New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow

Posted by: Yul

New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/27/21 10:38 AM

Hello! First time poster and happy to be here.

I have just acquired a PSR-SX900 to find out how it could help me create original music.

Previously I would typically make my tracks via DAW + VST/Hardware. This setup is powerful but has some limitations I was hoping to alleviate with an arranger.

I have made attempts with other arrangers (PSR-E453, Casio CT-X5000). The workflow was OK but sounds were not always excellent and some missing features made it frustrating.

Now with the PSR, obviously sounds are all quite good compared to what's available in the VST world.

But for creating music, this is where there is a workflow challenge.

The midi recorder is ok but not very good to get a scratchpad song model unless you record an entire performance on the fly. You cannot move whole sections of the song around and step editor seems more like fixing minor errors.

So the easiest way to assemble musical building blocks is via the style creator which would then be recorded as a final performance in the midi recorder as such:

>sounds > style creator > midi recorder (final performance) > export to WAV

The syle creator is actually very good but there are a few challenges (many clicks, cannot copy an entire block, only instruments one by one etc with the assembly function).

I have tried to find music of actual artists (not OMB) using these machines but there are too few. Youtube has a few good demos and lots of canned music which does not do justice to the sound capabilities either (mostly amateur users imo).

I am looking at replacing this unit for a MODX which has USB audio that I might be able to integrate with my DAW but would really like to give my PSR a chance (especially with the great sounds it has).

Any suggestions welcome.

Thanks!



Posted by: LeonB

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/27/21 01:43 PM

You can go different ways. Record MIDI (SONG) in SX900 and then switch it to DAW. Then you connect the SX900 to a computer, process SONG in DAW and listen to it all with SX sounds. If necessary, you can insert a pair of VSTs to fix what the SX is weak.

You can also record SONG this way, directly in DAW. Watch the video where everything is explained, and if you have any questions I am at your disposal.

Genos Style recording in Cakewalk
Posted by: Yul

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/27/21 03:34 PM

Thanks for your reply!

I want to stay away from the DAW until the last very possible moment.

Any tips on using the arranger to compose a musical creation from scratch ?

Thanks!
Posted by: LeonB

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/27/21 03:54 PM

Initially, you can only record the left hand with Style channels. Then you switch to Multirecording and record a new channel, one by one.

Or start recording only one channel and continue with the next and so on.
Recording songs in SX / Genos has only basic options and you can't do much about it.
Posted by: Yul

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/28/21 10:11 AM

Hello and thanks for your response.

Yes it probably the best way for now to record the left side first and then adding layers etc .

I am not convinced it is superior to using a DAW like this but the sound quality and simplicity is a big plus.

I will continue to experiment with audio recording and playlists as this might open more possibilities.

I also found out in the styles demos that you can have multiple styles for a same musical piece (i.e. switching styles in the same song). This is another potential avenue.

Thanks,


Posted by: Diki

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/29/21 07:44 AM

Sorry, but if you want to create original music using an arranger, you will end up biting the bullet and combine the arranger with a DAW. Looks like you are already pretty familiar with a DAW and VSTi’s, so it’s not like you have to learn all that from scratch….

Bottom line, no, there isn’t a single sequencer in an arranger with a fraction of the power and ease of use of a DAW, and trying to do everything using a tiny low res touch screen will soon drive you mad even if the sequencer COULD do most of the even basic things we all take for granted on a DAW.

Arrangers make for very quick scratch pads for creating the initial song ideas, but fine tuning and replacement of less than stellar sounds with higher quality VSTi’s like piano libraries, drum libraries etc. is always needed if you wish to deliver top studio level production.

Plus, modern music (if you are thinking of composing contemporary music) isn’t really well suited to arranger chord recognition type production. It’s based around arpeggiators and clip/loop triggering, which gives a VERY different end result than arranger output, which is more intended to replicate older music.

But an arranger for its strengths combined with a DAW/VSTi for their strengths, that’s a powerful combo…
Posted by: Yul

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/29/21 10:37 AM

Thanks for your response.

