The Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-300 Keytar: What it does, what I thought about it

This section covers Yamaha wind instruments such as the Venova YVS-120 and YVS-100 as well as MIDI controllers WX5, WX7 and WX11.

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The Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-300 Keytar: What it does, what I thought about it

Unread post by shelly0624 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:29 pm

Yamaha has come up with a great idea for those who have always wanted to interact with an instrument, but have never learned to play, and it's called the Sonogenic. Specifically the SHS-300 and more advanced SHS-500. The SHS-500 is available for iOS and will be coming soon to Android. The SHS-300 takes both. I have the SHS-300 but much of my review applies to both models. You don’t have to know the proper scales and chords or worry about hitting the wrong notes on the Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-300 Keytar. With the JAM Function and the free Chord Tracker app, you can get the feel of an instrument in your hands and play along with different musical styles without any musical experience. The Chord Tracker is a free app that is compatible with iOS and Android devices. It can analyze chord data, so that no matter which keys you press, the chords will match. Via a USB or wireless Bluetooth connection, Chord Tracker remaps the keys on the Sonogenic’s keyboard as a song plays, so the keys are always in harmony with the chords.
We needed to buy a SF Cable USB A to Micro USB B Adapter to connect to our smartphone:

The nice thing about the Sonogenic SHS-300 Keytar is that if you are new to making your own music, you can grow into it. With three modes of play, this instrument is shallow enough for a beginner to wade in, and deeper for those who want more. One can learn to improvise solo melodies along with the Chord Tracker app or play chords piano-style. You can also use it as a midi keyboard to access hundreds of sounds online, and use it for composing and recording with music production software. The narrow design means it will take up very little room on a desk with a computer. The midi feature was the one I was interested in most. Since damage to my hands makes it impossible to play guitar anymore, I was intrigued by the possibility that I could use realistic guitar software. I did find out last year that I can play a keyboard because it is easier on the fingers and I can't tell you how the prospect of using the midi feature to achieve something I've lost makes me very hopeful.

When it arrived, it came in a box 31" X 8.5" X 5.5" and was secured at both ends by Styrofoam blocks conformed to the shape of the Keytar, so there was ample space around it. It didn't budge at all in transit to my house. Inside, it came with a shoulder strap, owner's manual, project registration, and USB cable. You can also access an online reference manual containing midi-related information.

It's nice-looking. The Sonogenic SHS-300 Keytar, itself, is 28.5" long and 5" wide. It is sleek and modern-looking .. (not exactly the Jetsons 80s vibe, though some of you like that.. :) ). And it's lightweight, but substantial enough to hang properly with a shoulder strap. They come in blue or white. Mine is a nice royal blue with an off-white underside. It has a satin/matte finish with glossy keys.

This Keytar has 37 keys, USB MIDI, and the ability to run on 4 AA batteries (these are not included).
It uses AWM Stereo Sampling for sound generation and features 12 preset voices. There are 4 categories:

Synth: Saw Lead, square lead, Synth brass
Piano: Piano, Electric Piano, Organ
Guitar: Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Bass
Other: Strings, Synth Bass, Dance kit
I would have liked the capability to layer sounds and add a little reverb.

It is capable of 32 voice polyphony.
It has a vibrato button, sustain button.. pitch and modulation wheel, and volume control. I have to say, the button configuration on the neck is about as intuitive as it gets.

There are three modes of play:

Finger: This mode is ideal for playing backing. It adds harmonies to the notes played on the keyboard with even just one finger.
Backing: In this mode, you play chords in time with the music.
Melody: This mode is ideal for playing melodies, so you can improvise solo leads.

Easy tutorial on how to use it:
(Aside from the outré dance moves, the model is showing how easy it is to operate, and she IS actually playing the Sonogenic in the video).

