Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yamaha QY70

It's been a while, so here's a little review...

When Yamaha released its first QY product, back in 1990, I thought it was the coolest thing in the whole wide world : a hand-held music workstation that you could carry everywhere to make music. It might seem trivial in this age of music applications for Nintendo DS and iPhone, but back then, boy did it seem awesome, especially since it was a luxury the teen I was couldn’t afford. The sounds were crude, and the interface quite limited, but you wouldn’t really buy a QY10 to produce a professional piece of music or even to control more advanced instruments. The QY10 was meant to be an electronic sketchpad. A self-contained, easy-to-use station that you would take on the train or anywhere in order to write music, which you would later on record properly with “real” instruments.

The QY70 is the 1997 incarnation of the concept. Again, you won’t use it to make a proper, final song (I’ve seen at least one band on the web use it as their main production tool, but that’s pointless gimmickry). At heart, the QY70 is a compositional tool, whether you want a small, battery-powered device to work out song ideas on the road, or just change your method of writing.

It’s broadly the size of a VCR tape, a bit heavy with the 6 batteries, but still very convenient to carry around.


The little thing can store 20 songs with 16 tracks each. The onboard sounds are pretty good. Of course, the acoustic sounds (XG format) won’t fool anyone, and the synthetic ones don’t exactly match those of a Moog, but that’s beside the point. The point, I can’t stress this enough, is to work out the blueprints for a song. The QY70 sounds a bit sterile and MIDI, but it’s all inspiring enough, and mind you, there’s even a nice little analogue-style editing mode (ADSR/Cut-off/Resonance) to make things a bit more personal.

The Farewell Song II (QY70 demo)

You can program step-by-step, but might find it difficult on this little LCD screen, compared to computer work. I myself would rather perform all the parts live on the tiny tiny buttons, track after track. Tricky to hit the notes right, but more satisfying in the end, if like me you dislike sequencing zillion of notes.

Aegian (QY70 demo)

The QY70 also comes with pre-programmed automatic arrangements, like you may find on a home keyboard. While I don’t find them as inspiring as building tunes from scratch, they’re surprisingly good, cover all major styles and there’s even some basic chord progressions to choose from and improvise melodies on.

Seasong (QY70 demo, using the onboard arrangements)

All in all, the QY series might still be a kind of luxury, but a good buy if you like fun miniature workstations to bring on the beach or in the mountains and write some tunes.

2 comments:

Ted Laderas said...

I loved this thing! With my ES-1 for beats and this for melodies/chords, I was unbeatable. I still wish I had it.

khoral said...

That's indeed a good pairing!