Digital Bagpipes

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As I wait to build my digital composition computer, I have been brainstorming the idea for what my arrangement of Amazing Grace will be like. I thought I would share with you what I am thinking.

First of all, it is going to have a bagpipe solo in it. I have not decide at what point to bring it in, but it is something I really want to include. The Yamaha DGX-660 has a bagpipe instrument sound. keys on the right are the main melodic voice, and keys on the left are the bagpipe drone sound. While the melodic voice has the overall sound of bagpipes down quite nicely, if you just play the notes, it doesn’t sound natural. To overcome that, the first thought is to simply roll from an adjacent key to the note you actually want to play. And while this produces an acceptable result, it still doesn’t quite cut it. Hard note transitions in real bagpipes tend to be an almost off-pitch slur that when blended with the background droning, give the instrument its unique and exotic sound. The DGX-660 has a pitch bend wheel that if “flicked” at the same time a hard note transition is made effectively simulates that authentic bagpipe sound.

Because my left hand will be required for flicking the pitch bend wheel during the main melody play-through, the bagpipe drone part will have to be played as a separate layer, with a its own periodic pitch flick. When the layers are blended the result will sound as close to natural as this keyboard can get for the bagpipes. Here is a demonstration of this technique.

When working with digital instruments, it is important to understand not only which notes to play, but also how the actual instrument really sounds in the hands of someone who really knows how to play it. And while there is no way to fully eliminate the truth of artificiality in digital orchestration, understanding the way the real instruments are played can and will reduce its noticeability. This will always requires subtlety of the human hand of a real musician.

So why am I still waiting to build the computer? The parts I ordered were not a cheap investment. The software I will be using won’t be either. I am not ready to spend that money just yet, and since there is no physical disk option for it, I need the computer ready first. When I am ready to make the purchase, I will build the computer and have everything dealt with in one go. I’m still on track with my planned schedule for getting started. I just want to pay down the bill for the computer a bit before making another expensive purchase. This thing is happening, and I am by no means idle in the meantime.

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