Review: Yamaha WX5 Midi Wind Controller: Giving Woodwind Players Access to Infinite Creative Possibilities!
An incredibly expressive instrument
Allows woodwind players to use their skills in midi composition / performance
Adjustable breath control, reed sensor control, pitch bend, and multiple fingering modes
Wish there was a “professional” version that had better build quality (more metal and less plastic)
Will take practice to perfect – just like any instrument
Wish it was priced a tad lower to be more accessible to the student population (though the instrument is WELL worth the investment
Looking for a way to take those saxophone skills and use them in the digital music scene? Maybe you want to compose music for your school band? Or maybe you want to play some wailing guitar leads in a rock band using those highly developed woodwind chops? Or maybe you simply want to practice your saxophone late at night without the neighbors calling the cops – or wore – animal control. Then Yamaha WX5 is your answer.
Though I’m a music composer first, I’m also a decent saxophone player (degree from Cal State University at Northridge, performed with many bands, recorded for many film scores, etc) and I absolutely LOVE my WX5 midi wind controller. In case your not familiar with the concept, the WX5 plays exactly like a saxophone, complete with breath control, a reed which you can use to do pitch bends and vibrato, a separate pitch bend wheel, and multiple octave keys to cover the complete range of the piano. But instead of producing acoustic sound when you play it like a saxophone, it produces MIDI messages that can be used to trigger any sound you want – be it from an external midi module or through your own personal computer playing virtual instrument.
This is what makes the WX5 great, as it opens up any woodwind player to play or compose for any instrument they want, using the skills they have already acquired!! No need to spend years learning how to play trumpet, bassoon, clarinet, flute, etc in order to write for your school band – just plug in your WX5, trigger some samples and paint away! In fact, the WX5 is a major instrument in all my writing, be it film scores or progressive rock music (in which I use it exclusively to write all the lead synth and guitar parts).
Whats great about the WX5 as a midi controller vs a keyboard midi controller is the extra expression the instrument delivers. I hear many synthesized orchestral pieces in which you can tell woodwind parts are being performed by keyboard players, as the shape and phrasing is all wrong. This is where the WX5 really shines, as it will register the changes in the amount of air your sending through the mouthpiece as well as the vibrato through the reed sensor, and converts this to midi data, allowing the virtual instrument your playing to feel and respond just like your playing the real thing! (Note: you will need to experiment with different sample libraries or virtual instrument setups to find which ones respond best to midi wind controllers, but there are TONs of great options out there!) The WX5 seems to react PERFECTLY to breath control and read vibrato, and has many ways to set it up for each individual (i.e. adjust the settings for wind control, reed setting, reed vibrato amount, etc). There are also three different type of saxophone fingering modes, as well as a flute fingering mode with a “recorder” style mouthpiece (i.e. no reed).
The WX5 is made out of plastic, which is a bit of a shame as it gives it a cheap toy feel, but I’ve had mine for almost 10 years now and have never had a problem. Because of the plastic build, the keys do not feel like a saxophone, nor does it have that feedback and weight you get from metal saxophone keys – so it will take some getting use to. However, a potential benefit is that you can play this thing VERY FAST when you get familiar with it. However this again is not without its potential pitfalls, as it is really easy to trigger wrong notes on accident. The biggest culprit in my experience is the multi-octave keys, in which its very easy for your thumb to slip and thus you inadvertently change octaves. This again just takes some getting use to, but even I have yet to fully master this instrument, where as an actual saxophone I rarely accidentally flub a note.
Bottom line: If you are a saxophone player you owe it to yourself to buy this instrument! This gives you the ability to take those honed saxophone skills and translate them to any instrument you wish – be it in a live performance or composition setting. I simply LOVE mine, and if it were to ever break or get stolen I would replace it in a heart beat. In fact, I think I’m going to buy a backup just incase…