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Archive for May 2012


Mouthpiece works! Beatjazz controller is now at version one.

IMG_0854Over the last week or so I have worked on a new mouthpiece. I needed something designed specifically for the nature of this systems interfacing concept; a mouthpiece that would allow lip pressure to modify parameters in a fashion similar to a woodwind reed.

IMG_0858on acoustic woodwind instruments, the reed vibrates and it is this vibration that generates the sound that is projected into the horn part of the instrument where closing and opening sequences of holes (keys) create sound that are tuned to specific pitches. The pitch of the vibration between the reed and the mouthpiece is controlled by how hard the player bites down onto the reed while blowing; less bite results in a lower pitch and more bite results in a higher pitch, in some cases jumping to a completely different set of notes when done in conjunction with breath pressure.

IMG_0851As I mentioned in my last post, two things that hindered my progress with lip-sensing mouthpieces were spit and design. I have had a kick with using an fsr as a lip sensor because if its ease of integration and low cost. But it does not like spit so the last few prototype mouthpieces destroyed the fsr within minutes because of my faulty designs. Enter 3d printing!

I was able to design the mouthpiece in a way that makes it very hard to get spitty, even though, technically, part of the sensor is in my mouth. I did this by designing a flat "plug “that funnels all breath and associated humidity, into the tube with the sensor being completely blocked from contact with said stream. The plug extends to the bottom of the mouthpiece as well. Just behind the plug is a reed-like flat surface that my lip comes in contact with. This presses a raised, felt covered fsr-shaped platform directly onto the sensor. Felt is great because it is soft without being spongy so lip fluctuations are read pretty quickly.

So far, only one synth is receiving pitch bend commands but I seen that the other parameter controls I have assigned to lip are working properly! Yaaay!!!

IMG_0850This addition along with the new joy toggles, finally place the beatjazz control interface at a cautious version I! with this, I feel like the system is ready to be shared and duplicated so I will test its performance at the Elbjazz fest on Saturday and test the other controllers in the coming week and if all is good, I will ship them out to contributors, with the addendum that the software progression will be an ongoing thing and these will ship with the current control software, with the full suite software to come later.

As well, the new mouthpiece and joy toggles are ready for contributors that took the beatjazz perk that included those parts.

This weekend I will have my debut feature Jazz festival performance at the Elbjazz Festival in Hamburg. I am optimistic that it will be amazing. The following week, I will be in London (May 30) for the Lost Lectures and in Nantes, France (May 31st) at Stereolux then back to London for a bit of club bidness. So any hiccups in the design will be glaringly obvious in the very near term. Holla...


Joytoggle Iteration..yaaaay!

IMG_0837[1]now that the system is functional to a reasonably high degree, i can start tweaking the design a bit to make it more ergonomic and invisible. by invisible, i mean to make it prosthetic in nature; reducing the amount of unneccessary motion it thakes to do routine things so that the experience is that of simply thinking of something musical and hearing it come out of the sound system in the most efficient manner possible.

IMG_0839[1]to this end, i have spent most of the last two weeks iterating a new joytoggle system. the joytoggles are the 4 position joysticks on each hand unit. they are not real joysticks in that they only register the direction they re pushed. think of them as 4 push buttons controlled with one control. there is one on top and one on the bottom of each unit. the top ones are modified by the index finger and the bottoms ones by the thumbs.

their reason for even existing, is very serendipitous. on my previous instrument, the wx5 midi wind controller, there are two keys at the top of the instrument that can either be used for playing notes, like all of the other keys, or can be assigned to send control messages. for most of the time that i played the wx5, those keys went unused but when i needed an easy way to control the record/overdub of a software looper, i decided to dedicate that key to that function. IMG_0051[1]when i created the first beatjazz controller, my first thought was to improve this functionality but either it was already perfect or i was just accustomed to this placement so i recreated this key using a 4 position joystick, making use of only one of the positions. eventually, i realized that i could replace the many buttons and switches i had envisioned for the system, with these simple joytoggles, so i used them for the thumbs as well with the left hand being for octaves and the right hand for looper functions and pre/post fx. at that point i had 3 of them installed; one for each thumb and the original looper control one for the left index finger. at this point my obsession with symmetry made me add on last on for the right index finger that had no functions envisioned for it at the time, but it balanced the design.

this worked for a while but over time i noticed that the placement was slowing me down. although the main function was instantiated by a simple nudge from the side of my index finger, other functions required me to lift my finger to instantiate. when playing lines of improvisation, this breaks up the line unneccessarily. as well, the forward direction on both bottom joytoggles no longer function because of the angle and force that my toggle-r puts on the shaft of the joytoggle, and the thumb is unneccessarily uncomfortable over time as the thumb must stretch to reach it. I decided that now, before my jazz fest debut next week, to solve these issues.

