How Many Styles?

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When performing, how many styles (floppy disks) are really needed?

The discussion below is taken from a thread launched by "Scotty Yee" on the Synth Zone General Arranger forum.  Click here to go to the original thread.

Scottyee
11-15-2002 11:37 PM

With all the recent discussion of a newly discovered possible hard drive solution to the hard diskless Yamaha PSR-2000, several people have asked how I ever managed gigging without one, thinking I must be constantly having to juggle scores of floppy diskettes while performing.  Believe it or not, this isn't true. I actually only need to take 2 floppy disks with me when performing. How?!

Because I've found most of the PSR-2000's "internal" styles suitable for most all of my material. In addition, all my frequently used custom USER styles (approx. 20 styles) reside in USER flash Memory. My personalized MusicFinder database of my song repertoire (of over 495 songs) actually utilizes internal & USER flash memory styles ONLY. Though I've downloaded and collected as many PSR format styles as many other people here: hundreds?, or perhaps even a thousand, I rarely (if ever) use them when performing. As a result, I only take (to the gig) a floppy diskette dedicated to Memory Registrations files for specific custom songs & song medleys which require multiple registration setups. At only 10kb per file, a 1.4 MB floppy diskette can hold MANY MANY Songs (Memory Reg Banks). This floppy also holds my "song specific" custom style files as well. The only other floppy diskette I take to the gig is a diskette full of midi song files. I've actually increasingly been using this less and less , preferring to perform EVERYTHING live in auto-accomp. mode instead. As much as I'd still appreciate and prefer that the PSR-2000 had a hard drive, floppy disk management hasn't been really much of a deal for me. The function of the styles (for me) are only to act as window dressing to enhance your performance, but not to distract from your live work. Even if we hired the BEST live (w/ real musicians) backup bands in the world, I doubt very many bands could pull off playing "off the top of their hat" the diversity of stock styles included in our arranger keyboards. I've spent more than my share of time in the past composing, and customizing styles, but have realized that it's much more pleasurable and rewarding (at least for me) to spend MORE time making music by PLAYING and improving my chops, and utilizing the PSR-2000's many decent sounding internal styles. OK, these were just my thoughts. I apologize if I came off preachy. Take from it what you want and ignore the rest. Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing how others feel about this issue of course. Happy keyboarding. -- Scott smile

Dreamer
11-15-2002 11:47 PM

Scott, here is my humble opinion: we don't need many styles, but we do need good ones.  Give me ten good 8 and 16 beat, ten good Latin styles and ten good swing styles and I am set for the rest of my life.  Like you, I have scores of styles I have never used and never will.

Graham UK
11-16-2002 12:15 AM

I agree with Andrea and Scott, also.  It's not the quantity of styles, but the quality that counts. Since owning the 9000Pro, I have added some of the CVP styles. These cover most of my playing requirements.

Uncle Dave
11-16-2002 12:25 AM

I could live with 8 basic styles all night. I set up that "EZ eight" bank in the PA80 and it's my "Go to" styles. Given that I play lots of manual bass lines, the styles are not repetitive, and they cover 95% of what I play. The 8 staples are:

  1. 8/16 beat (works for ballads and rock)
  2. 12/8 SlowRock beat (thousands of tunes!)
  3. Disco (handles Motown to Madonna)
  4. Shuffle (Louie Prima style, R&R!)
  5. Latin (Basic bossa goes a LONG way)
  6. Swing (cool, jazz beat that swings)
  7. Polka (doubles as a 2-beat country beat)
  8. Waltz (3/4 - gotta have it)

The first beat is actually a DUAL beat by using the multi pads. I press one button to turn OFF/ON the Latin  percussion that turns the 8 beat into a 16. Two patterns in the space of one !

