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Keys to Success

We find out why the Yamaha XS8 is the constant companion of musician and composer Loy Mendonsa


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Yamaha has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to their musical instruments. The company boasts some of the finest instruments in the world, be it pianos keyboards or drums, and their new workstation, the gargantuan Yamaha Motif XS8, lives up to the company’s reputation. Its sheer size is such that it took two people to carry this 30 kilo monster and set it up for me.

The Motif XS8 has an 88-key balanced hammer effect keyboard which makes you feel like you are playing a piano. The number of buttons and features can be very intimidating and the extremely thick user manual gives the impression that the XS8 is extremely complicated to use. It does take a little time to get used to but once you get the hang of it the operations are a breeze. The large LCD colour display comes in very handy to see what you are editing but it would have made for easier viewing had it been adjustable or slightly angled. The XS8 has 128-note polyphony and has an AMW2 tone generator with expanded articulation – in short, it means that the sounds on the XS8 are articulated to match the actual acoustic instrument. When put to the test, the onboard sounds are spectacular and very realistic – the piano and guitar sounds, especially, were exceptionally close to the real thing.

Specifications

–          355 Mb Wav ROM

–          1024 Normal voices

–          64 Drum-kits

–          128 x 3 user banks (voice mode)

–          128 x 3 performances

–          18 filters

–         

The XS8 also boasts of having the largest Wav Rom on any workstation with a 355 Mb capacity and has 1,024 normal voices and 64 drum-kits. It has 128 x 3 user banks in voice mode as well as 128 x 3 performances and features 18 filters and effects like Chorus (22types), reverb (9types), etc. All these effects conform to a new patented technology called VCM (Virtual Circuitry Modeling). It also happens to be the only synthesiser in the world that allows 2 Insert Effects per track, over 8 tracks in both of its sequencers. In Performance Mode it allows four arpeggiators to be synchronised together to give the illusion of some kind of style-in-play.

The XS8 also has 1Gb of sampling RAM, allowing approximately 45 minutes of stereo sampling time, and also boasts of 6,000 Arpeggiated ideas that span almost all genres of music. In track sampling mode the XS8 allows the user to convert all 16 tracks into an Audio Recording Suite if required. The sequencer section allows you to record up to 16 tracks simultaneously and also run effects on these tracks.

Another brilliant aspect of the XS8 is the IEEE1394 which basically allows you to record 16 separate audio tracks through a single firewire cable; it also doubles up as an effects port and a separate soundcard with 96Khz sampling capacity. It comes with a special version of Cubase called Cubase AI which is specially designed for the XS8; however, you can still run it with any other version of the software. You can even hook it up to your computer through a regular LAN cable and it will show up as a drive, into which you can drag and drop items. A REMOTE feature allows you to control your Windows PC/Mac directly from the keyboard, so you can effectively do away with the computer keyboard and mouse.

Overall the XS8 is a complete solution for a professional musician and is probably one of the best Workstations available in the market today. No matter what genre of music you play with the XS8, it’s always great option. The retail price for the XS8 is approx 1,60,000 and  for most professional musicians and composers this is definitely a worthy investment.

One professional musician who swears by his Yamaha Motif XS8 is Loy Mendonsa who’s been using it for the last two years. Loy was originally a bassist/guitar in the 80s but he switched over to the piano/keyboard in the late 80s. He moved back to Mumbai in the 90s and start doing jingles before getting into Bollywood film music. He’s been making music for almost a decade with the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio. Loy also has a band called Faces In The Dark with Eshaan playing guitar, Karl Peters on bass, Kurt Peters on drums and Dominique singing. The band plays a mix of jazz, funk and blues.

Expert Speak

Loy says, “The Yamaha Motif XS8 covers a wide range of sounds for different genres of music, right from classical to dance, hip-hop etc. Its exhaustive range of controls means that it is extremely flexible and it’s easy to tweak the sounds to your liking. Overall the sounds are great and it’s got great arpeggiators and pads and even great drum sounds, which I’ve used in many projects. I’ve always loved the sound of the Fender Rhodes but it’s out of production and the original Rhodes is extremely hard to cart around and to maintain so the XS8 works great for me because it has very good Rhodes sounds. It’s a great tool for me to sketch out songs and ideas. I used to use the Yamaha DX keyboard earlier before I switched to the XS8. It was easy to switch because being a piano player the XS8 clicked with me because of its key action and weight which work very well because it’s very close to the real piano action.

Loy’s Rig

Motif X8

Apple laptop running Logic and plenty of sounds from Logic and other soft synths.

“I find the OS of the XS8 very different from the Motif ES series which I used earlier. There are a lot more features thrown into the XS series and they’ve a lot made it a lot faster along with adding features like a touch screen display which make it more user-friendly. Overall, I pretty much take each keyboard for what it is, though I wouldn’t mind the XS8 being a bit light. What I wouldn’t mind however is the ability to re-arrange the program banks and probably control it with a footswitch and just change patches, I have a feeling that it might be possible but I haven’t figured it out yet.”

Sounds and samples

“The sounds I most frequently use on the XS8 are the pads, lead sounds, acoustic and electric pianos; however, it varies greatly from project to project and the style of music being used in each track. A lot of times I mix and match sounds, like I use a snare drum soundfrom 1 particular kit and a kick drum sound from another kit and mix and match it. I also use several sounds layered over each other to create a unique sound. For instance song ‘Kajrare’ has a kick and snare from the XS8 layered under the main groove and we also used dhol samples from the Motif but for ‘Rock On’ I got this really heavy grungy organ sound that I used. With my band Faces In The Dark, it’s more the Hammond B3 style of sounds along with electronic paino, clav and pad sounds that are used. Baiscally, the XS8 is versatile enough to use across different genres of music.”

Loy’s Tips

  1. Never stop learning. Learn from magazines, books, the internet, etc because there are so many resources available to musicians today.
  2. Interact with other musicians. Jam with different musicians, it will help you develop your style and improve your playing.
  3. When you start learning the piano or any instrument it’s always good to get a tutor to help you get started, and give you direction.
  4. As a musician it’s very important to develop your hearing. Try playing tunes by ear rather than referring to tabs or chord charts.

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