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  1. Michael
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. Thursday, 18 February 2021
Hey Everyone - First off, I want to compliment the Montage community here for putting up some really helpful content -- I've found it really helpful and it's nice to see such passion for the instrument.

I'm a brand new Montage owner who -- to be candid -- wrestled for weeks about the Montage versus Fantom decision (well covered in this forum, across Youtube, etc etc). Appreciating that everyone has their own take on things, for me the Montage came down to the quality of the sounds, the sounds and the sounds(!). To me the Montage sounds are warm and fulsome and realistic, whereas many of the Fantom sounds seem weak and dated. Plus better build quality and a greater overall emphasis on acoustic versus EDM type tones.

The problem as someone who wants to dabble in song creation of course is the Montage Pattern Sequencer. Trust me: I have gone through every...single...instructional video, Tech Talk, manual, etc, that there is on this, and as a relative noob it's just not clicking (slight pun) for me. (Much as I hate to say it the Fantom took me 2 minutes to get.) I suspect that it's part the uninformed user (me) and part a workflow that's not super intuitive at first.

Not wanting to toss the proverbial keyboard baby out with the bathwater, are there people who for the right hourly $$$ might be able to provide some as needed Montage instruction over Zoom? That's probably the best path forward for someone in my situation. Thanks in advance for any recommendations.
Responses (13)
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I am glad to tell you the people attending this forum will provide knowledge down to the atom and at a very reasonable speed.
At times it even might become so profound it turns revoltingly deep...
Spending your money is not necessary, on that I give my word. Just take your time...
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 1
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I'm sorry to inform you this, and in this way:

The Pattern Sequencer in the Montage is not a Note Sequencer. Not even close.

It should not be called a Sequencer, of any sort, regardless of the prefix given, because that's so heavily tied to Note Sequencing in the eyes/ears of musos, that the word Sequencer should have been reserved for Note Sequencing.

Patterns, as Yamaha defines them, are all the notes and events that make up a Scene's worth of playback material. You can either direct record this into your Montage, by playing it in, and then use VERY primitive tools to somewhat quantise it, or you can import MIDI tracks you've made elsewhere into the Patterns.


Patterns are measured in bars, and would normally average somewhere between 4 and maybe 64 bars in length. Although they can go to as many as 256 bars, you're unlikely to use this many when working with the Pattern Sequencer as Yamaha intends it to be used. And this is where it gets interesting... it's basically either a sketchpad (where you might likely set to 256 bars and get funky for a while) or it's kind of like a complex-to-organise, largely opaque backing player for your live improvisations.

It's definitely NOT a Note Sequencer like what's in the Roland and most other workstations synths. Nothing like it. And that's where the use of the word Sequencer in the naming feels contrived and somewhat deceptive.

It's more like a dynamic Pattern Selector, whereby you pick the currently playing Pattern by choosing a Scene (which switches play to the Scene's Pattern) and sets the sounds as you've saved them for that Scene, which is one of 8 Scenes within your current Performance, and you then play along with each Scene and its Pattern of chords, bass, drums etc.

All this is pulled up when you load a Performance and its Pattern. The linking, between the two, is backwards, too. Which is not fun.

And therein lays the key to understanding it... this is a Performance keyboard design, into which a Pattern "Sequencer" has been shoehorned. Performances are its highest abstraction and its primary purpose. To this end, the Pattern Sequencer is SOMEWHAT designed to help in a Performance, by playing back some of the Patterns you might need to be the backing band of your performing.

It is a VERY rudimentary recorder of notes. It has truly primitive note editing facilities (forget individual note adjustments, not possible, not visible, not a thing in a "Pattern" Sequencer).

For Sequencing Notes, you're going to need a DAW, or a workstation keyboard. This isn't it.

I completely understand what you say about the Roland Sequencer. It doesn't really need a manual or instruction. Unfortunately, the limitations of the Pattern Sequencer are so significant that most of what you're not understanding about how it works is because you're imagining it might have hidden its note sequencing abilities. It hasn't, they're not there, at all.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 2
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Yes Andrew is correct. The new Fantoms sequencer is sick. I try to get into the Montage pattern sequencer, but you have to play it correctly each time. And for drums I would rather have a step sequencer...period.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 3
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Wow! Really appreciate all of the prompt feedback. Clearly a great deal of expertise here!

Maybe it's worth taking a half step back while I'm still within the return window to ask the gating question, appreciating that there's already a solid Montage v Fantom thread already.

My use case is pretty simple really: goal is to have great sounds and use the "workstation" (I appreciate there's some question re nomenclature) to put together song ideas (let's call them sketches or quick demos) on the fly. So in my particular case I'll admit that I don't need to get to production level quality.

