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  • We pretty much have the Voice thing down: It's a sound, composed of up to eight elements, that you play as you would a standard synthesizer patch. So far, so good. At this point, with most synthesizers, we'd cover the multi-timbral expander module "multi" type mode, and be done with the issue of modes. However, the Motif XS offers two additional modes: Performance mode and Song mode.

    Of the two, Song gets its name because it's the mode you choose when creating a song using the built-in 16-track sequencer. But it's also the mode that provides the standard multi-timbral expander mode option found on most keyboards made since the 80s.

    Referring to the image, you can see the 16 tracks along the left, which correspond directly to 16 MIDI channels. For example, if your sequencer is creating data on MIDI Channel 11, it's driving the sound "Thexism" on the Motif XS.

    Of course, we'll delve into the Song screen more deeply in its appropriate venue -- a discussion of the sequencer. The main reason for mentioning it now is to get the question of whether there's a "multi-timbral expander module" mode out of the way so we can move on to the more intriguing Performance mode.
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    • You can think of Performance mode as a "Quad-Timbral" mode, driven by a single MIDI channel. You can combine up to four Voices in a Performance (and remember, each Voice can have up to eight elements and internal splits and layers). Once in the Performance, there's quite a lot you can do with the various Voices, which are called Parts when they're part of a performance (in order to differentiate this application from using them as individual Voices).

      The first image shows the Performance called "Deborah in Love" (there are three banks of 128 performances). The four parts (surrounded by a yellow line for clarity) that make up the Performance are shown along the middle right.

      If you press the Info button, you get a screen like the second image. This shows where the Performance is located, its category and name, and also, additional information about the four Voices that make up the Performance and the effects that are used.

      Each Part can be selected, soloed, or muted, which is handy when programming a Performance as well as for real-time playing; however, the selection process requires some care, because if you press the wrong button when wanting to, say, solo - which isn't hard to do - you can launch yourself to a different Performance. I found this confusing at first, but eventually got it sorted out: Always remember to hit the "Performance Control" button (see the third image for this cluster of controls) before getting into muting or selecting parts, and press the "Solo" button when you want to do soloing - and remember to press Performance Control again if you want to go back to selecting and muting.
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      • One of the things that really makes a Performance interesting is the degree of real-time control. Referring to the first image (a repeat of the first image shown in the previous post re-posted here for convenience), note the four faders. These control the levels of the four Parts. The little red triangles are the levels programmed into the Performance; you need to move the fader to "catch" that level, whereupon the fader takes over from the pre-programmed level.

        Toward the top are eight virtual knobs that correspond to the eight physical knobs. They affect the selected part, but that's not all; there can be up to three banks of eight controls per part, with the bank selected by the Selected Part Control button. Referring to the second image, the button in the upper left selects among the three banks.

        Furthermore, there are multi-part control options (reverb, chorus, and pan), as selected by the button in the lower left in the second image. The third image shows what the Performance screen looks like with Reverb selected; each of the four parts now has a reverb send control above each fader.

        While it might seem that having this many possibilities would be an exercise in frustration (which bank do I choose for the best results?), it seems Yamaha anticipated this. With the Selected Part Control banks, the first bank is where you'll spend most of your time doing real-time tweaking. The second one tends to be more set and forget as it adjusts EQ and tone, while the third one concentrates on the arpeggiator. I found that for actual playing, I rarely strayed from the first bank...but I sure did spend a lot of "left hand time" messing with the knobs!
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        • Well I've put a few hours into tonight's segment and it's getting late, so it's time to shut down for now. Before going, though, here's an audio example that shows what can be done in Performance mode just with the mute buttons - no faders or knobs. This uses the Performance "Rain Dance," and brings various parts in and out using the mute buttons. Basically, it's a live remix (or at least, as much of a live remix as can fit into 30 seconds of an MP3 file ). Check it out, as it gives you just a tiny idea of the kind of real-time manipulation you can do with a Performance.
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          • oh man, thank you!!!

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            • Thank you for all the useful info Craig

              Oh maybe just one more question: is Roland going to come out with a new workstation soon? Have they announced anything (to compete with the M3 and XS)?

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              • Thank you for all the useful info Craig

                Oh maybe just one more question: is Roland going to come out with a new workstation soon? Have they announced anything (to compete with the M3 and XS)?


                You'll need to ask Roland! I have no idea...
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                • Before getting to the arpeggiator and how it works in the context of a performance, it's well worth mentioning that you can do a lot of editing on each individual Part.

                  As you might expect, there are Common Edit Parameters that affect all Parts in a Performance, as well as edit functions for individual Parts. For example, common functions are for naming and categorizing performances (they can be searched on as well), and also setting the Performance volume, pan, reverb send, chorus send, master effect, insert effects, effects routing, and master EQ.

                  Small aside: I am really happy to see more and more synths, both hardware and software, include EQ as part of a patch. It can help make synth patches sound much more realistic and/or interesting, without having to try and trick the synth's filters into acting like EQ.

