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Yamaha QY10 Music Sequencer

Updated 18 October 2021

I own a Yamaha QY10 music sequencer. The Yamaha QY10 was introduced by Yamaha circa 1992 as a DAW-less music machine. The QY10 was marketed by Yamaha as a music sequencer machine. It performed this function very well. It is also an incredibly useful standalone MIDI controller for your MIDI-enabled instruments. You can use the QY10 to write songs using its music creation workflow. You can also use the Yamaha QY10 to play accompaniment to you in practice sessions. This page is my notebook on all things Yamaha QY10.

Yamaha QY10 Music Workstation
image  Yamaha QY10 Music Sequencer

About the Yamaha QY10

The Yamaha QY10 is a MIDI-enabled music sequencer released in 1992. The package was marketed as a pocket-sized music making device that can go anywhere with you. The pack is the same size as a VHS cassette tape. Indeed, the Yamaha QY10 comes in a VHS cassette box.

The Yamaha QY10 can program complete compositions or accompaniments. You can record each track in real-time or note-by-note. There are two input interfaces. The front panel has a micro-keyboard for direct key entry. Notation is also possible through an external MIDI-enabled instrument. The Yamaha QY10 has a range of preset "patterns" in a variety of styles. The patterns include separate rhythm, bass, and two chord parts available. These patterns are useful as a starting point for your compositions. The patterns are available for use in whole or in part. You can even create your own custom patterns. The Yamaha QY10 has a range of editing functions to reshape and refine your work.

The user interface is typical of its time. The command interface is through a useful but limited LCD screen. There is a learning curve to get into this instrument. It is also useful to keep the reference sheets handy. This will save you time in looking for the instruments and patterns.

Do not let the age and basic interface fool you. The Yamaha QY10 is a powerful machine. The machine is battery powered. This makes the unit portable. I like to use the Yamaha QY10 on public transport and other environments where a full setup is not possible. This makes the Yamaha QY10 unique. Most DAW-less devices now on the market are for desktop use only.

Yamaha QY10 Photos

Yamaha QY10 leather handbag
Phil Collins holding Yamaha QY10
Yamaha QY10 Chick Corea

Yamaha QY10 Review

Yamaha QY10 Packaging

Small and portable. The Yamaha QY10 packaging reflects its intent. This music sequencer comes in a VHS cassette case. Look at me it shouts. "I am the size of a blank VHS cassette tape and I can do so much more!" Yamaha must be expecting customer returns. The packaging comes with a small warning note. This case is for protection of the unit during transport. Damage to the case after purchase is not covered by warranty. As a lover of vintage gear, I want my Yamaha QY10 to come in its VHS packaging.

I bought my Yamaha QY10 from a vendor in Japan. The machine arrived in excellent condition. There were two manuals. The first, 20-page, book is called the Yamaha QY10 Play Book. The second, 223-page, book is the user manual. Unfortunately, both manuals are Japanese only. The Play Book manual looks like a lot fun.

Yamaha QY10 packaging and manual
image  Yamaha QY10 Music Sequencer

Yamaha QY10 Voices

The Yamaha QY10 has 30 voices and one drum kit available. This may not seem like a lot. In fact, this does not even cover the range of GM voices available for a standard MIDI file. This may be a deal breaker for some musicians. This also misses the point of this machine. It is about music composition and MIDI sequencing. The chart shows the the voices available on vintage Yamaha noise generators. The voice limitation is some of the appeal of the Yamaha QY10. It is about creating music within creative boundaries.

The instruments available vary in quality. They are substantially better than chiptune or SID-based synthesizers. The tone generator will musicians compose melodies. The studio generator does not compose studio-quality sounds. The voices are fun to listen to. I do not need to take all my vintage gear seriously.

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