DannyUK
11-16-2002 03:12 AM

Interesting subject. I have to agree with both Scott and UD. For my X1, I must have about 2,000 styles and for the GEM, I must have even more.  First off, I've always thought that converted styles sound awful, for example, in my X1, any Yamaha, Technics or Roland styles sound terrible, they just don;t sound right. However, the Korg styles sound OK and some are even usable. But nothing beats the quality of an "own brand" style for that keyboard, especially styles made by the company themselves. If anyone has a PA60/80, they should immediately download the styles from the official site because some of them are absolutely fantastic. I've stored many of them in the USER banks. What I like about the PA keyboard is the range of different type styles, where as sometimes, although a keyboard has 300 odd styles, many of them can sound very similar. The Korg probably has the best selection of different styles in one given bank. This makes a difference because you do not need to search for alternative styles if the internal styles do not suite the songs you play. Unfortunately, I struggled with the WK6 because the internal styles for me were not very useful, so obtaining many user styles was required, where as the X1 has some fantastic styles already so no need for user styles there. It does vary really on arrangements, but I was surprised with the WK6 after coming from the WX2, which had fantastic styles.

trtjazz
11-16-2002 03:32 AM

Well, fellows, my perspective is a bit different. I understand where you guys are coming from, but for me I do need and use as many styles as I can lay hands on in given genres.  Because all my work is original compositions and because of the volume I have done, if I did not have many, many styles to choose from, everything starts to sound the same. So, I have to dissect styles, use pieces, parts mix and match all the time, otherwise it gets stale. So, the more the better for me even if they are just slight variations on a theme. Jam on, -- Terry

Mart Weeho
11-16-2002 04:25 AM

Hi you all.  Converted styles can be just as good as the original when you take some time for editing. Now I have 864 user styles on my Roland VA7, about 600 of them are converted to Roland and edited on the VA7. They sound very good with all the goodies that Roland offers.  I like to have as many styles as possible, it is good for variation. I do not sing, so the music has to do it all.

Bluezplayer
11-16-2002 04:41 AM

For live play, I have all the styles I'll ever need and then some right inside the PA80. I have replaced about 40% of the internal styles with varied user styles. I'll only use a fraction of the styles inside of the machine for live play and the only reason I ever need any floppy disks is to be able to load midi files into the PA80. I don't need the hard drive at all. The one thing I will say about floppies is that I always have a duplicate disk available when I go. I find floppies to be less than 100% reliable. When I bring the Motif along for the ride, I am able to store the midi files on a smart media card. I have yet to have one of them fail me, but I still bring a backup SM card as well.  On the other hand, I agree with Terry too. From the composer's standpoint there are never going to be enough styles, particularly for a composer like him who produces the volume of quality songs that he has made.  --  AJ

ChicoBrasil
11-16-2002 09:28 AM

The Yamaha style database in the computer has 4,236 files. I need 30 of them in addition of the internal 9000Pro styles.  I am looking for quality, no quantity.  --  Chico

Eric, B
11-16-2002 10:50 AM

I'm with Chico on the quality issue, but I'm with Mart on the quantity issue.  I like to sound different too, especially with the type of music I do: Dance, Pop, Disco, Rock, Ballads etc., otherwise it sounds to monotone after a while.  Currently I'm using about a 100-150 styles. Some are internal 9000 styles, some are 2000 styles, some are CVP-209 styles and some are from Yamaha Europe and Styles & Music Germany.  With that I'm quite happy for now.  --  Eric

Uncle Dave
11-16-2002 11:59 AM

Originally posted by Eric, B: I like to sound different too, otherwise it sounds to monotone after a while .

This is why I sometimes say that it's better to play more manual parts and sequences of particular songs.  The "generic" flavor of styles HAS to get boring after a while -- no one plays the same exact succession of notes every night, every song.  I'm a firm believer that arrangers can be overused at times, so I make a practice of shutting it off a lot.  There is no need for a 12-piece band on every song.  In fact, it's overkill in many situations. Last night I had the arranger off for almost two hours. I was playing swing tunes, latins, pop/rock and Broadway stuff -- all with manual bass and piano. It's more interesting for ME, and more diverse for my audience.

The times when I turn the auto guys on just adds to the total package.  Didn't any of you ever play in small combos? Don't you miss that 3-piece rhythm section groove? It's so cool when the bass, drums and piano are in sync - poppin' and grovin' together. It's the heart of the arrangement, so why not FEATURE it more? Just my thoughts. I miss some of those old trio and quartet days.

