Yamaha RY30 Sound Cards
Rhythm Sound And Artist Cards
Martin Russ looks at how Yamaha have drummed up card support for their successful RY30 drum machine, with new cards containing the sounds and rhythms of big name drummers.
There are two types of data card now available from Yamaha for their RY30 (reviewed SOS June 1991) — Rhythm Sound cards and Artist Series cards — each packaged in a CD-sized box containing the card itself plus a detailed listing of the waves, voices, patterns and demo songs on the card. Photocopying the CD booklet and pasting the important information onto a set of small index cards should make using the cards easier.
The four Rhythm Sound cards ('Percussion', 'FX Drums', 'Dance & Soul' and 'House & Rap') are specifically intended to expand the sonic resources of the RY30, and contain waves, drum sounds, drum patterns and songs (usually demo pieces using the example patterns) which have a common theme. The sounds show how the waves (and sometimes the RY30's own internal wave samples) can be used to make new percussion sounds, whilst the patterns explore some of the possibilities provided by the new sounds. You can only use the card sounds and patterns after you have loaded in either the voices on their own (leaving your own patterns in memories 000 to 099, and your songs intact), or loaded the voices with pattern and song information (which wipes your patterns and songs) using the Utilities menu.
The 'Percussion' card contains world percussion, ranging from tabla and chaxixi to timpani and castanets. The waves have plenty of clicks and hits which can be pressed into service as part of other percussion sounds. For example, I made a very unusual snare by replacing an internal RY30 wave with a timpani attack. The patterns reflect the widely-sourced sounds, from salsa to polyrhythms, with surdo and pandeiro-based rhythms too. In all there are 24 waves, 32 voices, 44 patterns, and one demo song.
The 'FX Drums' card includes electronic/metallic bleeps, bangs, clunks, cracks and warbles, along with heavily treated sounds (which may have once been conventional drums) exhibiting some deliberate sampling artifacts like 8-bit quantisation noise. The patterns are just as weird and wacky, with names like 'Alien', 'Buick' and 'Barker' to whet your appetite. The demo song shows how to seriously abuse the real-time parameter wheel! This card converts the RY30 into a completely different machine which encourages wild and unusual programming — the most fun I've had in ages. 28 waves, 32 voices, 32 patterns and one demo song.
'Dance & Soul' is full of distinctive and imitative sounds. I loved the 'Cameo' snare with its hard, clicky and cutting sound, and the guitar stab cries out to be used in the Pitch Bank (as indeed it is in the demo song and example patterns). The example patterns are used as a showcase for using the parameter wheel, while the rest of the patterns and sounds are influenced by the styles of Cameo, Prince, Babyface and FYC, amongst others. There are 99 patterns in all (plus three songs), filling the user memory completely, and 32 voices and waves, so there is plenty to play with and explore.
'House & Rap' presents analogue, vocal, and processed sounds from the end of the '80s and beyond. There are some very usable wave samples for spicing up even the most mundane of conventional kits, or alternatively for creating your own personal sounds. Quite a lot of the current 'hyper-active' snare style features in the patterns, with some very effective swing patterns, and a compelling 'get dancing' overall feel. There are lots of pitched sounds and an emphasis on contrasting effects, like using compressed or gated sounds with open sounds, and these are all exploited in the patterns. There are 32 waves, 32 voices, 99 patterns and three songs. Both this and the 'Dance & Soul' card were produced at the Yamaha R&D Centre in London, echoing the strong influence that the London research centre had on the development of the RY30.
Each of the Artist Series cards represent a 'snapshot', in both sound and style, of a well-known drummer. The case insert contains a short biography of the artist, to put the contents of the card in perspective. The sounds are representations of the actual drum sounds used by the drummer, or are the result of programming the RY30 under the supervision of the artists using his actual drum sounds. Listening to the patterns is a little like attending a drum clinic, since the drummers use them to illustrate their playing styles rather than just provide example patterns. Dave Weckl and Peter Erskine have both produced drum instruction videos in the past, and their demos and patterns are very effective — with the Dave Weckl card it feels like he's in the room with you.
