Genos: First contact (snap review)

Before I dive into Yamaha Genos™, I need to send a big shoutout to Frank Ventresca of Audioworks CT. I tested and bought my PSR-S950 from Audioworks CT. I’m ba-ack, having had a good experience the first time — largely due to Frank’s customer service. If you’re interested in trying and buying an arranger keyboard, I recommend visiting Audioworks CT and/or giving Frank a call.

For me, it’s about 140 miles one way from home to Audioworks CT. Preparations are similar to getting ready for a long day hike — only with sheet music instead of boots. The long car trip means that testing time is limited. I try to hit the driving sweet spot between morning rush on I-495/I-290 near Boston and the afternoon rush from New Haven and Hartford, leaving me about two hours to play.

After arriving at Audioworks CT, I found a three tiered stack: Yamaha Montage, Korg Pa4x and Yamaha Genos, from top to bottom. Thanks to a tip from Stephen on the PSR Tutorial Forum, I expected to see the Pa4x. With that foreknowledge, do I A/B the Genos and the Pa4x? I chose to focus solely on the Genos given the two hour window for testing. Frank, BTW, invited me to stay longer, but I knew that I needed to avoid traffic Hell later in the day.

I warmed up while Frank finished a business meeting. No music stand, so I used the Pa4x as a very expensive music rest. Once Frank was available, he quickly installed the Genos music stand.

I decided to listen through headphones rather than use Audioworks’ house system. It’s a good system, but I decided to go with my usual, lightweight headphones (Roland RH-7A). Headphones also freed up the LINE OUT which I connected to a Roland MicroBR digital recorder. This setup let me hit record, play and forget.

At the time of this writing, I pulled a few snippets among the noodling and posted them here. I’m trying to get my first impressions down fast and don’t want audio production to get in the way of my initial thoughts.

Before recording, I set the Genos EQ to flat and turned off the master compression. Audio is recorded direct to MP3 (192 kbit/sec). Not the best quality, but I was afraid of overrunning the rather small SD card in the MicroBR. After setting initial levels, I tried to forget that the MicroBR was there and that the red light was ON.

It’s humbling to listen to my noodling. Hats off to everyone’s main man Katsunori UJIIE, who seems to rip this stuff effortlessly!

Genos is an instrument

One shouldn’t have to say this, but the Genos is an instrument in the same league as Montage or Kronos. With the limited time available, I concentrated on Genos as a performance instrument first and as an arranger keyboard second. This approach is consistent with my musical priorities: church gig first, fun and possibly one man band (OMB) second.

As a liturgical musician, I play with a pianist on acoustic piano and a 12-string guitar. That’s a lot of rhythmic content right there. Much of what I play complements piano and 12-string guitar. Subconsciously, I fill in and hear these missing parts when practicing. Hopefully, you will fill in this context, too. If and when you hear the audio snippets, I’m playing fuller than I would with the group. There is always a tendency to “be the whole band” when playing alone. Apologies in advance.

The focus is on emulation of acoustic instruments, orchestra and pop. You won’t hear any synth and given the short trial time, you won’t hear many styles (unfortunately).

The FSX keyboard is a more robust keybed than the PSR-S950. The FSX action is heavier. You do get what you pay for. The FSX affords aftertouch; the S950 does not.

The Genos has three front panel articulation buttons to trigger voice articulations. The voice display shows the available articulations for each selected voice. (Nice.) The voice display also shows a drawbar icon for organ flute voices. Touching the drawbar icon brings up the drawbar display. (Extra nice.) I made extensive use of the voice DEMO touch button in order to play and sort through voices quickly.

The user interface is responsive. I didn’t get a sense of lag as reported by other players. I discovered that the MENU front panel button is your special friend. It brings up two pages filled with touch buttons leading to all internal settings. It’s kind of a “site map” for the Genos.

Strings

The Genos is like having a compact orchestral sample library in a portable, immediately playable keyboard. Think Garritan Personal Orchestra.

There are two major options for strings in addition to legacy voices: Kino strings and Seattle strings. The Seattle strings first appeared in the Tyros 5 before they were explicitly identified and advertised in the Montage. The Kino strings have a different character and the violin sections are panned separately left and right. Both options have multiple bowing and playing techniques (legato, spiccato, pizzicato) plus articulations. The options are also broken out into sections as well as the standard ensemble voices.

The Kino strings have more power and are more in your face than the Seattle strings. Dare I say, more bow? Where is Dave Stewart when you need him? (This review would be wittier if written by Dave Stewart, too.)

The voice DEMO feature is really handy when approaching a deep keyboard like Genos for the first time. I quickly settled on the “warm” variation of the Kino strings and Seattle strings. Either choice (Kino Seattle) would work as a bread and butter ensemble patch. I give the edge to Seattle because, well, they would sit better with piano and acoustic guitar, given our repertoire. Tyros 5 people, hold up your heads with pride.

With the loss of our group’s flutist, I’m play a lot of exposed solo lines using violin, oboe and flute. The Genos offers four Super Articulation 2 solo voices: Celtic Violin, Jazz Violin, Classical Cello and Pop Cello. The Celtic Violin is a good fit with our liturgical repertoire. The Genos cellos are quite good, definitely a big cut above the MOX6 that I currently play. I wish that I had more time to check out the cellos.

Meta-comment: Exploiting the Genos, especially its articulations and ensembles — will require practice, practice, practice.

Woodwinds

In the case of woodwinds, I need both ensemble voices (or layers) and solo voices (mainly oboe and flute). The Genos does not disappoint in either category.

I quite easily built and tried a few layers. It wasn’t difficult to create a workable reed plus horn layer — another bread and butter, every Sunday patch. Less is often more. It isn’t necessary to layer up a preset woodwind ensemble with French horn; sometimes a mellow oboe or clarinet will do.

