This, the second part of this a series of articles, deals with both YAMAHA and then ROLAND styles and the formats they work with (next time we will cover KORG and Ketron). As we pointed out in part 1, styles will not work on brands other than that they were written for and consequently for the purposes of clarity we need to split them up as all will become apparent.
Yamaha, the formats we use and why.
Originally all Yamaha styles were in a format called SFF1 (common) and would only use Yamaha XG voices. Every Yamaha instrument had this set of voices so their styles would play on all their keyboards. They later added some more voices called GM2 which you could also use and this style format stayed up to and including the PA9000. Then came the game-changing TYROS 1. This changed many aspects of their styles. Yamaha added lots of new sounds which included a new range of sounds called “Mega Voices”. All the new styles had access to the new sounds as well as keeping the older XG legacy sounds. This meant older keyboard styles would play on newer instruments. Following Tyros1 a new range of PSR keyboards was also released using both old and new sounds.
TYROS 3 saw the release of a newer style system called SFF2. It is the system being used right up to the current GENOS and is much cleverer than the old system. However, it gave us independent style writers a major headache as any style written on the new system cannot be used on older instruments.
What format do we use?
We are pleased to say we still support the old-style system under the branding of “Yamaha Gold Style Disk Collections” and you can find this range here. We currently write our styles using the SFF1 format but with our own changes. We use this base format as it is common to all newer Yamaha keyboards. We use the new sounds in the instruments and not the XG or GM2 sounds. There are always exceptions to a rule and occasionally we need to use one of these older sounds which is not in the Panel Voices. All these voices are still in your keyboard but depending on the instrument and you can’t access them to play. However, we can use them when programming the styles. To us, the most important thing when selecting voices is not if the style is using the most up to date sound, for us the sound rules everything, and we use the best sounds we can to build each style to the best of our abilities. Our newest styles for Yamaha are branded as "Platinum" and can be found here.
We do not use Mega Voices in our styles as they vary so much on each instrument and often have special effects built in which sound differently depending on the keyboard being played. One of our Unique Selling Points USP’s is we give our customers the means to buy a style and still use it without further payment if the customer upgrades his instrument inside the same brand, in this case, Yamaha. For example, you could have a PSR 700 and have some of our styles and then decide to get a new keyboard lets say a second-hand Tyros2 or even a new Genos. All our customers need to do is keep a copy of the style, load it into their new keyboard and it will still work. It will sound pretty much the same and in some cases, they may sound much better as they will use the newer instruments samples. Please note, you may need to adjust the volume and effects slightly as balances can be affected by all sorts of parameters. New sounds may be sampled at different levels, new speakers will give different sound characteristics, etc, etc. If we have used a sound that your keyboard does not have, then Yamaha has included an automatic remap system so a Piano will always be a Piano, a Trumpet will be a Trumpet even if we have used a different one from that soundbank (i.e. If we used Ballad Stack in the Piano Bank Tyros 2 but you have a Tyros 1 or PSR 700 that does not have this sound then the keyboard will use an alternate Piano sound), it will do this with all sound banks. The most important thing is all the sounds and chord structures will be correct and the style will work in exactly the way it used to in your older instrument.
Roland, the formats we use and why.
Roland released the E86 in 1993. It was the first keyboard you could program and load new styles into. It was also the instrument I started programming on. It was groundbreaking in the keyboard industry and very advanced although looking back it had limitations. Next came the “G” range and this was a further major step forward. It was soon followed by the EM2000 and to this day it is the most advanced keyboard Roland ever produced. However, this was very difficult to use and unfortunately, this led to its downfall. I, however, loved it and still use one in the studio today. Next came the VA range but let's forget about them as perhaps the less said the better… well, maybe not (haha). In my humble opinion, it was the start of the rabbit warren Roland went down and consequently led to the severe decline in the brand's popularity. Even with the release of the excellent G70 Roland has never really recovered. The G70 went back to the principles of the EM2000 and was again much easier to use.
Over the years we have developed four different ranges for Roland Keyboards and Organs and these can be found here. Since the release of the G70, Roland recommended all styles should be programmed to the G70 format, this allows them to work on all arranger keyboards made since the G70 and consequently, that’s what we do.
We often get asked, “Can I use older Roland styles with my new Roland keyboard?” The answer is yes you can use older styles with newer Roland keyboards, you may want to adjust certain parameters, but they will work. Older styles only have 2 Intro/Endings and 2 or 4 fills. Roland has been very clever as when an older style is loaded it will automatically create 4 Intros/Endings and 6 Fills for the newer instrument. You can then make any adjustments you like and save in the new format giving you a new style.
Regarding sounds, the style sound selection works in a similar way to Yamaha’s, i.e. If a piano has been used and your keyboard does not have this specific sound then it will use the first piano sound in the sound bank so a piano will always be a piano and a trumpet will always be a trumpet, etc. This works because all sounds are now kept in their corresponding groups. The older styles you may have a problem with are EM2000 styles where this instrument uses a slightly different process. As I previously said, the EM2000 was the most advanced keyboard Roland ever produced with some remarkable features such as triggering fills with aftertouch, keyboard harmony where you could select different instruments for each harmony note and the brilliant D beam control allowing you to add instruments such as brass to play shots just by waving your hand over it. You could also change the sounds Tone and Volume by moving your hand in and out over the beam (very clever). However, the sound problems that do arise are due to the location of both banks and specific sounds. The sound banks on EM were different from other models. You were given Banks A & B, then EM sounds, then C & D, G range sounds, then E & F, then E86, SC-55 and finally the CM-64 range of sounds. A lot of these sounds were pre GM mapping so in these banks you would get Saxes mixed in with Guitar Trumpets with Organs and so on. Also when programming EM styles you could edit the drum kits not only changing the instrument but you could also change the pitch of the drums and all this info would be saved in the styles. If you have got some old Roland styles and they sound strange, it is probably because of this system.
When you loaded either a Style or Midi file into an EM the programmer could also tell it which bank of sounds to use, so if you had a GM midi file or one you had programmed yourself, it could be told what bank to use and it would then only use the samples in that bank. Very clever, great for the programmer, not directly so useful for those not into the programming side of things. It should be noted that our styles for Roland fall into different groups because of the history of the Tech and we still keep all our older styles available for those with older instruments. All our latest range of Roland styles though are programmed to the G70 sound map and format as Roland recommends.
So why have more than one style version when the older styles will, in the most part, load into the newer instruments without too many problems? Well, the answer to this is really simple. Technology changes and we like to make the most of the new musical toys we are given. It is human nature to want the newest all, singing all dancing, tech as this makes it all sound better. It should perhaps be said though that it is also for slightly selfish reasons. All our styles are gigged by our writing team and we just want to be the best we can be. It is a great reason for giving you the best we can!
I hope this has helped you understand a bit more about styles, in our next article we will look at KORG and KETRON.