                  For individual parts, you can do a lot of editing as well. My hands-down favorite feature, the humbly named "Parameter with Voice," merits that distinction because it's a "workflow enhancer." For example, suppose you choose a particular Voice for a part and do some tweaking of the filter, envelope generators, arpeggiator, etc., and then you decide that you really want to use a different Voice instead. With this function, you can decide which values from these various parameters will be "imported" from the new voice into the part...or maybe you want to keep the parameter settings you've already programmed. In either case, the choice is yours.

                  Other Part editing options include volume, pan, detuning, mono/poly playback, transposition, portamento time, velocity minimum/maximum values to which the Part responds, note minimum/maximum values to which a part responds, pitch bend (for example, with an Indian sitar/tamboura performance, you could bend just the sitar and not the background drone), velocity settings, amplitude and filter EG, EQ, arpeggiator, and frankly, quite a bit more.

                  One of the clever features here involves note max/min values: What if the lower limit note is higher than the upper note limit? Rather than giving you an error message, the XS6 plays all notes above the lower limit, and all notes below the upper limit, but not the notes between the two limits. For example, if you set the lower limit as G5 and the upper limit as G3, notes above and including G5 will play, as will notes below or including G3, but not notes between G3 and G5.
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                  • Well yeah, it is. I don't know if anyone at Yamaha has counted up the number of adjustable parameters, but let's just say it's a lot. At first, all these options seem overwhelming, and they are - until you get a grip. As far as I'm concerned, what all this editability is about for the average user revolves around tweaking presets to your needs, rather than building up Performances from scratch and tweaking every single parameter you encounter.

                    Part of this is because most parameters are obvious: It's not like you have to learn radical new concepts, as things like filters, velocity, envelope generators, and such have been part of the synthesizer lexicon for decades. But what this does mean is suppose you call up a Performance and you like it, except...you wish you could bend one of the parts a little more, or tweak the EQ of a part, or whatever. By using the ever-helpful display to drill down to these parameters, you can tweak, evaluate, and save if you like it, all within a relatively short period of time.

                    I admit I'm the kind of guy who likes to program from scratch, and at first blush, seeing all these parameters made me think that programming with that level of detail would likely drive me insane. But then I thought, why fight it? Yamaha put a lot of effort into having people program the various Performances, and it's not hard to find one that's "in the ballpark" of what you want. Make a few tweaks, and you're done.

                    Much of the depth of the Motif XS comes from the sheer number of edits you can make. But just because you can doesn't mean you should. Bottom line is that yes, this can be a scary keyboard because of the seemingly limitless potential it presents. And it's all well and good you can tweak everything. But unless you're doing a Pro Review and need to learn every feature at once , there's no law that says you have to become obsessed. You can even play the Motif XS6 as a preset-only keyboard and still do some cool stuff, then pick up new features when you're in the mood to exploit the keyboard a little bit more.
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                    • I just stumbled across this today, Craig. Great stuff! I haven't taken it all in yet, but already have a question. In voice mode, can you make a program change while holding down a chord with your fingers or hold pedal, and have it "hold" without any hiccups, thus being able to start the new sound smoothly? This is semi-important in my club work, but essential in my praise band during quiet moments of prayer (and why I'm still using a Roland XP-80 at church, which does this).

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                      • Although many Yamaha products with less complex effects routing do this ( the CP Series products for example)., the XS does not allow for this instant switching in Voice mode. Mainly this is because of the time it takes to reset the Insert DSPs.

                        On the ES you could get around this issue by going to Pattern and Song Mix and there you could set up several sounds and switch from one Voice to the next with no cutoff adn even sustaining sound held down on the keyboard.

                        The XS is a completely new and different system than ES and currently in Mix Mode the sound does cutoff when switching between Parts, but we have put that on the list for some OS updates that are planned in the future.
                        Athan Billias
                        Director of Marketing
                        Pro Audio and Combo Division
                        Yamaha Corporation Of America

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                        • Thank you for your honesty on this. I hope you guys get her up and running.

                          FWIW, Roland Fantoms can pull this trick off, but it's not as smooth as their older XPs, which lack the more recent (and more complex) COSM effects blocks. My Fantom S is acceptable for club work, but not for praise and worship.

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                          • Wouldn't a workaround be to set up four Voices in a Performance? You can mute individual Parts to your heart's content without glitching or other issues, and as the Voice would already be pre-loaded, there wouldn't be any loading times. Downside is you'd be limited to four voices and you'd have to set up the Performance in advance, but I would think that for most musical applications this would not be a deal-breaker.
                            Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                            • It's nice to have the freedom to go anywhere on your keyboard without restrictions like that. I'm sure you're right that it's not a deal-breaker for those who aren't gigging and used to this feature, but for some of us it's become a part of our playing style. It's very disruptive to our flow (as well as to the sound!) when we're on a keyboard without it.

                              But on an XS... couldn't you set up 8 and use the faders for program change by fading them in and out? That's what I was kind of thinking just by looking at it, without having actually seen one yet.

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                              • But on an XS... couldn't you set up 8 and use the faders for program change by fading them in and out? That's what I was kind of thinking just by looking at it, without having actually seen one yet.


                                Well, you can at least set up four with the Performance and be able to fade them in and out easily with the faders, as well as do instant mutes.
                                Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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