Hybrid Instruments – Grafting Acoustic Instruments and Signal Processing: Creative Control and Augmented Expressivity
In this research, work is ongoing towards hybrid acoustic / electric musical instruments. As a first focus, the violin is enhanced with embedded processing that provides real-time simulations of acoustic body models using DSP techniques able to transform from one model into another – including extrapolations beyond realistic models, in order to explore interesting new timbres. Models can include everything from traditional violin bodies to guitars, sitars with their sympathetic strings, and even physically impossible acoustic bodies. The development also explores several advanced approaches to sensor augmentation and gestural playing techniques that can be applied to bowed-string and other acoustic instruments, in order to provide inherent creative control over the possibilities offered by DSP.To date, this research has focused on augmenting the expressivity of the violin towards finding novel timbral possibilities, rather than attempting to simulate prior acoustic violins with high fidelity. The opportunity to control a malleable virtual instrument body while playing, i.e., a model that changes reverberant resonances in response to player input, results in interesting and often musically inspiring audio effects. Other common audio effects can also be employed and simultaneously controlled via the musician’s movements. For example, gestural movements of the instrument are tracked via embedded Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs), which can be mapped to alter parameters such as the wet-dry mix of a simple ‘octave doubler’ or other more advanced audio effect, further augmenting the expressivity of the player.