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Thread: EWI USB style

  1. #26
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    Hardware synths can crash, just like a computer can crash. The fun thing is that the hardware generally crashes when a specific set of conditions are matched. It's reproducible. Software can crash if a specific set of conditions are met or ... if you've got bad karma or something.

    Easiest way to crash a piece of hardware: pull the plug.

    I've never played a synth where it boots up instantly. It generally has to do some checks and then it comes on. Hey, if it's analog synth, it might take a bit to warm up, too.

    Most hardware synths have at least one moving part: a cooling fan. You've also got buttons and stuff -- and membrane keys are annoying to replace. Even if you've got only one sound, you've got an on and off switch. And, of course, if you've got a keyboard, you've got, well, keys.

    "Solid state" is a term to describe something that can function without any moving parts. A solid state (hard) drive (SSD) is the most prevalent example of this at this time. However, they can overheat and their firmware can be glitchy -- including ceasing to function if you upgrade the firmware wrong or the operating system on your computer.

    Of course, you've also gotta have an amplifier of some sort ....

    As one final example, the Apple "chicklet-style" keyboard (which I like very much) has firmware to make it work. There have been a couple viruses that can infect the firmware. Kewl, no?

    (Sorry, dude. I'm a computer tech. I deal with this type of stuff all the time )

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Updated on September 7, 2014: Yanagisawa (a work in progress).

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
    Hardware synths can crash, just like a computer can crash. The fun thing is that the hardware generally crashes when a specific set of conditions are matched. It's reproducible. Software can crash if a specific set of conditions are met or ... if you've got bad karma or something.<...>
    You have some very valid points. Yes the hardware synth does take 30 seconds or less to boot up (nothing compared to my computer).

    However, I've crashed computers on a regular basis, and none of my sound modules have ever crashed, including the Roland MT-32 that I bought in the 1980s.

    Plus I can still use that MT-32 than I first used with an Atari computer, then a Motorola Mac and later a DOS/Win3.1 computer. Although many of the sounds are dated, there are a few great sounds that I still use when making my own backing tracks.

    Plus I still bring a Yamaha TX81z on stage. Again only a couple of voices are good, but those voices do things my VL70m cannot do. Each form of synthesis has it's strong and weak points. I play music for a living, and reliability is of utmost importance.

    I've been playing wind synth since the 1980s. I've done cruise ships where the AC power is flaky, and I'm currently doing one-nighters. I play cold air-conditioned halls, poolside in the hot sun, and everything in between. I've never crashed a sound module.

    In all those years I must have crashed my Macs and ThinkPads close to 100 times, sitting in my controlled environment office.

    I wouldn't trust an USB EWI with either a ThinkPad or MacBook on the gig (both very reliable computers).

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  3. #28
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    Default Okay... I am done

    for general distribution.... there is now an EWI at the bottom of the Mississinewa River if anyone is interested in fishing it out. Behind the 1500 block of north Washington Street, Marion, Indiana.

  4. #29
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    Default Watch out...

    ...the state EPA will be after you for causing water pollution...

  5. #30
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    Yeah, the Akai USB EWI, is cheap, but then you need a good soundcard to get down the latency so you can play. When you need a good computer with lot of memory to be able to run the synthezizers, a high speed CPU is also good
    if you want to add some effects, i.e. reverb. When you need good really good active monitors to get out the sound.
    It is cheaper to buy a real high-end instrument, Selmer Previlege or Buffet Tosca.

    But if you have all the stuff anyhow, I can recommend you Samplemodeling
    http://www.samplemodeling.com/en/index.php
    They have really good sounds and software for wind instruments, me as a clarinet player can now play saxophone without buying a Mark VI. The problem is perhaps that it sounds "too good" no mistakes in sound but just pure
    simple wrong notes, but growling and vibrato is possible to control.

    To change the controls and tuning the EWI, you can find tools and descriptions for that here
    http://www.ewiusb.com/technical

    Good luck

  6. #31
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    I wanted to mention this:

    We've had some problems on this forum, in the past, with someone more or less advertising for Sample Modeling. Even though that user's comments were arguably on-topic -- i.e. you're talking about virtual instruments and Sample Modeling is a company that makes virtual instruments -- when he was asked to discontinue posting his ads about Sample Modeling by both a CE and Admin, he decided to ignore us, ignore forum rules, and continue posting in the same vein. He was then banned.

    Even though I do think that some of the Sample Modeling products are decent, I really don't like the idea of them spamming websites as an advertising campaign. It would have been really nice if Sample Modeling contacted us to buy an ad and/or just provided the WF staff with some of their virtual instruments. Hey, if they were good enough, we'd probably do the advertising for them.

    Another way of looking at it: I have a computer motherboard and video card made by a particular company. Where I work also bought around a thousand of this company's computers. I think my computer is and my video card was quite decent, as were a good percentage of the computers my company bought. However, their customer service is soooooo bad (and has been repeatably bad) that I now actively tell folks not to buy ANYTHING from them. My experience also convinced the company I work at to never buy from them again.

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Updated on September 7, 2014: Yanagisawa (a work in progress).

