Other Keyboard Media

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Keyboard MediaAs well as the Casio ROM Pack and Yamaha Playcard formats, some other proprietary software media formats were used from the 1980s to the 1990s, before standard 3.5" disk drives replaced them.

Casio MS Memory (Bar Codes)

Keyboard models: MT-70, VL-5 (possibly others?)
Format current: Early 1980s

"MS Memory" is the rather grand name assigned to a bar code system used on Casio keyboards prior to the introduction of ROM Packs.

Songbooks containing pages of long bar codes (dubbed "Bar Code Scores") could be purchased, which were scanned into the keyboard's memory using the wand that came with the keyboard.

It was necessary to scan several pages of bar codes to program the pitch, length and chord information for the song, which was apparently quite time-consuming, and resulted in a disappointingly short, monophonic melody (with auto accompaniment if your keyboard supported it - some didn't!).

The Melody Guide training system for the MS Memory music was apparently very similar to the later systems, employing lights above each key to indicate which notes to play. 

Only a handful of Casio keyboards supported the bar code system, which was quickly replaced by the vastly superior ROM Pack system. The MT-70 is probably the one to look for, as it supports auto accompaniment with MS Memory songs.

Yamaha Music Cartridge (PSR Range)

Yamaha PSR Range
      Music CartridgeKeyboard models: PSR-320, PSR-420, PSR-520, PSR-620, PSR-330, PSR-530
Format current: 1995 to late 1990s.

The Music Cartridge system was introduced in 1995 on some entry-level and mid-range Yamaha keyboards.

The cartridges themselves resemble game cartridges for early games consoles, and fit into a slot on the top of the keyboard in a similar way.

Two types of cartridge were available: Song cartridges and Style cartridges. While physically identical, Song cartridges contained (usually six) fully-arranged songs, while Style cartridges contained additional styles to add to the keyboard's built-in style library, apparently with more complex arrangements and variations than the built-in styles.

Music Cartridge tunes are rich, multi-channel arrangements, rather like MIDI files. The guide modes supported are more sophisticated than earlier systems and more akin to current training systems, but the training facilities available vary by keyboard model.

Surprisingly, and somewhat disappointingly, on my PSR-330 keyboard, it does not appear to be possible to re-voice Music Cartridge music, although the individual channels can be muted. So you are stuck with the voice assignments programmed on the Cartridge.
This is strange, since the keyboard's built-in demo songs can be re-voiced. I am not sure if other keyboard models support re-voicing Music Cartridge music.

The Music Cartridge system appeared during a period of transition, as standard disk drives were starting to appear on cheaper home keyboard models. In fact, the PSR-620 from 1995 has both a Music Cartridge slot and a disk drive.

Only six keyboard models are known to support Music Cartridges: the PSR-320, PSR-420, PSR-520 and PSR-620, all launched in 1995, and the PSR-330 and PSR-530, launched in 1997. The contemporary PSR-630 and PSR-730 had only disk drives, and the Music Cartridge system was abandoned completely on later ranges.

Yamaha ROM Music Book

Yamaha ROM Music Book

Keyboard models: Some Clavinova and Electone models
Format current: Mid to Late 1980s

I can find very little information about this system which was used on some Clavinova digital pianos and Electone electronic organs.

The ROM Music Book itself consisted of a normal-looking music book with a ROM chip and edge connector embedded in the back cover. The book was located on the instrument's music stand, with the ROM connector slotted into a socket on the top of the instrument.

According to the Manual for the MR-700 organ, the ROM chip contains the usual type of data: programmed melody voices, voices for lower keyboard and pedals, an Obbligato channel, rhythm patterns and chords. Tempo, effects, arpeggio and balance are also pre-programmed.

Each ROM Music Book probably contained six songs. The one that came with the MR-700 apparently contained: Little Brown Jug, Spring Song, Edelweiss, I Could Have Danced All Night, Loves Old Sweet Song and Your Song.

There are also training modes with guide lamps, apparently very similar to Playcard training modes.

Interestingly, there was also a writable version, named the "RAM Music Notebook" with each Notebook able to store only one song.

This excerpt from a Yamaha Clavinova Demonstration Tape (MP3, 10MB) gives an example of what ROM Music Book music sounds like on a Clavinova CVP7.

Yamaha Music Cartridge (TYU-30)

Yamaha TYU-30 Music CartridgeKeyboard models: TYU-30
Format current: 1986

The Music Cartridge system found on the Yamaha TYU-30 keyboard should not be confused with the identically-named system described above. The two systems are completely different and incompatible with one another.

While the two Music Cartridges supplied with the TYU-30 really do contain a ROM holding the music data, to the best of my knowledge no additional Music Cartridges were ever available separately. I would therefore classify this as a "fake" system, rather like the Music Card system (below).

For more details, see the Yamaha TYU-30 page

Yamaha Music Card (TYU-40)

Yamaha Music Card 1
      for TYU-40Keyboard models: TYU-40
Format current: 1986

This system appears only on the Yamaha TYU-40 keyboard, and isn't really a storage media format at all. The three Music Cards supplied with the keyboard are simply dummies, with small spikes on the underside which push against sensors in the keyboard to select a different range of tunes from the set stored in the keyboard's ROM. It is therefore impossible to expand the library of available songs by purchasing additional cards.

For more details, see the Yamaha TYU-40 page.

Audio Tape

Keyboard models: Casio PT-30, PT-50, KX-101 (possibly other Casios?), Amstrad CKX100, some Yamaha Clavinova and Electone models.
Format current: Early to mid-1980s

At least three Casio models, the PT-30, PT-50 and KX-101, allowed saving of sequencer memory contents onto standard audio tape, much like many home computer systems of the time. The PT-30 and PT-50 required an optional TA-1 tape recorder interface to be installed in a compartment on the underside of the keyboard, and connected to any standard audio tape recorder. The KX-101 was a combined keyboard and stereo radio-cassette deck, and used its built-in cassette recorder to save sequencer data.

While these could save and load your own compositions, I am fairly sure it was not possible to purchase tapes containing pre-recorded music data, so this system probably doesn't technically qualify for inclusion in this list - but it's interesting, so I thought it was worthy of a mention.

In the case of the PT-50, it is possible to transfer ROM Pack data onto tape by first loading from the ROM Pack into the PT-50's sequencer memory, and then saving this to tape. The saved data includes the Obbligato channel (even though this is not normally user-programmable), so the ROM Pack music is reproduced perfectly when reloaded from tape.

Tapes saved by a PT-50 cannot be loaded into a PT-30, nor vice-versa - the data format is different. 

The Amstrad CKX100 can also save and load its sequencer data to/from tape via the "Data" jack on the back. Again, I do not know if it was possible to purchase tapes containing pre-recorded music data, but this seems unlikely.  

Standardised Formats

As the price of 3.5" disk drives became cheaper, these replaced proprietary media formats for most manufacturers. The disks normally contain standard MIDI or sample data, but this may be stored in proprietary formats, so it cannot be assumed that disks are interchangable between manufacturers.

Like disk drives on desktop computers, disk drives are considered obsolete on keyboards and have now largely been replaced by CD/DVD-ROM drives or Flash Card readers, but some current models still support 3.5" disks. Most keyboards now also have USB connectivity for data transfer, and some even contain hard disk drives. 

Do you know of any other formats I've not covered? If so, let me know!