How To Get the Most out of the Song Editor
Phil Hall, one of our PSR Performers, was recently asked by one of the yahoo-psr-songs forum members, Harry Leff, to provide some advice on how a recorded song, which had the modulation wheel set far too high, could be adjusted after it was recorded. Phil obliged and also pointed out how additional adjustments can be carried out before recording and saved in registers. He also showed how one could make these adjustments to a song even after it was recorded. Sometimes that little bit of tweaking after the song is recorded can make a big difference!
Phil was kind enough to send me a copy of his correspondence, which he thought PSR Tutorial visitors might find useful. I heartily agreed and checked with Harry, who graciously agreed to let us use his "original" recording as well as the modified recording that Phil worked on. Both are available below. Phil's response was incorporated into his "reply" to Harry's letter. I've kept that general format, editing out some non-relevant material and adding a helpful screen shot here and there. Thank you, Phil and Harry.
-- Joe Waters
I'm writing you after getting a wonderful recommendation to you from our mutual friend Julio. Julio explained that you had a terrific command of the PSR-2000 and would be willing to help me a bit.
I have been playing a number of songs and sending them in to the group. While well received as to my playing ability, I seem to not have the clarity and purity that may well be desired. They tend to believe it might be that the modulation wheel needs to be used in the proper manner.
I personally believe that the modulation wheel should be turned all the way toward the performer and left there (equal to zero). It does serve its purpose with some instruments played in certain ways. Julio does use it well, but sparingly with some guitars. There is a way for us to know that -- I'll get to it later. I think that you will find that most people, who do use it, use it primarily while "multi tracking." That is adding tracks and instruments to a song after it has been recorded. This allows you to add sounds with the right hand and manipulate the wheel with the left hand. This also applies to the pitch bend wheel. It is very difficult to control satisfactorily while playing the song with two hands. Will Stewart is probably the pro with the pitch bend.
As for the wheel, I don't even know what it is there for.
The purpose of the modulation wheel is to provide added vibrato -- or the slowly raising and lowering of the pitch (as opposed to volume). I'm sure you have watched violinists rocking their left hand back and forth as they hold a note or a singer wiggle their Adams apple up and down as they hold a note, or a trombone player moving the slide in and out a little on long notes. It gives that little extra something to an otherwise boring note. To sound its best it would only be applied to notes that are held -- and not turned up very far at that.
Of the songs that you have submitted to the group, the best example of what not to do was "Solace." In that song you had the modulation wheel turned up as far as it would go, and you had two voices being played in the right hand. The modulation was being applied to both voices, and there were many "short" notes. Since the PSR was trying to make the pitch go up and down slowly, some of the notes were sounded while the pitch was higher than normal, and others were sounded when the pitch was lower than normal. It made it sound like a violin or trombone player "looking" for the right pitch (instead of just putting some vibrato on the end of the note). This problem was amplified in Solace because there were two instruments trying to find the right notes.
I noticed myself that Julio's instruments seem so much purer and have a much better tone. In any case, I wonder if you could give me any enlightenment as to what I can do to improve my music.
I wish I could make mine sound like his, too! But in listening to your songs, I think there are two things that you could do to make them sound "cleaner." The first does not apply as much to Solace, but is more noticeable in many of the others. The volume of the lead voice is too low. You hear the accompaniment, left hand voice and/or the layered voice equal to or louder than the instrument that is trying to carry the melody. I didn't pay attention to whether or not you were using the OTS voices or selecting ones of your own -- but it doesn't really matter, because those things can be changed after you record the song.
The other thing that he does and you can do to give the voices some life is to add some reverberation. This can easily be done with the PSR-2000 after you record the song also -- although I usually set up my voices using the Registration buttons and add the reverb and adjust volumes there --then when I record, I get what I hear. I think it allows me to get more feeling into the music that way (Julio's "Feeling Button").
I am attaching the last song I sent in. It is an original I wrote a while back called "A Walk In The Woods." Perhaps you could listen and get an idea from that.
