But the Yamaha Motif XS has forced me to rethink my philosophy. The convenience of having everything in one box that I can take to a gig is a powerful enticement — but the key difference for me is how easy the Motif makes it to sketch out good-sounding song ideas quickly. The Motif integrates beautifully with my computer setup, too; it's the best of both worlds.
The Motif XS is a full-featured workstation featuring sample-playback synthesis, optional user sampling just add RAM , complex keyboard layouts for gigging, two types of sequencing, a multitrack arpeggiator, and computer interfacing. A full list of comparisons between the various Motif models would take pages, so this review will focus strictly on the XS.
I received an XS6 for review. It's heavy and solidly built. The large, high-resolution color LCD is not easy to read at oblique viewing angles, but it's wonderful if you're sitting in a normal position. Located beneath it are a dozen function buttons for selecting onscreen menu tabs. The OS is quite complex, but it's clearly and logically laid out, and I had no trouble navigating. The front panel is studded with almost buttons, most of which have built-in LEDs see Fig. A bank of eight knobs can be switched to six different groups of clearly labeled functions.
Beneath the knobs are eight sliders for controlling the volume of various sound components. Mounted below the pitch-bend and modulation wheels is a short ribbon controller. You can't assign the eight sliders to send MIDI CC messages, but two of the knobs, two of the buttons, and the ribbon controller are assignable. The keyboard transmits both Velocity and Channel Aftertouch. The most significant feature missing from the hardware spec is compatibility with Yamaha's line of PLG add-on synthesis boards, which can be installed in older Motif models.
The XS is strictly a sample-playback synth. The XS's factory sound set is huge, and the presets are excellent for details, see Web Clips 1 and 2 and the online bonus material at www. A Category Search utility makes it easy to find the type of Voice you're looking for.
The XS also supplies 3 banks of user-programmable Voice memory slots, along with 32 user drum kits. The XS is capable of voice polyphony, but the actual number of simultaneous voices you'll be able to hear depends on how many Elements are used in the Voices you're playing. The XS uses as many as eight Elements per Voice, and they can be split and layered across the keyboard. Each Element contains its own oscillator, filter, envelopes, and LFO. The Voice as a whole has another LFO, modulation routings, settings for the effects and arpeggiator, and a few other functions.
These allow any Element to respond to your keyboard performance in various ways. An Element can play release noises by responding to key up rather than key down, for example, or it can play only when one of the assignable function buttons is pressed, be part of a random or cycling Element group, and so on.
The resonant filter has 18 modes ranging from a 4-pole analog emulation to a response that combines a 1-pole lowpass with a 1-pole highpass. In addition to reverb and chorus, a Voice can have two insert effects routed in series or parallel. Each of the 53 insert-effects types has a handful of useful presets to get you started. The Voice's common LFO has a user-designable step waveform. Certain essential modulation routings, such as Velocity to amplitude and to filter cutoff frequency, are hardwired. The Element LFO has three dedicated outputs — one each for pitch, cutoff, and amplitude.
The common LFO has a switching matrix that allows it to modulate the pitch, cutoff, or amplitude of any Element. Beyond that, the XS provides a modulation matrix with six routings. The matrix has 12 possible inputs, including the 2 wheels, the ribbon, Channel Aftertouch, 2 assignable knobs, 2 assignable buttons, and the 2 expression-pedal inputs.
Each routing can be switched on or off for each Element, and the list of possible destinations is long. Because you can control certain parameters — including filter cutoff and resonance, envelope ADSR values, and reverb and chorus depth — directly from dedicated front-panel knobs, the matrix isn't needed for them. Even so, six routings is just not enough; having to choose between using Aftertouch, the ribbon, or an assignable knob, for instance, is frustrating.
Spend a moment or two understanding this graphic. The values increase as you move from 0 along the bottom towards Moving the MW beyond that the response remains the same flat above 64 the mid-way point. The graphic is "linear" in nature. This can be useful to prevent excessive change. All values in-between are available - so you can tailor the response as you may require. You may wish to apply a controller with a minimum of effort - that is what the DEPTH parameter will allow you. When ELM-Lvl is selected you can individually assign which elements will respond to this Control Set's Depth setting when the physical controller is moved.
This is accomplished by moving the cursor to the Element Switch line and un-checking all but Element 2. Here's how When you set Element 2's Level to 0, it is biased to the MW. This is a very flexible arrangement. You can expand upon it and dream up your own configurations. Now when you move the wheel forward it will fade out one Element and fade in the other.
