Lew Aldridge lewis.aldridge@xxxxx
Thu Feb 2 04:29:06 EST 2017

Hi All

Interesting development and good discussion.  I'd love to have one but at this stage of development it's far too expensive for me.  While I used Midi keyboards for a number of years I agree that to obtain the expertise to get anywhere the dynamics of a wind instrument takes a lot of practising.  However, there is another option, that is, to use the windcontrollers made by Akai and more recently Roland.  I have no experience of the Roland but have used an Akai EWI 4000 for a couple of years.  Yamaha also produce a controller but it seems to be very much aimed at players who want playing to be as near to a sax/clarinet etc as possible.

The EWI is very easy to learn to play and as well as a midi output it has its own on-board synth.  It is fingered like a sax, clarinet or optionally a trumpet, but instead of physical switch keys the fingers just touch contacts.  I was able to play reasonable tunes within a couple of hours and BTW I had no previous experience of any wind instrument other than harmonica.  Like most MIDI controllers it has transpose functions on the instrument so you don't need to learn scales/arpeggios in each key which makes it easier to get going on the instrument.  Akai also do a USB version which plays via a soft synth in a computer and is considerably cheaper.

My rig has evolved over the last 2 years, solo parts are played through a Yamaha VL-70m synth with a Patchman Turbo chip - i.e.on board professionally produced patches which are excellent.  This synth was produced especially for wind controllers but unfortunately is no longer in production.  However, Patchman produces excellent sound banks for a wide variety of synths and I also use his patches in a Roland XV2020 and they sound very good (Google Patchman for an interesting site).  I have set up so that I can pull in the Roland - which can play polyphonic parts e.g. brass sections, via a volume pedal, for ensemble parts.

The EWI is linked to the synths via a CME Widi wireless midi transmitter which fits in my shirt pocket so I can play away from the synths and PA.  Easy to set up - just plug in and go. I like to stand at the bar and play while the rest of the band are on stage.  It's amusing watching the audience looking puzzled as to why there is no sax player on stage which of course is where the sound is coming from.

While it isn't a harmonica it is much more intuitive for a wind player than a keyboard and may answer the needs of those who are interested in exploring the possibilities of midi.

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