As I mentioned earlier, I chose to modify Solace because I think it will allow you to hear the differences more clearly. I don't know about you, but I don't have Julio's ear for detecting smaller differences in songs.
Any other suggestion or critiques are more than welcome and I certainly appreciate your time if you feel you can help. Many thanks in advance and I will be looking for any of your songs also.
If you've been watching for the last week or so, I'm the grandfather who has been uploading songs from the album of music I've played and recorded for my grand daughter's upcoming wedding.
Below are Phil's extended comments on editing midi files. -- Joe]
What is a midi file?
Now, let's talk about what I did to Solace -- and what you can do to all of your songs. First of all, since I don't know anything about your knowledge level, let me be sure that you know what a midi file really is -- and is not. Unlike a .wav file or a CD music file, it is not millions of samples of electrical voltage levels commonly referred to as a digital recording. A midi file is more like the old piano roll from a player piano, but it is also a lot more. When you record a song on the PSR, it records every button you pushed to set up the keyboard such as the tempo, the voices, the style, the main ABCD variation, etc. Then, when you start playing, it records what time you pressed each key on the keyboard and how hard you pressed it. It also records when you release each key. So, when you play a midi file on your keyboard, the file just tells the keyboard -- select the JumboReggae style, set the tempo to 126, turn on left-hand hold, turn on DSP, set the modulation wheel to 127 (as high as it goes), set the volume of track 1 to 109, select the track 1 voice to trumpet, etc. etc. Then the clock starts ticking (and it's a very fast clock -- thousands of ticks per second. When the clock gets to when you played the first chord in the left hand, it says play G1, play C2, play E2, later it will send three commands to stop playing those three notes. If you press the "C" variation button a little later, it will tell the keyboard to change it. Watch the lights when a song is playing; you'll see them change.
Again -- all of these things are recorded in the file. When you load a song into the keyboard that you have previously recorded (or someone else recorded), you can "go into the keyboard" and see all of these commands -- AND CHANGE THEM.
I'm going to go rather quickly through the rest of this, because there are some very good tutorials in Joe Waters' web site (PSR Tutorial) on how to edit songs and styles. You can get the info from there with pictures. If you have never been to this web site, it is an absolute must! Go through all of the tutorials on the keyboard -- there is so much info there that is not in your users' manual and it is much easier to understand.
Changing the Modulation Setting
Okay -- I loaded your Solace into my PSR by floppy (you can't save changes if you just do it with midi cables). Then I pressed the [DIGITAL RECORDING] button. Then button [A] for SONG CREATOR (it's also the song editor ). Then using the [NEXT] button, I went over to the tab that says 1-16. That stands for tracks or channels 1 to 16.
(The Tyros3 screen shots illustrate that Phil's instructions still hold true for the more recent keyboards. They are used for illustration and do not reflect the actual changes made by Phil in the Solace midi file. - JW)
After a few seconds, the commands for track 1 will come up on the screen. You may have to use the "up arrow" (button [A]) to get to the top of the commands for that track. But somewhere you will see a line that says modulation over on the right side. On your version of Solace, the number just before "modulation" was 127 -- as high as it could go. By using the [A], [B], [D] and [E] buttons on the left side of the screen, I moved the highlighted box to cover the 127, then turned the data entry's wheel to change it to zero. Then I pushed the [F] (CH) button to display track (channel) 2. (No modulation setting there). Pushed it again for track 3. Ah -- another modulation = 127. Changed it to zero.
In the screen shot here, from a PSR-2000, there is no "Modulation" line visible. That is because a "FILTER" is in effect that is hiding some of the commands, in particular, the CONTROL COMMANDs are hidden. If you don't see "Modulation" on the sample file, press [H] (FILTER) to get to the Filter Screen and press [H] again there to set "ALL ON". Press [EXIT] to get back to the 1-16 tab. -- JW
Save Your Changes
I like to save changes regularly; that way, if I goof or have a power failure, I don't have to start from scratch. So press the [BACK] button to get back to the tab called CHANNEL. Press [B] enough times to highlight [5 SET UP].
