Friday, May 28, 2010

Start of Summer Sale - Save 20% This Weekend

This weekend, you'll save 20% on new songs, styles, lessons and more for your keyboard at Yamaha MusicSoft and Internet Direct Connection. All downloads - including styles and songs - Digital Books and PianoSoft disks are on sale at Yamaha MusicSoft, and everything (except radio subscriptions) are 20% off at Internet Direct Connection until Tuesday, so you can head into the new season with tons of new music an save money at the same time!

Looking for something new to spark your musical creativity? We've got a couple of suggestions you might want to take a look at...

  • If you're looking for a new way to perform on your keyboard this weekend, some new styles could do just the trick. Each style gives you a number of rhythmic patterns you can control to accompany your playing, but the fun really starts when you start working with harmonies. By playing a single note or chord with your left hand, you can tell a style what harmony you want to play. The styles on your keyboard provide a wide range of musical possibilities, but if you can't find the perfect style in your keyboard you can always load new ones. Stock up this weekend on new styles while prices are low!
  • If you've never played around with MIDI songs on your keyboard, you're missing out on tons of fun, as well as a great way to learn! MIDI songs are not like normal songs that are just great for listening - with these songs you have total control over speed, instruments, pitch, and every other individual element of the music. You can edit a song to sound completely different, or you can make changes, such as slowing it down or removing certain parts, that will make it easier for you to learn to play the song. And you can always expand your keyboard with new songs - take advantage of this weekend's discount and try out new songs today!
  • Plus, don't forget to check out the new "Best Loved Classics" album released this week, featuring music from Beethoven, Debussy and Tchaikovsky.

Have a great weekend!

- Doug

*Sale provides a 20% discount on all PianoSoft downloads and disks, MIDI files, Styles, Premium Packs, Premium Voices, Music Finder Performance Guides, Digital Books and Digital Sheet Music at Yamaha MusicSoft and Internet Direct Connection. Sales ends 12am Tuesday June 2nd, EDT. Discount cannot be combined with other promotions.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Madonna In This Week's New MIDI Songs

This week's songs include more Madonna hits, as well as a legendary classic rock epic from Styx that will unlock your potential as a piano balladeer, synthesizer master and hard rocker all with one song.

Madonna - Borderline

The first of many top ten hits of Madonna's career, "Borderline" established her style as much more than disposable dance music. But, of course, "Borderline" is still an excellent dance song. With fun synth lines, and unmistakably catchy melody, this MIDI version of the song screams out to be played and sung along with.

Madonna - 4 Minutes

Madonna's biggest hit in recent years, "4 Minutes" updates her sound with production from Timbaland and vocal help from Justin Timberlake. With a hip-hop inspired modern pop beat, and a classic call-and-response melody, there's a lot to explore and play with in this MIDI track.

Madonna - Into the Groove

A funky and propulsive tune featuring Madonna's distinctive 80s sound, "Into the Groove" has the strong bass and rhythms you need keep a crowd dancing, as well as a great piano riff that adds some extra flavor. Though "Into the Groove" was mainly hit only on the dance charts in the US, it was Madonna's first #1 hit in the UK.

Styx - Come Sail Away

The piano line that opens "Come Sail Away" is tons of fun to play, and the beginning of the song makes for a perfect piano and voice sing along. However, as the songs gets going, it adds guitars, synthesizers and big classic rock drums that turn a simple pretty tune into a bombastic rock and roll jam. It even includes an extended classic spacey synthesizer breakdown in the middle. "Come Sail Away", a hit for Styx in 1977 and certified part of the classic rock canon, will certainly show the range and power of your Yamaha keyboard with its many instrumental and stylistic changes.

- Doug

Light Piano Music For Quieter Occasions - The Mellow Moods Channel for Piano Radio

You spoke and we listened. After numerous requests from Piano Radio listeners for a "soft music" station, we've created the Mellow Moods channel.

If you're one of the many Piano Radio subscribers who love to use radio to set the mood for a romantic dinner or create a relaxing atmosphere, but until now, haven't been able to find the perfect channel to use for this purpose, Mellow Moods is the channel for you. Playing songs that stick to the softer side of pop, jazz, standards and soundtracks, the Mellow Moods channel will always give you gentle melodic music ideal for these quieter occasions.

Mellow Moods features everything from modern day ballads from Celine Dion to soft standards from Gershwin and Sinatra, giving listeners a diverse range of musical styles while keeping the atmosphere light. Below are a couple examples of songs you can expect to hear on Mellow Moods:

Bryan Adams - (Everything I Do) I Do It For You [From "Save the Best for Last - And More Great Ballads of the 90's"


Moon River - Henry Mancini [From "Beyond the Sea"]


The Mellow Moods channel is just the latest addition to our channel lineup, which includes 15 other stations available around the clock and throughout the year. For anyone listening to radio on a CLP Clavinova or MODUS digital piano, the Mellow Moods channel is your new channel 16.