Yes I realize it will never be as powerful as a sequencer than my DAW. I really needed to get away from the computer screen and hopefully come up with ideas.

I will re-think my approach perhaps switching this machine to a more traditional workstation (hopefully that will save to WAV like the PSR.)

Cheers
Posted by: Diki

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/29/21 10:38 PM

Personally, I wouldn’t render to a .Wav file until the very last step. It’s far easier to correct mistakes while you are still dealing with the MIDI, and fine tune and edit everything….

I have to ask, why do you want to move away from a nice huge display and a sequencer that won’t drive you crazy endlessly paging through different screens trying to find basic functions?! 🤪

The truth is, if you felt like a DAW was too difficult, you are going to be in for a shock when you try to use an arranger’s sequencer!
Posted by: Yul

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/30/21 08:22 AM

Originally Posted By Diki
Personally, I wouldn’t render to a .Wav file until the very last step. It’s far easier to correct mistakes while you are still dealing with the MIDI, and fine tune and edit everything….

I have to ask, why do you want to move away from a nice huge display and a sequencer that won’t drive you crazy endlessly paging through different screens trying to find basic functions?! 🤪

The truth is, if you felt like a DAW was too difficult, you are going to be in for a shock when you try to use an arranger’s sequencer!


I am pretty good at performing real time so I can certainly record only the final performance (with some overlays).

I got the SX900 to get away from the screen/mouse and be more intuitive and spontaneous when compositing. I have owned many synthesizers in the past but they would always require some interaction with DAW which I am trying to get away from (I also work in front on the computer).

I am fluent with DAW/VST but it's not the same. Synth sounds are top notch but for more natural sounds the big libraries are a turn off for me. The SX900 sounds are mostly good with a few disappointments on the synth side (still not bad).

Maybe I should have gotten the PA1000 instead as the sequencer seems more capable and sound editing a bit more advanced.

I hope the SX900 may still be able to deliver but it's really hard to find anyone that really knows it well enough to confirm.



Posted by: Diki

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/30/21 11:15 PM

Well, yes, there's a difference between writing it and producing it.

If you're looking for a writing tool, arrangers are da bomb. As long as you don't want to do something they don't do well, like mix and match time signatures on the fly, or arpeggiate one part while you have normal chord recognition on another (arpeggiators don't care whet the chord IS, they just play the notes you play no matter what... this can lead to some interesting stuff an arranger can't do) you can do some pretty good final stuff.

But, at the end of the day, if you want to promote your writing at a pro level, they are going to want a pro level of polish and production. And that is VERY hard to achieve without a DAW to put the final polish on stuff. There's a reason you really never hear an arranger on a hit recording...

An arranger's job is to approximate a live band. But it's never going to fool anyone that it is one. Too much repetition. Take just the fills, for example. You'll never hear a real drummer repeat the same fill identically all the way through a song. You'll never hear a drummer play identically in the last verse than he did in the first. there's a build-up, a rise in intensity. Four Variations and four fills just don't cut it...

That's why, when you're done writing the song, it's time to take the MIDI data of the arranger's output to the DAW, and start editing some variation into things. Change each fill a little bit (or a lot!). Change the bassline a bit for the last chorus. Open the hihats a bit in the bridge, push the velocity harder on the acoustic guitars in the last solo... Add in some synced audio percussion to the drums (arranger tambourines are horrible!). Run the beat through a filter during the drop, sky's the limit.

Try doing all that with a hardware arranger sequencer and a tiny low res screen, pretty soon you are going to throw it out the window..! I've been a happy DAW user since the Atari days! I wouldn't use a built-in if you paid me!

Yes, I love my arranger, and am happy to use its built in sequencer to capture my initial pass. But the minute I'm done with the main take, it's off to the DAW for the grunt work..!

If your problem with using a DAW is distraction from the myriad options, try using a simpler DAW. Try the entry level versions of Cubase or Logic etc., fewer tracks, fewer editing options, fewer possibilities. You can always transfer the project to their big brothers for the final polish...
Posted by: Yul

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 08/31/21 08:33 PM

Hey thanks for your great comments. Very useful.

