project.
  3. If the MOX generated a separate track for the CMaj7 chord, delete the track. You don’t need it.
  4. Create an empty measure at the beginning of the time line. In SONAR, you accomplish this by sliding the clips back one measure in the arrangement window.
  5. Assign each track to a MIDI channel according to the Yamaha style conventions. (See table below.)
  6. Assign a PSR/Tyros voice to each track.
  7. Set the volume, pan, chorus and reverb levels for each track.
  8. Put the MIDI text marker “SFF1” at the beginning of measure one. The text for this and all MIDI text markers is case sensitive and must be spelled corrected.
  9. Put a second MIDI text marker “SInt” at the beginning of measure one.
  10. Put a MIDI text marker at the beginning of each style section. You must use names according to the Yamaha convention. You are allowed up to four main sections, up to four fill sections, and one break section.
    • Put a marker such as “Main AA” at the beginning of each main section.
    • Put a marker like “Fill In AA” at the beginning of each fill section.
    • Put the marker “Fill In BA” at the beginning of the break section.
  11. Trim and discard any extra notes at the end. You probably didn’t hit STOP fast enough when recording.
  12. Save your project for goodness sake!
  13. Write a new SMF. It must be MIDI SMF Type 0.
  14. Rename the new SMF and give it the “.STY” extension instead of “.MID”.
  15. Launch Style Fixer. Open the new file with the “.STY” extension.
  16. Click the GO button. Style Fixer rewrites the style file and inserts a default CASM section into the file.

Congratulations! At this point, you have a minimal style file. Copy this file to the USB jump drive. The PSR/Tyros should load this style file without complaint. You can read this style file into the OTS editor, the CASM editor or Mix Master, too.

Part MIDI channel
Rhythm 1 9
Rhythm 2 10
Bass 11
Chord 1 12
Chord 2 13
Pad 14
Phrase 1 15
Phrase 2 16
Table: MIDI channel layout for a style
Text marker Meaning
SFF1 Style format 1
SInt Start initialization measure
Main A, Main B, … Start MAIN style section
Fill In AA, Fill In BB, … Start FILL IN style section
Fill In BA Start BREAK style section
Intro A, Intro B, … Start INTRO style section
Ending A, Ending B, … Start ENDING style section
Table: MIDI text markers for style sections

Once you have a minimal style file, I strongly suggest a quick test on the PSR/Tyros. At this stage of development, you can easily make changes to the SONAR project and regenerate a new minimal style without losing much time or work. I try to get a good mix on the keyboard and then adjust the mix parameters (i.e., levels, pan, etc.) in the SONAR project to match. The MOX produces at most four tracks and “back porting”
the mix into the SONAR project is not much of a burden.

When the mix is satisfactory, launch OTS Editor and open the new style file. Here you can import existing OTS configurations into the new style file or add a new OTS configuration from scratch.

The so-called “CASM” section of a style file specifies how MIDI notes are transposed. Recall that we played a CMaj7 chord on the MOX and that the arpeggiator generated notes using CMaj7 as the root chord. The CASM section tells the PSR/Tyros how to change those notes in response to chords played in the left hand part of the keyboard. The default CASM inserted by Style Fixer is usually good enough; the bass channel uses the bass rules, the drum channels bypass transposition, and so forth. Mega Voices or MOX voices that are similar to Mega Voices, however, cause additional complications. A Mega Voice track consists of regular notes and special effect notes. The regular notes should be transposed and the special effect notes should bypass transposition. Yikes! I will discuss Mega Voice handling in part three. In the meantime, you may hear some odd plucks and wheezes when you play back a minimal style with Mega Voice data.

Here’s a little bit of background information to help you understand some of the steps in the conversion procedure.

A style file begins with an initialization measure. The “SInt” marker indicates the start of the initialization measure. You may put any MIDI initialization messages into this measure, usually at beat one. You should not put any notes in the initialization measure. Controller messages and SysEx messages are OK.

The MIDI text markers indicate the start of the style sections. Be sure to spell the markers correctly. The keyboard automatically determines the section length. If a section appears to be missing or is too long when the style is loaded into the keyboard, then you might have misspelled a section name. Remember, the text markers are case sensitive.

The PSR/Tyros only recognizes up to four main sections, four fill sections, one break section, four introductions and four endings. If a section type is not present in the style file, the keyboard doesn’t turn on the LED in the button corresponding to the missing section. Given that a MOX performance may not have four main sections, for example, the PSR/Tyros style may not have four main sections and some of the LEDs will not be lit when the style is loaded. You can always create new sections if you wish. MOX performances do not have introductions and endings, so you may want to add a simple count-in introduction or tag ending. I have a style file with simple introductions and endings. I use copy and paste to insert them into a new style file.

Main, introduction and ending sections may be 1 to 255 measures in length. Fill and break sections are always one measure long.

Jørgen’s website has a wealth of information about styles including a PDF on style writing. Yamaha styles can be quite complicated. Don’t get discouraged and keep plugging away!

Check out part three of this series.