Tag Archives: arrangement

Memory limitations of the Yamaha RM1x

I wrote a pretty massive post on this topic the other night, which fell victim to back-space malfunction. I’ll try again without further ado…

Image courtesy of Darren Stone/Wikipedia

I’ve got a couple of gripes with the Yamaha RM1x. Let me preface them by focusing initially on the positives.

  • It’s got 480ppq timing resolution. Evidently the Akai MPC 5000 has 960ppq resolution but that’s miles off the chart for anything from 10 years ago. By comparison, the original Akai samplers have 96ppq timing and I think the first generation Elektron Machinedrum is no more than 128ppq
  • The Yamaha kit of this era is nearly flawless in terms of making promised functionality work – and work routinely
  • It’s got loads of editing capabilities that nothing else in its class, nor its era shared in common
  • It’s got a friendly enough overall ease of use that I don’t generally miss the computer

However, there are times when I do. Particularly when I try to arrange music. But before I explain my gripes, let me explain how it would seem most people work with the limitations of the device and where I run in to problems:

  • The pattern mode allows creation of multiple sections per pattern, with distinct mute combinations of the same phrase, or variations on the phrase across these sections
  • These sections can be chained together to form the basis of a song in Pattern Chain Mode. Once the sequence of sections/patterns has been laid out there is a Copy to Song function that duplicates the pattern data in a song, becoming a separately editable object (as in my changes to the patterns or song don’t reflect in the other)
  • In my case, memory limitations forbade this copy operation, so I deleted some things that I wasn’t totally happy about deleting (after backing them up of course), but it still didn’t free up enough space. Without deleting everything but the pattern I was working on at the time, I couldn’t see how I was going to get the Copy to Song function to work
  • I should note that this is a 32-bar pattern, for what it’s worth
  • Unfortunately the documentation doesn’t really suggest anything about approaches for transitioning from pattern to song, nor for freeing up memory – at least not that I’ve seen

So… I wound up copying my original section with all of the track data in to Cubase, did the skeleton of the arrangement there, then saved it as an SMF file and loaded it in to an empty section in the RM1x. I can only assume there was sufficient space because there was a lot less total note data than there would have been if everything was “on” for 200-300 bars. Anyway… this works fine enough if you only have to do it once, but doing it repeatedly would be a major hassle, and ultimately it feels like failure since my original aim when buying the RM1x (and subsequently rebuilding the entire studio with hardware) was to get my eyes away from the computer screen. Ultimately this isn’t a complete failure since I only need to look at the screen when I’m doing the arrangement, but it’s not what I really want.

This left me wondering if there was anything else on the market that might suit my needs better, so I looked at the FutureRetro Orb (which seems unsuitable because of the 16 step maximum pattern length) and the EMU XL-7 (which seems to have some annoying limitations of its own).

Basically this leaves me two options:

  • The GenoQs Nemo, which is the height of gear porn. Despite being a couple of thousands pounds less expensive than its bigger brother, the Octopus, it’s still way out of my budget, at around £1200. It’s an obscene amount to spend on a sequencer
  • I could look at upgrading to the Yamaha RS7000 at some point, if I can find adequate desk space to accommodate it. I’m pretty sure it’s big for the amount of space I have left (virtually none). It seems to have about double the sequencing capacity and there are fifteen other reasons why it’s improved over the RM1x, but I just need to figure out if it’s really necessary

This is my latest conundrum. I’m really pleased with my synths and the general usablity of my setup at the moment, but this arrangement malarkey has become a huge obstacle to actually completing anything. It’s making me feel like one of these gear geeks that just talks kit all the time and never finished real music


As there will no doubt be at least 80 credible reviews of the 800 copies of the Convextion album, I’ll try not to focus so much on what makes each track essential to the album (and it is an album proper) as what makes Gerard Hanson so compelling to the core of the techno scene; what makes him one of the few who can sell out an initial pressing before it is released, even after a four-year hiatus under this guise. In my mind that is the thing that’s worth writing and reading about at this moment. People don’t need convincing to buy his music once they hear it, and clips are available everywhere. But in a time when labels, distributors and shops are closing left and right, why is it that one quiet and genial fellow from Texas can attract so much attention when so many artists and labels are struggling? In short, is this merit or hype? This is what the unconvinced and unaware are asking themselves, and what I hope to answer in words (however difficult that is).

It will have been said over and over that in Gerard’s music there is always a preoccupation with reverb. He uses delay much more than most and tends to get away with it remarkably well. But to reduce his impact on the techno world to his use of reverb Basic Channel style would be to disregard everything else he is doing. Perhaps 10-20% of the final result will have been basicchannelised in the aggregate, which will of course appeal to fans of that sound, and most techno fans full-stop (and this is of course not a criticism of him, given that he has been fulfilling the prophecy of that sound since it generated). But lost in this narrow reduction is the fact that he’s still got a very normal (if not exemplary) techno arrangement underneath, and often 2-3 times as much going on at any given time, or just as much variance horizontally. What is superlative is that he manages to do this without clutter, incoherence or regrets about any part of an evolving track being superior to the rest. In short, he succeeds. In my mind there are four essential ingredients to this success that set him apart from his peers:

A) His arrangements are always ambitious. While there are some people who succeed as well as he does at making their arrangements work, and there are many people who try to do as much as he does, there are very few who merge this ambition and execution as well as he does.

B) While this may seem like a statement of the obvious, when his efforts in total are added up, and everything can still be picked out so cleanly in the mix, it is nothing short of a miracle. His production skills can’t be faulted, and the pressing of his new album at D+M will only help to justly solidify this reputation.

C) Synthesis is perhaps the most overlooked ingredient in what makes Convextion what it is, and probably the one thing that distinguishes him most from Basic Channel (to unfairly extend the comparison). In nearly every track he is deploying sines, squares, pulses and saws in exactly the right spots, and always tweaking their character throughout, as though the arrangements require it, although 99.9% of producers and listeners would be perfectly satisfied without these extra touches. None of these sounds are essential, but we always know that if it weren’t these sounds, he’d make another equally compelling sound to take its place, and it would work just as well in the mix overall. There aren’t many producers who can impart this comfort in sound design. It is always extensive and almost always right. This is expert synthesis.

D) The one thing that is probably overlooked even more than sound design is composition, which is always impeccable. Given obvious skill in these other areas, many producers would mail in the actual writing of music, which is of course one of the most compelling ingredients in the appeal of Convextion, if shrouded within his many other successes. The key is that he is one of the few who have mastered this totality of making techno, yet still continues to challenge us with the individual melodies that get wrung through these other disciplines. This is probably the most commendable facet of his genius.

Put this all together and you have the techno record buyer’s hysteria we’ve seen in the last month of anticipation of this release. It has been a long time coming. I really hope everyone gets a copy. It does not disappoint. This can only raise the bar for quality in techno – which is not to say it’s the best album evarrr, but in terms of ambition, imagination, coherence and execution it’s hard to see how it can’t be one of them. I don’t know if those are the standards we should use to judge techno, but if they are, it’s certainly one of the top 10. Evarrr.

I can almost imagine people fighting for early slots at parties, in order to guarantee that they can be the DJ who drops these tracks first. Surely this is an hallucination, but it makes me think the album could be renamed “Music to Make People Show Up Early”, and not be wrong. I need to go listen to it again.