I have come to terms with what this can and cannot do and it's actually awesome.

The styles and sounds need a lot of customizing/layering obviously.
I will try chaining various custom styles and registrations to see how it can widen the possibilities.

Pairing it with another synth or importing audio is another cool way to bring it out imo.

I was a bit bummed out about the synth patches having limited modulation but it's all good giving a great 80-90's vibe that is hard to find elsewhere. Synth patches are crisp and layering sounds manually is great (think unison).

The PSR imo is more akin to a "modern" Farlight with hi def samples having few but meaningful modulation features and some midi magic. I can see the creation potential.

I found this video that captures some of what I think is interesting:

Youtube Terminator demo

I really like the EQ on this video I hope it can be done straight out of the PSR-SX but a DAW may be needed for final mastering.
Posted by: Diki

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 09/01/21 07:41 PM

One thing the DAW gives you that the arranger really can’t is the ability to split the output up by each individual sound for higher quality EQ, compression and reverb, etc.. Make multiple passes of the sequence with everything but one part muted, soon you have a multitrack recording of the whole thing. You can even separate the drum track into each drum, or group of drums. You haven’t lived until you’ve run the output of an arranger’s drum parts through a convolution reverb with an impulse of a REALLY good studio drum room!

Likewise compression. Your average arranger’s built-in compressors are garbage compared to a decent LA2A or 1176 type compressor VSTi, or a nice Neve type bus compressor on the final mix. Not to mention Lexicon and higher quality reverbs…

And yes, you’ve found the arranger’s Achilles heel, they are primarily sample based, so synth sounds just don’t cut it compared to even a budget virtual analog synth. You can spend a fortune chasing great synth sounds with hardware, when a few well chosen VSTi’s can be had for next to nothing.

Truth is, you CAN create with almost anything… look at how basic the gear was on some of synthpop’s iconic early 80’s hits. But nowadays, it’s more about the workload. It took massive skill to coax hits out of that old hardware. And, to be honest, it hasn’t got THAT much easier if you stick entirely to hardware. But a DAW makes it all easy…
Posted by: Yul

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 09/03/21 03:37 PM

Thanks

I am slowly figuring out the various possibilities of audio integration with my DAW too bad there is no USB audio like on the E453 and Modx but save to WAV is really nice.

The synths are actually pretty good and all useful. A bit mechanical PCM'ish which I like a lot. Some vintage synth tones are acceptable and the digital waves are pretty good.

I don't seek high end effects ( I do pop, synthwave, electro, ambient) anything more will go on a daw for sure.

I really need to get the eq'ing right to match the sound profile of the rest od my setup.

Cheers
Posted by: Diki

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 09/05/21 12:48 PM

It’s always the portamento or filter sweeps that tend to expose arranger synth sounds.

One little tip about matching EQ’s on Roland’s is, no matter where you set the Mastering Tools, the audio player bypasses everything. So you can load in a .wav or high bitrate MP3 of a target recording you are intimately familiar with, then switch back and forth between that and the sound or mix you are working on until you’ve tweaked your stuff to match.

This also gives you the advantage of the same d/a converters for both sounds, taking away one more variable.

It’s also really handy for sound check time at live gigs, allowing you to set your PA for best venue EQ, then adjust the Mastering Tools depending on whether you want a bit more or less compression for the gig (I tend to find super quiet gigs benefit from a bit more compression on styles and SMF’s).
Posted by: Yul

Re: New PSR-SX900 user and music writing wortkflow - 09/10/21 04:51 PM

Originally Posted By Diki
It’s always the portamento or filter sweeps that tend to expose arranger synth sounds.


Absolutely. The great news is that any PC with good software can do this quite easily. Not as convenient obviously.

Thanks for the sound tips. I have set everything to flat right now until I can do a proper sound test.

I don't play live nor covers. Everything is usually my stuff so I have a lot of flexibility.

Cheers