Yamaha DGX-640 digital piano

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1 Introduction

The Yamaha DGX-640 digital piano is an entry level "Ensemble Piano", i.e. includes auto-accompaniment and other built-in features for creating and learning music.

See also:

I acquired a DGX-640 for one of my optional classes that introduce computer-aided design and micro-fabrication principles to educational technologists. The course goals include learning some technology (computerized embroidery, 3D printing and music education technology. Then, we also address a variety of educational issues related to design with computers, learning with computers and computer-controlled devices and learning through computers.

The reason we acquired this piano is to explore how people could learn about music improvisation and composition and piano playing using its various assistive technologies. We believe it to be a good buy in that price category (800 CHF) - Daniel K. Schneider 15:27, 1 October 2011 (CEST).

This page summarizes a few features of this piano and includes some technical information of interest to educators. I prepared this page for a demo, it just summarizes salient parts of the official manual - Daniel K. Schneider 00:33, 22 December 2011 (CET)

2 Features

Keys and LCD
  • 88 keys with graded hammer standard action. “Just as on a traditional acoustic piano, the keys of the lower notes have a heavier touch, while the higher ones are more responsive to lighter playing. The keyboard's sensitivity can even be adjusted to match your playing style. This Graded Hammer technology also enables the instrument to provide authentic touch in a lightweight instrument.” (Yamaha USA oct 1 2011.
  • 320x240 LCD display
Voices
  • 64 Polyphony
  • Voices (instruments): 142 + 381 XGlite + 12 Drum/SFX Kits
  • Effect types: Reverb, Chorus, DSP (in various variations)
Accompaniment (Performance Assistant Technology)
  • 165 preset styles
  • Fingering: Multi / Full Keyboard, AI Fingering
  • Automatic Introduction, Ending, Fill-in
  • Easy Song arranger
Songs
  • 30 preset songs (others can be read through a USB stick)
  • Recording / Playback of 5 songs / 6 tracks (in SMF format)
  • Music Database
  • Song arranger
Educational features
Connectivity
  • Midi interface (via USB to Host, i.e. a USB B slot)
  • USB slot (USB to host)

3 The Interface

3.1 Terminology and interface principles

  • Song refers to executable music files, i.e. various MIDI formats
  • Style refers to auto-accompaniment, i.e. rhythms and chords
  • Voice refers to the instruments
  • Music Database refers to a list of preset voice/style settings. Names should recall somewhat known titles, but probably for copyright reasons Yamaha chose phantasy names.

Various controls in the interface can have several functions

  • Buttons that have the "press" sign next to it, change function when you press ([pressed]) for more than a second !
  • Some button panels change function depending a prior selection. E.g. the Song/Style panel buttons react very differently depending on whether Song or Style is selected. The same is true for the main selection wheel.


3.2 Left side

The left side of the panel includes most of the controls, i.e. for rhythm use, song use, sequencer.

[4] SCORE - Display the music score when playing a song (MIDI file)
[5] LYRICS - Display the MIDI file lyrics. Only works with commercial karake files
Sequencer
[6] REC - Start defining a recording sequence using the built-in sequencer
[10] Sequencer tracks panel
[R/1] Track 1 (typically right hand in piano)
[L/1] Track 2 (typically left hand in piano)
[3] Track 3 (melody)
[4] Track 4 (melody)
[3] Track 5 (melody)
[A] Track A includes the whole style track (chords and rhythm). Style uses a specific format (to be verified)
Assistive technology and tutorials
[7] LESSON START - Built-in teaching technology panel
[_] WAITING - Have the piano wait until you press the right key
[_] YOUR TEMPO - Have the piano adjust to your tempo
[_] MINUS ONE - Only play part
[_ pressed] Play with the Chord dictionary
[8] P.A.T - Performance assistance technology ON/OFF button
[8 pressed] P.A.T TYPE - Select the type
[9] EASY SONG ARRANGER - Song arranger button
Tempo
[11] METRONOME ON/OFF
[11 pressed] TIME SIGNATURE - Select the beat/measure pattern, e.g. 6/8 or 2/4
[12] TEMPO/TAP button
Song/Style panel [13] / [14]
Either press the SONG or STYLE button first (on the right-hande side)
[23] SONG - Work with MIDI files
[24] STYLE - Work with accompaniment
Song (MIDI playback) [13]
[_] REPEAT&LEARN
[_] A-B REPEAT
[_] REW
[_] FF
[_] PAUSE
[_] START/STOP
Style (accompaniment) [14]
[_] ACMP ON/OFF - Turn accompaniment feature on or off
[_ pressed] CHORD FINGERING - Define how the piano will recognize the chords
[_] INTRO/ENDING/rit. - Start with intro, end with ending.
[_] MAIN/AUTO FILL
[_] SYNC STOP
[_] SYNC START - Will start rythm as soon as you use the keyboard
[_] START/STOP - Accompaniment start/stop (similar as above)
Left side of the panel

