MOX performance to PSR style (part 3)

In parts one and two, I described a way to capture Yamaha MOX performances into a Standard MIDI File (SMF) and how to translate the SMF to a PSR/Tyros style. Part three discusses Mega Voices and how to program MIDI data for a Mega Voice part such that the special articulations and effects (FX) play back correctly.

A Yamaha Mega Voice is a synthesizer or arranger workstation voice that has several sonic components. Take the MOX “Mega Finger+Slap” voice as an example. It has five components; each component is assigned to a MOX tone generator element:

Element Waveform Lower Upper Velocity
1 Finger Med C-2 B5 1-60
2 Finger Hard C-2 B5 61-80
3 Finger Dead C-2 B5 81-120
4 Thumb/Pull Hard C-2 B5 121-127
5 Electric Bass FX C6 G8 1-127
Table: Mega Finger+Slap voice elements

These components do not sound all at once! The MIDI note number and velocity trigger just one of the elements. (In this case, all components/conditions are exclusive.) One the first four elements sound when the MIDI note is between C-2 (MIDI note number 0) and B5 (MIDI note number 95). The MIDI note velocity further determines which of those four elements is triggered. The fifth element sounds when the MIDI note number is between C6 (note number 96, inclusive) and G8 with any non-zero velocity.

As Phil Clendeninn (Yamaha) points out, Mega Voices are intended to sweeten pre-programmed patterns and styles and are not intended for live keyboard playing. Human beings just cannot play notes with enough precision to reliably and accurately hit the velocity ranges. The bass voice is relatively simple; A Mega Voice guitar has as many as eight velocity zones!

The MOX also has “regular” voices that are similar to Mega Voice. The “Finger PBs AF1” voice is one example. This voice has four components:

Element Waveform Lower Upper Velocity
1 P-Bass Rndwound Med C-2 B4 1-90
2 P-Bass Rndwound Hard C-2 B4 91-127
3 Electric Bass FX C5 G8 1-127
4 Finger Harmonics C-2 B4 1-127
Table: Finger PBs AF1 voice elements

Notice that element 4 overlaps with elements 1 and 2. Element 4 sounds when the assignable function 1 (AF1) button is held. On the MOX, you can deep dive voices through the front panel and find out what makes them tick (or tock). This level of voice programming is hidden on PSR/Tyros arranger workstations. Fortunately, Yamaha have published the note and velocity ranges for workstation Mega Voices. (See the data list PDF.)

MOX and arranger workstation Mega Voices are mostly compatible. However, Yamaha do not advertise or guarantee compatibility. The MOX Electric Bass FX wave contains many more effects than a typical single arranger Mega Voice for example. You’ll need to use your ears to make sure that MIDI data for a MOX Mega Voice sound correctly with an arranger Mega Voice.

Voices such as Finger PBs AF1 resemble and behave like a Mega Voice, but do not follow typical Mega Voice conventions, such as reserving notes above C6 for FX like slides, scrapes, fret noises, etc. Regular notes with this patch sound one octave lower than a Mega Voice bass. You’ll need to transpose the incoming notes depending upon the target arranger voice. Also, if you use an arranger Mega Voice as the target, you must scale numerically the note velocities to match the Mega Voice programming. This translation requires attention to detail and a good ear!

Here’s another crazy problem although it is not Mega Voice related. In two cases, all of the notes in the MOX bass track had velocity equal to one! Coincidentally, a MOX synth bass voice was involved in both cases. I changed the note velocities to something more reasonable (and randomized) using SONAR.

As if all of this is not enough complexity, there is one further wrinkle — note transposition. The arranger transposes the MIDI notes for a part according to the transposition rule and table for the style part (and section). Mega Voice tracks, however, contain both regular notes (below C6) and FX notes (C6 and above). If the transposition rule and table transpose the regular notes, the FX notes get transposed, too, when both kinds of notes are in the same track. When the transposed notes are played back, the FX notes may get mapped to the wrong effect or to high pitched regular notes that sound totally out of place (i.e., sonic clams).

There are three solutions to this problem:

  1. Delete the FX notes from the MIDI data for the part.
  2. Split the MIDI data into two parts: regular notes and FX notes.
  3. Do what Yamaha does.

We’ll take a look at solutions 1 and 2 in a moment. Normal notes and FX notes appear together in the same Mega Voice track in a Yamaha factory style. (Crack one open with a DAW!) So, Yamaha must have an internal way to treat normal notes and effect notes differently. There is some evidence that the note transposition rules and tables can handle Mega Voice. However, this approach is not documented and it is not exposed through the keyboard (i.e., the PARAMETER tab in Style Creator) or a Yamaha-endorsed software tool. Thus, solution number 3 is not feasible for us.

Solution number 1 — delete the FX notes — is straightforward. The downside is that you lose the nuances that make a part exciting. Let’s face it, bass slides are cool and kick up the energy. If you don’t have the time, energy, knowledge or inclination, this is the way to go. Further, you may not have an unused style part available to split off the FX notes into a separate track. (The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.) In the case of MOX pseudo-Mega voices, you may still need to scale note velocities or transpose the incoming notes up (or down) one octave to match the target voice. That’s enough hassle for some folks.

Solution number 2 splits the MIDI data into two separate style parts (tracks). One of these tracks holds the regular notes and the other track holds the FX notes. SONAR has a track clone operation which makes separation a breeze. After cloning, both tracks have the same MIDI data and the same Mega Voice patch. You do need to change the MIDI channel number of the clone to the channel of an unused style part. Delete the FX notes (C6 and above) from the BASS part (channel 11). Delete the regular notes (below C6) from the clone. Style Fixer generates the correct transposition rule and table for the BASS part. You must change the transposition rule and table for the cloned part using CASM Editor. Set the rule and table of the clone to “FIXED” and “BYPASS”, respectively. Remember that the rule/table needs to be set for all sections.

Why “FIXED” and “BYPASS”? These are the settings that you would use with a drum track. Effectively, the guitar/bass effects are a kind of percussion instrument that have their own rhythm. Therefore, you want to use the note numbers as they are (FIXED) and you want to inhibit (BYPASS) note transposition.

I recommend making the split early in the style development process because you will need to make this split with a DAW. Once you’ve made the split, I strongly suggest trying the style on the PSR/Tyros right away. Take note of the sections that use FX notes. Listen carefully. Play CMaj7 which does not require transposition (assuming that the transposition root/chord is CMaj7). Can you hear the right effects in the right places? Now play a G7 chord. Do you still hear the correct effects in the right places? If the effects disappear, then you need to check the FX notes and the CASM transposition rule/table information. You can tweak the rule/table for each section on the PARAMETER tab in Style Creator when a fast repair is needed.

If you do change a style on the keyboard, remember to save the style. The keyboard may change the style format to “SFF GE” (also known as “SFF2”). CASM Editor does not currently handle SFF2. This limitation can cramp your working style [pun intended] since a style edited on the keyboard cannot be opened by CASM Editor.