Yamaha Design “Synapses” WX7



Released in 1987, the WX7 is a minimalist wind MIDI control played in the same way as a saxophone.


Since the WX7 is an interface for electronic instruments no vibration is needed, and the design retains only the essential nature of a wind instrument; a mouthpiece, keys to denote pitch, and a tube to support the keys – all other functions and ornamentation were removed. Honed to a simple and minimal configuration, this design defines a standard for digital instruments that people will continue to play for years to come.


Through thorough investigations of brass and woodwind instruments designers found that techniques used to play the saxophone were not difficult to master. Studying saxophone performance and fingering, we looked into the nature of wind instruments, reconstructing them from their basic elements. From there we took only what we found necessary to drive an electronic instrument.


A "box" in the mouthpiece section that detects the strength of the player's breath. A "bar" - the instrument body that supports the keys. The straight, sharp form of the WX7 integrates the box and bar motif in a simple, frank manner.


For the electronic instrument interface, we started from zero, beginning with the concept of the wind instrument, the most primitive interface known to man and one which is easy to play with emotion. In contrast to a keyboard instrument, creating the expressive capabilities of an instrument that utilizes breath in the manner of a vocalist was a challenge new to us, and required a fresh design.


Wind instruments, which performers feel respond intuitively with each breath, possess a physical presence extremely close to the performer's body. Designers sought a key layout that allowed the performer to play without looking at the instrument, and sought subtle qualities like touch, key return, and alternative fingerings that responded to a player’s fingers and intentions.

Yasuhiro Kira
Yasuhiro Kira
Yamaha Design Laboratory

A fundamental inquiry into the nature of wind instruments.

The concept of driving an electronic musical instrument with a more primitive, physical tool offers unlimited possibilities.
When designing the WX7, we paid particular attention to size of the headjoint, the mouthpiece, and to the overall balance of the instrument. The headjoint was a huge task in the initial stages of development. Like a lunch box.
We knew that the WX7 would need complex circuitry. It had to recognize the strength of the player’s breath and reflect that in the volume of the sound, as well as altering the pitch based on the player’s bite on the mouthpiece. The WX7 employs the same performance methods as the saxophone, meaning that we had to give the instrument an accurate sensor that would normally require a larger circuit board.
To solve this problem we teamed up with Yamaha's electronic circuitry designers for a period of developmental work to miniaturize the components of the WX7 through repeated trial and error. Circuit board design ultimately requires the art of designing electronic circuitry; mirroring the synchrony of product design throughout Yamaha.
(text: Yamaha Design Laboratory / Ikuo Mine)

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