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Motif XS Newbie Tech Tips

Secrets Of The Sequencer 

Even in today’s software-dominated world of recording, a hardware sequencer has plenty to offer. A hardware sequencer is dependable, locked into a known (and also dependable) level of sounds, polyphony, and effects. Hardware sequencers are generally masters of pattern-based looping; a wonderful recording style that is both quick and inspirational.

Motif XS offers all of the above and more.

As on earlier models, the XS offers an Integrated Sampling Sequencer, which seamlessly combines audio and MIDI recording. Install optional DIMM modules (up to 1 GB) and you can record audio directly to Pattern (loop-based) or Song (linear) tracks.

You can plug a mic into the A/D input of the XS, or import samples (loops or waves) from a sample CD.

So far we could also be describing the Motif ES. The XS ups the recording ante in several important ways.

First, thanks to the large format, color display you can SEE a whole bunch more than ever before. This not only means you have vastly improved contact with voice lists, arpeggios, and especially the sampling features (waveforms etc), you can also — genuinely — mix a project from the screen.

4 analog outs and SPDIF stereo digital out are standard. The XS8 comes with multi channel FireWire audio and MIDI built-in and the XS 6 and 7 will have a new Dice II based FireWire card.

Loop Remix, an excellent feature on the ES, has been improved on the XS (the loop remix can be set to occur only every 4 measures, 8 measures etc.).

The XS also implements direct recording of a Performance (the inspirational ‘multi-sound with arp-driven drum loops and more’ patches) into the sequencer! View web video on this feature.

As YamahaUS pointed out in the forums recently, “Here’s the complete power user guide on how to take a Performance with 4 intelligent arpeggios with chord recognition and record them into a Song or Pattern. Ready! Hit: Record.”

Finally, although it is always advisable to store your Patterns and Songs externally, on the XS you don’t have to. Patterns and Songs need to be stored before leaving Song/Pattern Mode (and the XS kindly reminds you to do so), but once they are they are stored in flash memory the material will be retained on power down.

All About Arpeggios

Arpeggios—those clever, MIDI-driven performance snippets that produce everything from drum patterns to guitar strums—have been one of the key features of the Motif series since Day One.

The XS offers approximately 6000 different arpeggios, plus there are four independent arpeggiators that let you apply one, say, to a drum voice, one to a bass, one to a guitar, and one to a synth part.

Each of these four arpeggio engines can tap into the pool of 6000+ arps, and you have 5 sets of these arpeggios ‘live’ at any one time under the Sub Function buttons, just like on the Motif ES.

Here’s how it functions:

1) One arp assigned to a drum beat
2) One arp assigned to a bass groove
3) One arp assigned to a strumming pattern
4) One arp assigned to an expression motif (e.g. the flute ‘flutter’)

1) A different drum beat
2) A different Bass groove
3) The same strum (or different, it’s up to you)
4) A different flutter

SF3, etc.

In addition to arps that function like those on a Motif ES, the XS has arps that have chordal intelligence, which lets them do many things that were not possible on other Motif models such as Performance Control over mutes, hold settings etc. Many of these arps also possess up to 8 velocity zones.

Assigning these multiple arpeggios, plus being able to ‘voice’ them in real time is what creates the unique performance-orientated experience of playing the Motif XS.

You just have to XSperience this for yourself.

Even More Effective Effects

Effects have always been a Motif strong suit and the XS has a full complement of effects, both insert (Insertion) and send (System), plus a special set of VCM (Virtual Circuitry Modeling) effects like those found in the DM2000, that model the elements in analog circuitry, recreating the warm characteristics of vintage processing gear.

Rather than attempting to re-create a desired sound using conventional digital audio methods, Virtual Circuitry Modeling actually models the analog circuitry; right down to the last resistor and capacitor.

This technology was originally developed at Yamaha by Toshi Kunimoto and his group, the same sonic wizards who created the VL1 and VP1 — the world’s first physical modeling synthesizers. VCM technology goes well beyond simply analyzing and modeling electronic components and emulating the sound of old equipment. It is capable of capturing subtleties that simple digital simulations cannot even approach, and in fact creating ideal examples of sought-after vintage gear. This includes not only studio effects like vintage compressors and EQs, but also vintage pedal effects including flangers, wahs, phasers, etc.

There is no PLG facility in the XS but ‘older’ technology is still available if you need it. For instance one of the effects is a 10-band Vocoder. The Vocoder allows up to 128 notes of harmonies to be created from the keyboard and also is of course useful for cool synth effects as well. It can be used in Voice and Performance mode and recorded directly into the Integrated Sampling Sequencer.

If you want to read more about VCM you can check out Yamaha Pro Audio’s website:

Reverb is an essential tool in any production and the XS reverb is taken from the SPX2000 and is derived from the same algorithm (REV-X) found in your most expensive (and now Grammy nominated for Technical award) digital mixers. 


As with the Motif ES the XS lets you utilize 2 inserts per voice and 8 voices with their dual inserts can be used in song/pattern mode.

VCM effects can comprise both of these voice inserts giving you a total of 16 simultaneous effects if you need. For example you could use a vintage compressor based on the Urei 1176 and a Phaser based on the Mutron III at the same time.