To try out the Mellow Moods channel now, first log in to Internet Direct Connection on your instrument and choose "Listen to Radio", or from a Disklavier Mark IV choose "Internet" from the main menu on your controller, then "Disklavier Radio". 

On a Disklavier E3, you can listen to radio by pressing the "Internet" button on your remote, then choose "D-Radio". However, if you haven't created an account for Internet Direct Connection, you'll need to do that before subscribing to Piano Radio for your E3 - you can create your account here.

If you've never tried Piano Radio before, now's the perfect time. If you're not ready to subscribe and check out the Mellow Moods channel, that's fine.  Two free channels are available right now - all you need to do is get your keyboard online and you can be enjoying streaming music within seconds. Follow this guide for help with connecting to the internet, or head here if you're ready to subscribe. For more information on Yamaha's Piano Radio, visit our Online Services site.

- Doug

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Story Behind Styles: An Interview With a Yamaha Style Programmer

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's Online Services 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 recognises 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.

Keep reading for the full interview
, including tips for cool uses for style on your instrument, details on what makes Yamaha's files the highest quality files around, and what exactly goes into the style production process.

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
streamlined.

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 recognised 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
quality.

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
verse.

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 realising 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 finalise 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.


- Doug

Tyros3 Premium Packs & Voices Reviewed by German Keyboard Magazine

Tyros3 Premium Packs and Voices have certainly found their way into the music being made by Tyros3 users around the world, as demonstrated by the outstanding performance videos we posted a few weeks back. But magazines and professional musicians have been raving about the expansion voices and packs as well, especially over in Europe.

Austrian Schlager star Jogl Brunner, who along with his brother Charly makes up the long running and highly successful Schlager group Brunner & Brunner, has been a Tyros user for years, and agreed to offer his impressions of the Premium Packs and Voices to Germany's "Tastenwelt" (Keyboard World) magazine. Though fans of the band, who have released 20 albums over their decade spanning career, will associate Jogl more with the guitar than the keyboard, he explains in the article how the Tyros helps him hone song ideas after coming up with them on guitar.

As a revered professional musician working with the Tyros3, Jogl was given the chance to be one of the first users of the Premium Packs and Voices, and his initial impressions, especially of the Choir and Vocals pack, were very positive:

"The new voices are insane...like so many of the sounds on the Tyros. Before now, nobody has heard choirs like this on a keyboard. I'm also especially happy that styles that work with the voices are included."

As an added bonus, Jogl also adds tips from his own experience about working with styles on the Tyros3. For Jogl, styles provide an inspiration to work from, which he then uses to expand on his original compositional ideas.

You can find the entire article in German here.

- Doug

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Styles For Greek & Turkish Music, Plus 20 New Songs From Yamaha Europe

The music of Greece, Turkey and Balkans takes center stage with six new styles released this week on Yamaha MusicSoft. But that's not all! In addition to the new styles, Yamaha Europe has also created 20 new songs, including hits from all over Europe as well as familiar names like Elton John and Train.

All of the new styles are based on traditional musical and dance styles from around the Balkan region, and cover music that has made its way between Turkey and Greece over the years. Since many of these musical styles use very distinct and complex rhythms and time signatures, a normal pop or jazz style usually won't work at at all. This makes these styles a real necessary tool for anyone looking to use styles to play traditional Greek or Turkish music. Also, many of these styles use the Turkish drum kit available on many Yamaha keyboards in order to get the perfect percussion sounds for these styles of music.

If you're not familiar with Balkan music, or you don't think its for you, it's still definitely worth taking a listen to these styles. They're flexible, can be used for a number of genres, and will expand your music making possibilities into places you may not have even known existed! Check below for a more detailed look at each of the new styles.

Hasapiko & Hasaposerviko
These two styles are designed to be used with Greek and Turkish Hasapiko folk dances, with the Hasaposerviko representing a fast 4/4 version of the style, characterized by accented offbeats. The Hasapiko, on the other hand is a much more familiar 6/8 style with glockenspiel, strings and arpeggiated guitar chords that will fit equally well with Balkan folk music and standard pop.



Kalamatianos
A lively Greek folk dance in 7/8 that includes dulcimer accompaniment and intense and impressive runs on the clarinet.


Kamilieriko
A traditional dance style in 9/8, featuring a basic drum beat and backing from guitars, bass, and accordion. And don't let the strange meter scare you off from this style - think of it as a measure of 6/8 followed by a measure of 3/8, and the Kamilieriko instantly becomes a style that's fun, flexible, and easy to play with.