If the word "EXECUTE" next to the [D] button is not highlighted, press the [REW] button over on the left near the record button. Then press [D] EXECUTE.
This puts your changes into the file in the keyboard. But we still need to SAVE it to floppy or it will be lost when the power is turned off. So press [I] for SAVE, then [NEXT] to get to the FLOPPY tab (or USER, CARD, USB, or HD tab). Then SAVE it as you would any other song. I usually rename it so I can go back to the original if I want or need to.
Next, I pressed [EXIT] once to get back to the screen that says SONG CREATOR at the top, because I wanted to make some more changes. I then pressed the song [START/STOP] button (the one up in the [REC] row), and started listening. Once it got past the intro, it sounded better already.
Now, to the Mixing Console
But not good enough. So I pressed the [MIXING CONSOLE] button. This button cycles through four screens and remembers where you were last. So press it a few times until it says "MIXING CONSOLE (SONG CH1-8)" at the top of the screen. (There is a difference between channel and track, but when I use them, they mean the same).
Now we can change things on tracks 1, 2 and 3 that you recorded. 1 is the main voice, 2 is the left voice and 3 is the layer voice unless you force it to do differently when you set up to record a song.
Notice that there are 5 tabs at the top of the window. They are all fun to play with, but the ones that are the most important are VOL/VOICE and EFFECT. So use [NEXT] or [BACK] to get to VOL/VOICE if it's not already there.
With this window you can change the instrument used for the track, you can change the panning (whether it sounds like it is coming from the left, right or center of your "orchestra," and you can change the volume of each track. To change anything, press [C], [D] or [E] to select which row of things you want to change, and then  –  up or down to change the item. If you select instrument, it will take you to another screen to select the instrument. When you get done selecting the instrument, just hit [EXIT] once or twice to get back to this screen again.
NOTE: If you changed voices or volumes during the recording of the song, the file will still contain those changes, so these changes only affect the first part of the song. The others can be changed, too, but that's another lesson elsewhere on the PSR Tutorial site.
Adding Reverb or Other Effects
Now let's hit the [NEXT] button three times to get to EFFECT. Adding some reverb to a track can make a world of difference in the way an instrument sounds. There are also many different kinds of effects that can be added besides reverb. You can play with these at your leisure and see what they do. But for now, press [C] if that row is not highlighted. Press [F] (TYPE), and the bottom or top of  to select "Hall 3". That has to be good -- it's my last name. Then [EXIT] once to get back to the previous screen.
Press [C] (to select the knobs for "reverb". Use the ,  and  buttons top and bottom to adjust all three of those knobs to about 50. Press the [STOP] button (up top) if the song is still playing, and then the [REW] button. Then press [EXIT] and we should be back into the SONG CREATOR. (If not -- press DIGITAL RECORDING, SONG CREATOR and [NEXT])
Okay, we see the CHANNEL tab, "5 SET UP" and EXECUTE highlighted? If not get them. Press [D] (EXECUTE) and then press [I] to SAVE and go through the save procedure like before, but I suggest you add a number to the file name or something to make it easier to back up a step when you need to.
Okay, that is what I did except I also used the MIXING CONSOLE on channels 9-16 to adjust the volume and panning on some of the accompaniment. Most notably up on the bass volume (track 11 is standard for the bass) and down on the clarinet (track 15 in this song -- it sounded very monotonous to me -- doing the same thing all the time).
All of this "tweaking" is, of course a matter of taste; but it is also a lot of fun to play with. And as long as you never "SAVE" a song to the same name, you can go back and do it over and over till you get it sounding just the way you want it.
Okay, now you can go ahead and listen to at least part of your original of Solace and then to the attached file and listen for the changes now that you know what to listen for.
Hope you get some tips from this and that maybe it enhances your enjoyment of the PSR-2000 I sure enjoy mine.