Multi-effects for electric piano (Part 3)

This is part 3 of a multi-part series about PSR/Tyros effects for electric piano.

PSR effects for electric piano (Part 1) presents a basic approach to grunging up an electric piano sound with distortion (amp simulation). Editing and saving PSR effects (Part 2) describes how to save a custom PSR/Tyros effect to USER EFFECT memory. In this part, I’ll cover the REAL DISTORTION multi FX algorithm.

If you’re a real gear-head, you probably heard about the new Yamaha Reface mini keyboards including the Reface CP, which is rich in electric pianos. (See my snap-review of the Reface CP.) Aside from good samples, it’s the effects that make the Reface CP a winner. The Reface CP has an effects chain driven by the basic EP voice:

              Tremolo       Chorus       Digital Delay
   Drive -->     X     -->     X    -->         X       -->  Reverb
                Wah         Phaser        Analog Delay

Switches select between Tremolo and Wah (or pass-through), between Chorus and Phaser (or pass-through), and between Digital Delay and Analog Delay (or pass-through). Thus, either Tremolo or Wah is active, but not both at the same time, etc. Each effect has one or two knobs that control the most basic parameters:

  • Drive: Amount of distortion (including none)
  • Tremolo/Wah: Depth and Rate
  • Chorus/Phaser: Depth and Speed
  • Digital Delay/Analog Delay: Depth and Time
  • Reverb: Depth (including none at all)

The front panel controls let you tailor your sound, e.g., maybe a little distortion (Drive) followed by Tremolo and some Reverb.

This article shows you how to make a similar effects chain on your PSR/Tyros. I assume that reverb is applied by the PSR/Tyros REVERB effect block, so I won’t discuss reverb here.

If you have a late-model Yamaha arranger workstation (PSR-S950 or later, Tyros 5 or later), Yamaha have already done much of the work for you. These workstations are equipped with REAL DISTORTION effects. One of the REAL DISTORTION effect types is a multi-effect. On the PSR-S950, look for the effect presets called “MLT DS SOLO,” etc. The “MLT” stands for “MULTI.”

A little product family history. The REAL DISTORTION effects first appeared in the Version 1.5 Motif XF upgrade. Yep, these are among the latest effects in the Motif series. Yamaha implemented all of these effects in the Tyros 5 and about half of these effects in the S950. Yamaha added the rest of the REAL DISTORTION effects to the S970. Fortunately, S950 owners have the versatile “Multi FX” algorithm (effect type).

If you don’t have REAL DISTORTION effects, you’re not totally out of luck. Look in the Data List manual and find combination effects (distortion plus delay, etc.) and use them instead. You won’t have as many effect stages, but the approach still applies.

The REAL DISTORTION MLT effect chain is quite complete:

                                                  Vibe       Chorus
Compressor --> Wah --> Distortion --> Speaker --> Phaser --> Flanger
                                                  Tremolo    Delay

The effect chain is really intended for guitar, but hey, people in the sixties and seventies put electric pianos through stomp boxes and guitar amps.

There are six REAL DISTORTION multi-effect presets: MLT DS SOLO, MLT DS BASIC, MLT OD CHO, MLT CR WAH, MLT OLD DLY, and VINTAGE ECHO. Use these as starting points for your experiments. I suggest starting with VINTAGE ECHO as it is the cleanest of the lot. Do what guitarists do — dive in and tweak.

Here is a list of the parameters and the allowed values. See the full information in the REAL DIST section of the Data List manual.

#   Parameter      Display
--  -------------  ---------------------------------------------
1   Comp. Sustain  Off, 0.1 - 10.0
2   Wah Sw         Off, Wah Pedal, Auto+Full, Auto+Mid,
                   Auto+Light, Auto-Full, Auto-Mid, Auto-Light
3   Wah Pedal      0-127
4   Dist Sw        Off, Overdrive, Distortion1, Distortion2,
                   Clean, Crunch, Higain, Modern
5   Dist Drive     0.0-10.0
6   Dist EQ        High Boost, Mid Boost, Mid Cut 1, Mid Cut 2,
                   Mid Cut 3, Low Cut 1, Low Cut 2, High Cut,
7   Dist Tone      0.0-10.0
8   Dist Presence  0.0-10.0
9   Output         0-127
11  SP Type        Off, Stack, Twin, Tweed, Oldies, Modern, Mean,
                   Soft, Small, Dip1, Dip2, Metal, Light
12  LFO Speed      0.1Hz . 9.925Hz (table#27)
13  Phaser Sw      Off, Standard, Wide, Vibe, Tremolo
14  Delay Sw       Off, Delay M, Echo1 M, Echo2 M, Chorus M,
                   Dl Chorus M, Flanger1 M, Flanger2 M,
                   Flanger3 M, Delay St, Echo1 St, Echo2 St, 
                   Chorus St, Dl Chorus St, Flanger1 St, 
                   Flanger2 St, Flanger3 St
15  Delay Ctrl     0-127
16  Delay Time     0-127

The parameters look overwhelming, so let’s break things down.

