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Hi guys,

I’m new here. I’m actually a guitar/bass/banjo player. Some time back I bought my wife (who plays piano) a Yamaha P120 Digital piano with weighted keys. It has about a dozen voices like grand, organ, harpsichord etc. We like to jam.The P120 has three connectors "Midi In" and "Midi Out" and "To Host" as well as a related 4 way switch with options: Midi, PC-2, PC-1, Mac (We have Mac Laptops).

I want to greatly expand the number of voices that the piano can play. My wife would especially love jamming out budda bar like sounds, or to some extent old school synth sounds, or other fun stuff.

I can be fairly technical setting something up, BUT when it comes to my wife playing, it has to be SERIOUSLY DEAD SIMPLE for her to browse through the voices and pick one. Even better if it could be tactile (a knob), but that might be asking a bit much.

Can anybody suggest the best approach to expand the voices on the P120 while maximizing simplicity and user friendliness from a players point of view? Is there specialized hardware for this purpose? Do I get a rack mount synth and connect it to the piano, or do we go down the laptop / ipad avenue? I’m a real newbie for this kind of stuff. Am I making any sense?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions,

Steve

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There are multiple choices :
* PC based virtual instruments
* Tablet (I suppose iPad to be mire efficient than Android) based virtual instruments
* Hardware module.

With a PC based virtual instrument you can have latency issue especially with a laptop and some energy saving options. But you can download the free Pianoteq demo and test your PC ability to run a virtual instrument flawlessly. You will just need a USB cable to link the P120 and the PC. Add the Yamaha YSB-MIDI driver and ASIO4ALL to get low latency access to your sound card.

You will surely have to tweak the configuration, but once a virtual instrument is setted up, it would not cause issues.

There are some virtual instruments on a iPad (Korg Module, Ravenscroft),

There are also hardware modules like the V3 Sound module collection. They are made to be controlled by a tablet and a Bluetooth dongle. There is also the Integra 7 with plenty of sounds, but is not very cheap !

Last edited by Frédéric L; 01/18/21 01:55 PM.

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Well, the first thing I would do is check with Yamaha to find out if adding "voices" is possible.

I am guessing .... No.

https://usa.yamaha.com/support/index.html

Last edited by dmd; 01/18/21 01:53 PM.

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Originally Posted by dmd
Well, the first thing I would do is check with Yamaha to find out if adding "voices" is possible.

I am guessing .... No.
No indeed.

Originally Posted by Frédéric L
There are multiple choices :
* PC based virtual instruments
* Tablet (I suppose iPad to be mire efficient than Android) based virtual instruments
* Hardware module.

With a PC based virtual instrument you can have latency issue especially with a laptop and some energy saving options. But you can download the free Pianoteq demo and test your PC ability to run a virtual instrument flawlessly. You will just need a USB cable to link the P120 and the PC. Add the Yamaha YSB-MIDI driver and ASIO4ALL to get low latency access to your sound card.

You will surely have to tweak the configuration, but once a virtual instrument is setted up, it would not cause issues.
They have Mac, not PC. The good news there is that it is a whole lot easier to get going with than a PC.

For a Macintosh, the best option would be to buy Mainstage ($30) from the app store. If the P120 is class compliant, you can use a USB cable to connect it directly from its "to host" port to the Mac (you probably won't know until you try). If it doesn't work, a standard MIDI interface should do the trick, adapting the Yamaha's 5-pin MIDI Out to USB (old Yamahas can be finicky, I'd stick with a name brand like the Roland UM-ONE or iConnectivity mio 1x1, but not the M-Audio Uno which is known to have issues with some Yamahas).

An iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch) is probably even simpler. Do you happen to own one?

Hardware modules are the simplest in terms of initial setup and connections, but often patch selection is awkward if you're running them from a keyboard that does not have good facilities for changing patches on an attached MIDI device.

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Originally Posted by anotherscott
They have Mac, not PC. The good news there is that it is a whole lot easier to get going with than a PC.