The Genos has two SArt2 oboes (classical and pop) and an SArt “MOR Oboe.” The Classic Oboe is bright and thin, able to cut through strings. For exposed lines, I would prefer the Pop Oboe or MOR Oboe voices that have a warmer, fuller sound.

The SArt2 Classical Bassoon and Pop Bassoon are quite pleasant without moving into comedic territory. (Peter and the Wolf.)

Brass

The Genos has a mess’o’horns and classical brass. Symphony horns are quite useful in liturgy as pads and mid-range filler. Fanfare brass is too much except for the obvious holidays when all sorts of sonic mayhem can be let loose. The Genos has a wide range of horns from mellow to a brighter more open tone.

The brasher instruments (trumpet and trombone) are available solo and in sections. All quite good. Trombones are especially useful due to their wider range and deeper timbre.

The demo phrases for certain brass voices are way hotter level-wise than the strings or woodwinds. I had to adjust the audio record level way down to prevent clipping. Unfortunately, this affected the level for everything else that I recorded during the day. Sorry, I just spaced out and didn’t reset the level. (Argh!) So, you may need to adjust the audio volume at your end.

Drawbar organ

Huh? That’s not classical. Our church means gospel and a little Hispanic music, too.

I enjoyed getting into the Genos drawbar organ. There’s no undiscovered clone killer here, but Yamaha’s drawbar emulation will work in a lot of churches (and stages, too). I’m already quite familiar with Yamaha’s emulation having played both the MOX and PSR-S950.

The physical drawbars are a treat. The knobs are shaped like, er, classic drawbar knobs. The bars can be changed and played in real time, something that I miss on the MOX and to a large extent, the S950. If you select a preset, the physical position of the sliders does not directly relate to the sound, of course. The sliders are not motorized. When a slider is moved, it won’t change the sound until the slider “catches” the current internal bar value. That’s why Martin Harris “warms up” the sliders before playing the bars in his demo videos.

The new rotary speaker simulation is an improvement, but won’t knock the Neo Ventilator from its perch. Here, Yamaha have some work to do immediately:

  • The Drive parameter doesn’t seem to have any effect on the sound. (Thanks to Uli from the PSR Tutorial Forum for pointing this out.) Pushing the Drive to 10 doesn’t add any overdrive.
  • As mentioned in an earlier post, the rotor slow/fast and fast/slow times cannot be adjusted; only the horn (de)acceleration times can be adjusted.

Yamaha needs to fix these divots.

The rotary speaker sim is set too fast out of the box. This gave me a chance to dive into the DSP effect editing menus. I made the changes without too much difficulty and without a manual. Good job. I just wish that I could change the rotor (de)acceleration times, too.

This seems to be a good place to mention that sound programmers universally tend to set the times too fast, especially the ramp times. Players love it when it takes a while for those old, vintage belts and pulleys to spin the rotor/horn up and down. A lot of real B-players habitually hit the half-moon switch to keep the Leslie in its intermediate, changing state. Watching Gregg Allman do this in 1971 was a revelation that stuck with me for a lifetime!

Wot? No pipe organ? Genos carries over the quite excellent handful of pipe organ voices from Tyros 5. They’re good. Move along.

Pop instruments

Now that the main job is done, it’s time for the funk and blues.

You probably noticed by now that I haven’t said anything about the CFX and C7 acoustic pianos. You’re right and you won’t hear another word about them from me. They’re covered elsewhere, everywhere.

I did try the Suitcase Rhodes (oh, why this charade about names?), the Wurlitzer and the Clav. All will do the business. The Suitcase is still waaaay too polite for my taste in fusion. Think the fuzzed out bliss of “Mahavishnu.” That’s a 70’s Rhodes.

The SArt2 Funk Alto Sax and Funk Baritone Sax are welcome additions. I look forward to exploring those. The Jazz Flute sounds good to my ears and has interesting articulations. The Classical Flute can jam, too.

I took a listen to the new Active Bass (Music Man Stingray?) Sweet. Should provide new options when sequencing.

Then there’s the mess’o’guitars. I presume that 50’s is Telecaster and 60’s is Stratocaster? With all the DSP at hand, the electric guitars are instant “tone” with all of the right pedal-board effects dialed in. The jazz guitar sounds good. I often reach for jazz guitar when playing pop. (Need more technique, though. Practice, practice, practice.)

The sax and brass demos start out with the new funk saxes. The rhythm section demo includes Suitcase Rhodes, Wurli, Clav, CP80, Active Bass, electric guitars and jazz guitar.

Styles

At this point in the day, my ears and hands were getting trashed. I was hoping to try the styles that have been getting short shrift in on-line videos. Given the time that was left, all I could hit was “Mr. Soul” and “Soul Supreme” with the old chestnut “Acoustic Jazz” thrown in. All good for a fun-time jam.

Neither style was harmed by playing over them. I did jam quite a bit and got a decent Fishbelly Black organ tone out of the drawbar organ and rotary sim. Oh, happy day!

Workflow

You should be able to sense my time urgency at this point because my comments are getting shorter and shorter.

I played along with a few MIDI and WAV audio songs in order to assess the workflow for OMB. Even without playlists and registrations, the Genos has a much smoother workflow than the Montage in this regard. Montage designers should take note because many Montage players incorporate audio and MIDI tracks into their performances, too.

I botched a chance to try Revo drums with a MIDI file. I brought the USB drive that contains my WAV audio and MIDI backing tracks. I played along with “Just My Imagination,” a track that suffers from extreme “machine gun” drum rolls. Darn, with time pressing, I forgot to re-voice the file with a Revo drums kit! Bummer.

Summary

Genos is waaaaaay too much for two hours. Two weeks, two months, maybe.

There you have it. Genos? Yes, I played one. As you can tell from this quick review, I’m more enthusiastic than ever about Genos.

Need more information about Super Articulation voices? Please look here.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos: Position and promotion

The first public European demos started over the weekend. I’ve been watching Peter Baartmans and Sander Tournier put the Genos through its paces.