There are six “switches” that turn effects on and off. In a few case, the switches also select the flavor of the effect when it is turned on. For example, “Dist Sw” turns off the effect in the chain or turns on one of the seven available distortion types (Overdrive, Distortion1, etc.) In addition to switches, there are effect-specific knobs. “Dist Drive,” “Dist EQ”, “Dist Tone” and “Dist Presence,” for example, change the sonic characteristics of the distortion effect.

The “Delay Sw” acts like one of the switches on the Reface CP. “Delay Sw” disables the effect stage, or it turns on a delay, echo, chorus or flanger effect. Some effects are mono (M) and some effects are stereo (St). The “Phaser Sw” switch disables the stage (off) or it turns on a phaser (type: standard, wide, vibe) or tremolo effect.

The Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) Speed parameter controls the effects that need modulation: phaser, chorus, flanger, tremolo, etc. You need to dial in the appropriate LFO frequency for the modulation effect type.

Wow, that’s a lot of choices! Here is a table of the parameter values for each preset.

    MSB/LSB --->  95/32     95/33     95/34     95/35     95/36     95/37
#  Parameter     DS SOLO   DS BASIC   OD CHO    CR WAH   OLD DLY   VINT ECHO
-- ------------- --------  --------  --------  --------  --------  ---------
1  Comp. Sustain   3.6       3.2       3.6       3.6       4.0       3.6
2  Wah Sw          Off       Off       Off     Auto+Mid    Off       Off
3  Wah Pedal        0         0         0         0         0         0
4  Dist Sw       Distort1  Distort1 Overdrive   Crunch    Clean     Clean
5  Dist Drive      5.0       4.1       3.8       5.0       5.0       6.6
6  Dist EQ       Hi Boost  MidBoost  MidCut2   LowCut1   Hi Boost  MidBoost
7  Dist Tone       2.4       5.6       5.6       4.2       3.0       4.6
8  Dist Presence   4.8       5.6       5.0       5.2       5.6       5.0
9  Output           55        60       102        95       121       113
11 SP Type        Twin      Stack     Tweed     Stack     Oldies    Twin
12 LFO Speed      0.1Hz     0.1Hz     0.1Hz    1.167Hz    0.1Hz    0.142Hz
13 Phaser Sw       Off       Off       Off       Off       Off      Off
14 Delay Sw      Echo1 St  Delay St  ChorusSt  Delay M   Delay M   Echo1 M
15 Delay Ctrl       40        26        20        13        24       20
16 Delay Time       48         2        46        36        20        6

These parameter values should give you some starting points for exploration.

If you’re not a guitarist, terms like “presence” may not be meaningful to you. Here are a few helpful definitions taken from Yamaha documentation.

  • Drive: Determines the extent to which the sound is distorted.
  • LFO Speed: Frequency of delay modulation (chorus, flanger), Modulation frequency (tremolo), Frequency of phase modulation (phaser), Frequency at which wah filter is controlled (wah)
  • Delay Time: Determines the delay of the sound in absolute time.
  • Output: Determines the level of the signal output from the effect block.
  • Presence: This parameter of the Guitar Amp effect controls high frequencies.
  • SP Type: Selects the type of speaker simulation.

Why start with VINTAGE ECHO? This preset adds a modest amount of compression and sends the signal through the Clean guitar amp model. The Clean model does not dirty up the sound too much. Rock guitarists — especially guys with mullets — like a lot of distortion. Electric piano, not so much. The Mid Boost adds guts to the midrange frequencies making an EP sound fuller, with guts. Finally, the distorted signal is sent into a Twin speaker model and then a light echo. The Twin model sounds like it would be Fender Twin-ish and similar to the kind of speaker used with a Rhodes EP.

I’ll close with an example USER EFFECT that I called “DirtyChorus.” The chain starts out with compression and a little bit of overdrive and mid-range boost. The distorted signal goes into a nice stereo chorus. I copped the chorus paremeters from the MLT OD CHO preset. I tried different speaker models and liked the sound of the Mean speaker type. Finally, I dialed up the output level to compensate for the low amount of overdrive.

    Comp Sus       5.0
    Wah Sw         Off
    Wah Pedal      0
    Dist Sw        Overdrive
    Dist Drive     1.4
    Dist EQ        Mid Boost
    Dist Tone      3.2
    Dist Presence  1.3
    Output         120
    SP Type        Mean
    LFO Speed      0.1Hz
    Phaser Sw      Off
    Delay Sw       Chorus St
    Delay Control  20
    Delay Time     46

Dist Drive can be increased before the distortion sounds guitar-ish. Generally, the output level must be lowered when more drive is applied. Clipping-induced distortion is not pretty. Of course, if you like that sort of thing, please carry on.

PSR effects for electric piano (Part 1)
Editing and saving PSR effects (Part 2)
Multi-effects for electric piano (Part 3)
Copy PSR DSP effects (part 4)

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