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Getting Started with MONTAGE

Get ready to dive into MONTAGE programming basics.

Just got your new MONTAGE? New to synthesizers? Or you’re an old hand at synthesizers, even owned a MOTIF? Here are some quick suggestions on what to do first.

Start by assembling the following four booklets as PDFs:

  • MONTAGE Owner’s Manual.
  • MONTAGE Reference Manual.
  • MONTAGE Data List.
  • MONTAGE Synthesizer Parameter Manual.

Although you are given a paper copy of the Owner’s Manual you should download a PDF of it so that you have the search capabilities afforded by reading it on a computer, tablet or notebook device. PDFs will allow you to quickly and easily find information when necessary. Reading a manual, while recommended at some point, should never be handled like reading a novel. It’s much more like reading a reference book, where you are looking things up. It should be used to connect the dots as you gather information while you are experiencing the instrument.

So set them aside for now, and just play the instrument. Here are some tips to get you started:

You’ll find various types of Performances in the Factory Set Preset Banks. It may not always be immediately obvious how to play or interact with them, since they can be quite complicated. Many include advanced programming tricks that may not be immediately decipherable. Take advantage of the AUDITION button: If you have no idea what to play, or how to approach a particular Performance, press AUDITION and closely observe the front panel. The Super Knob, Assign Switch buttons, SCENE buttons etc., will animate in response to the audition data. You can see how different timbres and combinations of instruments settings are accessed. Then try approaching the Performance again with what you’ve learned. The Audition function can be extremely helpful in situations where you simply have no clue what the programmer was thinking. Perhaps it is an instrument emulation that has several programmed articulations that are essential to make it work and sound properly.

Even some single instrument sounds will come to new light in response to the Audition button — what you may think is not such a great sound may be transformed when played with a different approach, a different attack. It can change your mind entirely. For example, if you call up a “Gallery” Performance (typically these will have a variety of approaches to a single instrument, like the Rhodes or Wurlitzer electric piano galleries), each individual Part may be from a different era, or a completely different model of that instrument. The Galleries use the SCENE function (“snapshots”) to give you a different featured electric piano creation. It would be wrong to conclude anything about them until you place them in a musical context. For example, the Rhodes with the soft felt hammers, the one with stiffer neoprene rubber hammers, then the one with rubber hammers with improved preamp, or the Dyno Rhodes – all will behave and sound completely different and will have uses for different musical situations. Use the Audition button to momentarily “step away” from the task of trying to both play and listen simultaneously — and just listen. Often you will have the surprising experience that your opinion of the sound changes dramatically when you just listen. It’s some kind of psycho-acoustic thing. Respect it. For example, you might have been approaching a sound by playing soft chords, while the programmer’s intent only becomes clear when you play medium hard to hard aggressive key strikes to get the sound to “bark.” Approach is important!

If at any point during the Audition phase you find a setting to your liking, stop the Audition (by pressing the AUDITION button again) and play the sound yourself. The audition data is actually MIDI data, interacting with the sounds in real-time — and each has a wide range of timbres, tones, effect settings that can be evoked by moving the controls. Note that once an Audition is activated it will continue to repeat (loop); you can stop it, or just move to another sound, at any time.

Navigating the Preset “Live Sets”

Live Sets are used to assemble groups of sounds into a set of 16, designed for quick access. The Preset Live Sets are simply examples of how you can group sounds into custom arrangements. This can make touring the MONTAGE for the first time more organized then stepping through Performances from 1 through 1,920. The Live Set that is used in the Mastering MONTAGE series can be downloaded by clicking here.


Note the relationship between the 16 boxes in the screen and the right front panel lighted buttons, as shown below:

Explanation of MONTAGE front panel buttons.

There are four rows of eight buttons; however, the left half – four rows of four columns – are illuminated buttons, dividing the entire grid of lighted buttons into two halves, left and right. One of the left half is glowing brightly. This represents the currently selected Performance in this Live Set. You can either touch the box in the screen or you can touch the dedicated button associated with that program. We’ll say this now and repeat it often later: Anything you can reach with the touchscreen can also be accessed via front panel buttons. It’s your choice.

