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Welcome to the support section.

Learning to Customize Piano Voices to Your Playing Style

Motif XS Power User: Learning to Customize Piano Voices to Your Playing Style
Included with this Power User article is a Voice Editor file (PianoTweak.X0E). We will concentrate on the Piano in this particular article. The Motif XS EDITOR file will allow you to load the two Voices we will be discussing. You can import them to any User location or simply bulk them temporarily into your XS to learn from them. The object here is to learn how you can make the Voice respond to your particular style of playing.

Load Procedure:
Open the Motif XS Editor and bring the Motif XS ONLINE
Select [VOICE] Mode in the upper left area
Click on the OPEN FOLDER icon to browse for the “PianoTweak.X0E” file
Highlight it and click “OPEN”

You can view the file contents on the left half of the IMPORT screen and the current internal Motif XS on the right. You can view the IMPORT contents by Category or by Bank.
Select “BANK”
Open the USER 1 folder
Highlight the first two Voices on the left side (you can do so by click on the first one then shift SHIFT + Click on the second)
Highlight the first location (or any that you wish to target in your internal Motif XS)

Shown below the first two Voices (left are set to imported starting with the USER 1 location “Everlasting Glory” on the right). Since two Voices are selected to input the first will overwrite “Everlasting Glory” the second will overwrite “8Z D&B Machine”


Click the IMPORT button in the top middle of the screen to execute the Import.
If done while the Editor is ONLINE they will be written to the Motif XS User locations.

How to Explore the Voice
Once you have successfully loaded this Voice to a User location:
You can begin to explore the Voice data either in the Motif XS screen itself or in the Editor program. We recommend that you do both… this is a great way to learn about navigating the architecture - knowing how to find a parameter both in the Motif XS front panel interface and where that same parameter exists in the Editor.

First, you will discover that it is a single Element Voice. The INSERTION “A” Effect is set to a VCM 501 EQ, and the INSERTION “B” Effect is set to DAMPER RESONANCE. The REVERB is set to SPX ROOM (to simulate a piano box) and no Chorus (this is an acoustic piano, after all). Feel free to EDIT this Voice to your own liking. That is the whole point of this exercise.

Go to the CONTROL SETS and view the settings. To do this press:
Press [EDIT]
Press [F4]: CTRL SET

Here you will find that a single of the 6 sets is used to set the initial FILTER position.
SOURCE = AS1 (Assignable Knob 1)
DEPTH = +4

It is critical to set the Assignable 1 Knob to match your playing style. It is not assiged to be a controller that you will be actively moving during play…this is a piano after all! It is there to ‘set and forget’. I purposely use the KNOB because it is a controller that you can use to OFFSET a value, then [STORE] that value as a function of your VOICE customization.

With the AS1 Knob at 12 o’clock, when you play softly the sound is dark. As you increase your velocity the filter will naturally open and more high frequencies will be heard. This mimics the real world situation where the more energy you put into striking a note the more high harmonics are heard. As you move the knob clockwise, and you play softly the sound will be brighter. What you are going to set with this controller is the dark (or damped) sound when you are playing softly. Each player will have a different touch. If I set the parameters for my touch, inevitably another player would find the ‘soft’ setting too dark or too bright and of course, the song/style you choose to play will also make a difference. Therefore, I programmed the AS1 Knob so that each player could find their favorite ‘soft’ setting, easily. By the end of this article, hopefully, you will know exactly where to go to influence this critical setting.

Adjust the AS1 Knob so that you are comfortable when playing pianissimo (softly). It is a setting for soft play. When you are comfortable press [STORE] and update the VOICE data.

It’s OKAY not to be NORMAL
While we are discussing ‘different strokes for different folks’, you should know this about your Motif XS (or any touch sensitive synth) and your playing style… you can set the overall response as to whether you play heavy-handed, or you have a light touch. This is not a value judgement, far from it, it is a matter of whether you play heavier than the average player, or lighter than the average player. You should spend a fair amount of time experimenting with the overall VELOCITY CURVE of your keyboard. This parameter is global and is set in [UTILITY] > [F1] GENERAL > [SF1 PLAY > Keyboard.


