Some of my customers choose to upgrade their older Disklavier’s floppy drive to a Nalbantov USB drive, and want to know how to copy songs from their old Disklavier floppy disks so they can put them on USB. Some of them just want to be able to backup their disks so they can make new ones later. And some are interested in writing altogether new songs to their floppies so they can finally listen to something new!
This post is intended to help you read from, write to, or replace Yamaha Disklavier floppy disks.
If you’re adding new music to a floppy disk and have an older Disklaviers (including the popular MX100B), you’ll need to make sure the files are in Yamaha’s proprietary eSEQ format. Using the tools below, you can convert MIDI files to eSEQ so that it will speak your Disklavier’s native language!
Obtaining eSEQ Files from your Disks
Original Yamaha floppy disks are the best source of these files. However, floppy disks often don’t age well, and are very susceptible to sunlight and magnetic fields. (This is one more reason to back them up!)
Disklavier floppy disks cannot be natively read by your computer, which makes them difficult to backup. They use a very primitive form of copy protection.
There are several tools that will allow you to read them: I use the Player Piano Floppy Backup Utility 1.4, created by Mark Fontana. It’s freeware, but he requests donations. You can download it from him, or you can download ppfbu_v1.4_setup.exe from my MEGA drive. It can read and save directly in eSEQ format, even if the disk it’s reading from is in MIDI. It appears to run acceptably on Mac / Linux using emulators.
There are other tools out there. Most notably, there was a Hack-a-Day project by Tom Nardi that uses a Python script to copy the data off the floppies. His disklav.py tool is available on GitHub.
Obtaining even More eSEQ Files from the Internet
In addition to the originals you might have, you can sometimes find these on eBay or at local music stores. Older disks on eBay are seldom tested, so there’s some risk of receiving junk disks.
There are several large online repositories in both eSEQ and MIDI formats. Some of these are of dubious legality. One legitimate resource is http://www.kuhmann.com/Yamaha.htm, which is also quite a large repository. I have a copy of their entire database on my MEGA drive. (I worry a lot about these older resources disappearing!)
Converting MIDI files to eSEQ
If you want to use MIDI files with your older Disklavier, you can, but you have to convert them to eSEQ first. There’s software to do this conversion. You can either get it from http://www.carolrpt.com/MIDItools.htm or you can download the whole DKVUTILS suite from my MEGA drive.
Once you download DKVUTILS.ZIP from my site or theirs, you’ll need to extract it. The program that converts MIDI files to eSEQ files is MID2ESEQ.EXE. This program runs only on Windows, and does not seem to run with emulators. Reach out to me and I can assist with conversion.
You can also source files from Yamaha’s website, although this is the most expensive option. Many of their MIDI files have multiple instruments (or even limited piano), and are more designed for their keyboards and other MIDI devices. However, they do have an entire category of Piano Solos, and these are what you’ll want to search for when selecting files. When you download these, you get their associated MIDI files, which are comfortably sized for floppy disk purposes.
MIDI files that have only one track are called Type 0 files. MIDI files with multiple parts are Type 1. Sometimes, the piano will be spread between two tracks. In that case, you’ll find the resulting eSEQ has only half the notes it should. You can convert Type 1 to Type 0 files using the tool gn1to0.exe that’s also stored on my MEGA drive. This is a slightly cumbersome tool, but will either run on Windows or on Linux/Mac using Wine.