The whole experience has me thinking about how the Genos is being positioned in regional markets, mainly, western Europe versus North America.

First off, the arranger keyboard culture is completely different in Europe than the United States. Arranger demonstrations are big public events. One recent demo had over 500 attendees in the audience. In some venues, audience members buy tickets! This is unimaginable in the United States (except iPhone).

The European demos show off a broader range of styles. In this aspect, I’m comparing the European demos with videos made for American retailers (Guitar Center, Sweetwater, and Kraft Music). The European demos cover everything from jazz to rock to EDM to classical to traditional European pop. For the latter, think outdoor cafes and biergartens where you can spend hours with a few hundred like-minded souls. Not to mention that acquired taste, Schlager. (And that’s not a beer!)

The American demos concentrate on contemporary musical genres and styles. The Genos has new acoustic and pedal steel guitars, so Nashville and country get special emphasis. Martin Harris highlights the Kino strings coming more from a cinematic or singer-songwriter perspective. These are customers that Yamaha hopes to hook in North America. With all of its articulated sounds, the Genos is a mini-library of sampled instruments both pop and orchestral.

The American videos avoid any whiff of cheese. Unfortunately, many American listeners regard (too) many musical styles as “cheese” and the typical Guitar Center clientele are the worst offenders. Thus, you won’t hear traditional European pop in a video targeted for American retailers. In the U.S., arranger keyboards are regarded as the evil spawn of the cha-cha home organ. After playing Montage and hearing the Genos demos, a lot of folks need to adjust their thinking.

Yamaha run a risk, here, because on-line media is world-wide. I’m thinking about the videos for the Dexibell drawbar organ. A few people saw one video which didn’t fit their musical taste and bad-mouthed the Dexibell to high Heaven. They never moved on to the other videos which had some very tasty jazz.

At this point in the Genos launch, it’s a little difficult to dig out the deeper jazz, soul, R&B, and funk possibilities of the Genos. You need to wade through a lot of video to even get a sniff.

The customer base for high-end arranger keyboards is aging. Even the European audiences have a lot of “gray heads.” (I’m getting grayer by the day, too. 🙂 ) Yamaha and its dealers want to entice a younger crowd with arranger keyboards. But, they have a dilemma. A young person today does not have the disposable income for a $5,500 (USD street) keyboard, especially when they can make music with their smart phone, tablet or laptop. The entry price to EDM, for example, is much lower than the price of a Genos.


[Source: Yamaha Easy Product Guide, 2017; Click to enlarge.]

Yamaha led the Genos campaign with EDM. This gave the Genos a youthful cachet, but alienated many people in the historical customer base for high-end arranger product. Folks wondered, “Did they drop the big band styles?” However, let’s say that Yamaha did put a schmaltzy big band tune into the Guitar Center video. Instant turn off. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a big band tune. I grew up listening to Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, but that was my father’s music. (BTW, I respect that music; I just don’t play it.) Most people can’t look beyond the end of their own musical nose.

So, where do Yamaha find customers with sufficient disposable income and maybe the time and interest? Back to the 80s! The Genos has some excellent styles that allow note-for-note covers of famous 1980s pop and rock, including synth-heavy 80s pop. We all tend to relate emotionally to the music of our teen years and early 20s. Let’s take 1985 as the midpoint, subtract 20 years and look to people born around 1965 or so. They were teens when 80s music was happening. Thus, Yamaha are targeting people in their late 40s and early 50s — old enough to have the disposable income for a high-end arranger while young enough to rebuild the aging customer base.

Well, I hope this ramble has given you a different perspective on Genos and arranger keyboard marketing. The Yamaha demos are carefully designed and scripted to appeal to target market segments. Where do you fit?

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Creating a Mega Voice in YEM

With all of the Genos™ hoopla, let’s not forget about technique and skills! A few interesting questions popped up on the PSR Tutorial Forum and I’m reposting my answers here.

Today’s blog describes how to create a Mega Voice for PSR/Tyros using Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). With this background information in mind, I go on to discuss maximum polyphony in AWM2 and how to count voices against maximum polyphony.

The discussion has a PSR/Tyros focus, but a lot of the information applies to Motif, MOX and Montage, too. If you want to learn more about the Yamaha AWM2 voice architecture, I recommend reading the first chapter of a Motif- or Montage-series reference manual and the corresponding synthesizer parameter manual. (Download these manuals from the Yamaha manual library.)

Creating a Mega Voice in YEM

Regular voices are the usual MIDI voice: 128 velocity levels and only one basic sound. For example, nylon guitar is just the pitched, melodic sound of the notes either louder or softer depending on note velocity.

Mega Voice guitars (and other Mega Voices) are different. Please look at the Mega Voice Map starting on page 16 of the Tyros Data List PDF.

Let’s take a look at the Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes B5 and below, the MIDI velocity is broken into eight (8) ranges:

    1- 20 Open soft
   21- 40 Open med
   41- 60 Open hard
   61- 75 Dead
   76- 90 Mute
   91-105 Hammer
  106-120 Slide
  121-127 Harmonics

Each range plays a different kind of sound. So, the MIDI velocity determines which guitar sound. Then, the velocity within that limited range determines how loud it will be.

Example 1: MIDI note A4, velocity 38 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is loud.

Example 2: MIDI note A4, velocity 2 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is quiet.

Example 3: MIDI note A4, velocity 110, makes a Slide guitar sound.

Now, let’s look at the last two columns in the Mega Voice map, again, for the Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes between C6 and B7, the Tyros plays a Strum noise. The velocity in this case determines the Strum noise loudness over the full range 1-127.

For MIDI notes above C8, the Tyros plays a Fret noise. The velocity determines the fret noise volume and is full range 1-127.

Example 4: MIDI note D8, velocity 127 plays a very loud fret noise.