You will find settings for ‘NORM’. Norm is the average guy, remember him from Cheers?…er, NORM is linear response. Do not feel that you have to be normal, you may not be – this can be a good thing. ‘SOFT’ is a setting for people who naturally have a light touch. The little graphic shows that it takes less effort to get loud. The ‘x’ axis (horizontal) is increase in velocity/effort and the ‘y’ axis (vertical) is the volume/response output. ‘HARD’ is for those who tend to be heavy-handed. If you are heavy-handed, don’t apologize…simply set your Velocity curve so that it takes more effort to get loud. ‘WIDE’ gives you a mix of the two. (FIXED is a special case.) One of these will be closer to “right” for you, and the others should feel like you have your shoes on the wrong feet!!! Only you will know what is right for you though, in this case. It is all right to have an opinion here – in fact, definitely have one.

“Keyboard Velocity Curve” is an overall setting. However, each Voice can be tailored to your touch response on a per Voice basis, as well. And that is what we will take a look at now.

Filter and Amplitude Touch Response…
The three basic areas of control on both analog and sample based synthesis are Pitch, Filter, and Amplitude. There is very little significant movement in Pitch during the playing of a piano note – what little there is, is already recorded in the attack portion of the waveform. Therefore, we will be concentrating our discussion on the Filter and Amplitude portions.

The Filter is responsible for “tone” or harmonic content control. And Amplitude is “loudness”.

How these parameters respond to your touch are the parameters we will look at now. It is true in nature that the harder or more energy you put into playing a musical instrument, the louder in volume and brighter in tone it becomes. This is the domain of the Amplitude and Filter Velocity Sensitivity controls.

Press [EDIT]
Touch Track 1 to select Element 1 parameters
Press [F2] AEG

“Envelope Generator Time Velocity Sensitivity” parameter here influences how the Amplitude Envelope Generator changes to your touch.

An Envelope Generator is responsible for how something (in this case loudness) changes over time. The “EG Time Vel Sens” = +10 means that as you play a key with more velocity there is an increase in speed of the attack and decay portions of the envelope.

Press [F1] LEVEL/PAN

“Level Velocity Sensitivity” parameter here influence how the Amplitude change in loudness to your touch.
“Level Velocity Sens” = +25 with a Curve = 3 influences a change in loudness with an increase in velocity.

“Level Velocity Sensitivity” Values:
When dealing with Velocity Sensitivity here - a value of 0 will remove all velocity responsiveness from this Element. (Organ sounds, harpsichords, and original analog synthesizer sounds are examples of instruments that have no velocity sensitivity). A value of +32 is linear response - that is, for each unit input you get a unit output. As you increase above +32 toward +63 you are working with “crossfade” velocity response. When you set the Level Velocity Sensitivity to a maximum of +63, only a very strong strike will cause the Element to sound at all. Values from +33 through +63 are great when you want soft keystrikes to be ignored by a particular Element.

Velocity Curve:
The Curve of 3 makes it fairly easy to get this change in loundess response. Try a different setting for “Level Velocity Sens” and see how it affects the overall response of the Voice. Try a different Curve and see how it feels. Learn to use the EDIT/COMPARE function. That is, after you have made a change to a specific parameter you can press the EDIT button again (it will begin to flash) – this will place you in COMPARE mode. While in COMPARE the values you have edited but not yet STORED are returned to their previous value. You can play and hear the original values.

Press EDIT/COMPARE again to return to the values you have changed. (Please be aware that while in Compare mode you cannot make any further changes to values).

Press [F3] FILTER
Press [SF1] TYPE - to view the FILTER’s response to Velocity Sensitivity.
Press [SF2] FEG - to view how velocity is applied to the Filter change over time

Experiment with different settings for the CUTOFF of the filter. This influences the brightness-to-darkness in the sound of the Voice and how it changes to Velocity. CUTOFF is technically the point (Frequency) at which the filter starts being affective. CUTOFF VELOCITY SENSITIVITY refers to the change in the filter to velocity/touch response. As you move this parameter notice how it affects the sound of the piano, as you play soft to loud. Negative values will reverse what occurs naturally in physics. In other words, in nature as you increase the energy to a musical instrument the brighter it will sound… here negative numbers will darken the sound as you play harder.

Other Subtleties
The position of the player: When you play a real acoustic grand the low notes are on your left and the high notes are on your right. Can you give this ‘feel’ to the piano Voice? To do so we need to go back to the AMPLITUDE:

On this screen notice that the “Scaling Pan” = +51.

This will only be important to those of you listening to the Voice in Stereo (and you should be). This will place the low end of the piano in your left speaker and as you go up the keyboard chromatically it will pan to the right. High notes will be in the right speaker. This is either enjoyable or not. If you want to eliminate the pan scaling effect, set this parameter to 0. Also on this screen are the overall LEVEL of Element 1, and the PAN position (which should remain C or Center because this is a Stereo wave).

