Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-500 Keytar

David Gallant
Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Can the Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-500 Keytar cut it as a serious musical instrument on its own merits?

The Sonogenic SHS-500 was launched earlier this year and is part of Yamaha’s drive to encourage and educate young aspiring musicians with a keyboard that offers not only interactive playability, with Yamaha’s new Chord Tracker App, but also a fully functioning keyboard/synth and a controller keyboard via USB or MIDI.

Like all Keytars, the SHS-500 is worn with a shoulder strap, giving the player maximum freedom and manoeuvrability. At 1.5kg it’s super lightweight and comes with 37 touch responsive mini-keys, a pitch bender, modulation wheel, sustain, octave shifter and transposing buttons, along with a ‘jam’ key for use with the Chord Tracker App.

The keyboard-specific functions include reverb, chorus and dynamics, which come with a depth effect control and a selection of 30 on-board voices, all of which can be viewed via an LCD screen. Clearly, the main selling point of the SHS-500 is its interactive functionality via the Chord Tracker App as a ‘playalong’.

But can it cut it as a serious musical instrument on its own merits? Put through the house amplifier the 30 pre-set voices were a mixed bag, with some more useable than others. Let’s face it, sonically, the saxophone, trumpet and acoustic guitar really don’t work as keyboard/synth sounds.

However, on this particular sample set, though a blindfold test would never identify it as a jazz guitar, the mellow sound produced by this particular voicing was very serviceable. We missed having an organ option, which would have been a valuable addition to the overall sonic mix.

That said, having the rhythmic ‘housekit’ and ‘powerkit’ in the sequence was a real bonus, with plenty of options for laying down the funk. Do we think that the SHS-500 can deliver as a solo instrument in a band scenario? Unequivocally, yes! And it’s a handy little keyboard controller to boot.

Further information www.uk.yamaha.com

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