As with the Rhythm Sound Cards, you can load in either the voices on their own, or the voices and the patterns/songs etc. If you are interested in learning about a particular drummer's style then you would load in both for an initial auditioning of the card. Since the types of drum sound on the Artist Series cards are similar to the RY30's drum categories, you can later load them into the Card RAM, and then copy your favourites across to replace the internal presets so that they can be used in your existing patterns. For example, I would probably replace one of the snares with the 'Cameo Snare', or tweak a cowbell with the 'Cowbell Tip' wave — remember that the relevant card would always need to be in the card slot if a wave is used in a voice.
Four Artist Series cards were available at the time of writing, produced in association with Dave Weckl, Matt Sorum, Tommy Aldridge, and Peter Erskine.
The card from Dave Weckl, well known for his work with the Chick Corea Elektric Band, has an interesting mix of acoustic and slightly electronic sounds. The selection of example patterns is small (only 19 patterns, plus one blank and the 13 patterns which make up the demo) but effective. Some of the voices use velocity cross-fades very neatly: 'XFadeCow' moves from the 'Cowbell Tip' to 'Open' waves. The use of separate waves for 'Tip & Open Cowbell', and 'Hard & Soft Snares' show attention to detail, which is also apparent in the 'Choker' voice, which makes no sound, but instead mutes the splash and ride cymbals — neat. The 'Cowbell Tip' wave is particularly good when you want to escape the cliché of a strongly pitched sound, but still want a percussive hit. Although Weckl is known for modern jazz, the pattern names include 'Funk', 'March' and 'Baion', all played with a very characteristic free style. In all the card contains 18 waves, 32 voices, 33 patterns, and two songs.
The card from Matt Sorum of Guns 'n' Roses came as quite a surprise. The hard hitting style was there, but the clever use of changing ambience with decay, detuning and dynamic panning were very inventive and quite stunning. The 'Power Tom' voices are an object lesson in how to use the RY30's programming power: detuning is used to give a flanged sound whilst filtering provides velocity control over the flanging and ambience. The patterns have a strong beat and a hard rock influence, with unusual fills made of patches of contrasting dense and sparse drumming. There are 15 waves, 32 voices, 70 patterns, and two songs.
Tommy Aldridge's card has the heavy metal signature of energy and fast repetition on snare fills and bass, as you might expect from Whitesnake's drummer. The drum voices are a detailed representation of a real kit, with little if any recourse to special effects — instead the sounds are solid and weighty. The patterns are not the sort of thing to play loud at the vicarage tea-party, and some of the timing is either 'loose', or 'precisely out' here and there, but perfectly in the idiom. There are 18 waves, 32 voices, 46 patterns and two songs.
Peter Erskine is a performer with some experience producing drum videos, and the wide variety of the patterns and styles shown on this card is quite amazing. The 'JazBDsfz' is definitely the furthest sound from a cyberpunk bass drum that I have ever heard, whilst the brush taps and sweeps show a jazz/fusion influence. The wide variety of patterns show controlled dynamics with a generally light and expressive touch, and many are suitable for the vicar's ears! There are 24 waves, 32 voices, 57 patterns and two songs.
The waves on all of the above cards can also be used to provide extra samples for any suitable SY series synthesizer (SY99/77/55 or TG77/55). The cards typically contain more than 490 kBytes of wave samples, but they only provide raw waves and not finished sounds, patterns or songs. You will need to program your own sounds using the synthesizer. The patterns and songs are not immediately compatible with the SY series sequencers — you can't load them from the card directly. The first four cards described above are the best option if you want to add samples in this way, since their contents are more unusual and less like real acoustic drums. Alternatively, if you want to replace the synthesizer's drum sound with an acoustic kit, then the four Artist Series cards could be exactly what you want.
A variety of useful wave samples, well-programmed voices and some neat patterns combine to make the Rhythm Sound cards an excellent way of extending an RY30. If only it had a couple more card slots...
Rhythm Sound cords £60 inc VAT.
Artist Series cords £69 inc VAT.
Yamaha-Kemble Music UK, (Contact Details).
Review by Martin Russ
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