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  • After a stressful week, I thought I'd treat myself to some more quality time with the XS6, and figured that the arpeggiator would be fun to check out. Well it is, but let me tell, you it required a little brainpower - the arpeggiation is as deep as everything else. Which means it's really deep.

    For a given Voice, when you're in play mode, the Arpeggiation screen (see image) is all about enabling and controlling during performance - editing the patterns you're going to enable and control occurs elsewhere, which we'll also get to. Note the five ARP tabs along the bottom: You can switch freely among them while playing (with the option to have one play only after the previous one has finished - cool), which goes a long way to reducing the "fatigue factor" of straight arpeggiation. The same screen is visible for all tabs.

    From top to bottom, Switch is just that: It turns arpeggiation on or off. Hold keeps the arpeggiator going even when you remove your fingers from the keys. So far, that's normal, but there's a third hold option called "Sync Off." If you release your fingers from the keys, the arpeggiator keeps running in the background (but without triggering any notes) so that once you play again, the notes pick up from whatever the arpeggiator is playing at that moment.

    Tempo shows the selected tempo, but if you're synched to MIDI, it doesn't show the incoming tempo but just says "MIDI."

    Velocity Limit sets the range of velocities that will trigger the arpeggiator. I gravitated toward having the arpeggiator happen at lower velocities, so it would arpeggiate the noise I was holding with my left hand, but I could pound out loud solo lines over it with my right hand. The limit also has the same kind of "hole" feature discussed earlier when programming ranges in that if you set the lower limit higher than the higher limit, then no arpeggiation occurs between those two points, but will happen from 1 to the lower limit and from the higher limit to 127.

    The four lower rows of parameters choose the actual arpeggiation pattern. Hold on to your hats, because there are 6,633 patterns. And yes, I listened to every single one (just kidding!). In what is clearly a move to keep their customers from going insane, Yahama has categoried the various arpeggiations into two banks (preset and user), 17 categories (including control, so you can arpeggiate things like pan, not just notes), and five sub-categories (rock, R&B, electronic, world, and general). So for example, if you want a salsa-type arpeggiation pattern that goes well with piano, choose Keyboard as a category, World as a sub-category, and start exploring. And yeah, there's a lot of exploring to do...
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    • And if you want to get down and dirty with programming the arpeggiator, here's your screen of choice (refer to the image). This is being used in Edit-Common mode so it affects all elements within a voice; you can't apply arpeggiation to a lesser number of elements in a voice.

      Some of these parameters are the same as for the previous screen, so let's deal with the ones that are different. Changing Timing (or what I affectionately call the "Ableton Live Session View switch") determines whether selecting a new Arp tab changes to the new arpeggiation immediately, or waits until the beginning of the next measure.

      Note Limit works similarly to velocity limit; one application that I immediately found useful was to have arpeggiation in the bass range while leaving the higher ranges free to play melodies.

      Key Mode is pretty cool. When set to Sort, it plays notes in the same order whenever you play those notes. In Thru mode, the sequence changes depending on the order in which you played the notes. Direct plays just the notes, which might seem like a useless function with an arpeggiator - why not just turn it off? Ah, because remember, you can also use the arpeggiator to change pan, tone, etc. In that case, you might want the note attributes to arpeggiate, but not the notes themselves. There are also settings for sort+direct and thru+direct, which is useful when you want to emphasize your playing, but have arpeggiations occurring in the background.

      Velocity mode chooses whether the arpeggio plays back with velocities preset in the arpeggiation pattern (original), or with the dynamics of your playing (thru). Output Octave Shift specifies the maximum range; use this when you want the arpeggio to "ripple" over multiple octaves.