  7. #32
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    And this is where I add that I'd be more than willing to evaluate that top of the line Audi R8 sports car, the one that looks like a big, black toad that someone has stepped on. I'm just sayin'...

  8. #33
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    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Updated on September 7, 2014: Yanagisawa (a work in progress).

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
    I wanted to mention this:

    We've had some problems on this forum, in the past, with someone more or less advertising for Sample Modeling. Even though that user's comments were arguably on-topic (...)

    Even though I do think that some of the Sample Modeling products are decent, I really don't like the idea of them spamming websites as an advertising campaign.(...).
    I don't know the previous problem Pete mentioned but, in this particular case, I've been happy to hear about one of the very few sources of something resembling a decent sax for wind controllers. I think Ekamagn didn't cross any red line and, if yes, anybody hinting that his Selmer S80 is a nice instrument should be banned ad eternam...
    J

  10. #35
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    I think Ekamagn didn't cross any red line

    He hasn't.

    The person that was banned did have an ad for Sample Modeling in all of his posts and, worse, when he was told to stop, he didn't.

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Updated on September 7, 2014: Yanagisawa (a work in progress).

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    Sorry for causing troubles. That was not my intention.

  12. #37
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    No worries.

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Updated on September 7, 2014: Yanagisawa (a work in progress).

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    Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
    No worries.
    Thanks,

    Just some thoughts,

    Shall we treat the EWI as instrument of its own. Trying to immitate real wind instruments there the players mouth is a part om the sound creation is much harder than pure sampling of a piano. Perhaps mission impossible. Using an artificial Electronic sound which one can tweek and bend and add vibrato to is perhaps the way forward.

  14. #39
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    Well, I partially agree.

    An EWI definitely is an instrument of its own. As a fairly easy example, you'll generally have around a 6-octave range, depending on the sound module. The other thing is definitely in the "feel" category. That can be anything from the fact that the key "weight" is considerably lighter than any woodwind I've played with to the mouthpiece, itself. The Yamaha WX5, for instance, has two choices for you: one that looks kinda like a recorder mouthpiece and one that looks like a contrabass clarinet mouthpiece. The mouthpiece on the Akais, for instance, probably most resemble a double-reed mouthpiece, but I'm positive it won't feel like anything else. You also have to worry about your sound module, too, and learn what its quirks are to get the best possible sound. So, in those respects, I'd say your comments are spot on.

    The only bit of pause I have is that *probably* there are more woodwind players than anyone else that want to buy wind controllers, so it'd benefit Yamaha, Akai, etc. to make a sound module that has sounds that are lifelike as possible.

    The really fun thing is that I've had a teacher friend of mine, who has a master's in piano performance, test both a Roland U110 piano sound and an Emu-III sampler piano sound (so, this was quite awhile ago). I thought the sound was pretty much spot on. She, however, could go up and down the keyboard and tell me which notes were sampled and which ones were transposed from the sample.

    This, of course, takes me back into my assertion that sound modules haven't really changed much in sound quality in 20+ years. You now can get gigabytes of memory for cheap. You've got plenty of room for sound storage. Make a killer sample playback unit!

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Updated on September 7, 2014: Yanagisawa (a work in progress).

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    The few different EWI controllers that I have used all suffer from a "let's make a woodwind instrument for people who don't want to have to learn how to play a woodwind instrument" feel, to say nothing of the tone that they produce. That's one of the biggest negatives about the things, and then the quality of the sound is the capper that puts them in the "sorta" musical instrument.

    Of course, some people play saws and jugs and crystal glassware. It doesn't mean that it's not music that's produced, it's just that it's produced in a different fashion from the traditional way of doing things.

    The most frustrating features of the Yamaha unit that I of late have been up close and personal with are the spacing on the keywork and the hair trigger of those keys.

    The spacing shows that these devices are still in the initial stages of their design. I've played old clarinets, and the key work on same is a far sight from that which we use today. A century or more of improvement and refinement has trimmed a little here, added a little there, and in general made a newer clarinet "better" than those that Klose put together back in the day.

    But, the real killer is the sensitivity of the keywork. Every musical instrument that I've run across prior to the EWIs is much more "analog" in its response - putting a finger onto a key doesn't instantaneous kick things up one or two octaves. In effect, the sensitivity appears to have been set by people used to electronics, but not to traditional musical instruments.

    Mind you, I want the things to work in the worst possible way. My therapy continues, but I've had precious little improvement in my ability to blow a traditional horn - thirty minutes still remains the ceiling for my use, and a little less on a soprano clarinet.

    But, I noodle around on my bass for twenty minutes or so, then switch over to the EWI with the bass clarinet patch (one of the better ones, incidentally), and I wonder if it's even worth the trouble (never mind the expense - I'm using a borrowed unit for now) to bother with an EWI.

  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by SOTSDO View Post
    But, the real killer is the sensitivity of the keywork. Every musical instrument that I've run across prior to the EWIs is much more "analog" in its response - putting a finger onto a key doesn't instantaneous kick things up one or two octaves. In effect, the sensitivity appears to have been set by people used to electronics, but not to traditional musical instruments.
    SOTSDO is quoted because he speaks truth.