Put this knowledge into action with YEM

Now you need to figure out how to do this using the voice editor in Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). Each voice has up to eight elements. Think of each element as a mini, controllable synthesizer.

You will need one element for each of the velocity ranges that form the main body of your Mega Voice. In the case of the Mega NylonGuitar voice, that’s eight elements!

In YEM, build one element at a time. Layout the samples for one velocity range of the many body. You may have one waveform or you may have several waveforms. Each waveform occupies a key range. Do not map any waveforms onto the keys C6 and above (yet). These keys are reserved for the noise notes.

When you select a waveform belonging to an element, YEM highlights the color and displays eight resizing dots on the edges of the waveform. Use these dots to resize the waveform. Moving left or right changes the key assignment for the waveform. Moving an edge up or down changes the lower or upper limit of the velocity range to be assigned to the waveform.

If you have a lot of samples, be prepared to do a lot of work! Now you’re learning how much work Yamaha puts into voice development!

Once you have assigned the waveforms (samples) for the main body of your new voice, you can work on the noise notes, that is, any keys C6 and above.

Select the first element. Assign the waveforms for the noise notes to the keys C6 and above. The actual layout is up to you, but you must use only the keys C6 and above.

If your noise notes have only one velocity range, 1 to 127, then you must set the velocity range for only those waveforms (1 to 127). If your noise notes have two or more velocity ranges (not recommended), then you must use more than one element.

So, you can see that YEM has enough editing power to create a Mega Voice. Be prepared to study carefully how Yamaha voices are constructed. Please don’t expect to just jump in, clap your hands, and be finished. I regard Mega Voice development as a fairly advanced, expert job. If you haven’t created a voice before using YEM, then I suggest trying something simple until you understand elements, waveform layout across keys, and velocity ranges.

Counting voices against maximum polyphony

Now that you’re schooled in voice structure, it’s a good time to discuss maximum polyphony and counting voice elements against maximum polyphony.

This has always been a somewhat confusing topic because of the way polyphonic voices are counted.

As I mentioned above, a Tyros or Motif or Montage (AWM2) voice consists of up to 8 elements. Assume that only the RIGHT1 part is enabled and thus, only one Tyros voice is enabled. When a key is struck, the AWM2 engine determines the active elements and assigns each active element to a physical-level, hardware tone generation channel. One or more elements may be active simultaneously for a given note under the assumption.

Assignment and channel use is additive. If RIGHT1 and RIGHT2 are enabled (i.e., two layered voices), then there are one or more active elements from the RIGHT1 voice and one or more active elements from the RIGHT2 voice. This is why layers chew up polyphony.

The number of tone generation channels determines the maximum number of active tones playing at any time — the maximum polyphony.

Be prepared to be confused!

Even if all eight elements are defined in a Mega Voice, not all eight elements may be active at a time. One to eight elements may be active depending upon the incoming MIDI note and the element programming (i.e., the velocity range and note range for each element.) When the synthesis engine gets a MIDI note (consisting of a MIDI note number and velocity), it decides which elements to play. If only one element matches, then only one polyphony voice is used up. If two elements match, then two polyphony voices are used up, and so on.

Thus, depending upon the combination of note ranges and velocity levels, a voice may use anywhere from one to eight voices of polyphony. It all comes down to the particular design (programming) of a user voice.

If you’re not confused yet, hold on, there’s more. In the past, a stereo voice would use two tone generation channels while mono uses one channel. The left waveform is assigned to an element and the right waveform is assigned to its own element. Montage and Genos have the new tone generator, the SWP70. The new tone generation hardware supports 128 mono/stereo voices (channels) of polyphony. That is, stereo elements get mapped to a stereo channel. This is a big deal because it allows greater use of stereo waveforms without cutting too deeply into the available polyphony.

Think like a coder

By now, if you’re a programmer, you’re thinking of pseudo-code somthing like:

    if ((MIDI note number >= lowest key in key range) &&
        (MIDI note number <= highest key in key range) &&
        (MIDI note velocity >= lowest velocity in velocity range) &&
        (MIDI note velcotiy <= highest velocity in velocity range))
    {
        Generate the tone for the MIDI note
    }

This conditional statement summarizes what I discussed earlier.

As usual, there's more.

The AWM2 synthesis engine defines and evaluates other conditions:

  • Detached (non-legato) or legato
  • Articulation button ON or OFF
  • Jump in note interval less than one octave

Motif and Montage people will recognize the first two conditions as Expanded Articulation (XA). PSR and Tyros people will recognize all three conditions as part of Super Articulation (SA). These additional conditions also control element triggering. Think about extending the pseudo-code's condition with other conjunctive terms.

The Motif and Montage voice editors expose the XA conditions. Yamaha Expansion Manager does not expose these conditions. Thus, it's not possible to create Super Articulation voices using YEM.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos genesis

After fits and starts due to early leaks, Yamaha have launched the Yamaha Genos™ digital workstation. You can check out Yamaha’s content through the Genos concept site or the Genos product pages. [Click images to enlarge.]

There’s no point in regurgitating Yamaha’s on-line content, so I will just summarize highlights here.