There is only one light illuminated on the right half of the 4×8 grid. The right side represents the Preset Live Sets. From the factory, 12 of the 16 Preset Live Sets are occupied. Use the upper set of two buttons marked “UP/DOWN Bank” to move between Preset, User, and, later, your installed Library Bank Live Sets. Use the lower set of two buttons marked “UP/DOWN Page” to move between Live Sets within the current Bank. As mentioned, there are 16 Preset Pages of Live sets, and 16 User Pages of Live Sets.

At this point, you should take a moment to read the QUICK GUIDE section on “Live Sets” in the Owner’s Manual on pages 18 and 19. Creating your own User Live Set will allow you to put together Performances you find immediately engaging, enabling you to create sets containing your favorites. Don’t worry about overwriting anything — MONTAGE has plenty of storage. Read through “Creating Your Own Live Set” on page 30 of the QUICK GUIDE.

Category Search

When you want to audition a specific Category of instrument, you’ll need to exit the Live Set and view the main Performance screen. There are several ways to do so and arrive at the main Performance screen:

  • Press the [PERFORMANCE (Home)] button; OR
  • Press the [EXIT] button; OR
  • Touch the “Home” icon in the extreme upper left corner of the screen:

Any of these operations will place you on the main Performance screen with the Performance name highlighted.

Performances are first divided into two main kinds: Single and Multi. This refers to the number of Parts under Keyboard Control (Kbd Ctrl) contained in the Performance, which can be as few as one (Single) and as many as eight (Multi). In the screenshot above (“CFX + FM EP”), you can see that this Performance uses five PARTS: Four to make up the CFX Acoustic Piano, and one to recreate the FM Electric Piano. The green (active) icon on the “Kbd Ctrl” row indicates that they will respond to the “local” MONTAGE keyboard. Here, the PERFORMANCE Name is highlighted; when this is the condition, pressing the [CATEGORY SEARCH] button will take you to the program listings:


When searching for Performances, you can view the listing in the “Default” order (as they are listed in the Data List Booklet), in alphabetical order by “Name,” or by when (“Date”) you added it to your MONTAGE.

Those listed in green font are Single Part, while those in blue font are Multi Part Performances. We’ll deal with the significance of this in a future posting, as it really only impacts things when combining (merging) Performances or recording in the MONTAGE. Listings of Performances in Category Search can be further defined by Preset (factory), User (your own custom/customized), from an installed Library, or by the technology used (AWM2, FM-X, AWM2+FM-X). Along the top of the Performance Category Search screen you can see the defining search options for BANK and ATTRIBUTES.

Searching is context sensitive. This means that when you have selected a PERFORMANCE (highlighting the PERFORMANCE Name) and then hit [CATEGORY SEARCH] you will be searching for whole PERFORMANCEs (as opposed to single PARTs). When you touch or move the highlight to the PART Name and hit the Search function, naturally, the listings will for available Parts. And when you have highlighted Arpeggios or Waveforms and you hit [CATEGORY SEARCH], the search will be for Arpeggios or Waveforms, respectively. One of the first skills as a new user is to know what parameter is highlighted. Unsure about what that parameter is? This is where your reference books come in handy.

Performance Merge

Take the time at this point to go through the QUICK GUIDE section of the Owner’s Manual (page 36) while seated in front of the instrument. This explains the basics of selecting a Single sound for a Part and adding a second sound layering them; then it covers adding (merging) a multi Part and a Note Limit region, thus creating a split. These fundamental skills will serve you well. It can get a whole lot more complex than this as you wade out into deeper waters!

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do: Remove and discard the protective plastic film that covers the screen when initially unboxing the instrument. Leaving it on can interfere with touchscreen operation.
  • Do: Explore categories of interest to you.
  • Do: Experiment with different approaches toward playing a sound, particularly if your first attempt yields less than satisfying results.
  • Do: Press the [AUDITION] button to gain a bit of perspective on what the programmer had in mind.
  • Do: Plug in your (optional) Yamaha FC7 pedal into the Foot Controller 2 jack to control the Super Knob with your foot. This will give you hands-free Motion Control.
  • Don’t: Approach every sound with a preconceived idea or lick you want to play.

