Montage: New waveforms

Well, well. Interesting times, again. Yamaha have now released the Montage Reference Manual and the Data List Manual. Download them from your local support site.

At the same time, the Motif XF is being blown out. Not only have retailers dropped prices, Yamaha itself is saying “Sayonara” with a promotional rebate of its own. If you want a Motif XF, now is a terrific time to buy!

I started the decision making process last weekend by comparing the MOX waveforms against the Motif XF waveforms. To me, new waveforms represent true value — true sonic potential — over a keyboard’s predecessor. Unless MOXF owners want all of the bells and whistles of the Motif XF (e.g., big color display, on-borad sampling, sliders, version 1.5 Real Distortion effects, etc.), they already have the XF waveforms. MOX owners have the older Motif XS factory set, so they might be interested in upgrading to Motif XF. Here is a list of Motif XF waveforms that are not in the MOX:

    CF3 4 layer (vs. MOX 3 layer)
    Farfisa (Fr)
    Vox (Vx)
    Tango Accordian2
    Mussete Accordion
    Steirisch Accordion
    Jazz Guitar
    Pick Rndwound2
    Pick FlatWound
    Finger Rndwound
    Sect Strngs
    Tremolo Strings
    Live Pizzct
    Soft Trumpet
    Trumpet Vib
    Trumpet Shake
    French Horn Sft
    French Horn Med
    Soprano Sax3
    Alto Sax3
    Tenor Sax2 Soft
    Tenor Sax2 Falls
    Sax Breath

After looking over the list, frankly, I’m not motivated (bad pun) to buy an XF. My PSR-S950 does a great job covering these sounds. Plus, at 33.3 pounds (XF) vs. 15.4 pounds (MOX), a Motif XF is likely to remain in the studio, not at the gig.

The Yamaha Montage offers a bigger upgrade thanks to the large built-in waveform memory. Here is my first pass list of new Montage waveforms. I’ll leave it to you to comb through synth and percussion waveforms.

    CFX 9 layer
    S700 3 layer
    EP4 5 layer
    Rd Soft 5 layer
    Rd Hard 4 layer
    Rd73 5 layer
    Rd78 5 layer
    Rd KeyNoise
    Wr1 3 layer
    Wr2 4 layer
    Wr3 5 layer
    Wr KeyNoise
    Clav5 3 layer
    Clav KeyNoise
    CP80 5 layer
    CP80 KeyOff
    Motor Vibes
    Tonewheel1 Fast/Slow
    Tonewheel2 Fast/Slow
    Tonewheel3 Fast/Slow St
    Tonewheel4 Fast
    Tonewheel5 Fast
    Tonewheel6 Fast
    SctAcc Mussete
    Acc Key On/Off
    TC Cln Pick
    TC Cln Fing
    Acoustic2 (bass)
    Violin2 1st St
    Violin2 2nd St
    Viola2 St
    Cello2 St
    Celtic Violin
    US Strings
    Violins 1st
    Violins 2nd
    Trumpet 3
    Piccolo Tp
    Trombone 3
    Bass Trombone
    French Horn2
    BrassSect3 Acc/Doits/Shake/Falls
    Oboe4 NV/Stac
    Flute4 NV/Stac/Flutter
    Piccolo4 NV/Stac
    Low Whistle
    High Whistle
    Boys Choir
    Gospel Choir

Yamaha really upped the ante with new acoustic and electric piano samples. Yamaha have been promoting these improvements and rightfully so. I can’t wait to try these out. Jazzers will be glad to see the new vibraphone samples, too.

Tonewheel organ got a modest upgrade. I’ll reserve judgement until I can hear and play the Montage. The tonewheel samples have fast and slow variants, so the Leslie is probably sampled in. Not always a good sign, but, hey, I’m listening. A couple of more accordions round out the keyboard additions.

Guitars also got a modest upgrade. There are a few more acoustic guitars and two Telecaster variants (pick and finger). At this point, I must mention that all of the new waveforms have 3, 4, 5 or more layers and many articulations. So, even if the list looks short, the new voices should be quite rich and appealing.

Orchestral instruments got a major, major upgrade. As a liturgical musician who relies on these voices heavily, I’m excited. I called out only a few of the available articulations. Musicians who mock up orchestral scores or cover orchestral parts live should definitely take note of the Montage! Surprisingly, there aren’t new pipe organ waveforms. (Is an expansion pack in the works?)

Finally, there are a slew of choir and vocal samples from the Tyros 5. “Syllables” in the list above are all of the zillion duhs, doos, etc. ScatCycle includes the (infamous) scat syllables, but cycles through the syllables for variety. This is already a feature of the Tyros 5.

Given the boost in the orchestra department, I’m interested. I just wish that the Montage weighed about 20 pounds or less. Perhaps I need to wait for the MOXF follow-on in the light weight, mid-price category.

That’s it for now. I might have missed something during the first pass and will correct the list as I learn more about the Montage. At some point, I’ll take a look at Montage effects, too.

