Monday, June 16, 2014

MIDI Sale! Save 20% at Yamaha MusicSoft

Save on all MIDI songs, including sports anthems to celebrate the upcoming big game festivities.

Now through Sunday, June 22, save 20% on all titles in our MIDI catalog, including "Dare La La La (Brazil 2014)," "To Brazil," "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," "We Are One (Ole Ola)" and more.

*Offer cannot be combined with other promotions. Sale ends June 22nd at 11:59PM PDT.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Interview with PianoSoft Artist, Bryan Pezzone

We recently had a wonderful chat with Bryan Pezzone, performer on the PianoSoft album "Let the Sunshine In - The 5th Dimension". In addition to performing on countless Yamaha PianoSoft albums, Bryan is well known for his versatility and virtuosity as a recording and performing artist, improviser and composer. He performs with many major symphony orchestra associations, tours widely with the jazz group Free Flight, and is known in the Los Angeles area as a primary free-lance pianist for film and television soundtrack recording, contemporary music premieres, and chamber music.

You can hear Bryan's work on many cartoons and animated features released by Warner Brothers and Disney, hundreds of major motion pictures and most recently in the film, The Wolverine. We are incredibly appreciative of the time he took to share his thoughts with us.

It’s great to have you here at the Yamaha Headquarters. What are you working on today, something new? 

Yes, I’m working on a new project, Alfred Burt Christmas Carols. These are really wonderful pieces that not a lot of non-choral people know. Alfred Burt was a Pastor who was also in the military, he moved around the country and was stationed from place to place when he wrote these Christmas carols. To my ear, they’re a blend of traditional, sort of, European chant-like carols and traditional French carols like “Caroling, Caroling”. He takes this blend and throws in some other harmonies that are a little more jazzy and they are really beautiful. I’m just getting to know him and I’m really looking forward to playing this music. It’s good holiday music. 

The newest PianoSoft album that we’re releasing that features your playing is The 5th Dimension. Do you remember working on this project? 

Yes, indeed, I remember 5th Dimension! When I was a kid and watching TV, I remember The 5th Dimension coming on the Johnny Carson show when I was about 7, 8 or 9 years old. They became one of my favorite soul groups because they wore all of this funky, metallic stuff and “Age of Aquarius” was their biggest hit. I loved that song as a kid because it started off so spooky and it was about outer space and then here’s this soul band playing it will all this rhythm and blues to it. That really captivated me. I just loved those guys, so when this project came up I was excited to do it and basically recorded a lot of songs I didn’t know they did. That was a great project to do. 

When I do a project, especially if it’s a pop group, like a Queen or Elvis or 5th Dimension, I don’t do the Hollywood hit version. The Hollywood hit version is the background pianist that just sits there with the chart and plays every single song in the world the same way. What I do is really listen deeply to the band -- what their drummer is doing, what their bass player is doing, what their orchestrations are and what their voices are, and then I go, “Oh! There’s a reason why this band sounds exactly like this band.” *laughs* Then I try to capture that in the piano playing and add pianistic things to it. Projects like these give me an opportunity to really learn about the band and learn about what makes a pop or rock act that’s well known ... unique. What really makes it special from just being your generic wedding band.

How do you do it? How do you take a band and vocals and reduce it down to piano for two hands? Are you thinking inner voices in the middle, are you always thinking melody on top or do you move things around?

I think the hierarchy starts from the vocal elements no matter what the music is. The Billy Joel projects, Freddy Mercury projects, the Elvis and Elton projects and in the 5th Dimension project, the main quality of what makes their sound is their voice. It could be a single voice, or it could be harmony. So, first of all -- however I can capture that, vibe-wise, on the piano, I do. For example, Johnny Cash, if the voice is swooping and swooning, I’ll stick it in a register and I’ll use different slips and slides to basically get that tone. 

The second thing I listen to with a group is, I can only call it “groove”, I listen to what makes their groove their groove. It usually has to do with the following: what is bass player doing and how much is the bass player playing? It also has to do with the internal rhythm, is it filled up with a lot of stuff in a certain way or is it basic. Then there’s how the band is orchestrated, is it raw or are there added strings? 

Do you write this stuff down?