  • Size: 48-9/16″W x 5-7/16″H x 17-15/16″D
  • Weight: 28lb, 11oz (13.0kg)
  • 9″ color touch screen (TFT color WVGA 800 x 480 pixels)
  • Live Control display (OLED 589 x 48 pixels)
  • 9 sliders and 6 knobs that are fully assignable
  • 76-key FSX keyboard
  • Joystick with modulation and joystick HOLD
  • Synthesis: AWM2 and Articulation Element Modeling (AEM)
  • Polyphony: 256 (128 for preset voice + 128 for expansion voice)
  • 550 styles total (punchy drums and DSP effects)
  • 1,652 voices + 58 drum/SFX kits
  • 216 arpeggios: instrument arps, e.g., strums and control arps automate Live Control
  • 28 insert effects including VCM effects
  • Vocal Harmony and Synth Vocoder
  • Audio recording: Audio (WAV 44.1kHz, 16-bit, stereo) and MIDI SMF
  • Audio playback: WAV (44.1kHz, 16-bit, stereo) and MP3
  • MultiPads (both audio and MIDI)
  • Internal memory: 58GBytes (approximately)
  • Connectivity
    • S/PDIF digital audio output
    • Three USB TO DEVICE ports (front panel, back panel, bottom)
    • Wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) depending on regional type acceptance
  • 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC)
  • 1.8GBytes user voice expansion memory built-in

The Genos looks to be a nice overhaul of the now staid Tyros product line. If you’re familiar with Tyros — and I’m assuming that you are — then you are not super surprised at some of the features while being pleased (or not) to have a color touch screen, lots of assignable knobs, sliders and buttons, a secondary OLED display to show parameters, doubled polyphony, S/PDIF, wireless LAN (maybe, in your region), and a 32-bit DAC.

Yamaha have chosen to issue only a single 76-key model; no 61, no 88. This gives them interesting options for line extension. Go small and save weight, or feed the world’s almost insatiable hunger for 88-key piano-like objects?

You might also be surprised to not see audio styles. I think the original audio styles confused most users. Can I save them to USB drive? No. Did they fit many tunes other than the “reference” song? No. Handling REX format via the Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM) should resolve these issues for advanced users. Yamaha punched up the drums to improve the live feel. (Hey, don’t Yamaha actually make drums? Just kidding.)

Featured instruments include:

  • CFX piano
  • C7 grand piano (newly sampled)
  • Kino strings
    • Newly sampled movie orchestra
    • Violins hard-panned left and right
    • Violas, cellos and contrabass center
  • Revo drums (waveform cycling)

If rumors hold true, there should be a new Strat in there somewhere as well as Gibson and Martin steel guitars and a pedal steel guitar. The electric pianos have gotten the ambient noises from the Montage EPs.

The Live Control view is nicely done. Change a knob and the display shows the new assigned parameter value. Change a slide next and the display switches to the slider settings. Good, no button needed to switch displays while playing. The knobs and sliders are integrated with drawbar settings, making the Genos could be a worthy clone competition or a close substitute for a clone. The new rotary speaker effect (from the Montage?) sounds good. But, Yamaha, you left out the chorus (vibrato only). Don’t chuck your Reface YC.

The playlist feature looks to be a very useful addition. The playlist organizes registration banks for quick access. The PSR/Tyros registration concept is a very powerful one and I wish that Montage had a similar capability. I love registrations because, bang, in one button press, I have a song ready to play. (More about this another day.)

Having a USB device port hidden under the unit is a great idea. Ever have a drunken chucklehead at a bar try to pull out your USB drive? Ever be a chucklehead yourself? 🙂 More manufacturers should do this.

A new release of Yamaha Expansion Manager (version 2.5) is planned for November 2017, roughly in sync with first deliveries. YEM will have support for WAV, AIFF, SoundFont and REX formats.

A new release of MegaEnhancer (version 1.5) will be available in November, also. MegaEnhancer changes the MIDI data in a Standard MIDI File (SMF) to use Yamaha’s MegaVoices.

The iPad app SongBook+ is also on the way. SongBook+ organizes songs with lyrics, notation, and other information. A song may also be linked to a registration — a very handy feature for performers who need to home in on the complete set-up for a song during performance. I play with charts; I like this.

The USA manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $6,799 and MAP is expected to be $5499.

From a hardware guy’s point of view, there are a few things to think about. The 32-bit DAC is a first for Yamaha. Even Montage does not sport S/PDIF. No mention of Pure Analog Circuit, so the audio back-end must be new, new, new.

The polyphony spec is très intéressant: 128 for preset voices and 128 for expansion voices. Hmmm, how did Yamaha arrange (pun intended) the SWP70 tone generators and NAND flash memory?

So, Yamaha have 1.8GBytes of flash left over for voice expansion. There simply is not enough information to infer waveform memory size, so we’ll all be waiting for the service manual.

Speaking of manuals, there aren’t any available at the time of this writing. No owner’s manual, reference manual or data list. Nada. The early leaks forced Yamaha’s hand to launch the Genos two weeks early and now we will wait. First deliveries are anticipated for November. Déjà vu all over again.

I am literally weighing the Genos (13kg) versus the Montage (15kg) as my next ax. There is still a huge amount to learn about the Genos as it is revealed. Has the sequencer gotten an overhaul? Does the Genos support deep voice editing? The user interface does look inviting and I look forward to seeing more.

Sometimes a little bit of information just leads to more questions.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

GENOS unverified image

The following unverified image has appeared on the Web. It seems to have been taken at a presentation.

Physical features are similar to other leaked images of GENOS™ and the teaser videos (one and two). The keyboard in this unverified image very much looks like a prototype — or at best, pre-production — model. Remember, sound developers need functional mock-ups for their work and even dealer demo units will not be available until October.

A huge warning. We are now in a phase when images and “specifications” are ricochetting around the Web. The Internet echo chamber is ringing like a bell! Plus, we have a number of individuals who are desperate and are trying to draw attention to their sites (advertising revenue, ca-ching) and Youtube videos (ca-ching). This site is independent and I do not receive money from advertising.

Beware while awaiting Yamaha’s official announcement on October 2nd! We still have two more teaser videos to survive on September 22nd and 29th.

Mega Voice in PSR/Tyros styles

Yes, this site still answers questions and doesn’t just publish rumors and FUD. 🙂

Recently, a member of the PSR Tutorial Forum needed help using a Megavoice in a custom Tyros style. My answer seemed to be useful to a broader audience, so I decided to post my answer here. The information applies to PSR arrangers, too, because the Tyros and PSR share the same SFF1 and SFF2 (SFF GE) style formats.

