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Discussion Starter #1
For my engineering degree project, 23 years ago, I took a flute, stripped it of links between keys (not that there are many on a flute), added solenoids to operate each key directly, put it all on a stand, and made a controller with MIDI input (8051microcontroller with MOSFETs). I programmed in a look-up table to translate from notes-to-key positions. Then I plugged in a MIDI keyboard and, while blowing the flute in the normal way, I operated the flute keys from the MIDI keyboard.
Why?
Because some wind instruments (for example the bassoon) have very compromised tone hole positions, determined not by musical perfection but rather by what is possible with mechanical keywork, and using my system, the tone holes could be put in the optimum places without causing problems with the keywork. A second prototype was planned whichj would carry all the electronics and the man-machine interface (ie keyboards or buttons) on the instrument.

Because in this digital age one shouldn't really need to learn flute, sax, and clarinet fingerings.

Because you might like to accompany yourself on piano while playing your favorite wind instrument.

Because it hadn't been done, or at least, in those days, without internet, I thought it hadn't been done.

OK, and because we English are a bit crazy.....

Does anyone know of anything similar?

My regret is that being short of cash, I sold the thing at cost-price to the university. And when my mother died and her house was cleared, the photos of this crazy instrument were inadvertently thrown away, so you'll all just have beleive me!

Regards
 

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Interesting project and quite an accomplishment.

"Because in this digital age one shouldn't really need to learn flute, sax, and clarinet fingerings." Well, you could just as easily say in this digital age one shouldn't need to learn piano or guitar fingerings either. But it's because of unique fingerings that certain musical phrases become discovered and made part of the musical variety. They help make each instrument different.

"using my system, the tone holes could be put in the optimum places…" I love that idea for improvements in tone and pitch. Especially for the more awkward key touches. But can your solenoids follow the exact velocity and timing of the fingers?
 

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well, I suppose the university wouldn’t object to you taking pictures.

the proof of any pudding is in the eating. I’d love to see it and more importantly, for a musical instrument is hearing it.
 

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Because in this digital age one shouldn't really need to learn flute, sax, and clarinet fingerings.
Well, you could just as easily say in this digital age one shouldn't need to learn piano or guitar fingerings either.
I totally agree. The solution would be having the instruments played directly by programmed midifile.
Then a software that actually enjoys this music must be developed.

Great crazy project, though. On a serious side, it could help people with disabilities.
 

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??? *** this is a sax forum..holy cow I've enjoyed learning to play the Sax..no one ever said I "needed" to or had to..maybe mechanics illustrated would be interested in this nonsense. What the hell does the "digital age" have to do with learning real chops and skill on a piece of brass tubing to make beautiful sound from nothing but air..?? Maybe the OP needs to get out a little more. Alright he's English and a little nuts, I guess we can forgive him..
 

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and yet, I think, for example that he would fit right in at the department of physics-acoustics at the UNSW


Check out this link about the research projects! (OP, do take a look!)

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/research.html

Here the scholarship application

http://research.unsw.edu.au/international-research-candidate-scholarships

Joe Wolfe
School of Physics
The University of New South Wales
UNSW Sydney 2052
Australia

Phone +61-2-9385-4954 (UT +10, +11 Oct-Mar)
Fax +61-2-9385-6060
email [email protected]
 

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You guys are too smart for me..I'm just a horn player
 

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and good at doing what you do. So there is a space for players and there is a space for researchers.

OP is a person who has concerned himself ( when it comes to this) with science which is not the art of playing (maybe he likes that too but that’s not the point here) but it is the exploration of new and unchartered territory, something that in the long run COULD benefit us all (or not).

Even far fetched ideas might bear the seed for new concepts and products to come.
 

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Milandro you are the Henry Kissinger of the forum for sure..now I want to see a picture of this thing.

Maybe mpab111 can throw one on an old Conn tenor.
 

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We live in hope! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'm 99% it ended up in a skip (UK english?) some time ago. I did have a couple of photos, but since I wasn't at my um's house clearance, out they went, into a skip too. I'll just have to make another one! Maybe when I retire! Re. above comments as to the lack of sensitivity, well, I think it woulld be quite possible to have pressure sensitive keys, and control of position of keys, albeit at a cost. One could then even improve sensitivity, fine tuning the half-opening of keys at factory and / or by the user.
Re loss of uniqueness of each instrument, you know, "the guitar is what it is BECAUSE of it's unique man-machine interface", well, ok, you could play my flute with a standard flute fingering or a bassoon fingering, or a sax fingering, you know it just would be configurable.