      We already met the Bank, Category, etc. parameters so let's move to the invaluable Velocity Rate parameter. This offsets the velocity of the arpeggiated notes compared to what you played, which I found very useful in sort+direct and thru+direct for putting the arpeggio more in the background. Gate Time Rate basically determines the default length for the arpeggiated note; turn it to -100, and the net effect is highly percussive, whereas +100 gives the longest length.
      CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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      • So just as I was thinking "I sure wish they'd made Velocity Rate and Gate Time Rate something you could access from the Play screen," I realized that yup, one of the banks for the rotary controls on the control surface tie in to arpeggiator parameters: Gate Time, Velocity, Octave Range, Tempo, and four other parameters we'll meet in the next post (Swing, Unit Multiply, Quantize Value, and Quantize Strength).

        Think about it...you can call up five different arpeggiation patterns per voice at any time, from literally thousands of presets as well as your own presets; then once it's up and running, you can tweak aspects of the sound in real time with the knobs. If you've thought of arpeggiators as "corny effects that were fine for Tangerine Dream but let's leave it at that," the way the Motif XS handles arpeggiation just might change your mind.

        It's not just that it arpeggiates, but some of the patterns will likely inspire you, the same way having a good drum beat in the background can inspire you. When I record some of the audio examples tomorrow, you'll hear what I mean. Many of the arpeggiations are more like lyrical phrases than your usual "mating dance of the robots"-type effect.

        So you think we're done? Not quite...
        CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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        • Check out the last of our arpeggiation screens, which Yamaha calls the "Arpeggiator Other" screen (I guess they used up their creativity on the arpeggiator itself).

          Unit Multiply goes from half-time to double-time, with several stops inbetween for syncopated effect (e,g,, having it churn along at 66% of the stated tempo). Quantize value, strength, and swing will be familiar to anyone who's used a MIDI sequencer, and we've already met the remaining parameters in the left column.

          In the right column, Loop determines if the arpeggio plays through once, or keeps playing as long as the keys are held down. Trigger mode is a bit esoteric - in addition to the usual "hold down keys it plays, release keys it stops," there's a toggle mode where you start by hitting a key and stop by hitting a key (release has no effect).

          To understand that next two parameters, we need to understand the concept of an Accent Phrase. This is a variation built into the arpeggio that plays back at velocities higher than that specified under Accent Vel Threshold. Accent Start Quantize causes this phrase to be triggered either as soon as it receives a note that exceeds the Accent Vel Threshold, or at a specific place specified within the arpeggio (assuming it has first received a note that exceeds the Accent Vel Threshold).

          Random SFX is another one of those "We have an unlimited R&D budget! Cool!! Let's see what else we can throw in!" kind of features. Some arpeggios trigger particular effects, the classic example being fret squeak noise when a note's released. You can turn this feature on or off, and if on, you can further specify its velocity offset compared to the note you played (after all, you'll probably not want the effect to drown out your playing) and whether it plays with its pre-programmed velocity, or the velocity associated with what you played.

          So really, when you get right down it, this is less an arpeggiator than a mini-sequence/phrase/arpeggio generator. And it's in keeping with everything else I've found so far on the Motif XS6: very deep. Again, let me emphasize, it's easy to get overwhelmed with all these options (you don't even want to know how long it took me to write these four posts). But you'll probably gravitate to certain favorites and just take comfort knowing the other ones are there if you need them.

          Oh, one other interesting thing: I think Yamaha must recognize how daunting all these features can seem, as they've marked the most crucial parameters with asterisks. This is actually a very cool concept when you think about it; they're saying "Here's the most useful stuff, learn the rest when you have a chance."
          CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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          • I was tempted by the M3 yesterday but the layout seemed insane, compared to the XS. It would've taken me months to even find out if I could successfully arrange on the M3, using Karma. I could tell the XS was masterable and as you say

            DEEP


            --I think it's the evidence of good taste in patterns and sounds that gave me confidence to buy XS.Still, I'm wondering why these relatively expensive, beautifully built, innovative workstations, don't utilize markers or easy-access locate points. Even my VS 1680 has BANKS of markers.

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            • by the way Craig, I meant to say "well articulated" --to us, the time you take to lay it all out, is very beneficial. You may be experiencing Diminishing Returns from your efforts, but all I can say is--you've created quite a Resource for XS users.

