Saturday, August 30, 2014

Behind the Scenes with Jim Leahy

The aurora borealis over the site of  2014 Yamaha e-Competition
This week we went behind the scenes with Jim Leahy, a long-time member of the Yamaha Remote Live team.  Jim records live music events for broadcast on DisklavierTV and captures studio performances for our PianoSoft library. This summer Jim traveled to Alaska to record the finals of the Yamaha e-Competition, then crossed the country to film a series of performances at the Newport Music Festival in Newport, Rhode Island.

We caught up with Jim in a rare free moment at the Yamaha headquarters in Buena Park. 

You filmed two classical music events this summer. Tell us a bit about the Yamaha e-Competition.

The e-Competition is an amazing annual event made possible by the power of the Disklavier piano. Competitors are recorded via video and Disklavier technology for judges to assess, then the finalists come together for a live competition. The completion is also broadcast live, which gives the customer the opportunity to view a piano competition as if they were viewing a multi-day sporting event. This is the world cup of piano competitions. Pele can’t kick the ball in your living room, but these performers are actually playing the Disklavier in your house.

For the artist, the experience is completely transparent. We use light-beam technology to measure the velocity and duration of each key strike, so all the artist knows is that they are playing an exquisite piano. This year we were recording with a Mark IV Concert Grand and every artist loved the piano, even the judges were blown away by the instrument.

What was your favorite part of filming the e-Competition?

Working with the team that I travel with. As hard as the work is, it’s still worth it working with these guys - technicians who are at the top of their field. From an artistic perspective, I’m always amazed at the high quality of performance that we are able to obtain from around the world, year after year. I would not want to be a judge for this competition! We kept saying that, the whole team, “I would not want to be a judge for this.” The artists are world class.

The competition is normally held in Minnesota, was there anything special about filming in Alaska?

Walking outside at two in the morning to full afternoon sun was incredible. Of course, after a while 24 hours of sun starts to get to you. When you first arrive there’s a bit of a wow factor. But after a while you’re piling things against the windows to get to sleep. It is better than the alternative. We could have had 24 hours of darkness and 40 degrees below zero. I’ll take the sun.

Also, the aurora was stunning. The last day we were there, it was 2:00am after we finished breaking down the equipment and we were getting ready drive to the airport. We walked outside and saw the aurora borealis lighting up half the sky. It was grueling breaking down before a 4am flight, but in that moment it was all worth it.

How was your experience with Newport different than your experience shooting the e-Competition?

Newport is a Festival rather than a competition, so there’s a whole different energy. At the e-Competition there’s this young, vibrant atmosphere created by new artists playing to win. At Newport these are established artists performing for an appreciative audience that loves what they’ve already accomplished.

There’s a lot of drive for the e-Competition, we’re shooting all day, sometimes wrapping at midnight. At Newport we have more downtime.

Did you face any challenges capturing either of these events?

When our airline misplaced our luggage – including the four professional cameras we brought for the shoot in Newport – we had to MacGyver our own camera setup. The guys were so resourceful, they made a series of black boxes to cover iPads and borrowed cameras for the first day of the shoot. It felt very Apollo 13.

Music stands make excellent tripods, who knew?
iPad? Check. Electrical tape? Check. We're good to go!

What is your history with the Newport Music Festival?

I’ve been traveling to Newport since 1991, so I’ve been spending the summer in Rhode Island for a lot of years. We have a long-standing relationship with the festival. Yamaha has been providing Disklavier pianos to Newport for over twenty years and many of the artists that we record at Newport come into our studio to expand the Yamaha library with some amazing PianoSoft studio performances.

 To start with, we were just recording amazing music for Yamaha’s vast library. In the late 2000s we started using the Remote Live technology to broadcast the Newport festival – but the things I love about Newport have never changed. It’s a pleasure to listen to world class musicians playing beautiful music in the most beautiful venues you can imagine. That’s such a huge part of why I look forward to capturing these experiences every year.

We’d like to thank Jim for sharing his continued passion for Remote Live, the Disklavier piano, and the music that makes this technology great. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Talent Behind the Sounds: Interview with Sound Designer Peter Krischker

This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Krischker, the mastermind behind the Easy Sounds Synth Voice Libraries. Peter has been working with Yamaha Synths for over 30 years and he brings a wealth of sound design and programming experience to every product he creates. We were thrilled to hear his insight into the artistic process.

Click here to view Easy Sounds Products in a new window.

We spoke with Peter about one of his favorite Synth Voice Libraries, the FM Xpanded library. Peter describes the library as "...the ultimate retro pack for your Yamaha MOTIF Synth." The library is based on the FM technology that served as the foundation for the famous DX7 synthesizer.

What inspired you to create the FM Xpanded library?

My intention was to offer comprehensive sound library for the Yamaha MOTIF-series with an emphasis on playable live sounds. FM synthesis is closely linked with the history of Yamaha Synths. The DX7 electric piano sound is one of the most recognized instrument sounds from the 1980' was obvious to offer a playable FM sound library.

What did you use as the source for these sounds? How did you go about creating them?

For the sample production I used the legendary DX7 as well as several other FM synths, including the SY99, FS1R, DX200 and FM8.

The original FM-sounds were not simply sampled 1:1 - I developed FM-partials, which were mapped as User Waveforms and combined with new FM-voices using up to eight voice elements from the MOTIF XS / XF / MOXF. I called this technique "Sample-Partial-Programming". The process offers a very high flexibility allowing for creative sound design.

Check out out FM Xpanded, and other great Easy Sound Libraries. Each product detail page contains audio and video demos.