Megavoice guitars are very different than regular guitar voices.

Regular voices are the usual MIDI voice: 128 velocity levels and only one basic sound. For example, nylon guitar is just the pitched, melodic sound of the notes either louder or softer depending on note velocity.

Megavoice guitars (and other Megavoices) are different. Please look at the Megavoice Map starting on page 16 of the Tyros Data List PDF.

Let’s take a look at the Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes B5 and below, the MIDI velocity is broken into eight (8) ranges:

    1- 20 Open soft
   21- 40 Open med
   41- 60 Open hard
   61- 75 Dead
   76- 90 Mute
   91-105 Hammer
  106-120 Slide
  121-127 Harmonics

Each range plays a different kind of sound. So, the MIDI velocity determines which guitar sound. Then, the velocity within that limited range determines how loud it will be.

Example 1: MIDI note A4, velocity 38 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is loud.

Example 2: MIDI note A4, velocity 2 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is quiet.

Example 3: MIDI note A4, velocity 110, makes a Slide guitar sound.

Now, let’s look at the last two columns in the Megavoice map, again, Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes between C6 and B7, the Tyros plays a Strum noise. The velocity in this case determines the Strum noise loudness over the full range 1-127.

For MIDI notes above C8, the Tyros plays a Fret noise. The velocity determines the fret noise volume and is full range 1-127.

Example 4: MIDI note D8, velocity 127 plays a very loud fret noise.

The Megavoice mapping makes it more difficult to program (sequence) guitar parts than regular voices. The user needs to make sure that the MIDI note is in the desired range (B5 and under, above C6, etc.) and that the MIDI velocity controls what you want.

Yamaha’s proprietary CASM has a few settings to control Mega Voices. The bad news — you can’t change some of these settings.

When I program Megavoice into a style, I use two parts for each Megavoice:

    Part 1: Pitched notes -- all note B5 and below
            NTR: ROOT TRANS or GUITAR
            NTT: MELODY or CHORD
    Part 2: Noise notes -- all notes above C6
            NTR: ROOT FIXED
            NTT: BYPASS

You want the pitched notes to transpose. You don’t want the noise notes to transpose. (Please think of the noise notes like drum notes/sounds.)

I wrote a three part series of articles about capturing Motif/MOX arpeggios and converting them to PSR/Tyros styles:

If you don’t care about Motif/MOX, then skip part one. Parts two and three are more generally useful and describe the conversion of a MIDI file to a style. Part three concentrates on Megavoice conversion.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Flash dance?

So, is someone having a good laugh at us or is someone in trouble for accidentally releasing the Yamaha Genos teaser video? Or, is this a planned flash dance to get the fan base stirred up?

Debate is already raging on the PSR Tutorial Forum about the authenticity of the video. If it’s a fake, then hat’s are off to someone with brilliant production skills.

If you’ve seen the video, the instrument is not shown definitely. Rather, two hands conjure pixie dust into a stylized, 3-Dish instrument. There are one or two brief flashes of the rear view. (Not meaning to be crude, here.) The hands are disconnected from any meaningful musical gestures except for one deliberate gesture at roughly 46 seconds. A hand moves a slider in sync with an sforzando sweep in the soundtrack. Shades of Montage’s “Music in Motion” theme.

Observations include: six knobs, nine sliders, ten registration buttons, (probable) touch screen. Yamaha seem to have cornered the market on red and blue LED given this video and the Montage! Special thanks to Marcus, Maarten and Vinciane on the PSR Tutorial Forum for their keen eyes and steady disposition.

Here are a few captures from the unverified teaser video for the new Yamaha Genos arranger workstation. First up, the Genos logo. [Click on images for higher resolution.]

Next, is a close view of the knobs and faders. Mid-range PSR and Tyros models have a drawbar mode. Perhaps Yamaha have now given the drawbars proper faders? If true, Genos could be a terrific stage gig machine for the non-EDM types who crave quality acoustic piano, electric piano and B-3 organ. A shame that Montage didn’t fully nail drawbar control.

Finally, not so delicately put, is the rear view, presumably with all of the usual connectors provided for.

We’ll know for sure, soon. Dealer preview dates are September 18 (Europe) and September 28 (North America).

If you’re curious about what a new Yamaha arranger might do, then please read my blog posts about recent Yamaha R&D patents:

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

FreePlay style deconstructed

Yamaha FreePlay styles for PSR and Tyros are terrific for music without rhythm instruments and strong rubato (variation in tempo to achieve a musical or emotional effect).

I’m customizing a few FreePlay styles with the intention of using them for liturgical music. In the first pass, I’m changing the OTS voice settings and I’m making a registration that calls up my go-to voices for traditional and contemporary church music.

Of course, my curiosity took over and I had to take a look inside of a FreePlay style or two using a DAW and Michael B’s StyleDump program. I have attached a text file with my working notes. The notes may be too much detail for most readers, so here is a quick summary of what I found. I’ve looked at only two styles so far: EtherealHymn (taken from the CVP-609) and OrganPlay1 (taken from the Church Organ expansion pack).

First off, how does it sound and feel to play a FreePlay style? The accompaniment is triggered and guided by the left hand as usual. (I haven’t tried FreePlay with AI fingering, etc. yet.) The accompaniment plays a gentle pad-like chord and a simple bass. The simplicity provides a blank canvas on which you can embellish to your heart’s content.

You might guess that the MAIN and FILL IN sections are quite simple and you would be right. The MAIN sections in the OrganPlay1 and EtherealHymn styles hold notes for 8 and 32 measures, respectively. The chord source in each case is CMaj7. The BASS track holds a single note (e.g., C2) through the entire section. The chord or pad tracks hold the rest of the notes that make up the CMaj7 chord: E, G and B. Harmony-wise, that’s it!

The FILL IN sections are similar and hold notes for just one measure because FILL IN sections are only one MIDI bar long.