The simplest option I see here would be to try the Pianoteq DEMO which is absolutely free and see how that goes.

The OP said he was comfortable with fairly complex technical options so downloading and trying Pianoteq DEMO should be a piece of cake.


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With a Mac, you may have to download the MIDI-USB driver :

https://usa.yamaha.com/support/updates/usb_midi_driver_for_mac.html

But just try the Pianoteq démo without it, and get the driver is the P120 is not seen.

Last edited by Frédéric L; 01/18/21 02:58 PM.

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If your wife can use a current smartphone, you could look into the CA-99. It uses a touchscreen. It doesn't get a lot easier than that.

A movie about the CA-98's touch screen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Btgx7XIXJW8

The layout of the screen on the CA-99 is a bit different, but the general idea is exactly the same.

If you can use a smartphone, you can pick sounds on a current Kawai piano. (I've also seen that the Yamaha CVP-piano's have touch screens, but I don't know them as well.)


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Originally Posted by Falsch
If your wife can use a current smartphone, you could look into the CA-99. It uses a touchscreen. It doesn't get a lot easier than that.

I may be missing something obvious OR I may be just too tired but... WTH has CA-99 with the OP question?


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Hi Falsch. Thanks for this. I'll have a look at the link.

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Apparently the P-120 has no audio input so the internal speakers won't be helpful.

Pianoteq isn't going to be helpful either with "jamming out budda bar like sounds, or to some extent old school synth sounds, or other fun stuff".

Sure, something on a MacBook is an option. How about the GarageBand software? Doesn't it have a bunch of virtual instruments? Apparently it needs Big Sur unless there's some older version of it already installed. (I'm not a Mac user.)

For something cheap and second hand e.g. the old Yamaha MU sound modules have MIDI IN, Audio out and a knob and a display: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaha_MU-series

They just need to be plugged into speakers of some sort.

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For fun I recently adopted a different approach and ditched my computer which was connected to my piano in favour of a dedicated hardware unit. I choose the Roland MC707, which is what I think gets referred to as a Groovebox. You can use it to simply get some 3000+ High quality additional sounds, to create drum patterns, or to record and perform complete songs. It has a smaller version called the MC101.

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Originally Posted by Frédéric L
With a Mac, you may have to download the MIDI-USB driver :
Yes... if that piano is not class compliant, it would need a driver to connect via USB. Alternatively, a MIDI interface would work, but that's ~$40 and a downloadable driver is free. ;-)

Originally Posted by clothearednincompo
Pianoteq isn't going to be helpful either with "jamming out budda bar like sounds, or to some extent old school synth sounds, or other fun stuff".
I think Pianoteq was only being suggested as a "proof of concept" since the demo can be downloaded for free. But so is the GarageBand software you suggested.

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I think simplest would be going and buying a 3-5 year old dgx or px, something decent with 200+ sounds ready to go. Just another option...

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Thanks so much guys, for all the quick feedback. It’s very kind of you to take the time to post these considered replies. I’m very grateful.

Do I understand correctly, for a hardware module I plug the hardware into the keyboard, dial up a sound on the hardware and it just magically comes out of the keyboard speakers? If that’s right I would have called a “hardware module” a “rackmount synth”. Is there a difference?

For a software module, you install software on a laptop or ipad, plug it into the keyboard, dial up a sound on the laptop/ipad and again it magically comes out of the keyboard speaker. Is that right?

Frédéric L suggested V3 sound. I found the YAMMEX XXL on their web page. It provides new sounds accessed through a Yamaha keyboard itself, but I can’t imagine it would be compatible with a P120. I’ve emailed to ask.

As I understand it, the other V3 sound hardware modules are hardware that plugs into the keyboard. The interface for selecting sounds would be an Ipad that links to the hardware wirelessly. As such, to me it seems like a cross between a hardware and a software module.

Frédéric L you mentioned the Integra 7, which is out of my price range ($2400). I love the concept. If there were cheaper options that are super intuitive to use I would love to hear about it.

