Midi Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

Anything apart from the two mainstream default harmonicas (Solo-tuned fully-valved chromatic, and un-valved Richter 10-hole diatonic). Alternate tunings, different construction, new functionality, interesting old designs, wishful-thinking... whatever!
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Brendan
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Midi Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Fri Mar 27, 2020 8:11 am

This is an interesting new area which can apply to any type of solo harmonica, chromatic or diatonic, in any tuning, so I think this is the more suitable board to discuss it.

Over the past couple of months I've been spending a lot of time exploring various pitch-to-Midi solutions. This is basically about playing a standard analogue harmonica into some kind of interface to get Midi sounds from it. I had tried this in the past, but always gave up in frustration because of too many sound glitches, and latency. Those factors still exist, but with a lot of research and fine tweaking of settings they can be minimized to the point where I now feel this approach is really workable.

I'm using the iPad as my Midi sound source, as well as for audio. It's an incredible playing resource for any musician, as millions of keyboard players and guitarists have already discovered! But up till now few harp players seem to have taken the iPad seriously, even for using guitar-type effects in an app like Bias FX. If you check the Facebook discussion groups on harmonica effects, the overwhelming view is that the standard old-school pedalboard with a bunch of your favourite foot-stomp pedals is the only way to go. Even floor multi-effects units like the Line-6 are frowned on by the purists!

Sure, there are some great foot pedals especially designed for harmonica out there, mostly made by the Lone Wolf company. Fair play to them, and I'm not dissing their great work over recent years in creating dedicated pedals for harmonica players. But to me, using floor pedals is a very poor way to go for us harmonica players. Unlike guitarists and keyboard players, we have a free hand to quickly change sounds and do fine tweaking of settings, so it makes sense to have our effects units at waist height - preferably mounted on a mic-stand.

This goes perfectly with using the iPad, because it's so small and light and is designed for finger operation. Combine that with its awesome processing power and the HUGE number of amazing music apps inside, and you have an incredibly powerful music workstation at your fingertips. That's the case even for the many excellent packages of digital emulations of guitar-type effects, such as Tonestack, Bias FX, Tonebridge, Amplitude etc. They are all fantastic in themselves, and have some brilliant iPad versions of pedals that go wonderfully with harmonica. For example, Bias FX and Tonestack have their own version of the POG 2 Poly-Octaver. It sounds just as good as the real thing, costs a fraction of the price, and can be patched along with hundreds of other great pedals on your iPad screen, or even along with a traditional pedalboard.

But then if you throw in the plethora of Midi synths in the iPad, you have a huge NEW area of amazing sounds that have never been accessed by harp players before. This is what I've been exploring recently. It's taken a lot of time, trial and error and expense on various dead-ends or unsatisfactory solutions, but I have now got to a point where I have something stable and reliable happening, which is really usable in recording and performance.

I'm making a series of videos on the Harmonica and iPad combination. Here is the first one, a general overview of the possibilities:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfQDsZcYvcg

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Brendan
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Re: Midi Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Sun Mar 29, 2020 7:25 am

Here's the follow-up video, about how to connect your harp mic or existing pedalboard to the iPad:

https://youtu.be/YKOmkzTwjAM

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Re: Midi Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Thu Apr 09, 2020 2:46 pm

Here's the video on how to trigger MIDI sounds with your standard harmonica and mic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO3Q_rN0tcs

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Re: Midi Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

Post by EdvinW » Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:05 am

Thanks for sharing your research!

In the third video on guitar effects ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODYpc7hfmJ0 not yet linked here) you don't talk about midi directly, but it's clear the two techniques can complement each other in your looping/one-man-banding.

Does the software permit using different apps in serial? It probably doesn't make much of a difference, but maybe some. Midi sounds could be altered by a virtual pedal, or maybe applying some filter to the raw sound before converting it to midi could help the conversion in some way.
Edvin Wedin

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Re: Midi Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

Post by Brendan » Sat May 16, 2020 4:55 am

In this video I show how, with an iPad and a few free apps, wild and beautiful new Midi sounds can be triggered with your standard harmonica and microphone. It's easy, creative - and a lot of fun!
https://youtu.be/jzltXmY0PLY

You can shortcut your learning process by watching the full Teaching Version of this video. It has split-screen real-time recording of the iPad screen all the way through, so you can clearly see all the details:
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/harmonicaipad

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