Without a rhythm track, those looooooooong notes have a timeless quality. A musician would rarily — if ever — hold a chord that long. Thus, MAIN sections typically do not re-trigger.

Yamaha’s genuine contribution lies in the INTRO/ENDING sections and the fun MIDI stuff that happens during the MAIN sections. The INTRO and ENDING sections have more “orchestration” and consist of style appropriate introductory and ending phrases. For my own purposes, I will probably stick to the simple INTRO A and ENDING A sections as it’s generally hard to match up more complicated musical phrases with the main theme itself.

The “MIDI stuff” must have been fun to program. The EtherealHymn style has string and choir tracks. The string track has MIDI expression data (Control Change 11 or “CC11”) that repeatedly ramps up for two measures and down for two measures. The ramp pattern creates alternating string swells up and swells down. Other control change patterns are rather unusual and I’ll leave that for you to explore with a DAW! (All you need to do is to change the “.STY” or “.FPS” extension to “.MID” and import the renamed file into a DAW.)

One could create a basic FreePlay style from scratch. The MIDI notes in the MAIN and FILL IN sections are dirt simple. The fun part would be selecting instrument voices and effects with dynamic elements that give life to the accompaniment. Then there is the creative aspect of driving the voices and effects with MIDI controller data. For INTRO and ENDING sections, a little Bach or Mozart would do.

Hmmm, sounds like a fun wintertime project!

Arranger memory: One more time!

OK, OK, not everyone reads service manuals and schematics for their keyboard. However, I do get a little frustrated when posters compare apples to oranges, and make statements like “I can buy 1GByte for $1 (USD), so why is Yamaha so stingy with wave memory?”

Here is some information from the S750/S950 and Tyros5 service manuals and product data sheets. Please keep in mind that there are many different kinds of memory in an arranger. I’m going to focus on tone generation because that is the most relevant to wave memory size.

Both the S750/S950 and Tyros5 use proprietary Yamaha tone generator integrated circuits designated “SWP51L”. The S750/S950 designs use one SWP51L and the Tyros5 has two SWP51L chips. Each SWP51L has two dedicated memory ports (called “HIGH” and “LOW”) where each port consists of an address bus and a 16-bit parallel data bus.

In the S750/S950, each port is connected to a WAVE ROM:

    S750 WAVE ROM-L 1Gbit IC308   JS28F00AM29EWLA
    S750 WAVE ROM-H 1Gbit IC302   JS28F00AM29EWLA

That’s 128MBytes per device for a total of 256MBytes (2 times 128MBytes).

The Tyros5 microarchitecture is a little more complicated — the memory devices are shared between two SWP51Ls via separate shared address and data busses. There are six WAVE ROM integrated circuits:

    Tyros5 WAVE ROM-L0 1Gbit IC702   S29GL01GS10TFI020
    Tyros5 WAVE ROM-H0 1Gbit IC716   S29GL01GS10TFI020
    Tyros5 WAVE ROM-L1 1Gbit IC703   S29GL01GS10TFI020
    Tyros5 WAVE ROM-H1 1Gbit IC717   S29GL01GS10TFI020
    Tyros5 WAVE ROM-L2 1Gbit IC704   S29GL01GS10TFI020
    Tyros5 WAVE ROM-H2 1Gbit IC718   S29GL01GS10TFI020

That’s a total of 768MBytes (6 times 128MBytes).

Those cryptic names in the tables above identify the specific memory component. The components come from two vendors: Micro Technology and Spansion. Here are the gory details.

    Micron Technology JS28F00AM29EWLA  56-pin TSOP
        Parallel NOR Flash Embedded Memory
        Configurable width data bus (8- or 16-bits)
        Asynchronous random/page read
            Page access speed: 25ns
            Random access speed: 110ns
            Page size: 16 words or 32 bytes

    Spansion S29GL01GS10TFI020 56-bit TSOP

        GL-S MirrorBit Eclipse Flash Non-Volatile Memory
        S29GL01GS 1 Gbit (128 Mbyte)
        16-bit parallel data bus
        Asynchronous 32-byte page read
            Page access speed: 25ns
            Random access speed: 100ns
        Program and erase rates (i.e., write speed)
            Buffer Programming (512 bytes) 1.5 MB/s
            Sector Erase (128 kbytes) 477 kB/s

The read speed (25ns per 16-bit word in page mode) is much faster than write speed, and that’s OK in this application because the data is always read once it’s loaded/initialized. The SWP51L probably operates in page mode since the samples are accessed sequentially. Dunno ’bout you, but 25 nanoseconds per 16-bit word is darned fast. The access speed is MUCH higher than a typical USB flash drive.

Two 27-bit address busses and two 16-bit data busses are sent to/from the plug-in expansion board. These busses extend the two shared WAVE ROM busses. The expansion board needs to keep up with the high read rate.

Please note that the CPU does not get anywhere near the sample streams. That work is assigned to the SWP51Ls.

Hope this helps to clarify.

Crunchin’ da drums

In my last post, I discussed Motif/MOX eight zone (8Z) drum kits. The eight zone concept lets you assemble eight different percussion sounds into a custom kit. The waveforms are assigned to voice elements and are stretched/limited to eight different keyboard (MIDI note) zones. The Motif/MOX have matching arpeggios that work with the 8Z kits.

By the way, the 8Z drum kits were first introduced with the Motif XS. My notes on the 8Z kits and this note on effects apply to all later models including the Motif XF and MOXF.

If you have ever tried the percussion sounds alone without effects, the drum sounds are kind of “plain Jane” without a lot of impact. This post deconstructs a couple of effects which can be applied to break beats and other styles that require crunch and animation.

