While MONTAGE certainly takes some operational design cues from the MOTIF series, MONTAGE is an exponential improvement over MOTIF in terms of sound, control and workflow. As the saying goes, “some things change, some things remain the same.” Technology has dramatically changed since the original MOTIF launched in 2001, and that reality has greatly changed how musicians utilize and interact with a keyboard instrument. I can illustrate this by sharing a simple question I have asked over the years during presentations: “Do you use a computer-based system to create music?” When I asked that question to a group of 50 back in 2001, less than half of them raised their hands. That says a lot about the state of the market in 2001 when the MOTIF Music Production Synthesizer launched. Sure, many people were creating music with computers (I had been for over 10 years), but at the time there were still many people who exclusively utilized hardware for music creation. Remember, this was before the popularization of smartphones, touch screens, social media and music-sharing websites. Back then, an instrument with great sounds, expandability, sampling and a powerful, built-in sequencer was very attractive to many people.
Prior to the original MOTIF launch, Yamaha saw the promise of the computer-based world and introduced mLAN in 2000.
mLAN was a high bandwidth, multichannel MIDI+Audio networking over FireWire protocol. Although mLAN never became an industry standard, it was offered under a royalty-free license to anyone interested in utilizing and developing the technology. Many manufacturers studied mLAN and implemented parts of the specification relevant to their own products.
In 2004, with the acquisition of Steinberg – one of the world’s leading DAW software developers and makers of Cubase and Nuendo – Yamaha realized where things were going and invested a great deal of time, energy and resources to develop computer integrated products. As the MOTIF Series developed, more features were added to underscore the growing and increasing relevance of computer-based music creation. Some examples include:
mLAN16E: Although mLAN never really took off, the idea of single-cable connectivity for audio and MIDI was an important development initiative.
MOTIF VST Editors: These editors allowed a user to save the internal sounds, mixes and overall status of the MOTIF XS and XF inside of a Cubase project just like a software-based virtual instrument. Now the MOTIF XS/XF, virtual instruments, audio tracks and effects could all be saved within a single Cubase project for a truly integrated experience.
Plug-In Boards to Virtual instruments: The MOTIF and MOTIF ES could host up to 3 PLG-100/150 series plug-in boards, each board featuring different synthesis types like AN (Analog Modeling), DX (6 Operator DX style FM synthesis) and VL (Virtual Acoustic synthesis from the VL-1 synthesizer). As computers got faster, these solutions moved toward computer-based virtual instruments. With the MOTIF XS and XF, plug-in board technology evolved into virtual instruments included within Cubase AI.
When the MOTIF XF launched, it was apparent that things had dramatically changed in the market. I can sum up this change by the response I get now when I ask that same question I asked in 2001: “Do you use a computer-based system to create music?” When I ask that question to a group of 50 customers now, almost everyone raises their hand. Computers, smartphones and tablets now offer many products for music production. It’s a new era and with that new era comes MONTAGE.
The Conceptual Differences Between the MOTIF Series and MONTAGE
The big conceptual difference between MOTIF and MONTAGE is found right on the front panel: MOTIF said “Music Production Synthesizer.” MONTAGE now reads “Music Synthesizer.” What exactly does that mean? A big part of MOTIF was onboard Production tools. From the beginning, MOTIF was always a multi-mode music “workstation” featuring powerful integrated music-creation tools that were very important to people. When the Motif was released in 2001, you might recall the following realities:
- 55% of Americans used the Internet. As of 2015 that had increased to 84%.
- The most advanced mobile phone looks like an artifact compared to the smart phones of today.
- The iPad and other tablets were still in the imaginations of developers.
- There was no Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, etc. Social Media had yet to be introduced, so the ability to share and interact with many people was limited.
- Computers in 2001 were exponentially slower and not nearly as capable as they are today for music creation.
Obsolete memory formats such as SmartMedia and Minidisc have faded away in favor of larger, faster and lower cost formats like USB media, flash memory and solid-state drives.
