[Harp-L] MIDI Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

bren@xxxxx bren@xxxxx
Sat Mar 28 16:44:04 EDT 2020

I've found that the mic choice for reliable MIDI triggering is quite
important. I've tried a whole bunch of them of different types, from
bullet-type crystal mics to dynamic cardioid vocal mics like the SM58, small
lapel mics, even PCM mics. The dynamic cardioid ones seem to work best. 

Greg Heumann's excellent Bulletini, which he describes as having "... a
brand new high impedance dynamic element developed specifically for harp
players" is a good Midi trigger mic. It's easy to cup, to cut out extraneous
sounds. I find the Bulletizer that Greg makes for his Ultimate Series based
on the Shure SM57 and 545SD helps focus the sound and, because it ensures
the element is completely enclosed, helps stop speaker noise from intruding.
These mics are very good Midi triggers also. 

I would assume the Lone Wolf Jason Ricci model should work well for this
purpose too, though I haven't tried it yet.

All these mics are great for getting a fat blues harp tone, but not so good
for clean playing. I prefer the Audiz Fireball-V for that.

Brendan Power

-----Original Message-----
From: Slim Heilpern <slim at xxxxx> 
Sent: 28 March 2020 14:57
To: brendan power <bren at xxxxx>; harp-l harp-l
<harp-l at xxxxx>
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] MIDI Sounds from a Standard Harmonica

Yeah, I'm guessing the noise gate definitely helps in this situation. When I
was trying to make this work, I was using a CX12 with a reasonably tight
hand cup around a very small (and pricey) condenser mic (Audix m1250b) which
is not unidirectional (but with the hand cup, that shouldn't make a lot of
difference). What probably made a (negative) difference is the exceptional
high end quality that that mic picks up (which is what I like in a chrom
mic). When I realized that I was having these tracking issues even with no
other instruments playing I decided to give up, since other instruments
being picked up by the mic would surely complicate things.

The holy grail, I believe, would be an acoustic harmonica that also had
DM48-like sensors or some other way to generate the MIDI data. I'm not
holding my breath for that :-).

But perhaps, with careful noise-gating and filtering (as in your case, using
the Bulletini), that solves the issue. I sure hope so, since as your demo
shows, there's a world of possibilities here.


- Slim

> On Mar 28, 2020, at 7:20 AM, bren at xxxxx wrote:
> Hi Slim,
> That's a very good question. 
> The reason I'm using headphones in the video is not to avoid extra 
> speaker sounds getting into the mic. I have two feeds being recorded: 
> a mic for talkover and a feed direct from the iPad. I'm using 
> headphones is to avoid any blending of the voice/acoustic harp sound 
> with the iPad sounds. They allow me to hear what's coming out of the 
> iPad while I play. In video editing, I mute the talkover mic at the 
> points where the iPad is making a sound, so you only hear the iPad in the
finished video at those points.
> If I were recording the sound from the speakers with a single mic, as 
> you would hear it on a gig, the talkover mic would record some of my 
> acoustic harmonica sound and blend it with the iPad sound, so you 
> wouldn't hear the pure iPad signal.
> So that's the technical video-related reason for using headphones. 
> However your point is valid: the handheld mic could pick up the 
> speaker signal and that would confuse the Midi tracking. You say that 
> happened to you in the past.
> I'm just working at home, so not using stage volumes. I have a Bose S1 
> on the floor for monitoring, which can play pretty loud. However I'm 
> finding the tracking is still fine even when the speaker is up. I 
> think it's down to two things:
> 1. The uni-directional Bulletini mc and the way I'm cupping the harp. 
> This cuts out quite a lot of background noise.
> 2. I'm using a Noise Gate on the signal, to avoid Midi glitching at 
> low volumes. This means that only notes above a certain threshold get 
> picked up by the Midi tracking software.
> Thanks for flagging this important area up! I'll talk about it in a 
> future video, and demo the sound recorded through the speaker.
> In the meantime I've made a new video in the series about input options:
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHEREPEeVA4
> The double-length version with all the missing details is on my 
> teaching
> site:
> https://vimeo.com/ondemand/harmonicaipad/
> Cheers,
> Brendan Power
> www.x-reed.com
> www.brendan-power.com
> www.youtube.com/brendanpowermusic
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Slim Heilpern <slim at xxxxx>
> Sent: 27 March 2020 17:49
> To: brendan power <bren at xxxxx>; harp-l harp-l 
> <harp-l at xxxxx>
> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] MIDI Sounds from a Standard Harmonica
> Very cool Brendan! 
> I do have a question for you: 
> In the video, I see you're wearing earbuds so I'm assuming you're 
> monitoring the sound that way. Here's the thing: Several years ago I 
> was experimenting with a pitch-to-midi device and found major tracking 
> problems when the harmonica was amplified through speakers at 
> reasonable volume, due to the microphone picking up the sounds coming 
> from the synth in addition to the harmonica sound itself. This 
> confused the pitch-to-midi algorithm, and this was with no other 
> instruments playing (such as drums, bass, guitars, etc...). That's 
> when I gave up on the idea, since I was not able to mask the external 
> sounds from being picked up by the microphone. Of course, this problem
didn't exist when playing with headphones.
> Have you tried this yet with speakers at gig-like volume?
> Thanks,
> - Slim

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