Monday, August 18, 2008

PianoSoft Review: Rising Star Series (1 of 3)

PianoSoft Review: Rising Star Series

Rising Star is an original series from Yamaha recorded especially for Yamaha disklavier / player pianos. These titles take advantage of the disklavier's sensitivity to each performer's individual touch, allowing you to enjoy solo piano performances by today's best young pianists.

Part 1 of 3: "Strangely Familiar Melodies"
To start, I'll introduce three titles featuring well known compositions you may already be familiar with, but whose performance here may surprise you.

Derek Wieland "Red Hot Romantics"

You'd never guess it by looking at his promotional photo, but in addition to his work as a classical pianist Derek Wieland is also active on the rock scene with his own band. Only Wieland, who has played with such titans of progressive rock as Jon Anderson of Yes and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, can perform so floridly and dramatically.

On this album Wieland tackles several famously difficult Franz Liszt pieces with remarkable technical virtuosity, as well as well known pieces by Bach and Schubert arranged by Liszt. He is also able to channel Debussy with a light and lyrical touch. In Derek's hands these familiar melodies are imbued with an opulent, romantic quality.

Noriko Suzuki: "My Favorite Repertoire"

New York based pianist Noriko Suzuki’s album casts a wide net, from 18th century works by Rameau to contemporary pieces by Kabalevsky, making this a truly unique title.

Pieces composed in different eras also show differences in harmonic progression, reverberation, and range, all calling for their own unique touch. A true test for any pianist is how well they can express those different styles and still play them with feeling and personality. Noriko's clear playing here makes the nuances of each era come alive in a truly expressive performance.

Particularly enjoyable are the three pieces from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet op. 64."

Adam Birnbaum "Songs Made Famous by Frank Sinatra"

Blurring the line between the classical and jazz worlds, pianist Adam Birnbaum may be the perfect person to interpret the works of Frank Sinatra. Perfectly balancing jazz and classical, this album takes an intelligent and sophisticated approach to bring the works of Sinatra into the present.

It's true for any piece of music, but especially here it's useful to pay attention to the
"tension" and "release" in the playing. So much depends on how tension naturally created by harmony and rhythm is released with exquisite timing. Birnbaum is a master of tension and release timing; just listen to the harmonies on "How Deep is the Ocean" or his use of rhythm on "Night and Day" and you'll be transported.


Products Reviewed:
Derek Wieland "Red Hot Romantics" - PianoSoft Solo
Noriko Suziki: "My Favorite Repertoire" - PianoSoft Solo
Adam Birnbaum "Songs Made Famous by Frank Sinatra" - PianoSoft Solo

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Tyros 3 is coming!

Anticipation has been running high for the latest addition to Yamaha's arranger workstation series, the Tyros 3. We can't really say much about it right now, but for those of you who are interested here's the official site:

Product Review: A Beginner's Look at Style Files

As a beginning piano player I didn’t really understand all the options of Style Files until I tried some of them on the Tyros 2. To try them out I downloaded two Style Files specifically designed for the Tyros 2’s sound set: the “Dance 6” single style and the “Blues & Soul” bundle disk then began experimenting with the different sounds they created.

Dance 6 caught my attention with the blend of voices used in Variation B. Soft Mini and Bright Ober (Right 1 +2) together creates an appealing contrast to the left voice (Strings) that mixes well with the Dance beat.

(The above sample requires the Quicktime Plugin to play. If you can't see an audio player you can download Quicktime for free here.)

The Blues & Soul bundle disk contains 8 style files, each with a different set of beats and voices. With the Moore Blues style I really discovered the fun of the style files. By combining the Matrix and Jazz Organ 1 voices from Main Variation A, I discovered a hypnotic voice that produces a bizarrely fascinating sound.

(The above sample requires the Quicktime Plugin to play. If you can't see an audio player you can download Quicktime for free here.)

The mix of sounds used in the Blues Rock style gives a truly authentic Blues sound. The combination of Blues Guitar and Growl Sax that can be selected from Variation D produces a sweet harmony that sounds great with the accompaniment.

(The above sample requires the Quicktime Plugin to play. If you can't see an audio player you can download Quicktime for free here.)

I ended my experiment by playing with Barry Disco – a funky sound that was fun to play with, but it left me with one qualm—that the Tyros 2 does not have Mr. White’s deep baritone as a voice option.

-Jeff the Intern

Products Reviewed:

Dance 6 - Midi Spot Tyros Single Style

Blues & Soul - Midi Spot Tyros 2 Style Disk

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Welcome to the YMS Blog!

Welcome to the new blog!

On this blog we'll cover all the new services and accessories from Yamaha Music, including accessories, premium styles player piano music from, digital sheet music from Digital Music Notebook, new updates to our keyboard direct Internet Direct Connection service, 24 hour streaming Disklavier Radio, and much more.

Check in to hear about products on the site before they are released, for tutorials on getting the most out of your instrument, and for fun links and updates! We look forward to reading and responding to your comments!

-The YMIA Marketing Team
(Patrick, Jamie, Doug, Aki)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New DVD's and Computer Software Online

We've just added a selection of close to 100 new products to, including DVDs, recording and composing software and more. (You can see the newest products on YMS by clicking here.)

Some of the highlights of the new recording software include Cubase Essential 4, an affordable version of the popular Cubase recording and editing program. We are also carrying a new student version of Sibelius, reasonably priced for music students and weekend warriors who still need a powerful music notation software.

I'm also personally excited about the "Jazz Master Class at NYU" series of instructional DVDs. Some of the world's greatest jazz musicians perform their favorite songs for Manhattan audiences and then explain the development of their styles and techniques in an accessible manner, intended for the general musician. Each DVD is just $19.95 and contains over 5 hours of footage!

The series includes some of my favorite jazz musicians, like Cecil Taylor, Hank Jones, and the unsung master Barry Harris.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Product Review: Adam Makovicz - The New World

Over the past few weeks we've been going through the Virtuoso Performance PianoSoft series, updating information about them on our site and featuring them prominently. These are easily some of the finest titles recorded for the disklavier.

One of these, Adam Makovicz's "The New World", features not just the beautiful playing plus excellent tone and control of other titles in the series, but new and interesting arrangements of classic jazz standards. Known mostly as an accomplished classical pianist, Makovicz here tries his hand at a dozen classics including"Caravan" and "My Favorite Things."

Listen to his take on the iconic "My Favorite Things."

(The above sample requires the Quicktime Plugin to play. If you can't see an audio player you can download Quicktime for free here.)

The playing could easily be too busy and distracting but instead the feeling is virtuosic without being too showy. It achieves a really haunting and beautiful effect, a brilliant and elegant reworking of a familiar melody.

You can listen to more samples of Makovicz's playing here.