Friday, September 17, 2010

Remix With MIDI - Make Your Own Versions of Your Favorite Songs On Your Keyboard

With a Yamaha keyboard, it's easy to put yourself in the place of John Coltrane re-imagining "My Favorite Things", or join the ranks of today's dance, pop and hip hop artists who are constantly remixing each others' work. Using the many tools that your Yamaha instrument puts at your disposal, you can take any song and make it your own. All you have to do is find a MIDI version of the song you want to remix, load it up on your instrument, and start exploring the different ways you can modify the song to make your own unique version.

So where do you start? First of all, you can mute any of the tracks in the song. This allows you to simply remove instruments that you don't want to have in the song, but it also clears space for your own playing. For a live performance, you can use this feature to add in other instruments and vocals.

To mute tracks, simply press the the [CHANNEL ON/OFF] button and turn off the track you want to mute. If you're not sure what's on each track, you can press the [MIXING CONSOLE] button to review the voices on each track.

Want more? Keep reading to learn how to change instrument voicings, add your own parts or styles, and play around with effects.
Rather than muting tracks, you can also change instrument voicings. Depending on what kind of sound you're going for, you can switch out horns for reeds, piano for organ, or change drum kits. Of course, certain changes probably won't make sense - a part originally designed for sitar probably won't sound too good with a tuba voice - but experimenting with changes like this is one of the most fun things you can do with a MIDI file.

To change voicings, press the [MIXING CONSOLE] button, and choose the track for the voice that you want to change. Press the the [C] button to select the voice assignment line of the Mixing Console, then press the [1-8] button that corresponds to the track that you want to change the voice on, and you can choose a new voice. 

One other way to easily create an entirely new feel for a song is to add a style to it. If you first mute any of the original style, drums, and percussion parts, you can choose any of your keyboard's styles and add it to the song by playing the style as normal. This lets you customize the rhythm sections of the track without changing individual instrument voicings or recording any new parts. You can even choose which parts of the style you add will be played. The style you play will automatically take the tempo of the song, but it's easy to change the tempo to suit your desires as well.

To add a style, return to the main screen and press the [D] button to access the Style Menu. Choose a style by pressing the corresponding button. Once you have chosen a style to use, you can start it by pressing the [START/STOP] button on the style controls. The style will replace the backing rhythm automatically, keeping in time with the song.

As for tempo, you can change it two different ways. First, try pressing the [TAP TEMPO] button repeatedly in intervals that match the tempo you wish to use. The other option is to manually increase or decrease the tempo by pressing the [+] and [-] buttons for tempo control.

Adding effects is one other way to alter the sound of a song. Effects can do a lot of different things, from just adding some space with reverb, to totally changing the sound with a flanger or phaser. This is another option you can have a blast playing around with, but it can also help you nail a very particular sound if you have one in mind.

To add effects, press the [MIXING CONSOLE] button, then use the ARROW buttons to move to the effect screen. You can choose your effect CATEGORY, and edit the parameters according to your taste.

And finally, you can add your own totally new parts for the song as well. If you have an idea for something new to add, you can easily make it part of the song.

To add your own parts, choose a voice you want to perform with, and mute any of the necessary parts to play along. For example, if you want to play the vocal melody, you would mute, the melody (track 1 in this song, but it may vary depending on the file you're using) by pressing the [CHANNEL ON/OFF] button, then turning track 1 off. Now you can use the voice you've loaded to play the melody line.

You can also add multi-pads to create layers and textures within the song. This is especially fun if you turn off the rhythm channels for the drums, and layer a few different multi-pads. Press the [E] button to enter the Multi-Pad Menu, and choose the multi-pad you wish to use. Then press the Multi-Pad buttons [1-4] to start them. Easily take them away by pressing the [STOP] button.

Now that you know what's possible, try it out yourself. We'd love to see what you can come up with - let us know in the comments what you've tried out, or send us links to hear audio or watch video of your creations!

*Not all of the features mentioned here are available on all Yamaha keyboards. Directions stated are designed for the Tyros3, but should be similar on other arranger workstation keyboards such as the PSR-S910 and CVP series Clavinovas. For other instruments, please consult your manual for further instructions.

- Doug