IMG_0832[1]the two primary design tasks were to integrate the top joytoggle into a position under the first "key" and to reposition the thumb joytogglesto am more comfortable position and make them adjustable. it took a number of tries to find the right way to interact with the newly positioned joytoggle, with the first idea being an elaborate through hole cage, but through the many iteration i settled on simply pushing the joystick up through the keypad where the shaft extends up high enough for a dual function keypad toggle-r, to push it in the required directions with minimal effort.

IMG_0838[1]the next thing was the place the bottom joytoggle shaft where it would fit directly into the joint of where the thumb bends. i have found that this is the most comfortable placement for this control. i also pushed it up, closer to the index finger and back, toward the hand. the two controls together feel like you are making the letter "C" with your two fingers and is now very comfortable.

IMG_0833[1]i will make the higher resolution versions today for inclusion in the primary controller, for performance testing. (these will go out on the controllers that are yet to ship.)
while these print, i will be working on the holy grail of the whole project. the one aspect whose design has illuded me from the beginning; lip pitch control. a wind instrument without pitch control, especially lip based pitch control, is incomplete. it is the signature of wind instruments. i have sorely missed lip based pitch control since shifting my efforts to this system.

 IMG_0129[1]the problem has been spit.  this is a really old design, before I had a 3d printer. i found that the same FSR's that i use as keys, make great, sensitve lip pitch controllers, but my designs always leak spit onto them, instantly rendering them useless.  so i put it on the backburner.  now that i have 3d printing to create designs which can place the fsr in a purpose made, spit-resistant cavity, i now, desperately, want to reintegrate lip pressure into this system.  i will report more on this once i have iterated a few designs but so far, the design is wildly different than a woodwind mouthpiece, owing to the headsets permanently stationary mouthpiece position.  more later.


May Update 2012

Ola! Happy May! Hope you are all doing well. I wanted to go ahead and hammer out this update so I can keep everyone up on what is going on in the world of beatjazz.

I had to take a bit of a break recently, from the crazy pace of the last year, so I took (I think) my first ever non-music related holiday. I went to Spain to visit a wonderful friend of mine and SSL24234was shown a whole other side of that country. From roman architecture to crossing waterfalls barefoot, it was a much needed respite from staring at this computer screen day and night. But, I am still me, after all, so of course I used the occasion to investigate the travel ability of dis-assembling and reassembling my reprap. I broke it down to about 5IMG_0790 main pieces and it was fairly easy to reassemble and get to work with. While there, I printed parts for the next controllers to be sent to patient contributors, namely, one made of glowing plastic!

IMG_0795[1]Funnily enough, I will be creating 2 of the glowing versions and I will be taking an assembled version of it, as well as an assembled robot silver version with me to Romania this weekend to perform and present a talk on beatjazz, 3d printing and wearable technologies at ELECTRO ARTS FESTIVAL: CLUJOTRONIC. It will actually be in what is known to be Transylvania and will be presented over 2 days. I think a glowing, gestural, wireless, 3d printed, digital musical interface will leave an impression 😉

IMG_0813[1]Before then, I will be camped out at my new "Afrofuturistik Labs" studio at Tacheles Kunsthaus, redesigning the thumb control module on the hand units. I have now played the new system long enough to be not completely happy with how the controls are realized. the joystick module (everything is modular for this exact reason) will be much smoother, more ergonomic and more robust with the new design while also making it more playable for others (I have long, double jointed thumbs)

also, being that my studio is an "open" studio, i.e. open to the public for much of the day, iterating the new synthesis system is progressing at a much nicer clip, save for the gawking when people come in and see me, in full cyborg regalia, programming synth sounds while my reprap prints parts for other controllers. All in all, it’s much better than sitting at home doing the same thing in solitude for weeks at a time.

The designs of the perks for the campaign are progressing as well. I know that it is taking quite some time to sort them out, but it takes as long as it takes. I refuse to send anything out to those supporters that isn’t the dopest thing I can create for them. Like the controllers; had I shipped those out last summer, my sole contributor would not have gotten this iteration which is heads and shoulders above last year’s cardboard prototype. For those that have a perk coming I say this; bear with me. You will be receiving dopeness in the mail as soon as it is proper.

My hope now is to get the new beatjazz suite software ready for the Elbjazz fest (Hamburg) and the Lost Lectures (London) at the end of this month. Currently it is slow going but it is now functional enough to do little performances for Tacheles visitors. The key, I found, was to design the parameter layout FIRST, then attach the parameters to a stable interface. This assures that I can go back later and update individual modules easily. Right now, figuring out where in this 32 node grid, to assign what parameters so there is a control vector that won’t confuse me, is the where my interest lies, but it works and everything else now is a much less crucial technicality.

I will hit you up with photos of the new hand unit revisions as soon as they are done. Take care!

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