The long view

Here’s some information attributed to Martin Harris from Yamaha. Martin is one of the key sound developers at Yamaha:

  • Better Pianos
  • New Strings – 70 piece Seattle Symphony Orchestra Mega
  • New Orchestral Brass – highly dynamic
  • New Tuned Percussion – Glock, Xylo, Marimba and Vibes (with motor on)
  • New Mega guitars – Telecaster with Finger and Plectrum
  • SA2 Celtic Violin
  • New Synth Voices
  • New Classical Choir – Cathedral ambience
  • New Gospel Choir – Various articulations and Ad libs
  • New Pop Vocals – 4 session singers, 2 male and 2 female
  • Singing many dynamics and many articulations (wave cycling)

Montage? No, Tyros 4. The “SA2” should be a clue as the Montage does not provide Super Articulation 2 (SA2) voices.

My purpose here is not to be tricky, but to make the case that sample-based workstations or synthesizers draw from the sound pool that is available at development time, much the same way that hardware designers draw on the pool of available components. Products cannot be composed of imaginary circuits (“sand”), software, and sounds, after all.

To better illustrate this point, here is a rough timeline for the Tyros and Motif product lines with a few mid-range products (S9xx and MOX) thrown in:

             Tyros                        Motif/Montage
----   ------------------  ------------------------------------------
Year   Model     Physical  Model     Physical  Uncompressed waveforms
----   ------------------  ------------------------------------------
2001                       Motif      48MB     84MB 1,309 waveforms
2002   Tyros      96MB
2003                       Motif ES   96MB     175MB 1,859 waveforms
2004
2005   Tyros 2   192MB
2006
2007                       Motif XS  128MB     355MB 2,670 waveforms
2008   Tyros 3   256MB
2009
2010   Tyros 4   512MB     Motif XF  256MB     741MB 3,977 waveforms
2011                       MOX       128MB     355MB 2,670 waveforms
2012   PSR-S950  256MB
2013   Tyros 5   768MB     MOXF      256MB     741MB 3,977 waveforms
2014
2015   PSR-S970    2GB
2016                       Montage     4GB     5.67GB 6,347 waveforms

I included physical wave memory size for each product. I also included the uncompressed total sample size and number of waveforms for each member of the Motif/Montage line.

Clearly, Yamaha know how to ride the memory technology curve. Memory technology has progressed to the point where it is no longer a significant hardware design factor. Rather, the amount of wave memory in a product depends more upon the ability of the sound designers to fill it with quality content and mid- versus premium-product grading (i.e., the target market segment and price point for the model). For example, note that the mid-range S970 has more than twice the physical wave memory than the Tyros 5. Although the “expansion memory” is reserved in the S970’s physical wave memory, the S970 waveform content is substantially smaller than the Tyros 5.

The other characteristic to note is how the Tyros and Motif lines tend to leapfrog each other. Generally, the Tyros line leads the Motif line in physical wave memory and content. This is partly due to the higher memory requirements of SA2 voices, which require many additional articulation samples.

Both the Tyros 4 and Motif XF were released in 2010. Both machines use two SWP51L tone generators. (Newer products like the Montage use the SWP70 tone generator.) The Tyros 4 has twice the physical wave memory capacity with respect to the Motif XF. Yet, the Tyros 4 has sample content which did not make it to a deliverable product in the Motif line until the Montage in 2016: Seattle strings, orchestral brass, Celtic violin, vocals (choir and scat), Telecaster guitar and suitcase electric piano.

Tyros 5 expanded this content in 2013. The Motif XF, on the other hand, received a significant update in January 2014. The V.150 update added the “Real Distortion” effects implemented by the Tyros 5. (A few Real Distortion effects actually premiered in the mid-range S950.) The V1.50 update and the “White Motif” color job were life-extenders for the Motif line. I’ve conjectured before that Montage development was late and this is further evidence.

So, what can we expect in the Tyros successor which I’m calling the “Tyros++”. (Yamaha have trademarked the name “GENOS” which may be the name of the follow-on. Only Yamaha really knows.) Personally, I’m hoping for the new orchestral woodwinds from Montage. These are superbly expressive voices. I’m also expecting improved electric pianos, again, of comparable quality to the Montage.