Notice you did not have to set the Element Level for Element 1 to 0. This is because if you did and then applied a minus value to it Try changing the controller to the RB Ribbon. The Ribbon defaults to sending Control Change message number This is shown in parenthesis as: Ribbon 22 Now that you have the Ribbon controller selected you will notice that only one Element is active when the Ribbon is not touched but if you move your finger to the right side of the ribbon only Element 2 is heard.
And as you move your finger to the left side of the ribbon only Element 1 is heard. This is because the ribbon, unlike the wheel is a left-center-right controller more on this later in the article. However, we just want you to observe that now. That is whether it remains where you last touched it hold or if it reverts back to the first condition reset. Almost any controller can be used for this purpose crossfading — some make more sense than others in certain situations.
Foot Control cc can be assigned to control many different parameters within a synth voice. It too can be potentially routed to any of Destinations - and as we'll see, some make more sense to control with your foot than others. There is always some confusion here because they both can use the same FC7 pedal — however, the function can be quite different.
One key difference is that if you use cc every thing connected to that MIDI channel will be controlled exactly the same. When you set the Volume to 0 you will have biased total volume to the Foot Controller. Extra Credit: If the parameter to be controlled is set at any value other than 0, you are, in affect, setting a minimum value for that parameter. In the case of our volume output example, this would be the minimum volume when the controller was in the heel-down position or wheel down position. In some instances you may wish to set the minimum to a value other than zero as the stored condition especially for "live" players or those in the recording studio, this is invaluable.
You can set the maximum volume for the for the VOICE using the Voice Volume's overall setting, but set a minimum value for the Element to which the Strings will not dip below If you always set the minimum to 0 silence you may not recognize that setting the actual Element's Level to a value, say 60, can allow you to easily control the swell and withdrawl of the strings between two predetermined output levels - this can, indeed, be useful. If you know what output levels work, you can setup your controllers to work in specific region that you predetermine.
If you started editing a Preset or you started editing an Internal Voice, simply point the Store procedure towards a desirable Internal location.
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Doing so will allow you to retrieve this Voice anytime you need it in the future and you will not have to hunt through various USB drives looking for it - simply name it, categorize it, rank it, even leave notes for yourself about its use. Note: At the end of any editing session you should make a backup copy of all your new Voice edits. If you have not manipulated added, subtracted new Waveform data, then you simply make a small file "without Sample".
What other things can be assigned?
The XS's factory sound set is huge, and the presets are excellent for details, see Web Clips 1 and 2 and the online bonus material at www. Mixcraft 5 will automatically find and analyze a section of noise, and you can reduce the noise level or eliminate it entirely. There are a few settings that can easily be changed by hitting a few wrong buttons accidentally which can cause the VLm to stop responding. Internal data communication Internal Memory Data communication between this synthesizer and an external device The convenience of having everything in one box that I can take to a gig is a powerful enticement — but the key difference for me is how easy the Motif makes it to sketch out good-sounding song ideas quickly.
But first, let's gain an understanding of how the controllers work. MIDI provides for standard physical controllers. Some are fixed as to what Control Change message they send, while others are assignable. These two things can be quite different, by design. Sound tricky? These are your fundamental, playable sounds.
A Voice can have as many as eight completely independent multi-sampled waveform sets within it — Yamaha calls these components Elements. You can assign the various physical controllers to control specific areas within the sound.
Exactly how the data is interpreted by the tone generator receiving device is programmable. For example, it is possible to use the wheel for something other than just pitch bend by programming the sound to have a Pitch Bend Depth of 0 and then assigning the PB wheel to a different parameter. Exactly how the data Control Change message — written cc is interpreted by the tone generator receiving device is programmable.
For example, it is possible to use the Modulation Wheel for something other than just vibrato depth by programming the sounds PMD Pitch Modulation Depth to 0 and assigning it another parameter. PMD is the technical name for what we musicians call "vibrato".
It does not automatically control vibrato though - it must be programmed on a per Voice basis. Instruments like acoustic piano have no use for vibrato, so you may find the MW doing something quite different in some Voices. For example, the Mod Wheel makes a good 'mix' control.
The assignment to vibrato Pitch Mod is not automatic. As you move the wheel up you will add vibrato pitch modulation to the Voice. This is strictly a matter of preference.
As you raise the MW from the down position you begin applying modulation - sending values that increase 0 through It can be assigned as an internal control device. It can independently be assigned any control change message, cc1-cc95, except 32 , for transmitting out via MIDI. The default assignment is cc called: "General Purpose control 1". You can use it to change Element level, filter, effects, etc.