ChicoBrasil
11-16-2002 12:29 PM

This is the reason of my option to Yamaha Keyboards.  I like to perform always with the same voices and the same yamie not complicated styles.  So, my personal performance goes to create my trade mark . If I play complicated styles with specific intros, fills and endings, the trade mark goes to the keyboard and NOT for me.  --  Chico

Pilot
11-16-2002 12:37 PM

I could use more styles, but at the expense of the ones I'll never use. The PSR-740 has 160 styles and three user styles. It would have been better to have 3 styles and 160 user styles so you could load the ones you want, which in my case is swing, jazz and ballroom. I will say this though. If you speed up or slow down some of the other styles quite drastically you can find a lot of hidden treasures.

Big Red
11-16-2002 05:16 PM

Like UD, I don't really have to go outside of the internal styles in my i30 (basically the same style set as the PA80).  And I'm sure that Uncle Dave will agree that it's the eight and sixteen-bar loops in a lot of Korg styles that make the styles themselves interesting. That's always been my biggest disappointment with Yamaha, those boring 4-bar loops.

trtjazz
11-16-2002 07:17 PM

The Tyros has 32 bar loops in it. -- Terry

Scottyee
11-16-2002 07:42 PM

Originally posted by Pilot: I could use more styles but at the expense of the ones I'll never use.

Pilot, I concur. The Korg PA80 allows you to write over the factory styles with your own custom styles. I wish the other arranger manufacturers would follow suit.

MarcK
11-16-2002 08:11 PM

Personally, I find that quality wins over quantity when it comes to styles. Compare this discussion to the one about sounds.

Bluezplayer
11-16-2002 08:13 PM

It's one of the things about the PA80 that I like best Scott. Then they go and mess it all up by giving us only two fills for four variation styles. Go figure. Still, in spite of that "flaw" (and a couple of lesser ones), and even with the advent of newer models from other manufacturers, this is among the features that the PA80 has that the other models don't, so I'm not willing to trade it in for any of the other current models. The other main feature that makes me want to keep it is the voice / patch editing power, so far unmatched by any of the other models I've tried. --  AJ

Bob Gelman
11-16-2002 09:01 PM

I'd venture to surmise that I've got more styles than anyone else. Big deal! I've been collecting them for many years, using ones I've acquired to get new ones.  One benefit of this activity, aside from fulfilling what has now obviously become a collection compulsion, is that I've been able to make many thousands of styles available to the PSR user community through styles conversions.  I really enjoy playing new styles. I record "live" playing along with them as I listen to them on each original audition. This gives me the feeling of playing along with a "live" band as I'm never quite sure what "the other guys" are going to be playing   It is also lots of fun and a bit challenging.  Yes, if I were doing live gigs for an audience I'd certainly cull these many thousands of styles down to a very practiced few that are superior.  As things stand, I'll never get to play all the styles I have as new ones keep arriving before I've tried all the ones I already have.

Bluezplayer
11-16-2002 09:14 PM

Now you're talking, Bob. I like doing the same thing (not when playing live of course).. I don't have a Yamaha board anymore, but I have XG works, which allows creation via chords and Yamaha styles in step time, and I have most of the conversions available for the PA80. It's pretty cool to be able to mix and match parts from different styles. It's a breeze to do in the PA80, and in XG works too. Add a cool drum part made by Jammer pro or a "handmade" drum piece from a hybrid tracker program like Midi tracker or Pump sequencer and I have a lot of options when creating stuff to play to.  -- AJ

Uncle Dave
11-16-2002 11:45 PM

Originally posted by Big Red: I'm sure that Uncle Dave will agree that it's the eight and sixteen-bar loops in a lot of Korg styles that make the styles themselves interesting.

You know, those long loops can actually work AGAINST you too. I transferred a Korg pattern called "Dorian" from the earlier "i" series. This is a very cool, swing pattern with a beautiful walking bass line. It rivals my own, and has become one of my favorite patterns, however it's an 8-bar loop. This makes it all "out of whack" when I do a blues number that is written in 12 bar sections. There is an obvious "strangeness" in the pattern when it is 4 bars off.  I love the pattern, but this is driving me a little batty! The reset button can bring the downbeat back to "1", but it won't reset the pattern to the 1st bar of the loop -- it just deals with the measure at hand.