SA2 voices will probably remain exclusive to the Tyros line. Many folks hoped that Montage would have SA2 and it didn’t. SA2 is an important product differentiator — kind of like the premium “Natural” piano voices are to the Clavinova line. I suspect that FM voices will be a differentiator for the premium Montage line in years to come as well. Yamaha tends to think of these three product lines as distinct, so cross-over is carefully controlled and limited.

All of this talk about samples and wave memory size is overly reductionist. The three main (DMI) product lines — Tyros, Motif/Montage, Clavinova — have distinct personalities and features. Motif/Montage is a synthesizer for stage and production studio. Clavinova is primarily a home or church piano. Tyros serves double duty as a home keyboard and as a workstation for performing professionals. (Oddly, many USA customers scoff at this latter role.)

Although these are all fine instruments, the personalities have quirks. Upper-range Clavinovas are Tyros-in-disguise except for multi-pads, third RIGHT voice (i.e., only two voice layers in the right hand), and no expansion memory. Tyros does not have the deep editing or modulation features of the Motif/Montage. The Motif and Montage — strangely! — do not have a tonewheeel organ mode. This latter omission is hard to understand since the Montage competes against other “stage” products like the Korg Kronos and Nord Stage.

Having compared voice programming between PSR-S950 (Tyros 3 without SA2 voices) and MOX (Motif XS sound set), the product lines are voiced (programmed) differently. Motif/Montage effect programming has a harder edge than the Tyros, which is oriented toward oldies, pop and jazz standards. (Yes, Virginia, the Tyros does have latent EDM potential to be tapped.) If the Tyros++ includes the orchestral woodwinds, for example, they will probably be programmed rather differently than Montage. Tyros++ four-part divisi ensembles with the new orchestral woodwinds would be simply brilliant. Can’t wait to see and hear what happens!

One finally editorial comment. The world is filled with product reviews. Publications like Keyboard magazine, Electronic Musician, etc. focus on individual products and rarely present a deep, long-term perspective on products. Sound On Sound reviews occasionally give historical background — usually for esoteric, retro studio pieces. As consumers, we need the long view in order to make the most informed choice.

Motif styles for your arranger!

I’m pleased to announce my collection of Motif performance styles for the Yamaha PSR-S950 arranger and its close cousins: Tyros 5, PSR-S770 and PSR-S970.

Motif and MOX are great song-writing machines with thousands of built-in musical phrases. In Motif-speak, these phrases are called “arpeggios.” Motif/MOX also have built-in “Performances” which combine these musical phrases into jam-along song starters. Although Motif-series workstations are not arranger keyboards, the Performances are fun for live jams, covering many modern genres (contemporary jazz, funk and R&B) which are underserved by arranger workstations.

To fill this gap, I translated 23 Motif performances to PSR/Tyros styles. In keeping with the original source material, these styles are stripped down and lean. No orchestration to get in the way! Some styles use only bass and drum. INTROs and ENDINGs are short and basic. Depending upon the source performance, a translated style may have only three MAIN sections. However, all styles bring the groove.

Many of the styles use Megavoice bass and guitar. Plus, I’ve added appropriate OTS voices. Of course, you’re welcome to ditch the OTS voices and replace them with your own.

Here is the link to the ZIP file: perf_for_s950.zip. The file unzips into a directory named “PERF_for_S950”. The ZIP file includes a short READ ME file with more information.

If you would like to know how I translate a Motif/MOX performance to a PSR/Tyros style, please read the following articles:

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)
    S6
    Clav4
    Harpsichord2
    Farfisa (Fr)
    Vox (Vx)
    Accordion2
    Accordion3
    Tango Accordian2
    Mussete Accordion
    Steirisch Accordion
    1Coil
    Jazz Guitar
    Pick Rndwound2
    Pick FlatWound
    Finger Rndwound
    Sect Strngs
    Tremolo Strings
    Live Pizzct
    Soft Trumpet
    Trumpet Vib
    Trumpet Shake
    Flugelhorn2
    French Horn Sft
    French Horn Med
    Soprano Sax3
    Alto Sax3
    Tenor Sax2 Soft
    Tenor Sax2 Falls
    Sax Breath
    Piccolo2