Also as part of this "on the fly" approach it's unlikely I'll venture forth into DAW land. One of the appeals of the hardware is the "quick n dirty" approach to getting something musical together when the muse speaks and the inspiration happens! :)

All that said, I have to agree that while the sequencer was clearly an afterthought for the Montage (v3.0/3.5 firmware) it would be helpful if I could get it to work without too much pain & suffering along the way.

So the question to put to the floor is do I:
1. Keep the Montage for its outstanding sound quality and cobble my way through the sequencing (perhaps with help from the good people here)?
2. Switch to the Genos or the Pa-4X (I haven't checked to see if the sounds are the same as those on the Montage)? (For some reason the Genos strikes me as kind of a gimmick but I could be way off there.)
3. Switch to the Fantom and invest in the sounds I haven't been able to listen to live at the store yet, e.g., their fairly expansive (but dated?) EXZ series and their new Sound Packs for the ZEN-Core (although those are heavily skewed towards the EDM which I won't make use of)?

I should also footnote that as a Noob I'm not for or against any particular platform. As a guitar guy shifting towards being a keyboard guy(!) I had a Korg Triton back in the day but the workflow obscurity in the Kronos was just silly imho.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 4
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
It pains me to say this, but I think:

It's going to be far easier and more productive to find ways of getting sounds you like out of the Roland than it is to get a production, editing and workflow you like out of the Montage for the tasks you're looking at.

And there's a lot of things to do with sequencing and (even) primitive note editing that simply aren't possible in the Montage/MODX, at all.

And, quite frankly, the Roland's sequencer is so very good that it's put to bed the idea that workstations shouldn't bother with a sequencer because of DAWs... it's better than most DAWs for most everything other than final production and polish, not least because it's so tangible and easy and fun and fast to use. It just works!

AND... because the Roland has a new but very powerful set of synths within it, there's not really any limits on what sounds you can get out of it.

And, oddly, I'd argue I can get better (with work) EDM sounds out of the Yamaha than than the Roland. Yes, the presets in the Roland for EDM are better (MUCH), but the Motion Sequencer of the Montage/MODX, when fully understood and abused, provides ways to expand the characteristics of a single sound in ways the Roland can't... however, EDM and other glitzed based modern sounds are the only really appropriate uses for this (ab)use of the Motion Sequencer and SuperKnob.

Speaking of gimmicks... the SuperKnob... ;)

The Roland's abilities as a workstation, sketch making, song fiddling, band in a box --- they're unprecedented. Plus that little quick sketch pad that is the step sequencer array of 16 buttons... and the pads... And they're only beginning to flesh out what they can do with the sound engines. I'd say it's not only the right way to go for song making, but that it's a joyous song making device, and something quite special because of that.

Further, because samples are the backbone of the quality sounds in the Yamaha, it's easily possible to replicate these in the Roland. It's not as though it's some kind of secret sauce making the Yamaha sound good (for traditional sounds), it's just a very old, very well curated library of samples. This you can collate and curate on the Roland... AND you can make epic (almost authentic) analogue sounds with their VA, and sculpt them in a VA way, creatively... VERY easily. This is somewhat tricky on the Yamahas, because it's a rompler with a couple of weird envelope qualities that make shaping dynamic and "classic" synth sounds quite tricky.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 5
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Hey Andrew - thanks for the candid feedback! Super helpful.

Let me ask one "devil's advocate" question, and then a few mundane questions. (Again I recently purchased the Montage but have the ability to swap it out.)

1. I take all of your points which make perfect sense. That said, if we assume for purposes of discussion that I am a "lazy user", i.e., want to noodle/compose with the least amount of work, might it be the case that the trade off is between (a) negotiating the clearly rudimentary Montage sequencer versus (b) modifying/augmenting the thin/digital sounding Roland sounds?

2. Re saving work on the Montage sequencer, I get that there are performances and there are patterns, and I've learned to make sure that I keep the pattern name from changing between takes. Fine there.

a. When I save am I saving the performance and the pattern at the same time? Right now I'm going to Store/Save and am seeing 3 things: Store as New Performance, Overwrite Current Performance, and then the name I gave the current performance.
=>should I be saving Content Type as Performance? Intuitively that's probably a mistake as I want to save both the Perf and the Pattern?
=>should I be saving as Overwrite or as the name I gave the current performance?
b. Do I need to save the performance and pattern AND also the Scene (i.e., Shift + Scene 1) as I go? What's the difference between saving the Scene v saving the whole thing?
c. To recall my work I'm finding that on Live Recording I see the performance, but when I hit Enter I get the performance but not the previously linked (I thought) Pattern. How do you fix that? (I'm guessing by getting it right above.)