Tsifteteli (or Çiftetelli)
A dance of Turkish origin in 4/4. This style has a distinctive beat that emphasizes beat four, and includes backing from drum set, hand claps, and a litany of stringed instruments.


7/8 Greek
Another style perfect for the strong rhythms of Greek music, this one features prominent strings and fingerpicked guitar.


Of course, if MIDI songs are more up your alley, we've got those too. Check out the full list of twenty new songs, including favorites from Elton John and Wham! as well as a bunch of recent European hits.

New Styles

7/8 Greek
Tsifteteli
Kamilieriko
Kalamatianos
Hasapiko
Hasaposerviko

New Songs

Real Love - Mark Medlock
Geboren um zu leben - Unheilig
Don't Believe (DSDS 2010) - Mehrzad Marashi
What You're Proposing - Status Quo
Chattahoochee - Alan Jackson
Hey, Soul Sister - Train
Teardrops - Elton John & k.d. lang
How Deep Is Your Love - the Bee Gees
Miljonair (Belgium Schlager) - Christoff
Come On Let's Dance - Nic P.
In meinem Leben - Nena
Bee (Song for Oslo #3)- Lena Meyer-Landrut
Hello Dolly (Instrumental) - Herb Alpert
Neon Moon (New Country) - Brooks & Dunn
Ge Oss Ar Tillbaka (SE Country & Charts)- Christer Sjögren
Leef nu het kan (NL charts) - Jan Smit
Wake Me Up Before You Go Go - Wham!
Ta slepicka kropenata (Cecho Decho - CZ Folk Techno)- Maxim Turbulenc
Wie ein einsamer Wolf - Amigos
Radetzky Marsch (2 Vers., Trad. + Mod. Drums) - Johann Strauss


- Doug

Friday, May 14, 2010

Play Along & Learn Your Favorite Piano or Keyboard Parts With MIDI - Classic Keyboard Songs Volume Three

MIDI files are flexible - you can edit them and play them back an accompaniment to a performance, you can use them for fun or just to listen to, or, perhaps most importantly, you can use them to learn. With a Yamaha keyboard it's easy to use a MIDI file to learn the piano or keyboard parts to a song. Over the last year we've periodically picked out a few keyboard and piano based songs that are perfect candidates for learning this way, and today we've got eight new suggestions that will have you off and playing in no time. We've covered the process for using MIDI files this way in the past, but just in case you're new to the site or you'd like a refresher, here's how to do it:

For the songs below, and the songs we've featured previously, we've listed the MIDI track numbers where you can find the keyboard and piano parts. For other songs you'll have to figure this out yourself. To do so, you'll probably want to use your keyboard's mixer or channel mute panels, though you can use the score display as well. Easiest is to try looking for the track assigned to the keyboard (or piano) instrument in the mixer screen, if your instrument has one. You can also try playing back the song and muting channels using the channel mute panel until you find the correct channel (you'll know you've found it when you mute a channel and the piano stops playing). Or you can use the score display to view the scores for each channel as the song plays back. Once you see notation that looks like it matches with what you're hearing from the piano in the song, you've found your channel.

Next, after locating the keyboard track or tracks in the song, you can use the channel on/off or mute functions on your keyboard to turn off either the piano tracks or all of the other tracks, then play along. By muting the piano parts and trying to play along you can create your own performance and hear how your playing sounds with a full accompaniment. By muting the rest of the tracks you can isolate the piano or keyboard so you can hear it better and concentrate on it while you play along, paying attention to make sure you're performance matches up. You can, also slow down the song, change key, or use any of your keyboard's other MIDI features to help you learn and practice.

Below you can find eight songs that are perfectly designed to be used with this learning method. Once you master these, be sure to check out our previously suggested songs as well.

Beginner:

The Scientist - Coldplay
Piano on Track 4
One of Coldplay's signature ballads, this song combines an emotive melody with a piano part simple enough for even beginner players to pick up with a little work. As the lyrics say, "nobody said it was easy", but learning this song is a great place to start if you're getting started with MIDI files.

I Will Remember You - Sarah McLachlan
Piano on Track 5
Another well known ballad, "I Will Remember You" is a great beginner's piece.

Intermediate:

Fallin' - Alicia Keys
Piano on Track 4
Alicia Keys may be a classically trained professional pianist with an intimidating command of her instrument, but that doesn't mean you can't learn her piano parts. For fans of Alicia's music, learning this song should be tons of fun. And in addition to being a great song, it's also a great introduction to 6/8 time.

Candle in the Wind - Elton John
Piano on Track 2
With Elton John's piano playing there is always a great blend of simplicity and sophistication, which makes songs like "Candle In the Wind" a joy to play. Learning the chords alone shouldn't be too difficult, but following Elton's flourishes makes this a slightly more challenging song to play along with.

