I am not a keyboard player. Years and years ago as a young primary school boy from Aberlady, I spent too much time wasting too much of my piano teacher’s time not practising and feeling very uninspired by the whole thing. Now though, after even longer sitting programming chords, basslines and melodies with a mouse, I wish I had a bit more mastery of that array of black and white keys to improve those workflows a little bit. Having spent some time with the Yamaha MOXF though, I’m coming round to the idea that you don’t need to be Andre Previn to have a decent keyboard workstation in your studio…
The Yamaha MOXF for the non-keyboardist
Even as someone who is more familiar with strings and frets than with keys, I still have a MIDI controller keyboard. And it still gets used plenty. I also have some synths – both software and hardware – as well as a reasonable selection of bread and butter sounds from sample-based instruments.
With a Yamaha MOXF, you’ve got all of those things in the one box, and then some…
Let’s take a look at this overview video of the Yamaha MOXF6 with Sonic State:
If you were thinking of kitting out your studio, try adding up the costs of a 61-key semi-weighted controller, a huge library of piano, orchestral, drum and all sorts of useful instrumental and synth sounds AND a hardware synth, and you’ll most likely find it comes to a lot more than the price of the Yamaha MOXF6.
While I’m not a keyboard player, as I may have said already, there is something nice about having a reasonable size keyboard for playing in your MIDI parts. It can lead to quicker workflows than using octave shift buttons, and just having more keys in front of you can mean you come up with octave-jumping basslines and leads that you might not be able to come up with using a mini-keyboard.
Additionally, if you know a few chords, being able to hit those with both hands at the same time can make it straightforward to come up with huge, complex chord patterns and inversions, all without having to play in the chord in miniature and add extra notes into the piano roll using the mouse. But of course, there’s more to the MOXF than just being a box of black and white keys…
The MOXF6 in the electronic music studio
When Martyna Wren was up at Red Dog Music in Edinburgh as part of Yamaha’s songwriting workshop tour, she showed how the performance modes – layers of preset patterns and arpeggiators – of the MOXF could be used as part of the basic songwriting process. By recording a pattern and playing it back through various performance patches – creative inspiration was easy to find, perfect for writers’ block, remixing, or simply to take a song in a new direction.
If you’re producing electronic music however, this may not be the sort of direction you want to go in, you might want to go straight from a single sound to a pattern or loop that you can record into your DAW and sequence from there.
One thing that was quite inspiring (and also quite good fun) was to dial in a drum kit preset, activate the arpeggiator, hit some notes and play!
Recording loops into the DAW meant I was able to generate dozens of drum and percussion loops quickly and easily. If you spent an hour or two playing about like this, you could build a vast library of sounds that would keep you going for a long, long time. And after that, the world of loops in your DAW is your oyster! Slice loops to MIDI tracks, change individual sounds in the sampler and so on. And all from playing with a drum kit and an arpeggiator…
As the MOXF acts as a USB audio interface, you can do all of this with just a single USB cable. Easy.
The Yamaha MOXF as a synth
Yamaha has a pretty good history as a synth manufacturer. If we just mention CS-80 and DX7, that should be enough to convince you of their pedigree.
There’s a lot going on under the synthesiser hood of the MOXF, more than I could really hope to do justice to in words. So, here’s a handy little video showing what you can do with the predecessor of the MOXF – the MOX – once you start digging into the synth engine using the VST editor:
The Yamaha MOXF for the computer musician
If you don’t really need all those traditional ‘workstation’ features of onboard pattern and song sequencing, don’t immediately rule out the MOXF because it offers them. If you want to use them and break free from your DAW occasionally, then great, but you don’t have to.
As a four-in, two-out audio interface, keyboard controller, synth and sound library, the MOXF offers a huge range of features that you probably do want. From being able to plug in your guitar, dynamic mic or other audio gear, to using the onboard knobs and buttons to control your DAW software, the MOXF plays very nicely with the computer-based studio.
In the time I spent with the MOXF6, I was impressed with what I saw, and what I saw and used really just scratched the surface of what this thing can do. If you’re in the market for any of its functions, you might want to give it a look…
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