3.3 Middle (LCD)

The middle includes the LCD screen plus the registration memory that can be used to remember various settings. It is important to understand that the screen displays most of the current settings and selections.

Right side of the panel
  • REGIST MEMORY allows to store and retrieve settings. You can use more than one bank, i.e. register settings in 1,2,3,4 and then store them in a so-called bank.

3.4 Right side

The right hand side of the panel includes the tools for selecting song (midi file), style (rhythm section) and voice (instrument) plus the USB/external file interface elements.

Selection and navigation buttons
[16] CATEGORY - Jump to various categories (as opposed to typing a number or turning the wheel)
[19] DATA ENTRY wheel and panel - Allows to make selections by turning the wheel or by typing a number. In addition it includes -/+ buttons that are used for yes/no dialogues and other purposes.
[17] EXIT - Exits from a tool
[18] FUNCTION - Access all the functions of the piano (about 57 settings). Many of these are also available through other controls.
[22] PORTABLE GRAND - Reset the voice to Yamaha's favorite grand piano and turn all other instrument settings off.
Main function selector buttons for the data entry panel and other tools
[23] SONG - Work with MIDI files (Playback and recording)
[24] STYLE - Select auto-accompaniment
[25] VOICE - Select an instrument
[25 pressed] SONG MELODY VOICE - Change default voice for a song
[26] MUSIC DATABASE - Select style + instrument combo
Split keyboard
[27] SPLIT ON/OFF - Split the keyboard into a melod section (right) and accompaniment section (left).
[27 pressed] SPLIT VOICE - Define instrument for accompaniment
Instrument effects
[28] DUAL ON/OFF - Select dual voice on/off
[27 pressed] DUAL VOICE - Define 2nd voice
[29] HARMONY - Play polyphonic melody using various chord and other effects
[29 pressed] HARMONY TYPE - Select the type
Note: You can define other effects (e.g. DSP) through the function menu
File controls
[20] - FILE CONTROL
[21] - EXECUTE
[32] - Memory stick for writing/reading MIDI and other files. Not meant for connecting a computer. Use the USB AB cable and the square slot in the back for this.


Right side of the panel

3.5 Using the functions

By pressing the FUNCTION button you may set a total of 57 functions, i.e. all the functions available through the other interface buttons plus some extra stuff.

  • Use the category buttons for navigation
  • Use the dial wheel, the number buttons or the -/+ buttons when required.

The full function is list is defined in the user manual (p. 87-89)


3.6 Basic operations

Selecting an instrument
  • Press [25] VOICE - Select an instrument using the data input panel [19]. Use either the wheel, type in numbers or use the category buttons [16] to navigate quickly between groups of instruments.
Split voice
  1. Play two voices by turning the split voice on using the [27] SPLIT ON/OFF button.
  2. Hold the button down for more than second to change the split right voice
  • Split voice is also necessary for using most style (accompaniment) varieties
Look at auto-accompaniment styles
  1. Press [24] STYLE - Select a style using the input panel (wheel, number or category)
  2. Press the START/STOP button in the Style/Song panel [13/14].
  • You only will hear the rhythm (see below)
Play with auto-accompaniment
  1. Press [24] STYLE - Select a style using the input panel (wheel, number or category)
  2. Press [_] ACMP ON/OFF - Turn accompaniment feature on or off. In the LCD you should now see a ACMP icon on (lower left)
  3. Turn [_] SYNC START on. Bass, rhythm and chord should now play automatically as soon as you start playing.