    The interesting thing is that the current Yamaha WX5 isn't a 1st gen device. The WX7 and 11 came before it. There are only three "professional-grade" wind controllers still available: offerings from Yamaha, Akai, and Softwinds. And the Synthophone is prohibitively expensive -- it is built into a sax, after all (starts at a shade under $4000). Something that might be interesting would be a Lyricon II, because it (supposedly; might be "can be converted to have") has MIDI out -- i.e. you could connect it to a modern tone generator -- and a real bass clarinet mouthpiece. It's still expensive, though ($1300+), and it's the template for the Yamaha WX series. It's metal, though. You might be able to do some tweaking on the action.

    UPDATE: Did some searching. It would be a CV (control voltage) to MIDI converter for the Lyricon. There are lots out there. One price I saw was $359.

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Updated on September 7, 2014: Yanagisawa (a work in progress).

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    One thing that I forgot to mention above is just about as critical as the tone of the synthesizer used with the EWI.

    The "ergonomics" of the EWIs that I have held (and that includes all of them, even the old Casio DH-100), include one other very significant problem: the physical dimensions and thumb rest arrangement.

    Holding a clarinet or oboe isn't the easiest thing to do – they're heavy little cylinders with precious little support to them. But, they pale compared to an EWI. The thumb rests aren't just small; they're positively uncomfortable.

    And the pared away body of the EWI allows for precious little purchase for the rest of your thumb against the "horn". In this regard, the EWI is as bad as that other instrument of torture, the Boehm flute.

    (Flute players, especially the female ones with the long hair that they toss about as they over-express themselves when playing a solo during symphonic work, should know that Boehm's plan for his revolutionary instrument originally included a rest held in the crotch of the right hand. Somehow, this got left out over the years, leaving the flute as a slippery cylinder that I have extreme trouble keeping on the tip of my thumb. The Bo Peep body clips (about twenty bux, this for two of them) help a lot; without them, I just cannot hold a Boehm flute in my sweaty, greasy mitts.)

    I own a beautiful old Conn alto from the turn of the the previous century, with the most wicked thumb hook you can imagine. It was the one thing I forgot to have corrected when I had it rebuilt, and am I ever sorry that I missed it, for it makes the horn pure torture to play, the only flaw left in the thing.

    As uncomfortable as the old alto is, it is heaven on earth on my right thumb compared to the provisions for the thumb with the EWIs that I have spent significant time with. To begin with, the thumb "rests" are little more than polygonal, sharp edged pieces of metal or plastic protruding from the body of the "instrument". Second, two of the three styles with which I have considerable playing experience did not have sufficient protrusion to lay comfortably across my thumb; in particular, the one on the Yamaha EWIs (both models) was as bad as the one on the cheap DH-100, which in turn was little more than a toy.

    Finally, on the "professional" versions, the body of the instrument did not offer sufficient bearing surface to work with the thumb and the thumb rest to keep the instrument from turning in the hand. The balance achieved with the horn was so precarious that it would twist enough to have the right thumb come in contact with one of the weird button keys on the back, which often throws me off into another patch on the synth (like the cute "thunder and lightning" one). This happens with or without a neck strap, and it's worse when your hands are slightly sweaty after a set or two.

    I can speak from experience when I tell you that there's no effect more charming in the middle of the extended baritone solo in the Count Basie version of Misty than to shift from sounding (sort of) like a baritone saxophone to a very melodic summer thunderstorm, particularly during the five bars towards the end when you ascend to the high register.

    I don't know what the audience thought, but I know what I was thinking.

    (I am given to understand than you can reprogram much of the button layout on a Yamaha stick so as to reassign functions to buttons, or even to completely disable buttons if you so choose. Unfortunately, the manual is written in "Japlish", the English as written by a person who has Japanese as their first language, and it's not the most amiable of reference works. Also, I'm reluctant to mess with the owner's settings, although one we changed the first day was the "lipping" function of the reed plate. But, that was just due to my flabby embouchure and a desire not to complicate things any more than necessary.)

    NOTA BENE:

    Although many of the patches on the synthesizer are of little or no use, I have always liked the "orchestra hit" one. I like playing the figure that they use at professional sporting events, played on the keys, that is a short series of notes followed by the emphatic "Hey!" yelled by the crowd.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post

    (...) Something that might be interesting would be a Lyricon II, because it (supposedly; might be "can be converted to have") has MIDI out -- i.e. you could connect it to a modern tone generator -- and a real bass clarinet mouthpiece. It's still expensive, though ($1300+), and it's the template for the Yamaha WX series. It's metal, though. You might be able to do some tweaking on the action.

    UPDATE: Did some searching. It would be a CV (control voltage) to MIDI converter for the Lyricon. There are lots out there. One price I saw was $359.
    Great idea to revive this forgotten beast. It indeed had a standard mouthpiece (0:19)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0xwku3Bitc

    and could cook too. See this sample, again with Tom Scott, one of the few great players who tried it extensively; interestingly, he plays a "real" tenor and switch to the (analog) Lyricon at 3:40. In any case, great music from the 80's.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJQhgpR6dJ4

    J

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