Which sounds are your favorite and why?
I love the classical FM E-Piano voices like The Champ, Lovely Tines, Classic SY99, Original DX, and American Ballad. They sound like pure FM in high quality - just what you expect from an FM library.

Tell us a little about your work with Yamaha.

My first synthesizer was a Yamaha CS15! In the early '90s I contacted Yamaha Europe about sound design work for SY99 and we started a successful collaboration that continues today.

Since the development of the CS1X I've been a member of the Yamaha voicing team. I've been involved in countless voicing projects like CS6x, AN1x, FS1R, AN200, DX200, EX5, MOTIF XS / XF, DTX-series, Tyros-Series, Yamaha World Wide Content and many others.

I'm not a trained keyboard player - I started making music with guitar. Now I'm going back to my roots playing electric guitar again when I have time left alongside the synth projects. Maybe one of my next sampling projects will be a guitar library!

You can hear the retro voices from FM Xpanded in this video, or check out the library on our site!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to use One Touch Settings - PSR-S950

One Touch Setting (OTS) is a powerful feature that you can use on your PSR-S950 to optimize your performance instantly. OTS uses programming features within a Yamaha Style to select the Voice that sounds best with a particular Style Variation.

Today, we are going to learn about OTS, OTS LINK, and how to load a Style File you have purchased from Yamaha MusicSoft. Let's get started.

On the PSR-S950, you have four One Touch Settings and four Style Variations:
One Touch Setting: the buttons labeled "1, 2, 3, 4"

Style Variation: the buttons labeled "A, B, C, D"
The One Touch Setting selected (the button with an orange LED) was programmed to be used specifically with a Style Variation in the same position. For example, If you have One Touch Setting "1" selected, the voice selected for this OTS is meant to be played with Style Variation "A".

One Touch Setting Link (OTS LINK) is a feature on your Arranger Workstation that grants you full utilization of an OTS. This feature acts is an auto-select function that keeps an OTS tied to the appropriate Style Variation:

- Variation A is linked to One Touch Setting 1
- Variation B is linked to One Touch Setting 2
- Variation C is linked to One Touch Setting 3
- Variation D is linked to One Touch Setting 4

OTS LINK is activated when the OTS LINK button is pressed, and an orange LED is displayed:

You may have noticed that with OTS LINK turned off, you can switch between different One Touch Settings even if you do not change to another Style Variation. This choice is valuable, also. You can perform one Style Variation, while switching between the four available OTS.

 Let's go ahead and load Yamaha Style Steel Drum Pop that we've purchased from Yamaha MusicSoft via USB thumb drive.

Get Steel Drum Pop for PSR-S950 here:

If you want a different Style, check out all available Styles for PSR-S950:

Step 1: Insert the USB thumb drive to the "USB to Device" port on the back of the PSR-S950

Step 2: Select "Expansion/User" under STYLE

Step 3: Navigate over to the tab "USB1" on the screen

Step 4: Press button "A" to the left of the screen to select "xt Steeldrum Pop".

Step 5: Have fun using One Touch Setting and One Touch Setting Link! 

If you'd like to continue shopping for awesome Yamaha Styles, click this convenient link to get back to jump to the catalog page in a new window:

- Justin
Yamaha Music Interactive

Have a suggestion for a blog post? Post your idea in the comment section below!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to change the melody Voice on a Yamaha Premium Song - CVP-609

Yamaha Premium Songs are MIDI files designed to work perfectly with the high-quality Voices in your instrument. Each Premium Song is a multi-track MIDI file that are made of Voices hand-picked by a producer.

Although these MIDI files sound great as they are, you may wish to change out the Voices chosen for the file. For example, instead of hearing the melody played by a flute, you would rather hear it played by a guitar. 

Using a Yamaha CVP-609 Clavinova, let’s walk through the steps to switch out the main Voice for a Premium Song.

Step 1: Connect USB Drive to Yamaha CVP-609 Clavinova

Let’s say that you just bought an awesome Yamaha Premium Song from to play on your Clavinova. You've copied the MIDI file onto a USB drive and now you’re ready to play it. Plug the drive into the “USB TO DEVICE” port on the left side of the Clavinova. 

Once you've plugged it in, your screen will say “USB Device Connected”.
Step 2: Open the Song Selector

Tap the HOME button to the right of the screen. Now, tap the box that says “New Song”. This will bring you to a menu of songs to choose from.
Step 3: Select MIDI on the top of the screen

In this case, we are looking for the words MIDI at the top the screen, with an image of a Clavinova and USB drive next to it. Go ahead and tap that button. 
Step 4: Select USB 1

Tap USB1 on the screen
Step 5: Select an awesome Yamaha Premium Song

In this case, I only have one file to choose from on my USB drive. Tap it and then tap the close button to get started.

Step 6: Play Song Under SONG CONTROL, push play to start the song. It will play as we continue through the steps.
Step 7: Select menu and then select Mixer

The mixer allows you to edit the instrument choice and levels for up to 16 channels within a given Yamaha Premium Song.

Step 8: Select Song Ch. 1-8, then select Channel 1

With Yamaha Premium Songs, Channel 1 is always the main voice, or melody, of the song. Tap the yellow box "1" to see the instrument selected for the main Voice. In this case, the voice selected for the song is called “Lektro Codes”.

Step 9: Pick a different Voice.

As the song plays, you’ll notice that the melody will sound different once you change the main voice. Browse the different voice categories to pick a Voice that fits best.
So that’s it. It is a simple way to adjust the Yamaha Premium Song you just purchased, using the features of your CVP-609.
But there’s more…

Stay tuned for a future post, where we teach you how to save your Voice setting choices for later use!

Yamaha Music Interactive