Tips:

  • The LCD will show the chord played.
  • The manual page 27 includes a table with basic chords.
Use easy chords with auto-accompaniment.
  • Hold down the [_] ACMP ON/OFF to select a mode
Playing MIDI files (Songs)
  • Press [23] SONG
  • Select a song
  • Hit START/STOP

Tips:

  • You can read songs from the USB key, Songs on the USB memory stick are numbered 36 and upward. Files on the USB stick must either at its root or not be nested deeper than two sub directories.
  • You can rewind, fast forward and Pause using the [13] Song (MIDI playback) buttons.

We now shall introduce more detailed functionality through topics.

4 Learning Rhythm

The piano helps learning rhythm in various various ways, in particular:

  • Using the metronome
  • Playing along with a rhythm section

4.1 The metronome

Important basic interface elements:

  1. To turn the metronome on/off, press the Metronome button [11]
  2. Use the dial wheel [2] to select the tempo

Interface elements to set the time signature:

  1. You can set the time signature, e.g. define a 3/4 Waltz of a 2/4 Foxtrot, by pressing the the Metronome button [11] for more than a second.
  2. Use the wheel to select the number of beats per measure, e.g. 2,3,4
  3. Press the Category buttons [16] repetitively to to select the Time Signature–Denominator tool.
  4. In this tool, use the dial wheel again to select the beat length, i.e. 2,4,8,16 for half notes, quarter notes, etc.

4.2 Changing speed

You can use tap start, i.e. tap the Temp/Tap button [12]

  • Tap 4 times for time signatures in 4
  • Tap 3 times for time signatures in 3

Alternatively use the Tempo/Tap button [12] and the wheel

  • Press the button once
  • Turn the wheel

Change while playing

  • Tap the button twice

4.3 Listening to rhythms

The piano's auto accompaniment feature can produce accompaniment (rhythm + bass + chords) in 165 styles. For starters one can just explore these without playing.

Exploring styles without playing a tune:

  1. Press the style button [24]
  2. Select a style using the wheel. You also can quickly navigate from category to category by pressing one of the category buttons [16]
  3. Press the start/stop button in the Style/Song panel [13/14]

4.4 Play with perfomance assistance

P.A.T (see below) allows user to play either left or right hand or both and the piano will fix the notes. This allows to intuitively play along a more complex rhythm.

Try for instance the Salsa song using P.A.T. with Melody.

4.5 Play with a style

Using auto-accompaniment requires basic understanding of harmony and chords. Being able to generate accompaniment bass and chords by using one of fingering methods (a-3 keys, AI, or full chors), a learner can focus on keeping the rhythm and the melody right.

4.6 Play a song (midi file) and change its style

Exchanging one accompaniment style by another can be a fairly motivating activity if the learning goal is become familiar with various music genres. E.g. adding a techno beat to a simple classic melody is something that some young people spontaneously do.

  • Prerequisite: Understand how to play midi files (songs)

With the Easy Song Arranger feature you can change the style of a song. However, this only works with certain midi files, e.g. the ones that are built-in.

Interface features:

  1. Press the Easy song arranger button [9]
  2. Select a song by pressing the song button [23]
  3. Press the START/STOP button in the Style/Song panel [13/14]. In addition, you may have to press the song memory buttons ([10] in order to hear the melody or the the accompaniment.
  4. Select the style.

In addition:

  • You can change the voice (instrument) if you like by pressing the voice button
  • Hit the easy song arranger button to turn the arranger off

5 Learning music notation and playing

A digital piano can assist in two ways:

  • Use fairly standard features (such as score sheet display)
  • Use special educational features, i.e. Yamaha Education suite in our case.

The education suite includes three functions:

  1. Waiting - Learn to play the correct notes.
  2. Your Tempo - Learn to play the correct notes with the correct timing.
  3. Minus One - Learn to play the correct notes at the correct timing along with the song.

