This idea for this product came about because of the EL500 and a package that I produced for Yamaha prior to its release. As you may know, the EL500 is rather unusual (in this country) for being made without Drum Drawbars. Because it was felt that this might put people off the free drum kits I came up with an idea that would still allow the instrument to be used as a drawbar organ.
Drawbars, as we know them, control the volume of simple drum tones at different pitches (called footages). These tones are very pure on modern electronic organs and can actually be produced on an EL organ independently of the drums. Take the Organ Bass 1 voice on the EL70 or 90: there are only drum controls for the Upper and Lower keyboards on the EL so this ‘drawbar’ bass sound is produced using the FM tone generator.
FM is very complicated but it is not too far removed from the drawbar principle. You hear people talk about operators in relation to FM. These are just little sound sources that generate a very simple tone, a sine wave. This is almost identical to the sound of a drum drawbar. So you could say that a drawbar system is like having eight operators all tuned to the specific pitches with which we are all familiar. So I figured that the FM tone generator in the EL500 could be used to recreate all the same sounds as the drawbars in the other instruments.
The clever bit (even if I do say it myself) is to enable the player to shape these sounds while playing, as you would on the other organs. What I ended up with actually gets closer to recreating the convenience of the real drawbar system.
How they were recorded
What you have to remember is that the drawbars on the EL are not real; you can’t get hold of them and move them like you can on free drum kits
like Hammonds for example. The AR has drum sliders on the panel, which is great, but they are hidden on the EL and the only way to get at them is to engage a drum voice and alter the level of each of the blocks on the display screen. It is not very easy to do this while you are playing and there is the infamous drawback of not being able to switch to seeing the lower manual drawbars without first having to turn them off and then on again.
What I did was to come up with a set of special voices that could be used as free drum kits by assigning two of them to different voice sections and using the volume control for each section as the ‘drawbar’. There are not only two footages heard, though; the special voices are actually groups of drawbars.
On Hammond organs you will notice that the different drawbars footages are grouped as colors according to a scheme of black, brown and white. The footages without fractions are generally colored white. These produce the same note at different octaves. The other footages with fractions (brown or black) add some notes in between. These are used in varying amounts to add color and warmth to the sound.
On the EL500 Organ Software I use this idea by putting the ‘white’ footages in Upper Keyboard Voice 1, for example and the ‘brown’ and ‘black’ footages in Voice 2. This allows you to mix and blend the sound in just the same way as a skilled drawbar organist by using one finger instead of lots of fingers (one for each drawbar).
Once I had finished setting up the software and played with it, I found that I was able mix and blend the drum samples in a way that was impossible on the instrument before. Because of the simplicity of the operation and only having two controls to think about I felt that this software was too useful to be just a replacement for drawbars on the EL500. I have produced a version that will work on EL70 upwards so you can experience it for yourselves.
It is called ‘Live Drums’ and gives you the great of control of a drawbar-style organ. Using the volume controls you can blend and shape the drawbar sounds as you play in a way that is impossible on the organ as it stands. The software also includes many great new rhythms in varied styles.
The package comes in the form of a two-disk Registration Menu and Setup set. The setup disk loads in the special voices to create the drum samples and the menu disk displays the choice of 32 registrations on the central display screen. You can contact us about these technical questions.
The disk will work on all the new EL series instruments – and also ELX-1, EL-90 and EL-70 models.