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Jon Broderick
Joined: 10/31/00
Posts: 3,320
Jon Broderick
Joined: 10/31/00
Posts: 3,320
09/30/2008 7:12 pm
Yamaha QY100 review

By Jeff Obee

$499 at

Released back in 2000, the QY100 is a stand-alone, portable sequencer designed for personal accompaniment. And portable is right; it is approximately the size of a medium sized paperback novel, and weighs only slightly more.

Though a songwriting tool for musicians of all stripes, the QY100 seems to be aimed in part at guitarists, due to the inclusion of an amp simulator, and a 1/4 inch guitar (and mic) input.


This unit packs a lot into its small footprint. This means navigating several menus of several pages each, but once you get the hang of the layout it’s quite easy. It offers 16 tracks of sequencing with a maximum of 32,000 notes. 32 notes of polyphony get divvied up between the 525 onboard synth voices and 22 drum and percussion banks, set up for General MIDI and XG. There’s a full complement of quality Yamaha effects onboard, as well.

The QY can be used as a full-fledged sequencer or as a simple preset accompaniment device. 768 preset patterns in 128 styles are included, along with 99 chord templates, for those who don’t want to write your own sequences. The unit employs a phrase/pattern/song hierarchy.

Being a MIDI device and stand-alone sound module, you can of course use your own controller of choice. But hey, if you want to use it on the road as a sketchpad, Yamaha has included a micro keyboard on the top face. The “keys” are very small, but it’s two octaves and has an octave shift button, so it’s handy when you don’t have your regular controller around. Plus, the keys do double duty for the chord templates.

The QY can be connected to your computer, but it utilizes a serial port- a most decidedly outdated method for such a task. However, there is a SmartMedia slot on the side, and cards are still in abundance (and inexpensive), providing you with lots of storage for your sequences. And although I didn’t try, my hunch is you can compose sequences in GM or XG format on your computer sequencer, save them as SMFs using a card reader, then load them into the QY100.

Let’s Focus

Much could be written about the QY100; it’s a pretty deep little device. Too deep, in fact, for the purposes of this brief review, so I’ll focus on the primary audience here: guitar players.

One thing that really stands out is the inclusion of an amp simulator. This doesn’t rival amp modeling or a dedicated effects pedal, but nonetheless it sounds quite good. You get a bank of 18 sounds built on three chained effects blocks: preamp, chorus, and reverb. There are 18 well-programmed presets, but you can tweak the parameters and save your own sounds on card. Oh, and the amp simulator is separate from the other effects, so it you’re not taking away from any that are used on your backing tracks.

The preamp block consists of Drive (amp gain), along with Hi and Lo EQ settings. You can dial in the Drive setting and EQ to get everything from light crunch to gritty or muted blues tones to heavy overdriven distortion.

The chorus block contains Mod Speed, Mod Depth, and Feedback parameters, allowing you to create not only chorus, but phase and flange effects as well. The reverb block is a single reverb with Level control. Lastly, there is an On/Off parameter that you can assign to any of the three blocks.

The other ideal aspect of this for guitarists is the “band-in-a-box” concept. The abundant synth and drum sounds enable you to create full, powerful backing tracks over which to solo, try varying rhythmic ideas, or experiment with “tonescapes”.


The QY100’s strengths indeed lie in its portability, combined with the numerous onboard sounds: as a tool for practice, sketching out ideas for songs, and accompaniment for small solo or duo gigs.

Practicing with this is especially good, as you can use headphones and set up whatever chord changes you desire, with as sparse or full backing tracks as you desire, and blast away. The flexible and in-depth sequencer makes song-sketching or full blown composition a breeze.

And you can carry a whole band to your next solo or duo gig in just one small section of your gig bag!
Jon Broderick
Guitar Tricks Instructor - Home of Online Guitar Lessons