The Yamaha RX5’s power stems mainly from the sequencer and the sound editing you can apply to the drum sounds. It is an effective little drum kit (in a big box!), but the sounds are limited to the internal ones and the ones you can get on the fairly rare waveform cartridges that roam the online auction websites. I was surprised that there was this hack for it simply called the “RX5MOD” created by someone that goes by the name Gligli. The hack that consists of nothing but a flash chip, a teensy board and some wires, allows you to burn your own sample bank onto the chip and then plug it into the back of the RX5 so it thinks that there is a regular waveform cartridge in there. There are PCB plans that go with the hack but in true lazy fashion my RX5USB still lives on a flimsy breadboard instead.


Working with the RX5 is like sitting at a massive console of a spaceship. I would sometimes turn down the lights and route the outputs on the back through some of my effect processors and just sit there, sequencing and recording three to six tracks at a time of me just faffing around with the pitches of the sounds. The sound banks would eventually go from full drummachine kits to field recordings to voices to synth sounds to bits of an acid TB303 bassline, anything I could come up with and wanted to try. I could be lazy and tap everything in from the machine’s pads or if I felt adventurous enough I would plug in a MIDI Keyboard and record melodies that way. Now to hack in some memory expansion…


In this day and age of booming (new) synthesizer companies and designs I think it’s also important to look at what these older machines can give us when you look beyond their technicalities and rather consider what you, the artist, can do with them to make your own music come out the other end. I could have done this on any new type of sampler/performance machine released today, or a DAW, but instead I went on an adventure to change a machine into something that it was never entirely supposed to be, which in turn fed me a perspective and a load of ideas that I would’ve not come up with otherwise.

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