This article is all about finding the best DAW (digital audio workstation) to use with the Yamaha Genos arranger keyboard.

Objective: Try every DAW and keep the best

A few weeks ago, I downloaded several software programs that let me send the MIDI and audio data from my Yamaha Genos to the computer for further editing. My MIDI controller included a cut-down version of Ableton Live and my audio interface came with a limited version of Cubase AI. I also installed Cakewalk Bandlab edition and Harrison Mixbus. Here is the list of DAWs for better overview.

  • Ableton Live
  • Cubase AI
  • Cakewalk by Bandlab
  • Harrision Mixbus
  • Reaper

Amazingly, I’ve kept all but Reaper which I deleted shortly after I installed it. In a bit, I will explain why I re-installed it and why Reaper has become my DAW of choice from the listed entries.

Everyone who buys a new M-Audio Hammer 88 MIDI controller receives a nice software bundle that includes some amazing-sounding VST instruments and an entry level version of Ableton Live.
I installed Ableton Live and it worked well to test the VSTi instruments that M-Audio bundles with the Hammer 88 controller.
How ever, I do not do loops and felt that Ableton didn’t suit my workflow as a composer / publisher.

Customers why buy a Steinberg audio interface get a coupon for Cubase AI and an upgrade offer to the Elements edition for, if I recall correctly, US$ 70. I have used Cubase a long time ago and installed the DAW becasue I hoped that with the help of YouTube videos, I too could master it quickly. I have produced CDs, sheet music and logged 1000’s of hours in the recording studio but found Cubase cumbersome. It wroked well with a dual 4K monitor setup so I kept it for further comparison.

In the late 90’s, I worked in a small recording studio and produced CDs for local artists. Back then, we run Cakewalk on a Seanix computer. The standard was the Mac but those were expensive. Sometime in 1999 I too would get one but by then the glory days for Macintosh were over and I ended up selling the rig. Because of that experience, I installed Cakewalk again and was surprised to learn of the troubled past it experienced a while back.
Long story short, I didn’t feel comfortable with the “look” and layout and deleted it without much testing.

I try to do as much work as possible on Linux and because of that, downloaded and installed Harrison Mixbus on one of my Linux workstations as well as on the Windows 10 platform. All in all, the experience was very good but my Yamaha Genos uses a complex structure to address MIDI patch changes which Cubase 10 can deal. Cubase is owned by Yamaha so no big surprise there.
I then tried to create the needed file from scratch but didn’t find the time to research the topic in order to succeed. There was a way to manually enter the MSB, LSB and Program Change # but I couldn’t find a way of naming my settings. Without a name, it would be too cumbersome to consult a printed list every time I wanted to change the data so I moved on for now.

Reaper

Before Harrison Mixbus, I installed Reaper and deleted it a few minutes later because I loved how Harrison had styled their UI. After many days to trial and error, I came across a YouTube video that showed Reaper but in a new “dress”. I couldn’t believe that what I saw was Reaper. It looked a lot like Logic and had no resemblance of that standard 1985-look.

Note to the Reaper folks: Fix that and you might double your user base. We musicians are creative and polished UI’s inspire us. The opposite is also true. At least in my case.

Can Reaper communicate with the Yamaha Genos?

Yes. Everything works as expected and my most favorite feature is the way that I can access the raw MIDI data. I don’t know why others hide that and go out of their way to do so. I need to see what program changes happen when and have a way of tweaking those settings easily.

Reaper let’s me see the raw midi data with two mouse clicks. As far as they audio quality of the software and plugins I can honestly say that Reaper offers 100 times more then what I’ll ever need.

More to come …

3 Comments

  1. Steve Kuban says:

    I came across your website tonight while trying to find an answer to this question:
    “Is there anyone out there who’s successfully using a Yamaha arranger keyboard hooked up to Reaper?” — and I am delighted to read your articles. You’ve given me courage to connect my Tyros 5 to Acer laptop using Reaper. (Hope it works as well as your Genos to Behringer to Dell workstation.) Keep up the great work!

  2. Lee Batchelor says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article, Ernst. I own a Genos but can’t figure out how to record MIDI in Cubase Artist 8. It’s so convoluted and the resources are non-existent, as far as I can tell. At this point, I have to record my Genos using the onboard MIDI recorder, and then import the MIDI file to Cubase for editing. Why doesn’t Yamaha offer a dedicated DAW for the Genos for use on a MAC or PC??? I’d pay decent coins for that :).

    Are you saying that Reaper is pretty easy to use? Can the Genos be easily recorded in Reaper without all the techno-jibberish of Cubase? Thanks…

    1. Hi there.
      I have installed Cubase and played with it a lot. You are correct. It is tedious to use and just doesn’t “look” right on my 4K monitor.
      So …. I decided to check out other software and settled on Reaper which has just released version 6. Reaper offers an unlimited trial and costs less than the Cubase update would.

      If I were you, I’d download and install Reaper. Then make a simple recording to a USB stick and import that recording into Reaper (save on Genos, load on Reaper).

      The “crime” seems to be on the Genos side. For some reason, the YAMAHA engineers removed the program changes as we are all used to and replaced them with their Hex code ones.
      In Reaper, you can clearly see just the MIDI CC changes and edit them as well.

      Learning a new piece of software is time consuming and at times frustrating but in the end, Reaper works. I have come to love it. It’s a clever and robust piece of software and with optional skins, it can look as good as Logic.
      Check it out at https://www.reaper.fm/ and also the themes which are found in the resources section of that page: https://stash.reaper.fm/tag/Themes

      I no longer use Cubase. Just connect the Genos via the USB cables (no MIDI cables needed) and everything works. Watch some of the YouTube videos to learn how to set the track in and output and you should be good to go.

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