When first encountering an instrument, be flexible. Let the sound lead. Discover where it takes you. Later, when you are looking for a specific sound for a specific lick, you may want to adjust your search attributes to narrow the number of selections. The worst way to try out an instrument is to play the same thing on each and every sound. Your initial search should be “open” and more general (like shopping for clothes or shoes). Later, you can get specific about what actually fits.

Remember: there are no good and bad sounds. One person’s opinion can be vastly different from yours. Allow for this. Sounds are generally either appropriate or inappropriate for a particular musical situation. A Honky-Tonk piano sound is neither good or bad by its overall nature. It is exactly right in certain situations, and exactly wrong in others. Always remember that — especially if you’re someone who thinks there is one “BEST” piano sound.

Snorkeling, Scuba Diving and the Art of Sound Design

First, a word on Multi Part Performances. These come in two general unofficial categories: those that are traditional Splits or Layered sounds and those that are like mini-compositions which you set in motion with a single note or a chord. Approaching the Split/Layer type is usually very intuitive because you are creating the music by playing the keyboard in a traditional fashion, but with these mini-compositions you are the trigger that puts all this bottled potential energy into Motion. For some people this is heaven. For others, they have no idea how to interact with these inventions.

You can stay near the surface and enjoy MONTAGE from the snorkeler’s view, or you can dive deep and get out your scuba gear. (This swimming analogy is so apropos!) So whether you only want to wade out a little bit or you’re ready to dive for the Mariana Trench, you’re covered.

Let’s use the appropriately named “DJ MONTAGE” as an example. You might feel that the composition is already done, and much like a DJ, you are simply putting the turntable in motion. What’s left for you to do? If you are asking that question, move on and come back to this later. But be aware that what you are hearing is a programmer combining the Motion Control Synth Engine’s various tools (arps, motion sequences, automated controllers, etc.) into a musical montage. It’s sound designing. It’s very much like working with a room full of analog modules and patch cables, where you are putting in motion a musical patchwork of connections. Here you can potentially have 64 Oscillators (or more), 64 Filters, 64 Amplitude Envelope Generators, tons of LFOs, Effects, even external sources all patched together to create a musical result.

I learned synthesis on a room full of ARP 2500 modules back in the early 1970s – a time when creating music was about patching Oscillator to Filter, Filter to Amplifier, and while the “preset” had not been invented at that point in synthesizer history (seriously, it was still years away), anyone sitting down to interact with a student’s patched creation would have an entirely unique experience based on how they chose to put the creation in motion. The patched creation was simply “potential energy” – the person interacting with it provided the “push” to turn it into “kinetic energy.” Sometimes that was by triggering a key or activating a switch. These MONTAGE Multi Part, multi-instrument creations are musical and rhythmic environments/atmospheres that represent the “patching” of the various components by one of the Yamaha voicing programmers. You can choose to interact with it, edit it, learn from it, change it, or even ignore it. You put all this potential energy into motion by triggering a key, turning a knob, or flipping a switch. Every time you interact with it you may have an entirely different experience.

“Patching” in the MONTAGE is about assigning and mapping controllers to do your bidding:


But understand that your own personal creations can go in any musical direction you desire – in any kind of musical genre or one that doesn’t yet exist. There has never been a synth quite like MONTAGE.

Imagine the very first synthesizers. Electronic music back then carried a stigma. And it was not until early attempts to use them to create “classical” music that some folks start paying any attention. Soon synths were everywhere, including in rock’n’roll. The acoustic piano was limited by similar thinking for many, many years – it was thought to be only capable of chamber music. Imagine folks from 1700 hearing stride piano, or jazz, or rock’n’roll! Every time I hear someone say, “yeah, it’s only good for this one type of music” I have to remind myself that not everyone hears the same when it comes to music and sound. Just because the organ started as an instrument exclusively for religious music doesn’t mean that’s all you can do with it. James Oscar Smith (better known to his friends as Jimmy) decided to change the role of the organ forever — building on the door kicked open by Fats Waller. And in doing so, Jimmy reinvented the role of the mighty B3 forever!

The MONTAGE is music in motion. Please bookmark the official Yamaha Download site and check in often for product firmware updates. You can expect updated features, bug fixes, and improvements on an ongoing basis.

You can check your firmware version in [UTILITY] > Settings > System.


If you are ready for the first lesson in the series: “Mastering MONTAGE 1: The Super Knob” — check it out here.

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