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
    Vibraphone3
    Motor Vibes
    Tonewheel1 Fast/Slow
    Tonewheel2 Fast/Slow
    Tonewheel3 Fast/Slow St
    Tonewheel4 Fast
    Tonewheel5 Fast
    Tonewheel6 Fast
    SctAcc Mussete
    SctAcc
    Acc Key On/Off
    Nylon2
    Flamenco
    Steel2
    Steel3
    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
    Violas
    Cellos
    ContBasses
    CelticHarp
    Trumpet 3
    Piccolo Tp
    Trombone 3
    Bass Trombone
    French Horn2
    Euphonium
    BrassSect3
    BrassSect3 Acc/Doits/Shake/Falls
    Trumpets1
    Trumpets2
    Trombones1
    Trombones2
    FrHorns2
    FrHorns3
    Clarinet2
    Clarinet3
    Oboe3
    Oboe4 NV/Stac
    Bassoon2
    Bassoon3
    Flute3
    Flute4 NV/Stac/Flutter
    Piccolo3
    Piccolo4 NV/Stac
    Low Whistle
    High Whistle
    Boys Choir
    Gospel Choir
    Syllables
    ScatCycle
    LatinCycle

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.

PSR effects for electric piano (Part 1)

A common complaint about the electric pianos on the Yamaha PSR arranger workstations is their lack of “guts” or “grit.” The voice samples are reasonably good, but the effects programming is vanilla and way too polite, especially for rock and soul styles. Here is a table showing the default DSP effect for some of the electric piano voices in the PSR-S950:

    PSR-S950 voice  Category     Effect
    --------------  ----------   -----------------------
    SparkleStack    CHORUS       CHORUS3
    SweetDX         CHORUS       CHORUS3
    BalladDX        CHORUS       ENS DETUNE1
    DX Dynamics     CHORUS       CHORUS2
    BalladBells     CHORUS       CHORUS3
    SuitcaseEP      CHORUS       CELESTE2
    VintageEP       TREMOLO      EP TREMOLO    [DSP off]
    CP80            CHORUS       CHORUS3
    StageEP         CHORUS       CELESTE2
    SmoothTine      SPATIAL      EP AUTO PAN
    ElectricPiano   SPATIAL      EP AUTO PAN   [DSP off]
    Clavi           DISTORTION   DIST SOFT1
    WahClavi        WAH TCH/PDL  CLAVI TC.WAH
    PhaseClavi      PHASER       EP PHASER2

You can see that most of the voices use a chorus effect. In two cases, the DSP effect is turned off by default. (You need to turn it on using the [DSP] front panel button.) The Clavinet voices are a little more fun and use distortion, wah and phaser.

Chorus does not add much “heft” to a voice and it doesn’t add grit. Compression, mid-range boost (EQ) and overdrive are better choices when you need a punchy and/or grungy electric piano sound.

Let’s take a look at the effects programming for a few electric piano voices on the Yamaha MOX synthesizer workstation. The basic voices drive two insert effects connected in series:

    MOX voice             Insert A     Insert B
    --------------------  -----------  -----------
    Crunchy Comp          MltBndComp   CompDistDly
    Vintage Case          AmpSim 2     Auto Pan
    Chorus Hard           ClassicComp  SPX Chorus
    Drive EP AS1          AmpSim 2     Auto Pan
    Natural Wurli         AmpSim 1     Tremolo
    Wurli Distortion AS1  Tremolo      CompDistDly

On the MOX, every voice uses compression, amp simulation or distortion, even the voices employing the evergreen tremolo, pan and chorus effects.

At this point, PSR users tend to throw up their hands and say, “Well, that’s the Motif series!” and back away. Yamaha — bless them — share technology between workstation products. Quite often, you can find the equivalent PSR effect algorithm for an MOX (MOXF) or Motif algorithm.

Consider the MOX “AmpSim2” algorithm. This algorithm shares the same parameters as the PSR “DISTORTION AMP SIM2” algorithm. Here is a table showing the corresponence between MOX and PSR.