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              • by the way Craig, I meant to say "well articulated" --to us, the time you take to lay it all out, is very beneficial. You may be experiencing Diminishing Returns from your efforts, but all I can say is--you've created quite a Resource for XS users.


                Glad you're enjoying it! I'm not quite sure what you mean by "diminishing returns" -- it's true that with a lot of Pro Reviews, at some point people have already made up their minds and what follows doesn't really matter. I get that sense from the VL2 Pro Review; I think it's a great unit, everyone who's bought one has chimed in and said it's great, so even though I still want to post some examples of harmonies, they may not even be relevant at this point because people almost universally agree it's a wonderful little box.

                But the other thing to remember is that Pro Reviews stay up for a long time. Months from now, people will discover this for the first time, and get a really comprehensive overview of what the keyboard is about. So while some people may have already said "That performance thing is really cool, that settles it, I'm going to GC tomorrow," there are plenty others just picking up on what's happening here and waiting to find out, for example, about how well it does or doesn't do sampling (which is something I want to find out for myself).

                After putting this much time into the keyboard, I'm almost feeling obligated to buy it just so I can take advantage of all the stuff I've learned
                CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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                • Well you gotta hear some examples, right?

                  We'll start off with a new agey-piano sort of deal, because what you'll hear is what you'd sort of expect to hear from an arpeggiator...it gives us a good starting point of reference.

                  Next up, a trip to the world section of arpeggation with a little Salsa piano.

                  Now it gets interesting: Synth bass arpeggation, but I'm tweaking the Gate Time and Velocity parameters in real time.

                  And now for some reggae type guitar. Again, I'm tweaking the Gate Time and Velocity parameters as it plays, which is what brings in the harmonics and slides.

                  Finally, there's some strummed guitar, again with real-time tweaking.

                  FWIW, I didn't put a lot of time into these, so don't think I slaved over them...from turning on the XS6 and computer, to recording the examples, cutting them to size, and rendering them to MP3 in Wavelab, took about 35 minutes. Imagine what these would sound like if I'd actually PRACTICED them to make them more expressive!

                  We could go on...maybe I'll do five more arpeggiation examples tomorrow, then move on to the next feature. I guarantee you I'm NOT going to do examples of all 6633 patterns!
                  CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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                  • Craig,
                    I am interested in the Motif as keyboard for live performance but also as a"scratchpad" if you like for songwriting purposes. I can never seem to find the muse in front of a computer screen.
                    Would you be able to touch on how well is Cubase AI implemented and how easy or not it is to start a project on the Motif and tranfer it on a DAW running a full version of Cubase? Are the arpeggios transfered as audio or MIDI? Any complementary info will be much appreciated. Thanks for a great review so far.

                    Regis

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                    • Oh wait, I think I got things mixed up. I thought Cubase AI was the sequence software that is inside the XS, it looks like it's rather a version of Cubase that can be integrated in Cubase 4.
                      Would Athan or Craig shed some light on this?
                      Thanks.

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                      • The Motif XS has an onboard sequencer, and we're working our way toward covering that very soon...Cubase 4 AI is a custom version of Cubase 4 that has all sorts of integration features with the Motif XS, including things like transport control, control surface support, and song interchanges. This actually sounds very promising for what you want: You can create the core of the song while sitting at the Motif XS, then tweak/edit/augment in Cubase AI 4 when the time is right.
                        CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

                        Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                        • Cubase AI is the version of Cubase software that comes bundled with Yamaha products. It has more features than LE ( for example it has the HALion One softsynth with waveforms from the Motif series included in it). It also supports Studio Connections so you can open the Motif XS Mix/Voice editor directly inside Cubase AI and save your XS settings with DAW project.

                          AI functions are Advanced Integration functions that bringing added functionality and ease of use between Yamaha hardware and Steinberg software. The AI extensions are downloadable from www.yamahasynth.com Yamaha and Steinberg are working closely together to add these special integration functions for many products. You can install these AI functions into Cubase AI, Cubase Studio or Cubase 4. In fact if you have two versions of Cubase installed, the AI extensions will appear in both.