I have a very old Ipad. I wonder if it could be computationally challenged when it comes to running software modules. I also have a state of the art macbook pro. I get the impression there are a lot more options for software modules for Ipads (IE: apps) as opposed to something that installs on a macbook pro, especially if I want something super intuitive. I suspect this is because the user interfaces that involve touch screens are superior. Is that correct?

Anotherscott, thanks so much for your advice, esp wrt connector cables. I don’t think I would have figured that out on my own.

I’ll look into Mainstage (thanks Anothersscott) and Pianotech (thanks DMD).

Flasch, thanks for the suggestion. I don’t think the CA-99 is what I’m looking for as it focusses on piano sounds. The P120 has some good piano sounds built in. I want to get some new age space sounds, and to a lesser extent some old school synth sounds. But thanks again for the suggestion.

Lots of reading to do …

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Clothearednincompo, you wrote "Apparently the P-120 has no audio input so the internal speakers won't be helpful." I do have powered speakers, but would prefer to use the internal speakers. Perhaps what you're saying is that a Host hooked up to the "To Host" socket will not provide input to the keyboard. It only accepts output from the keyboard (but then why is it called a "host"?) BUT can a laptop or ipad with the proper Midi drivers, or even a hardware module, can connect to both Midi In and Midi Out sockets, and thus the sound COULD come out of the built in speakers? Is that right?

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Hardware modules including the V3Sound Collection have a MIDI port, then can work with most instruments including the P120. But the sound will be sent on the audio output of the module : not the P120 speakers.

I don’t think there is a knob on the V3 Sound made for the sound selection. It is made to work with a tablet which only select sound (not audio processing : no need of a powerful CPU).

On a Mac, you have plenty of options (EWQL Goliath, IK Multimedia Sampletank, Native Instrument Kontakt), but the GarageBand and MainStage are very cheap in comparison and can fill your need for a while.


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dhts, the groovebox looks awesome. Reminds me of a Native Instruments Machine. But both those things have huge learning curves. One day I may take it on. I've thought about it many times. But its not right for my wife. She just wants to play keyboards and have super cool sounds come out. At most she might use the P120 track recorder (can record two tracks) to play back some background tracks. But she's not a DJ or sounds engineer. I love her just the same wink

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Originally Posted by Steve Wild
Do I understand correctly, for a hardware module I plug the hardware into the keyboard, dial up a sound on the hardware and it just magically comes out of the keyboard speakers? If that’s right I would have called a “hardware module” a “rackmount synth”. Is there a difference?
You're basically right, but since not all sound modules are designed to rack-mounted, that name would not apply to all of them. Also, the sound does not typically come out of the keyboard's speakers. You would need a keyboard with a separate audio input, or possibly one that does audio over USB, but neither of those would appear to describe your Yamaha so you would need some kind of amplified speaker to plug your module into. Same problem with getting sounds from an iPad or computer... you'll need something to play them through (the built in speakers of the iPad or Mac will not be sufficient for much).

How old is your very old iPad? Is it at least new enough to have a lightning connector (and not the original 30-pin connector)?

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MIDI isn't audio so a MIDI IN on the Yamaha doesn't feed anything into its speakers. Same thing with the "To Host".

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Quote
can connect to both Midi In and Midi Out sockets, and thus the sound COULD come out of the built in speakers? Is that right?

MIDI sockets don’t exchange audio stream. If one want a module/Mac sound listen from the DP speakers, audio jacks or audio USB is needed. The P120 has none of them.


I have just seen the manual, and see no USB port. « To host » means here « a serial port for a PC/Mac ».

Then a MIDI-USB adapter is required. Don’t buy a cheap one, but a $30 M-Audio MidiSport could do the job.

If the connection of an iPad is expected, there is the IK Multimedia iRig Midi 2. (But the V3Sound/iPad connection uses only a specific Bluetooth dongle).

Last edited by Frédéric L; 01/18/21 04:41 PM.

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