Aere's Music On The Yamaha S90-es Synthesizer

In the early 2000's (as I recall), I purchased a Yamaha S90-es synthesizer, which was at the high end of the line of synthesizers at the time, creating music using sampling.

Here is a picture of the Yamaha synthesizer (it's the one on the bottom):

The Yamaha S90-es Synthesizer (below) integrated into a computer music workstation, with the earlier Roland D20 in the rack above it, and the computer on the floor to the left, with its monitor above.

These musical instruments (and the computer) are are all connected by cables, using a MIDI interface. The word MIDI is an acronym that stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.

The MIDI interface is a standard protocol that has been around since the early 80's, and has remained standard enough that I was able to take a MIDI sequence file written in the 80's (to a diskette) by Master-Tracks Pro on an Atari ST, and read it into (and use it) with a modern sequence editor (Rosegarden, running on Linux) in the 2000's.

This is pretty amazing, considering how computer software standards come and go. Do you even remember using diskettes?

A primary part of creating music with this equipment, is a sequence editor. What is a sequence editor? Remember this definition:

A sequence editor is a 'word processor for music'.

Most of us use word processors nowadays, and the things you do with documents using a word processor, are the sorts of things you do with music using a sequence editor.

I'm sure you might find it difficult to imagine having to re-type a document because of a few typo-type errors on a page, and would hate to have only a typewriter (with no word processor)!

In creating music nowadays, I would likewise hate to have only the musical instrument, and no sequence editor!

Sequence editors allow you to put together a piece a music, one instrument part at a time, that plays all the various instrument parts together as a whole. So you can see how valuable a sequence editor is to a composer! It even lets you try playing the various parts using different instruments.

In this case, the sequence editor I used is called Rosegarden, and it runs on Linux.

A sequence editor saves your work in a MIDI sequence file. These files can be thought of as a player-piano roll, saved in electronic form.

They don't record the actual audio sounds (as you would use on an MP3 player), but instead, record what notes were played, at what time, and how hard you pressed those notes. It also records the use of the sustain-pedal, the modulation (channel-pressure) control of the vibrato, as well as pitch-bend (used if you're playing a piece like the beginning of Gershwin's “Rhapsody In Blue”, where the player 'bends' the pitch of the clarinet notes).

To give you a quick introduction to what a sequence editor is, and does, here is a screen-shot of the main window of the Rosegarden sequence editor:

In the screen-shot above, my composition “Nocturne” is loaded, and is connected to my Yamaha S90-es synthesizer using a “M-Track MIDI 1” interface. You can have multiple MIDI devices connected (each with 16 simultaneous instrument parts), all played from the same sequence file, giving you an entire orchestra, if you desire.

There are four 'tracks' I am using (2, 3, 4, and 5):

2. The “PRE3 121. H09 Double-Reed Quartet” sound, using MIDI channel 2

3. The “116. H04 Sweet Oboe” sound, using MIDI channel 3

4. The “PRE1 111. G15 Ooh Pipes” sound (which is like a wordless choir with organ pipes), using MIDI channel 4

5. The “PRE3 35. C03 PWM Strings” sound, using MIDI channel 5

Any MIDI device (such as the Yamaha S90-es, in this case) can have up to 16 independent instrument sounds in use at any time, and each of those devices can have as many independent, simultaneous notes playing as you can play.

In the pane at the right, are various musical 'segments' I have recorded, and the play-position of the sequence editor is stopped just after count 1 of measure 29. The “Sweet Oboe” was not playing before that point, but starts playing there.

The PWM Strings segment is selected, and by double-clicking on it, I brought up the matrix editor window (in the next screen-shot) showing the notes (and sustain pedal usage) of that segment.

Here is a screen-shot of the matrix editor window, which quickly shows you what I meant by comparing a MIDI sequence file to a player-piano roll:

The notes are shown in the main part of the window, and the length of the rectangle of each note corresponds to how long it was held-down. The colors of the notes give you a visual clue of how hard the note was pressed, where more-red means more-loud.

The piano-keyboard at the left lets you know what pitch each note-rectangle plays.

Below that, is a part of the window showing my use of the sustain-pedal. This control is either on (value from 64 to 127 – here 127), or off (value from 0 to 63 – here 0).

The bottom part of the window shows a thumb-nail representation of the segment, highlighting what part of it is being displayed.

The vertical blue line in both the bottom part of the window, and in the upper part, shows the current play-position. The scale of numbers at the top of the 'piano roll' area shows the musical 'measure numbers', and counts within each measure.

The current play-position is just after count 1 of measure 29.

So now you know about the equipment I used, and how it is used, let's take a listen to the music I created using that equipment, by clicking on the links below:

Aere's “Re-Imaginings” Album

My next album, rather than being re-working of earlier pieces for the Yamaha S90-ES, consists of music created specifically for, and on, that synthesizer.

It includes my favorite composition of all (so far), called “Impromptu 2 – Sunlight On The Water”.

The pieces in this album are studio productions, and can't be performed live, except for the one piano piece, if I were to re-learn it.

Aere's “Explorations” Album

(Back To "A Composer's Life In Music")