Tenor to the max!

A few posts ago, I deconstructed the Yamaha MOX (Motif XS) tenor saxophone patches. The article summarizes the waveform assignment and Expanded Articulation (XA) control for each element within a preset voice. I’m not going to dive into the basics here, so I recommend reviewing the article for background information on XA and its behavior.

The blog entry covered the MOX (Motif XS) tenor sax presets, but not the newer Motif XF (MOXF) presets. The XF series workstations have two additional waveforms:

  1. Tenor Sax2 Growl
  2. Tenor Sax2 Falls

bringing the XF up to the level of Tyros/PSR Super Articulation tenor sax voices. This article deconstructs the “Tenor MAX” preset which makes use of these additional waveforms. The analysis is relevant even in the Montage era because the Montage tenor sax is based upon the XF waveforms (no update in the new model).

Pushing the main topic aside for a moment, Super Articulation 2 (SArt2) voices are a whole different technology and even to this day, the Motif and Montage do not implement SArt2 voices. SArt2 seems to be a premium feature that is reserved for Tyros. SArt2 requires realtime analysis of playing gestures and computation which is beyond basic AWM2 synthesis.

The table below gives the waveform, key range, and velocity range for each element in the “Tenor MAX” patch.

    Elem#  Waveform            XA        Notes   Velocity
    -----  ------------------  --------  ------  --------
      1    Tenor Sax2 Soft     AllAFOff  C-2 G8    1   79
      2    Tenor Sax2 Med      AllAFOff  C-2 G8   80  110
      3    Tenor Sax2 Growl    AllAFOff  C-2 G8  126  127
      4    Tenor Sax2 Hard     AllAFOff  C-2 G8  111  125
      5    Tenor Sax2 Hard     AF2 On    C-2 G8    1  127
      6    Tenor Sax2 Falls    AF1 On    C-2 G8    1  127

When the AF1 and AF2 buttons are OFF, one of the first four waveforms are triggered based upon the key velocity. The four elements cover the dynamic range from soft, through medium, through hard, all the way up to growl. The AF1 and AF2 buttons select particular waveforms depending upon the player’s intention. When AF2 is ON, all key velocities trigger the hard waveform. When AF1 is ON, all key velocities trigger sax falls.

So, bottom line, the “Tenor MAX” programming is just about what I expected.

I hope the analysis of tenor sax programming has helped you to understand XA and Motif/MOX voice programming. If you’re a Tyros/PSR player, then I hope that this analysis has helped you to understand a little bit of the technology beneath the Super Articulation voices.

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!

Groovin’ in eight zones

I heard a great interpretation of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” by Groovy Waters. Their work inspired me to create a down-tempo PSR/Tyros style with break beats that would let me jam over the changes (Bm-A-E-E).

And that led me into a whole new exploration in Motif/MOX and PSR/Tyros styles!

While goofing around with the Yamaha MOX6 workstation, I stumbled into some break beats with “8Z” in the name. I noticed that the “8Z” arpeggios are targeted for voices with “8Z” in their names. So, what is this “8Z” business?

The Motif XS (and MOX) added 8-zone drum kits and arpeggios, hence, the “8Z” in the names. A conventional drum kit has dozens of individual percussion sounds laid out across the MIDI note range (AKA “the keyboard”). An 8-zone kit is an extension of a regular synth voice where each voice element is assigned a percussion sound. The usual upper and lower note limits determine the key range for each sound. Here is the element information for the PRE8:060 “8Z Romps” voice:

                            Name        Note#
                         ----------   ---------
    Waveform             Low   High   Low  High
    ----------------     ----  ----   ---- ----
    BD T9-4               C0    C1     24   36  
    SD Elec7              C#1   F1     37   41  
    China St              F#1   C2     42   48  
    SD Rim SE             C#2   C3     49   60  
    Bd Jungle 2           C#3   F#3    61   66  
    Bd Distortion4        G3    C4     67   72  
    Bd Distortion RM      C#4   C5     73   84  
    Bd D&B2               C#5   C6     85   96  

Each waveform is stretched across a multi-key zone. Thus, each of the notes within a zone have a slightly pitch-shifted tone, allowing for tonal variation in patterns where repeated notes are played in sequence. Since these are basically regular synth voices, you are also free to mess about with the filter, amplitude envelope and all the usual sound design goodies.

The arpeggios designed for the “8Z Romps” voice do just that. (See “MA_8Z Romps” and so forth.) The pitch shift, etc. breaks up the monotony of repeated notes.