Thanks again!
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 6
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
(a) negotiating the clearly rudimentary Montage sequencer versus (b) modifying/augmenting the thin/digital sounding Roland sounds?


This is the key point I'm making. That this is your choice. And that it is possible to do all sorts of wonders to the sounds of the Roland, but that the Montage sequencer is less than rudimentary. It is not a note or event sequencer. It will drive you mad if you try to use it for this.

Also, I have some early exposure and experience with the Roland sounds, and have now listened to a bit more, in the last couple of days. It's not thin. In some areas, out of the box, it's WAY better than the MODX/Montage for what we might call VA stuff. The new Zencore themes are amazing. Much better sounding than I thought it would be. Dunno why, but I thought it would be a bit gnaff. It's not.

Here's my overall suggestion. If you're really in love with the sounds of Yamaha, get the MODX and the Roland. Use the Roland as a controller for the MODX, since it's got a MUCH better keyboard.

That is, I think, the best of both worlds, for a good little while.

b. Do I need to save the performance and pattern AND also the Scene (i.e., Shift + Scene 1) as I go? What's the difference between saving the Scene v saving the whole thing?


This is what I meant by it being backwards, despite the Performances being the highest abstraction in a Montage, the Patterns are shoehorned onto them, at a controller level, wherein you have to use the Pattern to load the Performance... but you must link the Performance to the Pattern before you can do this. It's beyond silly.

c. To recall my work I'm finding that on Live Recording I see the performance, but when I hit Enter I get the performance but not the previously linked (I thought) Pattern. How do you fix that? (I'm guessing by getting it right above.)


Agreed, I've managed to get this to NOT work, sometimes, too. If the link is made, when in the Performance, at its top level, it seems that it'll sometimes figure this out, and othertimes I have to manually set it as a performance with a pattern, and specify the pattern, further indicating this is a Genos-lite-LITE-like system, in my mind.

If you watch some of the 4x4x4x, challenges on youtube, you'll see that the Roland's song making toolset is... astonishing. I hadn't realised just how dynamic and liberating it can be for creative stuff, on the run, so to speak.

I'm an FX and FM and Motion junkie, plus the MODX we have is not really mine... it's the daughter's, so I'm not considering get rid of it...

But I'm leaning ever more towards getting her the Fantom for song making, as these 4x4x4x vids are pushing it to almost a must-have... and I'll repurpose the MODX for me to full time experiment with FM, FX and Motion.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 7
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 8
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Thanks for this Andrew - super insightful.

I'm kind of intrigued with your suggestion re getting the MODX *and* the Fantom. (It turns out my wife is less intrigued but I'm working on that.:) ) To your suggestion, I guess the question is how would I utilize the Fandom's sequencing capability to leverage the MODX's sounds? Is that a thing?

Also I just looked up gnaff! Is that a UK thing?
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 9
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Yes, the Roland's sequencer is very good at controlling external gear.

https://youtu.be/Ch8LfAn2Yow

It seems it'd be able to drive all 16 tracks of the MODX/Montage at a time.

Thought gnaff was universal. Will have to grok universality of language ;)

Tell your wife the MODX6 is the one. Very light, so if she needs to throw it out a window, she can.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 10
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Roland Fantom has a system setting that will allow you choose between basic and advance.

The advance setting will show zones illuminated in green when they are transmitting simultaneously to the inner sound engine and to the external equipment.

If all 16 zones are layered, in green, you could very well be playing as many as two stereo channels (that can host a different wave, say a violin on left and a piano on right) in each of the four partials a zone can have (up to 8 wave per zone)... totalling 128 waves only from the inner engine...
Yes, play a plain octave on the left and a four finger chord on the right and you have 768 waves coming to your ears...from the inner sound engine.... FUNNY.

Then add whatever the external equipment might be capable of...on each of those 16 zones...MORE FUN.

Oh...almost forgot mentioning the sound barrier.
Also known to the less intrepid men as maximum polyphony...
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 11
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Darrick Keels has done a lot of Montage, MoDX, and Kronos videos and he other gear he uses. He recently got a MPC One has done some videos already on the Modx, Kronos and MPC One and today just did one on the Montage and Montage and basically replacing the sequencer on the Montage with the MPC One and what a great combination they make. MPC One strength is as a great sequencer has his videos have shown, but combining it with the Montage for fantastic music tool. Check it out....

  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 12
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Guys - please allow me to offer up a collective THANKS for all the helpful insight and color here. I'll see what I can tackle and revert with more.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 13
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