What is has:

Touch sensitive keys, adjustable: soft, medium, hard
You can plug in headphones; (3.5 mm jack), Line-in (3.5 mm jack)
Internal speakers (0.7W) + possibility to connect to an amplifier
MIDI I/O: USB in/out
Pitch and modulation wheel
transpose function: -6 to 0, 0 to +6
tuning: 427.0 - 440.0 4530.0n Hz
power supply: USB adapter 5V / 1A, also works on 4x AA batteries (not included)
USB to host
AUX-in: 3.5 mm TRS stereo mini jack
Bluetooth for connection to smartphone
Weight: 1.2 kg (without batteries)

When holding down the "function" button you can also control some things using certain keys. The words below and under the keys are in small, raised letters which indicate which keys can control functions like; pitch bend, transpose, octave, auto power, tuning, and touch response. While I like many things this Keytar has to offer, I would have liked the words under the keys to be a little more visible.

I'm really impressed with the manual. I don't like manuals. This was the easiest, most visually organized operating manual I've ever seen. I've bought products with manuals that had pale letters on darkish newsprint..tiny and confusing. Not this one. Each page has the information broken into small enough pieces that you can absorb it without confusion.

In order to use the JAM function, I downloaded the free Chord Tracker app from Google Play and used the Bluetooth option to play the demo songs. It did, indeed, play without any problem and the keys followed the song. I have decided that next time I'll use our mini-speaker. Maybe most phones are louder than mine, but the Keytar was a bit too dominant because my smartphone has a wimpy speaker. While the song played, chord names came up on the screen, along with a piano diagram showing the keys being played. Chord tracker comes with 8 demo songs but you really might want to play along with your favorite songs. The Chord Tracker analyzes the songs already stored in the music library of your connected mobile device and creates chord charts for them. I actually didn't have songs stored on my smartphone since I usually listen to streaming music on my Pandora app.

But I was surprised when I opened a voice recording app on my phone. I had a song idea a while back and there were some rough-draft guitar chord progressions that I had been working on (back when I could play). When I played single-finger on the Sonogenic 300, the notes fit the chords! I couldn't believe it, because the song was kinda quiet and still half-baked. And the chords and correct keys on the piano diagram were still showing up on the screen. Impressive. At the bottom of the screen, you can choose staff notation, keyboard diagram, guitar, and play settings. So the Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-300 will play with Chord Tracker as long as you have digital songs on your device.

This would make a great gift under the tree!
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Re: The Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-300: What it does, what I thought about it

Unread post by parametric » Fri Dec 13, 2019 12:58 am

THAT . . . .

is an excellent review Shelly, and SO full of DETAIL :clap:

I would say you have found a new occupation?

Certainly, one that is less taxing on those hands than Jewellery-Making . . . . (Y)

Well Done . . ((i))

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Re: The Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-300: What it does, what I thought about it

Unread post by shelly0624 » Fri Dec 13, 2019 5:00 am

Thank you Chris!
I don't get paid by Yamaha but this opportunity has been good for me. This kind offer by someone we both know and appreciate has helped me in multiple ways. My confidence, for one. Because I'm not technologically astute, (as you know.. :wink: ) I approach these instruments as someone who knows nothing (which I do). Many consumers who buy gifts for others or entry-level items for themselves also know nothing, or almost. So ... every time I gather information and have the opportunity to use something hands-on, I learn a little bit more, but I can also give the perspective of how intuitive something is it frustrating in any way? How well is the manual written? So there are perks to being, ummmm...challenged :lol:
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Re: The Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-300 Keytar: What it does, what I thought about it

Unread post by Saul » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:10 pm

Another wonderful review Shelly. You are getting really good at this. I think you have always had some hidden journalistic talent just waiting for an outlet and luckily we all get to benefit from it (Y)

We see a lot of reviews from people who are very used to all this gear and of course they are useful but, perspective from someone who is perhaps new to the more techy side of music making is priceless. Many of these products like the Venova, Sonogenic and PSS-A50 are aimed at those who are new to all this. And the info they need is, will I find this instrument easy to use straight out of the box?. Do I need a science degree just to understand the manual?

I think you have succinctly answered those questions and done so with style and humour. Definitely my kind of review and I very much look forward to reading the next one :)
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