Well, I do a scratch copy of the tunes and I’ll write it down in hieroglyphics and listen to the song over and over and over again to ingest the sound of the piece. I’ll play it at home and then I’ll usually come in here to the Yamaha studio and remind myself to put on the metronome. You’ll always play faster than what tune goes. One of the challenges is, especially with the 5th Dimension project, is those tunes are set in quarter note = 72 and quarter note = 80 and you sit down and instantly play them three times as fast! I had to re-do a number of them to make it work at the right tempo. *chuckles*

Is it true that you do alternate versions? When you do a take, do you play it differently the next time? 

I do! I’ll basically play a number of different takes until I find the basic ballpark of which one is going to work the best for the triangulation of the idea. Here’s the band, here’s me, here’s the Disklavier parameters. Once I find the best version to polish up, I’ll do different takes to find the kind of sweet spot and then go from there.

Maybe someday we can release the alternate recordings of Bryan Pezzone projects.

Yes! You should see what those are filled in with -- cartoon music, slips and slides, jokes. *laughs*

So, outside of Yamaha, what other fun projects have you been working on lately? 

Well, I just played Rhapsody in Blue the other weekend with the California Philharmonic. That was fantastic! Let’s see ... lots of movies stuff. I worked on Spiderman and Big Miracle last year. The last big movie was with Marco Beltrami, The Wolverine. 

I’ve probably played on more than a few hundred movies and a lot of TV shows. The projects I’m most proud of are Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, I loved playing on those. It was great! Richard Stone, he was the composer, was a master. He studied Carl Stalling scores and he had it down to an art-form. He knew what Carl Stalling did and when. If such and such blinked, he used a xylophone, and when something else happened he used a bassoon. Rich imported all those nuances that are in the era of cartoon watching. For these shows, I was playing with the greatest musicians in the world! Ralph Humphrey (Zappas original drummer and the drummer for Dancing with the Stars) and I, in between takes, were running a chess board and had this long-term 10-year chess match going on. Richard Stone was so cool, he’d say, “Ok, guys, time to stop playing chess,” turn on the red light and boom, we’d lay it down and it was a gas. The way that Rich Stone just let us play and play around was phenomenal. The energy and fun all became part of the music. These were special days, very special days. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Styles: Slow Jazz Ballad, Kids Songs 2, Ho Hey Folk, Gangnam Dance and More

We've added several new Styles to our catalog at Yamaha MusicSoft!

Slow Jazz Ballad is complete with three intros and endings and four style variations. Use this Premium Style to play your favorite slow jazz tunes from "At Last" to "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most", and beyond.

Kids Songs 2 a perfect way to get children interested in music. Play classics such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Old Gray Mare", then speed up the tempo to play songs like "London Bridge" and "This Old Man". The bouncy beat will even work for show tunes, including "If I Only Had a Brain" and "Singin' in the Rain".

Additionally, we have a great collection of Yamaha Styles. From Ho Hey Folk to Gangnam Dance and Sunshine Reggae to Marching Pop, there's something for everyone in the catalog.

Watch videos and listen to sample songs from each style at

Interested in hearing the story behind our Styles? Keep reading for an exclusive interview with a Yamaha Style Programmer featuring tips for getting the most out of styles on your instrument, details on what makes Yamaha's files the highest quality files around, and what exactly goes into the style production process.

Styles can serve almost any musical purpose - they can provide hours fun playing around with different musical ideas, they can help you learn about chords and harmonies, or they can provide a totally customizable accompaniment for a performance. They're so simple to use and flexible that they can seem almost magical, allowing you to control every aspect of full band sound with only your left hand. We here at Yamaha MusicSoft were curious about what exactly goes into making that magic, and figured that anyone else who uses style files on a regular basis would feel the same way.

So, to shed light on the finer points of Yamaha's style files, we turned to one of the lead style producers from Yamaha's research and development division in England. As a member of a small team of the programmers responsible for all of Yamaha styles, he has worked on every Premium Style as well as the styles that come pre-loaded on Yamaha's keyboards. In our brief interview he let us in on some information that should come in handy to anyone using styles, and will hopefully give you some new insight that you can put to use in your keyboard performances.

