Today I bought a used Yamaha V50 Digital Synthesizer for $50 in near mint condition. I had heard these synths were pretty hard to find so when I saw it in the store it peaked my interest. What’s amazing is that this synth was released in 1989 if correct, and the condition was fantastic. The Yamaha V50 had all the Demo and Voice disks still packaged in a nice plastic case with the words “Yamaha V50” on it. All of the buttons, disk drive, LCD screen, and keys were in perfect working order. I then fired it up and browsed through some of the sounds. Before long I knew I had to have this. The sheer enjoyment of playing the synth was incredible.
A long time ago I saw a couple of videos on Youtube which I’ll post here that originally put the Yamaha V50 on my radar screen. When I saw the synth in the store, I pretty much was set on buying it. I actually couldn’t believe the condition for that price. I also heard that in Europe for example, the Yamaha V-50 was highly sought after, but I’m not sure if that’s true. If you check on Youtube there are quite a few people using for some really different sounds. To me, it’s got great stuff for that cool 80’s and 90’s dance, rock, or funky electronic sound.
Later that evening I sat down with the online manual to see what I could create out of the Yamaha V-50 and I was absolutely amazed at how easy it was to play. First I should mention that with a keyboard this old, it’s important in my opinion that one kind of knows how to play the piano when using this synth. It’s more of a manual style synth with little “auto” functionality, however, the Yamaha V-50 was very well thought out as I’ll explain.
The functionality the Yamaha V-50 matches quite a few of the newer keyboards of today. For example, I hit the Rhythm key and right away I was able to call up a drum pattern. While it was playing I could adjust the effects and turn down the reverb which you MUST do with this synth. The Yamaha V-50 has some serious reverb cranked up on all it’s presets, so you need to dial that crap down right away.
After I had the drums grooving, I then was able to tap into “Performance Mode” while the drums kept playing and find a performance patch that I liked. Performances can be layered, split, have applied effects, etc. while the drums are playing. I thought it was extremely cool to call up drums, performances, and effects all LIVE without stopping anything or pushing a zillion buttons.
Instantly, I was able to get a jam going and then was able to make modifications to the sounds. Once I had my ideas set, I could stop everything and then start recording real time with the built in sequencer. Simply brilliant and easy!! Again, if you know how to play the keys well and you have worked with sequencers, the Yamaha V-50 is a “creative” breeze to work with.
Referring to the Youtube videos again, you will notice that the guy from Yamaha just sits there and goes through a fast and simple process of creating a song or groove. In my opinion, this is exactly what the Yamaha V-50 is all about. It’s creating a song from beginning to end all in an evening and having fun while doing it.
How about the sounds? The FM sounds are actually quite good provided you again dial down the reverbs. They are definitely overkill on this synth. I think the pads, strings, basses, and metallic sounds are brilliant. They really cut through the mix as they say. The choirs, brass, flutes, and other dreamy sounds are classic FM/DX sounding and are very nice in my opinion. The Yamaha V50’s sounds can also be layered for a fatter sound or in creating some cool atmospheric sounds. Plus you can create splits or overlap certain areas of the keyboard.
It’s an incredibly versatile synth that has stuff I wish some of the newer synths had. Of course the sounds are late 80’s and 90’s sounding so beware if that’s not your thing. In that case, you can simply create your own original sounds.
With out a doubt, the Yamaha V-50 is probably the most fun I’ve had in creating music. It’s what an idea scratch pad should be in a synthesizer which not many modern synths do.
I remember a guy telling me once how old keyboards were so difficult to program and work with. That same guy then turned around and said he didn’t know how he was going to learn all the cool stuff his new Korg M3 had with all the manuals. To me, that sounded the same.
Whether your synth is old or new, you have to put time into learning the product. I am so glad I bought the Yamaha V-50. It’s by far the most fun I’ve had in getting my ideas down fast on a synth.