Read my initial review of the Montage8. Update: May 10, 2016.

All site content is Copyright © Paul J. Drongowski unless indicated otherwise.

Clear the decks?

Yamaha have announced a truly stellar promotion to move Motif XF workstations. The Motif XF Fully Loaded expansion pack includes a FireWire expansion board, two FL1024M memory modules and an USB drive filled with content including Chick Corea’s Mark V electric piano. (See the promotions page at the Yamaha web site for additional details.)

Wow! This promotion really caught my attention and if ever there was a time to upgrade to an XF, it’s now.

Of course, this aggressive promotion could also mean that a new synthesizer workstation will be announced in the not-too-distant future. Winter NAMM 2016, perhaps? Old inventory has got to go!

After the Reface surprise, I’ve given up predicting specific product features, especially based upon a (rumored) product name. The word “Reface,” for example, means something completely different to a saxophone player and, yes, Yamaha manufacture saxophones and mouthpieces. 🙂 So, “Montage”, harumph. I am willing to predict, however, that the next high-end workstation will have a new member of the Standard Wave Processor (SWP) family — the hardware chip that underlies the tone generation infrastructure. (See Serial Memory and Tone Generation.) This is big step for Yamaha because the current SWP51L, for example, is used in everything from mid-range arrangers, to MOX/MOXF, to Motif, to Clavinova.

Just taking in the gestalt of Yamaha’s recent patent filings, they have been actively building their portfolio in at least three areas: human vocal processing and synthesis (VOCALOID), music analysis and combined MIDI/audio accompaniment.

VOCALOID has been a commercially successful software product. The tech has, by the way, some similarities to the “connective” capabilities of Articulated Element Modeling (AEM), known more broadly as “Super Articulation 2” on Tyros. VOCALOID requires frequency domain signal processing, so unless Yamaha have knocked down some real computational barriers, VOCALOID will probably remain a non-real time synthesis technique.

“Music analysis” is a broad area and a rather vague term. At a fundamental level, this area includes beat (tempo) detection and scale and harmony (chord) detection. I think we already see some of these results at work in the Yamaha Chord Tracker app. Chord Tracker analyzes an audio song. It detects the tempo and beats, and partitions the song into measures. Chord Tracker identifies the chord on each beat and displays a simplified “fake sheet” for the song. Chord Tracker can send the “fake sheet” to a compatible arranger keyboard for playback.

Music analysis also includes high-level analysis such as extracting the high level characteristics of a piece of music. This kind of analysis could allow a rough categorization and comparison between snippets of music (similarity index). We haven’t seen the fruits of this technology (yet), but one could imagine a tool that suggests an accompaniment based on what the musician plays or based upon an existing musical work. BTW, the word “musician” here includes guitarists, woodwind players, etc. and not just keyboardists. The world-wide market for non-keyboard instruments is bigger than the market for keyboard-based instruments. (Guitars alone outsell keyboards nearly 2 to 1 in the United States.)

The third main area of exploration and filings is combined MIDI/audio accompaniment. Up to this point, Motif arpeggios are MIDI-like phrases, not audio. Arranger workstation styles are MIDI (SMF in a Halloween costume). Neither product works with MIDI and audio phrases in a transparent way like the very successful Ableton Live. Yamaha’s patent filings disclose arpeggio- and/or style-like accompaniment using a mix of MIDI and audio phrases. Audio phrases are warped in time and pitch to match the current tempo and key scale.

Now, let’s throw these technologies into a bag and shake them around. Imagine a compositional assistant that analyzes a piece of music (recorded or played live), determines tempo, beats, chord changes and more, and automatically whips up an accompaniment or track. MIDI and audio phrases are selected from a library based upon a similarity index between the reference track and phrases in the library. If this is Yamaha’s vision, then double wow! The combination of these technologies would raise the level of music composition substantially from it’s tedious, point-and-click existence. It finesses the problem of listening to the phrases in the Motif/MOX arpeggio library, selecting the most applicable phrases and combining them. DigiTech TRIO is already sniffing around this territory.

Naturally, patents do not imply product. Therein lies the danger of making predictions.

Which brings me, finally, to US Patent 8,779,267 (July 15, 2014). If someone can explain this patent to me, thanks. The invention seems to analyze an incoming musical signal (using some heavy DSP), generate almost ultra-sonic (>18KHz) “control tones,” and produce a multi-timbral accompaniment or track. Amazing stuff.

The near ultra-sonic technique is already in use. The AliveCor Mobile ECG monitor uses ultrasonic tones to communicate with iPhone/iPad. The AliveCor doesn’t require power-sucking Bluetooth (and its emissions certification.) The monitor runs on a CR2016 battery. The downside, in the case of AliveCor, is that its monitor pad must be near the mobile device for reliable communication.

All site content is Copyright © Paul J. Drongowski unless otherwise indicated.