With todays arranger keyboards the auto-generated sequences played by the instruments in order to make up for a missing band don't sound as static and stubborn as they used to do in the early days. Despite that they can quickly become tiresome and overused which leads to a bad reputation nevertheless. This article introduces many short tips and tricks which helps you to enhance your performance and to make the style-o-mat sound more dynamic. (Note all information given is based on Yamaha instruments but should transfer quite easily to other brands).
So with the Tyros 3 being released now you might think that with "recent instruments" I'm talking about the Tyros area of arranger keyboards. In fact those are great instruments with many advanced features. But there's quite a lot to explore even with older instruments like my PSR-2000. (Built arouund 2001) and most tricks should even work nicely on older instruments like the PSR-9000 or PSR-740, too.
Note, this article is based on a series of postings I made to the Yamaha-PSR-Styles Yahoo group in October 2008.
You most probably did know this already. Intro 1 of most styles contains a simple count-in. In case it's a one-bar count-in (just 1, 2, 3, 4) it can be used instead of the Break Fill pattern. Just hit Intro 1 as fast as you can at the first beat of a bar and either wait for it to finish or press Fill In during the second half of the bar for even more variations.
This is a particular nice trick which is not so obvious. With many styles you can use Ending 2 to replace the Fill Self pattern. (Fill In from one variation to the same). Just press Ending 2 instead of Fill Self and press Fill In during the second half of the first bar to interrupt it again. With a little practice this makes for very different Fill Ins which greatly widen the dynamics of the performance.
I remember the PSR-9000 which only featured some pre-sequenced demo songs which were quite obviously recorded using some sort of sequencer software. But starting around the PSR-2000 Yamaha also included style demos built into the instruments which show off the style-o-mat's capabilities.
If you listen closely to those demos and watch panel LEDs you'll notice that sometimes they change variations without Fill-Ins. The trick is to create some sort of crescendo (or decrescendo) just by selecting the right style variation for a given part. (Sometimes it's just two or four bars before they silently go back to previous variation)
With just a little practice this is a totally new way of creating dynamics. Because not only are you able to emphasize a given part (switching to another variation and then quickly switching back, both without Fill-In) you can also increase the power step-by-step. Listen how powerful Main D can sound although it's often a slight variation of Main C when you're coming from Main B. A quick sequence like Main B -> Main C -> Main D without Fill-Ins can sound much more powerful as with Fill-Ins.
On most instruments there are two possibilities in order the surpass the automatic Fill-Ins. You can turn off "Auto Fill". This makes the variations change on full bars (just like before, you see the variation LEDs blinking in the meantime) but without Fill-Ins. Or you can leave "Auto Fill" on and double-press the variation buttons. This makes for an immediate change with a slight drum fill.
Many should know that already. There are two ways (again) two achieve a half-bar Fill-In and thus to enhance the performance.
The easier one is to delay the Fill-In. Don't push the button an beat 1 of a bar but wait for beat 3 or even beat 4. This makes the Fill In begin later and thus sound more decent and less obvious or static.
Another possibility is to interrupt the Fill-In in between. Just press the Fill Button anytime after the Fill-In begun. Or quickly change to another variation (double press the Main button for immediate change). That way you get some "odd" timing which can make the missing part of the Fill-In sound like a short break.
That's one of my favorites. The Yamaha style machine is able to respond in a very dynamic and very musical manner to quick changes. (Though this might surprise some of you ;). This means you can basically assemble your own Fill-Ins during the performance.
Don't wait for a started Fill-In to just finish. Play with the remaining Fill buttons and listen how the instrument responds. Try something like this (all within one bar):
Fill D -> Fill C
Fill D -> Fill B -> Fill D
Fill A -> Fill B
Fill D -> Fill B -> Ending 1 (at the end of a song)
Each time the instrument tries to blend-over the drums (as well as the other parts). As a result you get completely new Fill-Ins with a great variety.