5.1 Look at music scores while a song plays

  • Press [23] SONG
  • Select a song
  • Press the SCORE button
  • When you press SCORE first you will see just the melody on track 1, i.e. single-staff. Pressing it again will also display a right hand track (double staff)
  • Single-staff also shows the chords and the lyrics if available
  • Press START/STOP. An indicator shows progress

Tips:

  • You can slow down the song by hitting TEMPO/TAP button, then use the wheel
  • Depending on the midi file you may have to select another track to show. You can do this for SMF formats 0 and 1. Hit FUNCTION and find SONG/LESSON
  • To mute a track, press one of the six buttons in the [10] Sequencer tracks panel
  • To change the instrument for the melody voice, press the VOICE button for longer than a second. You then can define instrument for both left and right (press the button again) using the wheel.

5.2 Waiting (Yamaha education suite)

Waiting is mode that allows a learner to play a melody or right plus left hand with on screen display. The piano will util the right keys are pressed and also show their position on a virtual keyboard.

  1. Select a song from the Piano ensemble category pressing the [23] SONG button and using the wheel. Alternatively, download a file that is in SMF format 0 (see MIDI) and read it from a USB memory stick
  2. Press EXIT
  3. Optionally you can select tracks (parts) to play: You can turn either or both right or left hands on or off by pressing the R/1 or L/2 buttons in the [10] Sequencer tracks panel. The LCD panel (lower right) will show which tracks are on or off.
  4. Press the WAITING button in the [7] LESSON START panel. The next note to be played is displayed as a dot in small on-screen keyboard. The triangular marker shows playback progress.
  5. Press STOP to stop the lesson
LCD in "waiting" mode

5.3 Your Tempo

“Song playback tempo will vary to match the speed you are playing at. The song will slow down when you play wrong notes, so you can learn at your own pace. [...] The triangular marker will appear in the score display, and will move to indicate the current note in the song. Try to play the notes at the correct timing. As you learn to play the right notes at the right timing the tempo will increase until eventually you’ll be playing at the song’s original tempo.” (Manual, p. 40).

5.4 Minus One

Minus one will play at normal tempo (although you always could slow it down using the TEMP/TAP button) and you will have to play the selected part, i.e. the part that is turned off on the piano

  1. Select the song and part (as above)
  2. Press MINUS ONE

By default, the piano will give you rating. You can turn this of using the FUNCTION button, Grade item.

5.5 Using the repeat feature

In any of this modes, you can repeat a section.

  • Press the REPEAT & LEARN button in the Song (MIDI playback) [13] panel.

6 Learning harmony

Understanding and being able to use harmony is a key element for improvising, playing along and composing (in addition to mastery of an instrument, rhythm and creativity).

In somewhat ascending order, basic elements include:

  • Be able to read simple sheet music, e.g. notes and chords (see above)
  • Understanding major chord varieties
  • Understanding lead sheet notation
  • Understand diatonic harmony that is based on the circle of fifth

6.1 Look up chords with the chords dictionary

Procedure:

  1. Press the Minus One button for more than a second in the lesson start panel [7]
  2. Press a root key, e.g. C
  3. Press a piano key in the section labeled CHORD TYPE
  4. Play the chord in the left hand (auto accompaniment) section of the keyboard. If you are successful, then a bell sound signals your success and the chord name in the display flashes.
  5. Press the EXIT button [17] to exit from this tool.

6.2 Learn harmony through built-in performance technology

  • See performance assistance technology and auto-accompaniment sections just below.
  • In P.A.T. mode, the chord information included in the MIDI file is displayed in the lower area of the LCD.

7 Performance assistant technology

Performance assistant technology may be the biggest educational asset of an ensemble piano besides auto accompaniment. It may:

  • Motivate learners to learn reading sheet music (i.e. the melody line or a lead sheet)
  • Motivate learners to learn about chords and chord symbols
  • Play with rhythm
  • Explore musical styles

There exist four performance assisting mode:

  • Chord - play anything, the piano will fix it. I.e. keys you press will be translated into something that is harmonic with respect to the MIDI tracks.
  • Chord/Free - good if you can play simple melodies with the right hand. Only the left hand will be fixed. For the left hand any chord or arpeggio will do fine, but you should keep the rhythm, i.e. play three notes in a waltz.
  • Melody - press any keys and it will play a correct melody. All you need to do is finding an approximate rhythm.
  • Chord/Melody - The piano will generate the right chords for the melody you play. Make sure to play melody to the right of the split point.