Sander
11-17-2002 01:27 PM

Interesting topic.  I own a Roland VA-7 and I am not always satisfied with the styles. Therefore, I have to make my own styles sometimes, which do not sound perfect most of the time, but make a song more realistic. It's the only way not to "cheat" (using a SMF for instance is "fake" in my opinion). A lot of styles that came with the VA-7 were too specific and then we had a way too long ending and sometimes also the same useless length on the intro. Then, I found some converted styles (X1 to G1000) and loaded them into my keyboard. That was a pretty good and very welcome addition! It adjusted the balance a bit, unfortunately not everything was sounding that good, when talking about the styles (I left the "old" styles on this issue).  As you may have noticed, I'm very critical about this issue, because I think that styles are very very  important. I just can't play my entire repertoire with about 20 styles.

Brian Johnson
Junior 11-18-2002 04:57 AM

Yes, there are too many styles! I find many of them have distortion, sour notes and incorrect instrument assignments. I have tried messing with them in the past, but it seems that there are so many good ones, why waste time trying to upright a derailed style.  I've decided to try to stick to only styles created for Yamaha keyboards with 4 variations. I make up floppies for each style type, e.g. "Boogie," "Swing," "Rock" etc. Then, as I'm traveling through a music book, if I find a style that suits a song very well, I rename the style to that song. I also write at the top of the page, in the book, what the name and location of the style is, either internal, user or floppy. Eventually I will create a floppy(s) dedicated to each song book. There can be more than one style that is appropriate for a particular song. So as I get out a song book to play from, I merely have to plug in the appropriate style disk and I can travel through the entire book without interruption. Of course, I would still audition any new styles and try to fit them in, if they are usable.  Any thoughts?

Dreamer
11-18-2002 05:23 AM

Brian, that's an excellent habit you have!  I. too. write at the top of the page (in my music-books) the best styles for each song.  Another thing you could do, if you have a keyboard with an internal storage device (hard disk, zip disk) is to save a registration for each song, with the appropriate style, tempo and instruments. That's even faster!

rhumba
11-18-2002 05:34 AM

True! I don't need that many styles either. I think the reason arranger makers make all those styles is to cater to the general masses. Maybe what they can do is sell an arranger with no styles for less $$$ and then users will purchase only the style they needed ???  At the close of my last few outings, I had the same thought about how the number of styles I actually used = not much!  --  rb

svpworld
11-18-2002 05:50 AM

I also agree that quality, and not quantity is the most important factor for me. There is a glut of poor quality conversions now available for the Yamaha keyboards, most of which are harmonically incorrect and will not give proper results when playing anything other than a simple major or minor chord. However, I also have to criticize many of the preset styles as being too fussy and too indicative of particular songs. Remember the old days when all we had was a rock, swing, march, pops and bossa? It was easy to play almost anything to those simply bass/chord and drum patterns. Nowadays you sit daydreaming after the intro has played, totally lost for what to play with some of these styles! They sound fantastic, expertly musically programmed by the Yamaha musicians, but quite often it leaves you having to think so carefully about what to play. Its a good idea to experiment with turning off parts of the style, I often like to mute the pads, phrases and separate chord sections and just use a simpler backing.  Perhaps that's what we need, more simpler styles! -- Simon

Mart Weeho
11-18-2002 09:37 AM

To have a big quantity of styles does not necessarily mean that they are of low quality.  It depends on your own edit capabilities.  I think most of you could have a big quantity with high quality when you take more time for editing your own styles.  As an example, you can place a guitar strum-track or guitar harmonics track beside a guitar track when you want the guitar sounds better.  At least on a VA7/76.

Sander
11-18-2002 12:26 PM

About the quality/quantity issue; of course quality is very very important. But if the styles do not suit, than I need to find another style and "abandon" that other style. The Style Morpher is a great feature, but not usable on every style.  I'm always focussing on the "Realistic" part and good quality (for use in Gig's). Once it sounds well, I save it (like Andrea explained) and it's ready for future use. I just can't come up with a too-canned style, as a one-man-band keyboard player, you have to compete with the bands who can make a song sounding very realistic and natural by putting in those specific sound pieces. Only an SMF/MIDI is the easy way to beat the bands. But I'm always trying to achieve that with styles and modifying them in such a way that they fit.  Maybe this opinion is a little bit too strong, but I hope some of you understand.


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