Number of Effect Types

One question people seem to be wondering about is the number of effect types. The catalog says that the XS has 53 effect types and the ES had 116 effect types. Huh? Actually this is really comparing apples and oranges.

On the ES, there are many effects ‘types’ that were more parameter variations of the same core algorithm. For example, there may have been a small hall effect type and a large hall effect type. These were actually the same effect algorithm with different parameters. On the XS all of the different parameter presets are combined in a smaller number of types. In reality there are more effect presets (all editable, of course) in the Motif XS.

Making the categories more distinct makes it far easier to find what you’re looking for — kind of important seeing as the XS actually has 320 effects presets to the ES’s 116!

A Performance in name only 

Motif’s have all offered so-named Performance patches. These are multi-voice patches that can tap into the arpeggios in order to create drum loops or a myriad other rhythmic backings.

Performances were originally designed just to be played live, a performance , geddit?

Problem was, Performances being so infectious and inspirational that a lot of people always wanted to just grab hold of the record button and capture the groove or song they were playing.

On the original Motif and Motif ES this is possible, but the word ‘performance’ suddenly took on an additional meaning.

On the XS, Performances have been put on steroids. There are four interactive arpeggiators and the arps can be harmonically intelligent. So now a Performance can have drums, bass, guitars and a synth arp all going at once. The bass and guitars will play the harmonically correct notes depending on what chords you play on the keyboard.

It’s a very elaborate system based on the same technology found in the Tyros. 
Even better, on the XS recording your Performance to a Pattern or Song has been distilled down to one button - press: “Record.”

You can now hit Record and record your real-time Performance-playing into the sequencer. All you need to do after that is go into Pattern or Song mode and there it’ll all be (split out onto four MIDI channels) for you to add to and continue working on. There has never been a quicker way to put together great sounding backing tracks.

There is also a new control option: PERFORMANCE CONTROL. This turns the 16 Track Select buttons into four groups of four — so you can interactively control the performance of the PERFORMANCE!

ARP ON/OFF [5]-[8]
PART MUTE [9]-[12]
ARP HOLD [13]-[16]

Expanded Articulation rules

Motif has Super Articulation. Motif XS now adds Expanded Articulation to its list of voice technologies.

Exactly what is this?

Those who have heard or played the Yamaha Tyros 2 may recall the instrument’s amazing range of ancillary instrumental behaviors (slides, pops, noises, etc.) that make them a world apart from mere synthesized or sampled sounds. The XS takes some of this type of raw material and places it in the hands of you, the user.

For example the main piano “Full Concert Grand” is an 8 Element Voice.

This is a triple-strike sample and also a four-way layer from C2 through to G5 and a three-way layer above G#5 (where there are no string dampers).

The XA control is assigned to the 8th Element which articulates the Key Off Sound for notes G5 and below (the main body of the sound). Key Off Sound on a piano creates the sound of the hammers and dampers returning to mute the vibrating strings. So although the piano is an 8 Element Voice, it only ever uses a maximum of two Elements simultaneously for any one note-on event.

XA control can also be assigned to things like legato playing. This allows the programmer to specify an Element or Elements to be sounded when playing legato. Rather than retriggering the Element that is responsible for the attack, certain of the Elements can be placed under XA control for “Legato” and the Legato Element will only sound when you have articulated a legato phrase, the attack Element, if you will, will not sound during the legato articulation… that is, you control the attack by releasing and retriggering the sound, if you connect the notes the envelopes don’t retrigger. This is as stunning on acoustic instruments as it is on synth leads and synth basses.

Combining this “Legato” articulation with the “Key Off Sound” on a lead instrument like a reed instrument, for example, means you can have Legato playing for solo lines and you can have the key pad sound articulated when you let go of a note (Key Off Sound could be the key pad of the horn returning to cover the hole). Key Off sound could be used to great effect, and is, on guitar plucks, harpsichord quills, Clavinets, etc. and Legato for hammer-ons, etc.

XA control can be used in precise ways to control what the keyboard is doing - and this is up to you as a performer. You can assign the XA control per Element and can determine if an Element will sound only under certain circumstances. Say on a lush string orchestra sound you need to articulate a prominent bow stroke, you can assign certain of your 8 Elements to groups, these groups can be recalled when you activate a specific controller (there are two new buttons on the front panel [AF1], and [AF2]). The Assignable Function buttons can help you articulate the change or you can assign the function to a foot switch or whatever controller helps you ‘perform’ the sound). And, of course, the controller manipulations can be recorded to the sequencer.

Big bowed orchestra to pizzicato; slow bows to quick strokes; single to ensemble; Sforzando-build to fall-offs, small room to grand canyon, etc. You can determine the articulations that you need.

Some of the new woodwind legato voices switch between 3 velocity layers of waves with attack and sustain legato waves. They also have keyoff samples. However, even though they use 7 elements there is never more than 1 element playing at any given time!

Expanded Articulation is not limited to natural/orchestral instruments. It can also be used to create Wave Cycles or Wave Random articulations where each key strike goes through a predetermined change of Element or can randomly order the Elements. The results here can be stunning and very useful in electronic and synth sounds adding a different dimension to your music.

Expanded Articulation not only adds another level of sound to your voices, it does so intelligently and interactively.