7.1 Chord

"Chord" should stimulate recognition of basic patterns to play and the piano will attempt to have you do it before the song starts playing.

  1. Press P.A.T. ON/OFF [8]
  2. Press P.A.T. ON/OFF for longer, then select CHORD with the wheel
  3. Select a song as usual
  4. Press START/STOP
  • Don't forget to turn of P.A.T. ON/OFF when you don't need it anymore !

7.2 Melody

Allows to play with just one finger. I.e. you can press keys in a sequence and a right melody with respect to the right hand harmonics will be played.

  1. Press P.A.T. ON/OFF [8]
  2. Press P.A.T. ON/OFF for longer, then select MELODY with the wheel
  3. Select a song as usual
  4. Press SCORE [4]
  5. Press START/STOP

8 Using auto-accompaniment

This is how solo entertainers use this type of instrument. Unfortunately, the procedure is way to complicated on this model.

8.1 Basic procedure

  1. Press the STYLE button and select a style using the wheel, numbers and/or category buttons
  2. (Optional) Press SYNC START if you want the piano to start playing as soon as you play a chord
  3. Press MAIN/AUTO FILL. If on, the LCD should the name of the section played
  4. (Optional) Press INTRO/ENDING/rit.. This will start playing an introduction.
  5. (Optional) Press MAIN/AUTO FILL to change to a B section
  6. (Optional) Press INTRO/ENDING/rit. to play an ending. In order to fade out, press this button again.

Variants:

  • Press ACMP ON/OFF to play only chords but no rhythm

You also may have to select an instrument for both left and and right. In addition the instrument to the left (e.g. a piano) may be low, i.e. pitch should be raised by an octave.

8.2 Fingering types

The piano implements three fingering types:

  • Multi Finger (default setting)
  • AI Fingered
  • Full keyboard

Multi Finger and AI Finger also detect easy keys if the keyboard is split (see below)

(1) Multi Finger

Multifinger recognizes both "easy keys" and up to semi-complex fingered keys. Automatic "Easy Chords" allow beginners to play simple chords. The keyboard must be put in split mode using [27] SPLIT ON/OFF

  • Press one key = Major Chord
E.g. C = C
  • Press two adjacent keys = 7th Chord (root is on top)
E.g. BC = C7
  • Press two keys one full note apart = Minor Chord (root is on top)
E.g. BbC= Cm
  • Press three adjacent keys = Minor 7th Chord.
E.g. BbBC = Cm7

(2) AI Finger

  • Tries to figure out what would sound best based on previously played chord etc. Also recognizes fully fingered keys. The best bet if you play with a split keyboard (chords to the left, and melody to the right)

(3) Full keyboard

  • Recognized chords played on the full keyboard. Also recognizes best complex inverted chords like a seventh add thirteenth (E.g. C13). Best for piano players.

9 Composition

9.1 Simple recording

The piano can be used to create songs through multiple improvisation.

  • You can record up to five songs
  • Songs can be copied to a USB stick for archiving (and replay also).

Basic procedure for recording:

  1. Press the Rec button [6]. The lamp next to the start button should start flashing when recording is on. The first song will be recorded at 031 UserSong 1 and so forth. If 031 to 036 are completed, 031 will be overwritten.
  2. Recording starts as soon as you play
  3. Press either the Rec button [6] or the Start/Stop button to stop.
  4. After stopping, the piano will ask whether to save or not. Use the + (Yes) or - (No) button in data entry panel [19].

Playing a song:

  • Right after recording, press the start button
  • Otherwise, play it like any other song (see ....)

9.2 Multi-track recording

You can record a total of five memory tracks, plus a single chords/rhythm track. The procedure is of course a bit more complicated:

  1. Press the Song button [23] and select one of the user song numbers (031 to 035).
  2. Select the tracks you would like to record
    • Just a melody: Hold down the Rec button [6] and a melody track button in the tracks panel [10]
    • Melody and accompaniment: Hold down the Rec button [6] (dont' release). Press a melody track button and finally press the A button. The selected tracks should be highlighted in the LCD "play part" panel. Typically, the main melody should be in R/1 and the main accompaniment piano voice in L/2 (think: right/left hand).
  3. Recording will start as soon as you start playing.
  4. Press either the Rec button [6] or the Start/Stop button to stop.
  5. After stopping, the piano will ask whether to save or not. Use the + (Yes) or - (No) button in data entry panel [19].

Recording other tracks

  • Go through steps 2-5 again (make sure not to overwrite an existing track by mistake)

Deleting a track

  • Select the song with the wheel
  • Press and hold the track button for more than a second
  • Confirm

10 Interfacing with a computer

Prerequisite:

  • Install the Yamaha Midi driver (download the appropriate version from Yamaha, the one included in the CD may not work with your 64-bit system). See below for a summary of instruction
  • You need a AB USB (host) cable of good quality and it should be less than 3 meters. The USB host cable that has a male Type B (square) end and a standard USB flat end on the other side (or whatever your computer has, e.g. a mini-usb can do too). This is a kind of USB cable you may never have seen before.

Connecting:

  • Turn on the computer
  • Turn of the keyboard
  • Connect
  • Turn on the keyboard
  • Wait at least 6 seconds before disconnecting or turning on/off

MIDI settings

  • Leave as is, if not read the manual (p. 98)
Installing the MIDI driver

In order to connect the keyboard to a PC, you first need to install the appropriate drivers. For Win7, you need to download since they are not included in the CD (not in mine):

For using “Yamaha hardware from your computer via USB, you’ll need to install the USB-MIDI driver software. The USB-MIDI driver is software that transfers MIDI data back and forth between your music software and the instrument via a USB cable.” (USB Midi installation guide, included in the driver download)

Procedure for Win7

  • Unzip the compressed files
  • Disconnect all USB devices from the computer except for the mouse and computer keyboard.
  • Turn off the power of the instrument.
  • Connect the USB connector of the computer to the USB TO HOST connector of the MIDI instrument. The connector is underneath left/back (not left/underneath front)
  • Turn on the power of the keyboard
  • Windows then will try to install a driver ... (wait !)
  • When the message “Device driver software was not successfully installed.” (or equivalent in other languages) appears, continue the installation procedure.
  • Install the driver: Double-click the file “setup.exe”. ... (click a few times)

The driver now should appear in the control panel as Yamaha USB midi driver and in the list of peripherals as digital piano (Control panel, peripherals and printers)

Keyboard to PC software test

Testing with a music notation software:

  • Download and install MuseScore, a a free cross-platform WYSIWYG music notation program that offers a cost-effective alternative to commercial programs such as Sibelius and Finale.
  • Click File->New
  • Menu Notes->Note Input
  • Play a chord on the piano. You should see it.
  • If it doesn't work, try fiddling with the preferences (I/O). Also, unmount USB, turn off Piano, wait for at least 6 seconds, connect USB again, and turn on Piano.

I didn't manage to control the keyboard from this software. I.e. input was ok, but not output.

PC to keyboard test
  • Install AriaMaestosa, a free editor/tracker. Other tools that can play a keyboard will do too. See MIDI for alternatives.
  • Import a (simple) MIDI file, e.g. a two track piano file like Jump Jive an' Wail from MuseScore.com
  • Change the output device in your program, E.g. in AriaMaestosa: Menu Output-> Digital piano
  • Hit the play button ... you should hear at least some sound.

11 Links

11.1 Model description

  • DGX-640 product description at Yamaha Europe

11.2 Manuals and official help

Manuals

All the manuals are available at yamaha, in particular:

Support site

  • Yamaha online member. Doesn't seem to do much, i.e. let's your register your instrument (for what purpose) and then it provides a (localized) link to the above website and show links tailored for your instrument(s).

11.3 Downloads

  • USB-MIDI Drivers. Make sure to select the appropriate one for you system ... Most Windows versions are supported plus MacOsX
    • Note: The Win 7 64 bit driver isn't on the included CD. The downloaded version worked in my setup (see above) - Daniel K. Schneider 11:42, 16 September 2011 (CEST).

11.4 User forums and FAQs

11.5 Tutorials

  •  ?

11.6 Midi files for download

See:

On some sites you can find files that specifically target the Clavinova CVP series, i.e. it uses Yamaha voices, in particular:

11.7 Style files

Not tested so far ! Daniel K. Schneider 00:07, 14 September 2011 (CEST)