Custom Controller Makes Programming The Yamaha DX7 Easy

Synthesist George Barlow shared this informal demo of his DX7 Touch Controls, a custom MIDI controller that’s designed to make programming the Yamaha DX7 easy.

The Yamaha DX7 has a reputation for being a challenging synth to program, because it has a minimal interface and also because many of its original owners used it as a preset synth.

Barlow’s controller features illuminated touch controls. It sends MIDI to the DX7 to change patch parameters.

Barlow notes, “This is a crude concept prototype. It uses MIDI to communicate with the synthesizer, and a parallel interface to an old laptop computer for the actual computing. Sure beats using menus.”

Here’s another look at his custom controller:

9 thoughts on “Custom Controller Makes Programming The Yamaha DX7 Easy

  1. This is great, I wish I had one all those years ago.

    The hardest thing to get my head round with the DX-7 was always choosing the right algorithm for the tone I was after. This touch panel would help no end.

  2. But you can easily connect a BCR2000 to any DX or FM7. I wonder why Yamaha never made a programmer box, like the Roland PGs. They allegedly have nifty in house software for FM sound design. Maybe it is because even with something like this it takes a lot of training to use it well.

  3. This is cool. To piggyback on what was said above, if you have a Kronos, you have 8 assignable sliders & knobs, and 16 assignable switches. You also get awesome filtering, fx, and can even use samples as fm modulators like on the SY-77 and 99. If you love FM, don’t sleep on the Kronos just because it’s a do-all workstation.

  4. seems like FM synthesis programming is inherently difficult much moreso because of the lack of understanding on how particular algorithims and operators interact to create various kinds of sounds… rather than simply a lack of hands-on controls for such things

  5. I originally wanted to try this controller out on something that would otherwise be difficult to handle, and the reputation of the DX7 indicated that it would be a good candidate as a “worst-case” scenario. I was not disappointed. Not only did the ability to seamlessly combine patch presets with realtime control cut the learning curve so low as to make it actually fun to mess with, in no time at all I was getting dynamics in the sound that I’d always dreamed of doing, but never thought I could do. If it can make a DX7 fun, just think what it can do with a more “normal” synth.

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