The first effect chain is taken from the Voice PRE8:060 “8Z Romps.” The voice has two insert effects connected in series. INSERT A is a Lo-Fi algorithm with the following parameters (effect preset “Max Lo-Fi”):

    #  Parameter              Value    Numeric
   --  ---------------------  -------  -------
    1  Sampling Freq Control  4.01KHz  (10)
    2  Word Length            93       (93)
    3  Output Gain            +7 dB    (14)
    4  LPF Cutoff             20.0KHz  (60)
    5  Filter Type            Radio    (2) 
    6  LPF Resonance          10.0     (100)
    7  Bit Assign             2        (2)
    8  Emphasis               On       (1)
   10  Dry/Wet                D<W63    (127)
   15  Input Mode             Stereo   (1)

The parameter number, name, values, etc. are taken from the MOX Data List. (See the section titled “Effect Parameter List” in the PDF file). The numeric values — given here in decimal — are what you need to program the effect through System Exclusive MIDI messages. More about this in a minute.

The Lo-Fi effect adds a lot of crunch and crush. But, wait! There’s more. The INSERT B effect is the AmpSim 1 amp simulator. Its parameters are:

    #  Parameter              Value    Numeric
   --  ---------------------  -------  -------
    1  Over Drive             54%      (54)
    2  Device                 dst1     (2)
    3  Speaker                Combo    (2)
    4  Presence               +10      (10)
    5  Output Level           34%      (34)
   10  Dry/Wet                D<W63    (127)

This is the “Beat Crunch” effect preset.

Please remember that my goal is to use the 8Z break beats in a PSR/Tyros style. In order to do accomplish this, I found the equivalent effects algorithms for the Yamaha PSR-S950 arranger workstation. Here are the equivalent algorithms:

    MOX            PSR-S950
    --------       -----------------------------
    Lo-Fi    --->  Lo-Fi DRUM1 (MSB:94 LSB:18)
    AmpSim 1 --->  V_DIST CRUNC (MSB:98 LSB:18 )

Unfortunately, the XG effects architecture supports at most one system-wide variation effect or one per-part insert effect. So, I decided to use the Lo-Fi algorithm because it seemed to provide most of the grit and nastiness that I was seeking.

It took a little detective work to find and match up the corresponding effect algorithms between the Motif/MOX and the PSR/Tyros. The effect type is enough to get into the same neighborhood. The rest of the sleuthing involves comparing the parameter lists in order to find the exact (or best) match. The MOX has Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM) effects and the S950 does not. Therefore, you may not always be able to find an exact match.

With the S950 Data List in hand, I translated the effect parameters into the hexadecimal System Exclusive (SysEx) messages to configure the Lo-Fi effect on the PSR:

    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 40 5E 12 F7   Variation Type
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 5A 01 F7      Variation Connection (SYSTEM)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 42 00 0A F7   PARAMETER 1 Sampling Freq Control (10)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 44 00 5D F7   PARAMETER 2 Word Length (93)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 46 00 0E F7   PARAMETER 3 Output Gain (14)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 48 00 3C F7   PARAMETER 4 LPF Cutoff (60)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 4A 00 02 F7   PARAMETER 5 Filter Type (2)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 4C 00 64 F7   PARAMETER 6 LPF Resonance (100)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 4E 00 02 F7   PARAMETER 7 Bit Assign (2)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 50 00 01 F7   PARAMETER 8 Emphasis (1)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 54 00 7F F7   PARAMETER 10 Dry/Wet (127)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 74 01 F7      PARAMETER 15 Stereo  (1)

I configured the effect as a system-wide variation effect such that multiple percussion parts may be sent to the effect. I inserted the SysEx messages into the set-up measure of the PSR style file using SONAR (my usual DAW/sequencer). Yow, the difference between the percussion sounds without and with this effect is like night and day!

The MOX insert effects are followed by a system-wide Tempo Cross Delay effect (effect preset “4beat Echo”). This effect adds a nice bit of animation to the overall sound. The MOX effect parameters are:

    #  Parameter              Value    Numeric
   --  ---------------------  -------  -------
    1  Delay Time L>R         4th      (11)
    2  Delay Time R>L         8th.     (10)
    3  Feedback Level         16       (80)
    4  Input Select           L        (0)
    5  Feedback High Dump     0.5      (5)
    6  Lag                    0ms      (64)
   10  Dry/Wet                D<W63    (127)
   13  EQ Low Frequency       250Hz    (22)
   14  EQ Low Gain            0dB      (64)
   15  EQ High Frequency      4.0KHz   (46)
   16  EQ High Gain           0dB      (64)

The equivalent S950 effect is TEMPO CROSS1 (MSB:22 LSB:0). I assigned this effect to the system-wide CHORUS block.

Here are the S950 (XG) SysEx messages to configure the delay effect in the CHORUS block:

    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 20 16 00 F7  Chorus Type TEMPO CROSS1
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 22 0B F7     PARAMETER 1 Delay Time L<R     (11)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 23 0A F7     PARAMETER 2 Delay Time R<L     (10)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 24 50 F7     PARAMETER 3 Feedback Level     (80)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 25 00 F7     PARAMETER 4 Input Selection    (0)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 26 05 F7     PARAMETER 5 Feedback High Dump (5)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 27 40 F7     PARAMETER 6 Lag                (64)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 2B 7F F7     PARAMETER 10 Dry/Wet           (127)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 32 16 F7     PARAMETER 13 EQ Low Frequency  (22)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 33 40 F7     PARAMETER 14 EQ Low Gain       (64)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 34 2E F7     PARAMETER 15 EQ High Frequency (46)
    F0 43 10 4C 02 01 35 40 F7     PARAMETER 16 EQ High Gain      (64)

A little bit of delay on a busy drum part goes a long way. The send level (not shown here) is relatively low — just enough to add a little animation to the sound without creating a lot of clutter. It sounds OK, but I might adjust the send level dynamically and add more delay to exposed parts like the break while keeping the MAIN sections clean.

I hope this short effects clinic helps you out!