Q. What, exactly, is a style file?

A. A Style File contains music (MIDI) and system parameters that are played by
the Style Engine. All Yamaha keyboards featuring Styles have a Style Engine
built in their software. It smoothly and seamlessly recognizes and follows
chord progressions played on the keyboard, then instantaneously plays the
selected Style File to sound the correct chord and instruments to provide an
interactive accompaniment.

Q. What goes into making a style file? What's the basic process, and where do you come in?

A. After deciding what to make, the actual 'making' process is quite

First up is writing the music. Our creative programmers compose the Style
introductions and endings, the main sections, fill-ins and rhythm breaks,
ensuring they will work within the style system parameters, whilst also
capturing the essence of the required musical image.

After creating the musical aspects, the style is then technically checked.
This is a detailed process which includes playing each style section in
every key, using all recognized chord types.

The final stage of 'making' is mixing. Yamaha's studio technicians set
volumes, DSP effects, EQ and many detailed audio parameters, carefully
engineering the final sound field of each style.

Yamaha has a huge range of products, many of which have completely different
sounds. Another creative job is cross-grading Styles so that they get the
best out of each instrument in the range. This ensures customers experience
the best possible quality from their instruments Styles.

My role includes overseeing the creative processes but changes depending on
whether the style itself is destined to be in a product or sold via the
internet as a Premium Style. It's probably a good time to mention that all
Yamaha Premium Styles go through exactly the same 'making' process as the
styles built in the products themselves, ensuring they are of the highest

Q. How is producing a style different from producing a MIDI song file?

A.A MIDI song file is linear and plays a specific song. A Style reacts in
realtime to chords you play on the keyboard, producing an accompaniment or
'backing band' for the music you are playing.

From a producing point of view, you would either be making an arrangement of
a song or a sound alike, in both cases no original composition is required.
When making a song you don't take care that it sounds good when transposed
into different keys, whereas this is hugely important when making a style.

As a user, for MIDI songs you can turn tracks on and off, adjust the tempo
and transpose keys, but you don't have any real control over the song, it
just plays... With styles you are in control of what the band actually
play, leaving you free to sporadically repeat a chorus or create a new

Q. Yamaha puts a lot care into making sure that their instruments are top quality, and that same care goes into style file creation. But what does that mean in the final product? How does Yamaha's famous quality come across in a style file?

A.The care and attention to detail of Yamaha's content creating staff is
nothing other than obsessive, the team always goes that extra step to push
the bar ever higher. In the final product this passion becomes clear. Of
course you have the overall sound which has been carefully crafted, but each
individual part of every style has been produced so it plays and sounds like
a real instrument. If you solo parts of the Style like drums, bass, guitars
etc., you can hear the detail that goes into realizing each of these parts.
Put the parts together and you have a Style that really sounds and plays
like a band or orchestra.

The content team uses the best possible musicians and technicians to
compose, arrange, check, mix and finalize each style to make sure it sounds
and plays great in our products.

Q. What are some of the coolest uses for styles that you've seen?

A.I think experimenting by turning different parts of a style (RHY, BASS,
CHRD1 etc.) on and off, you can really create some nice results. If you
think of the parts of a style as your band members, you are effectively
changing your line-up.

The vast range of musical genres covered by Yamaha's Styles makes it easy to
experiment playing with different grooves and sounds, discovering new ways
to express your music.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Spring Sale! Save 20% on Everything at Yamaha MusicSoft

Spring has sprung at Yamaha MusicSoft. Brighten up your Clavinova, portable keyboard, Disklavier or other MIDI keyboard with this special Spring Sale! From now until Wednesday, May 1st, save 20% on everything* sold at Yamaha MusicSoft. Check out the latest Yamaha Premium Styles, MIDI Song downloads, PianoSoft, Custom Audio Backing Tracks, sheet music and more!

Enjoy the sale!


*Offer excludes Premium Packs & Voices and Voice & Style Expansion Packs. Offer cannot be combined with other promotions. Sale expires May 1st at 12AM PDT.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Beatles, Coldplay, The Lumineers & More New in NoteStar

We are excited to release another 30 songs in the NoteStar store this week. This time around we have a great mix of tunes in the Solo Piano Series, Full Band Series and Full Band With Vocals Series.

Grab your iPad and head to the NoteStar store to preview and purchase new additions from The Beatles, Coldplay and The Lumineers, as well as essential works from Mozart, Handel and Bach!