I did also have in mind disabled people, because with the suitable eye-movement pointing device and a PC, a paraplegic could play the thing. Anyway, it's lost now, at least until my reitrement!

Interesting links, thanks Milandro.

And why can't one be an artist and an engineer! How else will I pay the mortgage????
 

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cheers, hope that you will pursue the possibility to work with the UNSW.

Many engineers are good music players too.
 

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How would the octaves work? Flute doesn't really have much of an octave key does it? Sorry for my ignorance but I only did flute for about two weeks quite some time ago. I seem to remember just having to blow faster/ differently to get the higher octave(s) to sound using the similar Boehm system.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
But can your solenoids follow the exact velocity and timing of the fingers?
The solenoids were pretty miniature and kept perfect timing at very high tempos, I was able to test this by putting the little casio keyobard into demo mode (Last Christmas by George Michael) and setting the tempo to maximum. I wasn't able to articulate at that speed so I just blew, and tried to get the octaves right. It played at an amazing speed.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
How would the octaves work? Flute doesn't really have much of an octave key does it? .
I'm not a flautist either, but basically you change the embouchure and perhaps blow harder.

I chose the flute for this prototype because I had a cheap chinese flute and becuase it was simple. Multiple register keys, as on the sax, clarinet, and bassoon would be no problem. I envisaged doing away with leather pads altogether, a production model would probably use self-levelling silicone rubber seals on moulded plastic mounts which would be an integral part ofthe solenoid piston.

So, no more sax tech bills, no more shellac, etc! And no more sax techs too. It's a common feature of machines nowadays that the mechanics are simplified, and control systems handle the complexity. In this way the mechanical design can be tuned to perfection. There are aeroplanes out there which no person could fly without the aid of a powerful cumputer between the controls and the wing flaps, because the aerodynamics have been made perfect for manouvrability but the damn thing is unstable, our reflexes aren't good enough. Look at anti-shake software in digital cameras. This is maybe a bit off-topic, anyway, but in the end I think someone will make perfect wind instruments in this way. And we'll be playing them.
Another crazy application is to make a subsubsubcontrabass sax with MIDI control, install it in a cathedral and play it from tbe organkeyboard. Why is there not one so far? Beacause people have been trying to use mechanical linkages, and this would be beyond their limits! Any patrons out there? How about crowdfunding it?

I'm glad you're interested anyway!
 

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I guess I'm a buzz-kill traditionalist. Part of my Ph.D. work was dealing with servo-hydraulic mechanical testing and high rate updates in closed-loop computed-variable controls, but I want to keep my saxophone playing simple and "pure".

Heck, I even prefer my reeds made of cane.
 

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This is maybe a bit off-topic, anyway, but in the end I think someone will make perfect wind instruments in this way. And we'll be playing them.
I truly hope you are wrong with the "perfect" statement, IMHO that would be boring in the extreme. I like the fact that saxophones are mechanical contraptions that I can look at and understand the workings of and that are imperfect just like their players (especially true in my case). That said, your work sounds very interesting from a strictly scientific perspective but I wonder if you won't just end up with something that sounds like an EWI?
 

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If you're still creating the sound wave with a traditional mouthpiece/reed/embochure and only using the midi to move the keys, I don't think you'll end up with an EWI sounding device. You may have some pitch problems as you're breaking the feedback loop between the fingers/brain/jaw to modify/control your airstream for pitch adjustments. Although, theoretically, it sounds like what you could do is load up any pre-programmed solo, hit a button and blow and out it will come.
That all being said, even being an engineer by day, at a very very very high tech company, I think I'll keep my saxophone close the way old Adolphe Sax imagined it.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
You may have some pitch problems as you're breaking the feedback loop between the fingers/brain/jaw to modify/control your airstream for pitch adjustments(....)
That all being said, even being an engineer by day, at a very very very high tech company, I think I'll keep my saxophone close the way old Adolphe Sax imagined it.
There are no pitch problems (apart from those you already may have!) because you are blowing into a standard mpc, and you are manually controlling the open and closi g of keys, albeit with some electromechanical stuff in between, instead of just mechanical logic. Quite different is if you send it a prerecorded tune, or if you command it to do a very quick 3-octave glissando, because you might not be able to keep up. But these exceptions are what I would call "party tricks".

It has nothing in common with the EWI. Its a natural sound, its just that we replace the mechanical logic of the keywork with electronic logic.

I too, until such time as it is perfected, would not swap my tradional sax for this. But ask a bassoonist and you may get a different answer!
 
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