    MOX parameter  PSR parameter  MOX value
    -------------  -------------  ---------
    Preset         n/a            Stack1
    AmpType        AMP Type       Tube
    OverDr         Drive          16
    OutLvl         Output Level   70
    LPF            LPF Cutoff     6.3KHz
    Dry/Wet        Dry/Wet        D<W30

The parameter values given here are taken from the MOX “Drive EP AS1” voice. Bring up a PSR voice like “VintageEP,” edit its DSP effect and replace the tremolo effect with “AMP SIM2.” Plug in these values, listen and tweak!

My second example is taken from the MOX “Natural Wurli” voice. The MOX effect algorithm name is “Amp Sim1”. The equivalent PSR effect algorithm is “DISTORTION V_DIST WARM” and its siblings. Here is the equivalency table:

    MOX parameter  PSR parameter  MOX value
    -------------  -------------  ---------
    Preset         n/a            Stack2
    OverDr         Overdrive      2%
    Device         Device         Vintage tube
    Speaker        Speaker        Stack
    Presence       Presence       +10
    OutLvl         Output Level   53%
    Dry/Wet        Dry/Wet        D<W1

Again, change the PSR DSP effect to “V_DIST WARM” and plug in the values. Then, tweak away.

The final example is a multi-effect taken from the MOX “Wurli Distortion AS1” voice. The MOX effect algorithm is “CompDistDly” that is a compressor, distortion and delay effect chain. The equivalency table is:

    MOX parameter  PSR parameter         MOX value
    -------------  --------------------  ---------
    Preset         n/a                   Hard1
    OverDr         Overdrive             15%
    Device         Vin_tube              Vintage tube
    Speaker        Stack                 Stack
    Presence       Presence              +10
    DelayL         Delay Time L          307.3ms
    DelayR         Delay Time R          271.7ms
    FBTime         Delay Feedback Time   306.6ms
    FBLevel        Delay Feedback Level  +31
    FBHiDmp        Feedback High Dump    0.8
    OutLvl         Output Level          22%
    DlyMix         Delay Mix             0
    Compress       n/a                   -29dB
    Dry/Wet        Dry/Wet               D<W12

The almost equivalent PSR effect algorithm is “DISTORTION+ V_DST H+DLY”. The PSR algorithm is missing the compression component (parameter). If you want compression, then consider one of the other PSR distortion algorithms with mono delay.

Keep thinking “multi FX.” I’m going to visit the REAl DISTORTION multi FX algorithm in a future post.

Some of the MOX voices use VCM effects. I didn’t deconstruct the voices with VCM effects because my S950 doesn’t have them. However, if you have VCM effects, for heaven’s sake, use them!

Learn how to save your new creation in Editing and Saving PSR Effects (Part 2).

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)

The SWP70 tone generator

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Yamaha PSR-S770 and PSR-S970 arranger workstations have a new tone generator (TG) integrated circuit (IC) — the SWP70. (“SWP” stands for “Standard Wave Processor.”) The SWP70 is a new TG family in a long line of Yamaha tone generators. The SWP70 replaces the SWP51L, which has been the mainstay in recent generations of Tyros, upper range PSR, Motif, and MOX series workstations.

The SWP70 has much in common with the SWP51L, but also some very significant differences. The SWP70’s external clock crystal frequency is 22.5792 MHz versus 11.2896 MHz for the SWP51L. This funky looking clock rate is a multiple of 44,100 Hz:

    22.5792MHz = 44,100Hz * 512

Samples are transferred to the DAC, etc. at a multiple of 44,100 Hz (Fs). Thus, it makes sense to derive Fs and its multiples from the chip-level master clock. The higher crystal frequency and faster memory read clocks lead me to believe that the SWP70 is clocked twice as fast as the SWP51L.

I am comparing SWP characteristics as deployed in the S970 (SWP70) and the S950 (SWP51L) workstations. This keeps the basis of comparison even although many characteristics (clock rates, DSP RAM size) are the same in higher end models like Tyros 5 or Motif. Higher end models employ two SWPs in master/slave relationship and both SWPs share the same wave memory. For more information about the PSR-S970 internal design, look here.