The Way It Is - Bruce Hornsby

Piano on Track 2
For players ready to move on from simple chords and accompaniment to more involved riffs and rhythmic figures, "The Way It Is" is an ideal stepping stone. The piano riffs in this classic 80's song are fun to play and easily recognizable, and learning them with this MIDI file should be a blast.

Advanced:

What'd I Say - Ray Charles
Piano on Tracks 4 and 5
"What'd I Say" is classic R&B piano - if you learn this one right you can go a long way. Track 4 is basically the right hand part, but it's complex enough to play with two hands. Once you master track though, try adding track 5 with the right hand - this is an extra electric piano track that adds some extra bass.

Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
Piano on Tracks 4, 5 and 6
It may seem like Jerry Lee Lewis must have had three hands to play this song, and this MIDI file emphasizes that idea with three separate piano tracks. The right hand part solo part is on track four - this is where you get all of Jerry's slides and riffs. Tracks 5 and 6 handle the basic rhythmic parts, with right hand eighth notes in track 6 and a walking left hand bass in track 5. We'd recommend learning the song in stages. Try playing with tracks 5 and 6 first, then once you have that down, try and hold down the walking part in track 5 while following along with the solo right hand in track 4.

Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Piano on Tracks 5 and 6
While Stevie's original actually has eight tracks of Clavinet on it, this MIDI version of Superstition makes it's legendary keyboard part a little easier to follow by reducing the count to two. The main part is on track 5, so try that out first, then see if you can work in some of the extra flourishes from track 6.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the songs you can learn using Yamaha's MIDI files. We have thousands more songs where these came from, so look for your favorites and start learning. Or, if we don't have one of the songs you'd like to learn, feel free to leave suggestions us in the comments for songs we should add to our catalog.

Have a great weekend!

- Doug

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Madonna & Pink in This Week's New Songs

This week's new MIDI songs feature hits from two of the world's biggest female pop stars -
Madonna and Pink - that are sure to raise your keyboard's estrogen levels and get you playing, learning and performing some great girl power music.

Express Yourself - Madonna



A huge hit that first appeared on Madonna's "Like a Prayer" album in 1989, "Express Yourself" is one of her undisputed classics. With great dance beats that conjure images of both the 80's and 90's and one of Madonna's catchiest melodies, it's sure-fire way to get a party started with your keyboard. Plus, in addition to being an irresistible dance track, it's also one of Madonna's great female empowerment anthems in the same vein as "Material Girl".

Fans of Madonna will also be happy to hear that this is just the first of many Madonna songs we plan to add in the coming weeks.

Trouble - Pink



Pink has made her name with loud mouthed, hard rocking pop songs, and "Trouble" has everything you'd want from a Pink single: modern rock beats, distorted guitars, punk inspired sing-or-shout-along melodies, and tons of attitude. This MIDI version of "Trouble" is a great tool to use if you want to learn the song, and would also make a great accompaniment for your own keyboard or vocal performance. Or, with a little arranging magic, a slower tempo and a few instrument changes, you could easily turn "Trouble" into a ballad and change Pink's brash stance into something uniquely yours!

While these new songs certainly make for exciting additions to your keyboard's library, we also have a ton of new songs from Yamaha Europe on the site now. We'll have a full rundown of those new songs for you soon - make sure to check back next week!

- Doug

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Get the Sound of Summer on Your Keyboard With This Week's New Premium Styles

Summer is just around the corner, and this week's Premium Style releases are the perfect accompaniments for your summer music. The new styles will give you what you need to play swinging jazz foxtrot numbers, sunny 60's guitar pop, and even gradiose marches. So, whether you choose to celebrate the return of warm weather with jazz, ballroom, pop, marches or soundtracks, we've got you covered with our newest styles.

Summer Pop and Movie March are new for the Tyros3, while the Big Band Foxtrot style, previously only available for the Tyros3, is now available in versions for the Tyros2, CVP series Clavinovas and PSR keyboards.

Movie March - Summer movies mean big budgets, big action and bold, epic sounds. Many blockbuster films turn to marches when they're looking to push a scene over the top, and this style has the prominent snare and brass section you need to perfectly for recreating the effect of a soundtrack march. However, this style isn't limited to just soundtracks. The different variations offer both stately march tempos, or more upbeat rhythms, with accents on the off beats, making it flexible enough to play a variety of marches.



The new releases also give us a chance to enjoy two brand new demonstration videos from Martin Harris - keep reading for more new videos.


Summer Pop - Featuring an upbeat string arrangement and light 60's feel, this style will last you through the season and beyond.



Big Band Foxtrot - From its American roots, the Foxtrot has grown to become one of the world’s most popular ballroom dances. Swing and big band music is typically used for dancing the foxtrot and with this Style you get to lead your very own dance band!



- Doug