Yamaha DD-14

The amazing Yamaha DD-14 Synth from 1993


The following is my article that originally appeared on my Vintage Yamaha page and below each video in my Vintage Yamaha playlist (links below).

I purchased my Yamaha DD-14 at a local used music gear shop, not really knowing what it was about. If you think you want one, I have seen some in good shape on eBay, etc. Cheers!

If you classified this instrument built by Yamaha in 1993 as a drum machine, you would be overlooking several rare and interesting features of this melodic multi-timbral performance tool.

Kind of a band in a box or T.C. Electronics Trio but from 1993 with sounds more evocative of Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I happen to like the built in sounds and styles, and because it is built for both melody and percussion, with the extra feature of hand playable pads, there is so much room for variation and creative live playing, that most musicians would regard it as portable playable way to incorporate sounds like vibes and xylophone into the music.

The eight pads work as an octave (C to C), and in vibes, for instance, the kick pedal (not seen in most videos) functions to raise or lower notes by half steps, and in combination with certain pads, creates 7ths, minors, 7sus4, minor 7th and diminished notes.

Two truly unique features are Super Sessions Player, and the Scrapper.

When I first saw the Scrapper, I though it was a ribbon controller like on the Yamaha CS-80, but it is actually a lot more cool than that. Because the DD-14 has 64 note multi-timbral capabilities, the scrapper acts like a mini sample playback synth. If you are in the binary sounds (Guiro, Guica, Scratch), the scraper is a simple percussive device, but when you use the melodic sounds (Auto Harp, Bell Tree, Vibes, Multi Drum) you can use multiple fingers, form chords, do melodic runs, and never overload the 64 note limit. So you could put a latin kit (with conga sounds) on the main pads, but still be able to do melody by putting a vibe sound on the Scrapper. Or a Steel Drum sound on the pads, and an entire drum set (more than 8 pads) on the Scrapper? Endless possibilities!

The Super Sessions Player is this interactive feature that requires your input. If you have the Auto Bass Chord (keys and bass backing) feature turned on, and one of the rhythm styles is playing, then hitting pads triggers melodic synth parts that are randomly A.I. generated. If the Auto Bass Chord and rhythm style are not playing, the Super Sessions Player will fill in rhythmic or drummed sounds to mimic or support what you have played in a call and response form.

The DD-14 has a three song memory into which you can record custom chord changes that are independent of the rhythm style. This allows you to change from dance to blues but use your own chord progression.

Note: I am not a professional drummer. I am a vintage synth and electronic musical instrument enthusiast. I make these videos to document the sounds and features of mostly 1980s and 1990s Yamaha gear. The intro music was performed on the DD-14 by me. The recordings of the sounds were made straight into the camera from the unit. No post processing or additional effects were added. These are the raw sounds preserved for historical purposes.



I have used the DD-14 for serious professional music production! I replaced the strange, rounded dome "button" that came with the DD-14 for triggering the kick with a more legit feeling kick pedal from an Xbox 360 RockBand kit. The plug is a mini mono 1/8th inch jack. The Xbox pedal is wide and well built and sits on the floor well without scooting around. And more importantly, it feels like a kick when you use it. I plugged the DD-14 into a MIO USB - MIDI interface (the unit has a MIDI in and out) and used Logic Pro X on a MacBook Air to test it out. To my surprise without any configuration, the DD-14 was correctly mapped to the EXS24 Sampler in Logic with the built in drum sets. It also maps perfectly to Ultrabeat (Logic's built in drum synth) and the drum kits in the built in Drum Designer. Both the response and the levels of sensitivity are way better than using some square pads on a MIDI controller. That's because the DD-14 was meant to be used with your hands or drum sticks. For what this unit cost used, even including the thirty dollar USB to MIDI cable, it still beats the nearest drum-feeling controller by several hundred dollars.




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