                          Some of the functions that AI adds for the Motif XS are :

                          Auto connection and naming of of all Audio and MIDI ports when using the AI firewire driver

                          Cubase Project Templates for using the XS with Cubase

                          but our favorite is the Song Import function.

                          This lets you save a Motif XS song in XS format and then import it directly into Cubase including MIDI and Audio.

                          The Motif XS also works as a Remote Control to allow you hnads on control of Cubase (or other DAWs) using the buttons, knobs and faders on the XS.

                          As Craig suggested , it's pretty cool to get started using the direct Perfromance recording in the XS and then import directly in to Cubase to add VSTs and other things to your final production.

                          The Song Import function makes the old way ( syncing MIDI clock and re-recording the data) seem pretty archaic.
                          Athan Billias
                          Director of Marketing
                          Pro Audio and Combo Division
                          Yamaha Corporation Of America

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                          • Craig: I meant only to hypothesize that the time it took you to explain the ARPS to us might have diminishing returns when it comes to your own personal knowledge or sense of gain--I'm sure that anyone interested in the XS benefited and as you say, can go back to your notes for a refresher course at the right time in their own studies. Looking forward to Page Eight, David

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                            • BTW, the Motif XS has a very complete on board sequencer. In fact, there are two.

                              A Pattern sequencer allows you to create 16 sections of music (each up to 256 measures long) that loop and repeat. It's great for many styles of music that are loop based and also good for being able to create sections of a song and then try out different arrangements with the pattern chain feature. Each pattern section has a full 16 Parts to it. Pattern Chains can be converted into Songs.

                              A Song sequencer is more like the traditional linear, tape recording-style of sequencer.

                              You can record either MIDI or Audio (controlled by MIDI in the Integrated Sampling Sequencer). To record audio , you have to have RAM installed in the Motif XS.

                              There is both real time input quantizing, after the fact quantizing and even per track non-destructive play effect quantizing. In fact , there are all the types of editing functions you typically find in software sequencers.

                              So it's more than possible to complete productions completely inside the Motif XS, re-sample them as a stereo .WAV file and then burn that .wav file to a CD. The burning of the CD is the only thing you would need a computer for.

                              But the power of the XS is that you can work any way you want - completely on board the keyboard, entirely on DAW software like Cubase or any combination of the two methods.
                              Athan Billias
                              Director of Marketing
                              Pro Audio and Combo Division
                              Yamaha Corporation Of America

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                              • Got my XS7 about 2 weeks ago (decision made partly due to the excellent review going on here - thanks Craig!!) and have been working my way gradually around the sounds and the Cubase AI4 integration.

                                Just a quick question - Craig I know you're going to come on to AI later, but maybe Athan could answer this one - it's probably a quicky.

                                The arpeggiators on the 'board are fantastic, I'm particularly taken by the guitar ones. So I wanted to record a guitar backing into Cubase, using the arpeggiator that's programmed into the XS voice.

                                The only way I managed to do it was like this (having looked through some Motifator forum posts) - there has to be an easier way!

                                1. Select the voice
                                2. Write down the number of the arpeggiator you wanted to use
                                3. Go to Song mode
                                4. Hit record
                                5. Turn on arpeggiator and enter arpeggiator number written down in 2.
                                6. Record section
                                7. Insert memory stick (or, I guess, hook the XS up to the network)
                                8. Save 'All' file to memory stick (or network drive)
                                9. Import track from Song in 'All' file from memory stick or network drive into Cubase
                                10. (optional) Realise you've got the chord progression wrong and either fire up one of the editors in Cubase or start all over again.

                                I really hope I'm missing something simple here! The XS Editor in Cubase seems to have a 'Arp to PC' button, but the manual very helpfully describes it as something like 'useful if you want to record Arps to a PC' - I clicked it, but it didn't seem to do much. (XS Editor is great by the way - Cubase integration is fantastic!). Is there just a 'turn on Arp and send to MIDI Out' setting in Song mode that I haven't found yet?

                                Thanks!

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