Five interfaces are essentially the same as the SWP51L:

  1. CPU interface: Communicate with the Main CPU (e.g., Renesas SH7731) via the parallel CPU bus.
  2. Serial audio: Send/receive audio data to/from the DAC, audio ADCs, and main CPU.
  3. Clock interface: Synchronize serial audio data transfers (generate multiples of Fs).
  4. DSP SDRAM interface: Store working data for effect processing.
  5. EBUS interface: Receive controller data messages (e.g., pedal input, keyboard input, pitch bend, modulation, live knobs, etc.) from front panel processors.

The DSP SDRAM is the same size: 4Mx16bits (8MBytes). The SWP70 read clock is 95.9616 MHz, while the SWP51L read clock is 45.1584 MHz. This is more evidence for a higher internal clock frequency.

The Tyros 4, Tyros 5 and S950 have an auxiliary DSP processor for vocal harmony. The microphone analog-to-digital (ADC) converter is routed directly to the auxiliary processor. Prior to these models, the microphone ADC is connected to the tone generator. With the SWP70, the S970’s microphone ADC is once again routed to the SWP70 and the auxiliary processor disappears from the design. Thus, vocal harmony processing (fully or partially) is located in the SWP70. See my post about SSP1 and SSP2 for further details.

The biggest change is the wave memory interface.

A little history is in order. The SWP51L (and its ancestors) were designed in the era of mask programmable ROM. I contend that tone generation is memory bandwidth limited and the earlier interface design is driven by the need for speed. The SWP51L (due to its evolved history) has two independent wave memory channels (HIGH and LOW). Each channel has a parallel address bus (32 bits) and a parallel data bus (16 bits). The two channels account for over 100 pins. (System cost is proportional to pin count.) The user-installed, 512/1024MB flash DIMMs plug directly onto the two channels.

The SWP70 wave memory interface takes advantage of new NAND flash memory technology. The interface is described in US patent application 2014/0123835 and is covered by Japanese patent 2012-244002. I analyzed the US patent application in an earlier post.

The SWP70 retains the HIGH port and LOW port structure. Each port communicates with an 8Gbit Spansion S34ML08G101TFI000 NAND flash device. Address and data are both communicated over an 8-bit serialized bus. This technique substantially decreases pin count and the resulting board-/system-level costs. Smart work.

I did not anticipate, however, the introduction of a new parallel memory interface called “wave-work”. The wave work interface communicates with a 16Mx16bit (32MBytes) Winbond W9825G6JH-6 SDRAM. The read clock is 95.9616 MHz.

The purpose of the wave work SDRAM is revealed by US Patent 9,040,800. This patent discloses a compression algorithm that is compatible with serialized access to the wave memory. The wave work SDRAM is a cache for compressed samples. The characteristics of the Spansion memory device give us a clue as to why a cache is required:

    Block erase time               3.5ms    Horrible (relative to SDRAM)
    Write time                     200us    Terrible
    Random access read time         30us    Bad
    Sequential access read time     25ns    Very good

As the patent explains, two (or more) samples are required to perform the interpolation while pitch-shifting. If there is only one tone generation channel, access is paged sequential. However, random access is required when there are multiple tone generation channels. (The patent mentions 256 channels.) Each channel may be playing a different voice or a different multi-sample within the same voice. One simply cannot sustain high polyphony through random access alone. The cache speeds up access to recently used pages of uncompressed samples.

The wave work interface takes additional pins, thus adding to board- and system-level costs. The overall pin count is still lower when compared to SWP51L. The penalty must be paid in order to use contemporary NAND flash devices with a serialized bus. This is the price for catching the current (and future) memory technology curve.

A few SWP70-related printed circuit board (PCB) positions are unpopulated (i.e., IC not installed) in the PSR-S970. There is an unpopulated position for a second Winbond W9825G6JH-6 wave work SDRAM which would expand the wave work memory to 32Mx16bit (64MBytes). A larger cache would be needed to support additional tone generation channels. Perhaps only half of the tone generation channels are enabled in the mid-grade PSR-S970 workstation.

There is what appears to a second separate wave work interface that is completely unpopulated. The intended memory device is a Winbond W9825G6JH-6, which is consistent with the existing wave work interface.