- The amount of available peripheral products for computer music systems — from audio interfaces to controllers — has grown exponentially.
USB MIDI and Audio connectivity was not available then. The way we connect to the computer has been streamlined, works better and is much more affordable than it was in 2001. Today it is a robust, fast and reliable connection.
A world-class musical instrument has to SOUND great. That has been the focus of Yamaha since 1887 and is a perfect example of things that remain the same within our development team. MONTAGE takes sound quality, clarity and nuance to an entirely new level.
Another aspect that remains the same is FEEL. A world-class musical instrument has to FEEL great. MONTAGE still utilizes the same action that our artists and musicians love and have commented on from the MOTIF XS and XF: FSX on the MONTAGE6 and 7 and Balanced Hammer (BH) on the MONTAGE8. These remained the same because time and time again our artists and customers have commented on how much they love the FEEL of the MOTIF. MONTAGE feels great and responds with a stunning level of expressiveness and dynamic range.
MOTIF to Montage: Architecture and Interface Differences
The MOTIF was defined as a Music Production Synthesizer; MONTAGE is a Music Synthesizer. I touched on this briefly in the last article and would like to expand on the concept. The difference is the word “Production.” MOTIF epitomized “Production” with the inclusion of a fully-realized sequencer, integrated sampling and multi-mode operation. It was definitely a compelling and powerful instrument, but, as I said before, times have changed, and the way people work has changed.
MOTIF has a number of different modes:
- Voice Mode: Generally single instrument sounds
- Performance Mode: Up to 4 Voices
- Song Mode: For linear sequencing
- Pattern Mode: For pattern-based sequencing
- Master Mode: Master keyboard settings and a “catch all” mode that allowed the user to access the other modes (Voice, Performance, Song and Pattern) from a single mode
- Remote Mode: For DAW remote control
- Integrated Sampling: Access to the sampling functions
- File: For file management
- Utility: For global settings
MONTAGE is the keyboard instrument of today with a design and user interface in line with our modern world and workflow. With the modern advances in usability, people expect products with streamlined workflows that allow tasks to be done within a single user interface. With these ideas in mind, the entire top-level design of MONTAGE – where you play the instrument, interact with Motion Control, connect to a DAW or iOS device, etc. – all happens from a single Performance Mode.
For people familiar with MOTIF:
- Where MOTIF had four different modes (Voice, Performance, Master and Mix) for playing back, editing and mixing parts, Montage has one: Performance. What was a Voice in MOTIF is now a Single Part Performance in MONTAGE, and each Performance now contains its own Mix. This reflects a move towards a more streamlined, all-inclusive workflow.
- Master Keyboard functionality has been improved and now exists within each Performance as a complete master setup instead of a separate mode, allowing for better integration of MONTAGE Performances with external gear.
- MOTIF featured a linear SONG and loop-based PATTERN sequencer for recording and playback. In contrast, MONTAGE has a quick and easy Performance recorder to instantly capture inspiration. For more detailed edits, MONTAGE features a powerful 32-channel out/6 in USB audio and MIDI interface capable of recording each Part of a Performance as both a MIDI track and multichannel stereo digital audio track on your DAW (Cubase AI included).
- Loading custom waveform content into the onboard flash memory of MONTAGE is possible. Better yet, user samples can be played back, assigned, processed and controlled with Motion Control.
The end result of these changes is a completely streamlined MONTAGE user interface. Finding sounds, playing sounds and interacting with the instrument is much faster and smoother. On the main points – waveform size, synthesis type, polyphony, standard features – MONTAGE is truly a major step forward. But the entire design of MONTAGE has been dramatically changed and improved with completely new features that cannot be effectively compared with MOTIF. Below is a chart that highlights some of the important specification improvements in MONTAGE compared to the MOTIF XF:
(Credit: Phil Clendeninn)