No discussion of editing would be complete without knowing exactly where a VOICE ‘points’ to a waveform (what Yamaha calls an ELEMENT). In this case the Element is a multi-sampled ROM waveform:

This is the screen where a VOICE points to a specific Wave Number. You can see our “PianoBadMr” Voice uses the Preset wave number 0001 “CF3 Stretch Sw St” The ‘St’ = stereo. An Element in Yamaha language can be stereo. (It can be a velocity swap, “Sw” as well.) This is a triple strike velocity swapping Element that is Stereo. it is a sample of a 9’ Yamaha CFIIIs Handcrafted Concert Grand Piano.

While still in Voice [EDIT], press the [COMMON EDIT] button to select the COMMON Edit level. On this level of editing you can reach parameters that will be applied to the VOICE overall – like controllers, effects, arpeggiator, an overall LFO (Common LFO – although each element has its own Element LFO, as well), and the overall level of the Voice.

Press [F6] EFFECT

Here you will find the INS A, INS B, CHO and REV. Of the four Effect processor units available to the VOICE, only three are used on this particular Voice. This screen is very important to understand. Signal flows from left to right/ top to bottom. On the top left you have a list of the eight possible ELEMENTS. We know that this piano Voice is a single element – therefore you see an assignment at “ELEMENT: OUT” for just ELEMENT 1. It is routed to INS A (INSERTION EFFECT A).

“INS A” is assigned to a “VCM 501 EQ”. [SF2] INS A - will let you review the settings of this equalizer.

Follow the routing from INSA to INS2. INSERTION EFFECT “B” is assigned to the Damper Resonance. This effect simulates the response of the soundboard of a grand piano. Its an effect that is only heard when the sustain pedal is down and there are notes being held. (Soundboard). The signal then returns to the main signal flow. Notice how you have a Send with an amount control going to the REVERB processor. There is another send (at 0) going to the CHORUS processor. Both the CHORUS and REVERB boxes have a ‘return’ level that returns signal to the main left to right flow, and they each have a PAN control for the return. In between the CHORUS and REVERB boxes you have an amount control that controls how much of the signal that is ‘post’ the Chorus will arrive at the Reverb. This means that you can send signal individually to the REVERB and CHORUS (called parallel) or route one into the other (called series). This can make a huge difference if, for example, you set the CHORUS processor to a DELAY type. When you send signal in series (through the Chorus’ DELAY prior to going to the REVERB) each repeat would have reverb. If you route the signal in parallel only the original note would have the reverb, while each repeat would be bone dry (devoid of reverb).

Anyway, hope this has got you to the point where you now feel comfortable going into a Voice and making it your own. Most people can work EQ and Effects but become hopelessly lost when it comes to FILTER settings and AMPLITUDE settings that are often the critical part of how a Voice responds. And guessing can only get you so far. This tutorial by no means is complete…we did not get into the FILTER ENVELOPES and AMPLITUDE ENVELOPES themselves. Nor did we get into the ELEMENT EQ which can be configured as a single band parametric, a 2-band EQ or as a dB BOOST. Don’t become discouraged if you can’t master the synth after reading the manual once. With over a thousand parameters you cannot expect to be a genius immediately. But don’t let it interfere with your music. Like learning music, take it a little at a time. The toughest part is playing the actual music, not the programming. And although learning about programming is your responsibility, it will take a lot less time to master the synth engine then it takes to master being a good musician. That is a fact! Give it some respect though.

The Data
The File is a Motif XS Editor file. This can be loaded via your computer or can be loaded directly from a USB drive to the Motif XS.  If you use the Motif XS Editor (with Studio Manager) you can send just the individual VOICE data (there are but two Voices for this tutorial). If you do not have a computer with the Motif XS Editor, you can simply Load the Motif XS Editor file directly from your USB drive - you will not be able to select which Voices but you will be able to load the data.

As always, make a back up of any critical data you have created prior to loading this tutorial data.  Enjoy!

USER 1: 001 (A01) PianoBadMr
USER 1: 002 (A02) PianoBadMr

A mono version was supplied for those of you still living in the 1950’s and playing your XS in mono (lol) Shame on you!
The file is ZIPPED. Please download, unzip and work with the file “PianoTweak.X0E”

Download the zipped tutorial Editor file: