I’ve been playing keyboards for 34 years and for the record, I played synthesizers in church worship when it wasn’t cool. (I’d slip a keyboard on the organ bench which allowed me to bring in sounds way beyond the traditional pipes.) For about 20 years now, for the most part, I’ve left the organ and piano behind to concentrate on playing synthesized music in worship. My expectations for a keyboard in worship are extremely high. To name a few, it must have realistic sounds that can be easily layered and it must make me sound better than I am. I’m here to report that the Yamaha Tyros3, a 61 key auto-arranger keyboard, lives up to all of my expectations and in fact, is the best and most versatile keyboard I’ve ever played in worship or in my studio. Let me share with you why I consider it “top of class”.
• Amazingly realistic sounds. The sounds on a keyboard need to be useable – no “Alien Infusion”, please. I don’t need just good orchestral sounds, I must have all the instruments that are heard on today’s popular worship CDs. Further, I shouldn’t have to be a computer programmer to make a saxophone or clarinet sound like the real thing. As for the Yamaha Tyros3, I simply cannot get over how insanely realistic the sounds are. I’ve never heard anything as close to the real thing, even on other Yamaha keyboards.
What takes this magic over the top is “articulation” technology. On the left hand end of the keyboard are two buttons: “ART1” and “ART2” – when one or the other of these buttons are pressed prior to striking a key, once the note sounds, say from a harmonica, the tone bends into pitch, just like an actual player would do. Pressing the ART button before the button is released allows the harmonica sound to fall off in pitch as one would hear as a player pulls the harmonica from his mouth. Yamaha uses its infamous digital signal processing (DSP) to put the finishing pristine touches to the sounds. DSP is user configurable but quite frankly, there’s no adjustment needed. It’s right on the money.
• Instant Layering. The ability to instantly layer sounds is non-negotiable in my book. The Tyros3 makes it possible to easily stack sounds with four simple buttons on the right end of the keyboard. Any sound can be assigned to the three left hand part buttons and one button for the right hand part. A large crystal-clear monitor allows me to see what has been assigned to those buttons (along with a myriad of other details) and underneath the monitor, real sliders allow me to adjust their volumes very easily.
• Registration. In my organ-playing days, I’d set the entire worship service up on registration banks. Press one button and the instrument would automatically recall stops I had set. The Tyros3 does the very same thing with registration buttons. Set the keyboard up like you want it, press “memorize” and then press the registration button of choice to instantly set and recall what you need, when you need it.
• Instant band. This is my favorite feature and by far the most fun. The Tyros3 is loaded with musical styles and builds backing tracks on the fly. In fact, a player who knows only how to chord with his left hand can make this keyboard sound amazing. I have used the auto accompaniment feature to create pre-service music, tracks for quartets and soloists and choirs and for the longest, many thought the music was coming from a professionally-produced CD, a compliment to the keyboard not me.
Our worship band loves this synth because it offers just about every genre imaginable making it easy to figure out and learn styles and arrangements we wouldn’t normally play. And for the record, any part — say a bass guitar – can be easily muted on the keyboard so a band member can play along live. Each style has three intros and four song parts, and each intro and part has its own easily accessible button. The Tyros3 has a full recording function and even a vocoder that can provide voice processing and harmonization.
• Studio Capabilities. A few years back, a guitar-playing buddy of mine and I recorded a Christmas CD using one of Yamaha’s earlier auto-arranger keyboards. It sounds as if we recorded it in a studio. I cannot wait to record a CD using the Tyros3. Further, I can see where this keyboard would be a hit for a worship leader who wanted to make his office into a studio and record praise and worship tracks or choir anthems.
Again, all that is required is to choose one’s style, adjust the tempo, kick auto-accompaniment into gear and record. The Tyros3 even has enough outputs that the major parts can be separated and patched into a digital audio workstation or live mixer. Further, the MIDI data that the keyboard creates could easily be saved and imported into arranger software to create music scores from the auto-generated accompaniment.
• Expandability. While this keyboard has enough styles, sounds and superior features to keep one busy for years, give it an Internet connection and you can download additional styles and sounds straight from Yamaha’s web site. In fact, I’m itching to get my hands on some new vocal sounds just released.
It is difficult to imagine just how great this keyboard sounds so I suggest you check out www.music.tyros.com and listen for yourself. It is really cool that it can be played like a regular keyboard or with the press of a button become a full-fledged orchestra or backing band, providing accompaniment for oneself, live instrumentalists or vocalists.
The fact is, not all of us have every single player needed for a praise and worship band and some churches have no such instrumental group at all but would like one. The Yamaha Tyros3 is the answer. Granted, Yamaha has many portable and auto accompaniment keyboards at multiple price points, but if you want the keyboard that has it all for worship musicians, in my opinion, the Tyros3 is your pick. It’s mine.