The “8 zone” idea makes it easy to cobble new drum kits together from the diaspora of waveforms in the regular drum kits. You probably don’t need more than eight different percussion sounds for a set of basic beats. A quick survey of other “8Z” kits shows this to be true:

    8Z HeavyHearts      8Z Chilly Breakz    8Z Gated Beatz
    --------------      ----------------    --------------
    Bd T9-1             Bd HipHop6          Bd Gate
    Bd Hard Long        Sd HipHop9          Bd HipHop9
    SD Elec12           Sd T8-1             Sd HipHop6
    Sd HipHop6          HH Closed T8-2      Sd Hip Gate
    HH Closed D&B       HH Open T8-2        HH Closed T8-1
    HH Open T9          Electric Perc1      HH Open T8-1
    Clap AnSm           Sleigh Bell         Noise Burst
    Shaker Hip 2        Shaker Hip 1        Shaker Hip 1

These kits have a different key layout than “8Z Romps”. In fact, these 8Z kits have a few zones that resemble the conventional kit layout — the bass drums (Bd) cover the notes where bass drum is usually found, the snare drums (Sd) cover the usual notes for snare drum, etc. Thus, you can play “regular” drum arpeggios through these 8Z voices and they sound just fine. The upper range elements cover a wide range of notes and are the “catch all” for the usual percussion spice such as conga, shakers, guiro, triangle and the like. With the pitch shifting, the “catch all” approach can produce some hip patterns.

There is far more fun to be had. I came across the “8Z” kits and arpeggios while playing the Performance USR2:102(G06) Ibiza Growl Sax. This Performance had the feel that I was looking for, although I wasn’t too pleased with the sax voice. (A problem that is easily fixed.) The Performance assigns “8Z Romps” to the first voice, but, wait! It plays break beats through “8Z Romps” that were not designed for “8Z Romps”, having different zones, etc. Cool. Yamaha sound designers are not only good at following the rules, they are equally adept at breaking the rules, too.

I decided to go ahead with the break beats from Ibiza Growl Sax even though the PSR/Tyros do not have “8Z” drum kits. I had to unwind all of the 8Z-ness and map the percussion voices to standard PSR-S950 drum kits. Unfortunately, the repetitive patterns are a little bit plain even though the musical feel is still good.

Next up, crushing the drums and bouncing them around.

MOX interview: Follow up

Here’s a quick follow up after my interview with Yamaha marketing.

First, the word “conversation” is a better description than “interview.” I had a really enjoyable, high-bandwidth conversation with fellow gear-heads. What could be better than that? The Yamaha team members are friendly, extremely knowledgeable and open. They are also good listeners and had read my pre-interview MOX retrospective.

So, thanks to Yamaha for listening!

I also learned some things that I intend to put into practice going forward. We discussed how I created the voices that I use on my church gig and the issue of sound dropping across voice changes in MOX Voice Mode. One way to avoid sound cut-off is to use Song Mode instead of Voice Mode. Assign a voice to each part in Song Mode and then select parts on the fly. I’ll have to give this a try. I also want to experiment with the assignable knobs for drawbar control and Song Mode may be part of this solution, too.

Since the conversation was relatively short — about 25 minutes with my MacBook Air crashing due to a thermal overload part way through (Yikes!) — I went blank on some of the reasons and history for my work style. For example, I created the voices for the church gig through the front panel and didn’t use either the PC- or iPad-based editors. I since reconstructed my mind-set from way-back-when. I’m sure that I was sooooo anxious to use the MOX at the gig that I just dove into the front panel. I had programmed a TG-500 back in the day and the Yamaha voice architecture was still familiar to me. (The Motif/MOX effects structure is way easier to understand than the old TG, thankfully.) The last thing I needed was a software editor to get between me and the gig!

I didn’t have an iPad when I bought the MOX6 and wasn’t aware of the Yamaha apps for Motif/MOX. The apps — once I learned about them — motivated me to budget for and to buy the iPad. Aside from Web-browsing and e-mail, my iPad is almost entirely devoted to music-making tools (no cat videos). I have both Cubasis and Mobile Music Sequencer (MMS) installed. MMS gets used; Cubasis not so much. Cubase is one of those tools that I want to learn — kind of like my current explorations in Ableton Live.

Starting today, I would use the iPad apps. Heck, I should (would) check out the Yamaha PC-based editor and the fine Motif/MOX tools by John Melas.

Well, there you have it. A positive experience all the way around!

If you’re curious about how I use the MOX for content creation, please check out the following posts and pages:

And now for something completely different

Been a while since the last post, eh?

After the intensive push to publish courseware, I took a little “dreadlock holiday” and spent the last few months devoted to music. (Ahhh, the privileges of retirement!) In particular, I decided to deep dive into the Yamaha MOX workstation which is now my main gigging instrument. I learned to create songs using the rather wonderful library of musical phrases that are built into the MOX. I bought an iPad to use some of the many apps developed by Yamaha, including the Yamaha Mobile Music Sequencer.

As always, in the spirit of sharing what I have learned, I have published a page about getting started with the Yamaha MOX synthesizer. It describes my own journey and it is meant to complement the MOX owner’s manual. I hope that it helps you out.

Finally, I also learned a lot more about “arranger” keyboards. These keyboards ain’t your father’s Wurlitzer any more and surely have a place in professional studios as well as the home recreation room. I’ll have more to say about arranger keyboards in a future post.

On the nerd front, I took a side trip into the basics of quantum mechanics and quantum computing.

Needless to say, this all took a bit of time.