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Kevin's Final Project

Concepts Behind the Project

The marimba and guitar have strong sonic similarities. Both feature percussive attacks followed by a more muted sustain. However, guitarists have been way ahead of marimbists for over 60 years in terms of the amount of expressive control over their instruments through the use of electronics. More recently, guitarists like Bill Frisell have used a substantial array of electronic effects that give them almost unlimited control over their sound. My project is an attempt to bring the marimba up to date and give marimbists more expressive sound possibilities.


I used a DDR pad and one of the golf controllers used in "Ceramics" to control a variety of digital effects while I play marimba. The DDR Pad (code here) controls a reverb, chorus, and echo effect. Holding down a particular button on the pad turns on the effect, so the button acts like a sustain pedal on a piano or vibraphone. I used the golf controller (code here) to control a series of filters. I attach the tethers to my arms via the gloves that come with the controller and so my arm movements control the filter parameters. The foot pedal turns the filter on and off. To run this program, make sure the DDR Pad and golf controller are plugged in, boot up the mini audicle and spork the two files. You can use this setup to process any kind of instrument at the moment, but the hid objects I used for control were designed specifically for use with a marimba.

In future iterations of this project, I hope to improve the physical implementation of my setup. Certainly using pedals with variable positioning (like a guitar volume pedal) would give me greater control over how much reverb, chorus, etc. I want. Integrating LiSa into the setup is desirable as well. Also, instead of just using the built-in mic to capture the marimba sound, I think taking the marimba resonators off and placing contact mics under the bars would allow for better sound quality and electronic manipulation, analogous to a solid body vs. hollow body electric guitar.


Here is an audio link of me playing a real-time processed version of Paul Smadbeck's solo marimba piece, Rhythm Song. And one without signal processing, for reference.