The PSR-S970 also has a stubbed out interface that is similar to the DSP SDRAM interface. The existing DSP SDRAM signals are labeled “H” for HIGH while the unused interface is labeled “L” for LOW. Perhaps only half of the hardware DSP processors are enabled for the mid-grade S970, waiting to be activated in future high-end Tyros and Motif products.

I refer to future high end products by the names of the current product lines. Yamaha may choose to rebrand future products (e.g., the much-rumored “Montage” trademark).

The Spansion S34ML08G2 8-Gb NAND device is Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 1.0 compliant. The S34ML08G2 device is a dual-die stack of two S34ML04G2 die. The 8-bit I/O bus is tri-state allowing expansion e.g., multiple memory devices sharing the same I/O bus and control signals with at most device enabled at any time. The SWP70 has additional chip select pins that would support this kind of expansion. The current expansion flash DIMMs will no longer be needed or used.

In this note, I concentrated on observations and fact, not speculation about future products. I’ll leave that fun for another day!

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

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.

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.

Smooth It Over

Here’s a Yamaha PSR-S950 style for funky jazzers — SmoothItOver.

As some of you know, many of the Motif/MOX arpeggios are based on what once were PSR/Tyros arranger keyboard styles. SmoothItOver is a little payback going the other way.

The MOX has about a dozen or so jazzy/funky Performances that are fun to jam to. One of my favorites is called “Smooth It Over.” A MOX/Motif Performance is a four instrument mini-mix where each instrument can be driven by a different arpeggio (musical phrase). Arpeggios are triggered by hitting one or more notes on the keyboard. Many of the arpeggios respond to and follow chords. A musician can lay down a song or groove by switching through groups of arpeggios and playing along.

The SmoothItOver performance on the MOX splits the keyboard into a lower and an upper part. (Sound familiar?) The lower part of the keyboard triggers drum and bass arpeggios as well as directly sounding the notes played, using a mellow electric piano voice. The upper part of the keyboard is for melody and is configured with a growl tenor sax. The drum and bass arpeggios are taken from the 70sDiscoFunk and GospelFunk styles.

The PSR/Tyros SmoothItOver style rips off, errr, builds on the equivalent sections from the 70sDiscoFunk and GospelFunk styles. I added OTS buttons with the FunkGtr 16Bt3 Multi Pad bank. Be sure to throw in the Multi Pad guitars when playing. (These Multi Pads follow the left hand chords.) It really kicks the PSR/Tyros style up a notch over the MOX version. The ability to switch melody voices on-the-fly through OTS is another advantage over the MOX.

The INTROs and ENDINGs are little lame since this style is built for jamming and practice, not covers. Try it with a minor blues (e.g., Dm7, Gm7, Am7) and switch between sections frequently to vary the groove. Drop a little guitar via the Multi Pad buttons. Have fun!

Don’t let anyone kick sand in your face at the beach just because you play “an arranger.”

BTW, I know someone will ask, “Why not transfer phrase data, etc. from the MOX to the PSR?” Two good reasons:

  • The MOX/Motif instruments are programmed much differently than similar PSR/Tyros instruments. The bass in Smooth It Over, for example, lays out the sound elements in different MIDI velocity and note ranges.
  • The note transposition rules and tables are hidden on the MOX.

It’s much easier to start out with the native style data on the PSR than to re-map the MOX phrase data to PSR instruments and recreate all of the note transposition programming.

Here’s an arpeggio-to-style section correspondence table:

    Type  ARP#  Style section
    ----  ----  ---------------------
    Drum  ARP1  MB_Gospel Funk
    Drum  ARP2  MA_Gospel Funk
    Drum  ARP3  MB_Gospel Funk
    Drum  ARP4  FA_Gospel Funk
    Drum  ARP5  FB_Gospel Funk
    Drum  ARP6  BA_Gospel Funk

    Bass  ARP1  FA_70sDiscoFunk _XS
    Bass  ARP2  FB_70sDiscoFunk _XS
    Bass  ARP3  MB_Gospel Funk _XS
    Bass  ARP4  MB_Gospel Funk _XS
    Bass  ARP5  FA_70sDiscoFunk _XS
    Bass  ARP6  BA_Gospel Funk