Music Diary

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13 March, 2024
Using Phonak Roger On for better clarity of hearing and practice of DM48

Bypassing the microphones of my Phonak hearing aids using Bluetooth provides better clarity of hearing, but the delay when playing my DM48 is too great and distracting. I arranged a trial of the Phonak Roger On device and made a purchase a few months ago. The Roger On device cost me  NZ $3,150 compared to NZ $5,500 I paid for my Phonak Audeo P70 hearing aids with an NZ $1,000 government subsidy. My Roger On device has made a world of difference for me. The device is highly directional when pointed at an indivual or a person in a group. There is no discernible lag when connected to my TV - lip syncing is precise - and I am able to play my DM48 without any distractions.  The broadcast range of my Roger On device is also much greater than Bluetooth. My Roger Ondevice is an expensive solution to my severe hearing loss, but it has provided greater clarity and enjoyment of life. 

24 October, 2023
Using Bluetooth for better clarity of hearing and practice of DM48

I get better clarity of recorded speech and better appreciation and enjoyment of music with my Phonak Audeo P70 hearing aids when I hear the audio via Bluetooth. This is possibly due to the limitations of the miniature microphones in my Phonak hearing aids. There is a delay when using Bluetooth to bypass the microphones. This delay is acceptable given the improvement in clarity of speech.  I am so used to lip reading while listening to speech and it will take time to break this habit. Background mood music still interferes with clarity of speech via Bluetooth and I get more enjoyment out of listening to a single instrument as opposed to an orchestra.

When it comes to practicing my DM48, there is a way of bypassing the microphones of my hearing aids from my computer and that is the Roger On device which make use of three microphones for directionality etc. - link here. I understand that the Roger On delay is less than that of standard Bluetooth. I have arranged for a trial of a Roger On.

It has been some months since I last practiced my DM48 or my Hohner chromatic harmonicas. With my hearing aids in, I found the sound of my breath to be somewhat distracting. With Bluetooth and the Phonak App, it is possible to block out background audio such as my breathing into my DM48. My ear moulded fitting to my hearings aids helps to block out external sound.

What I can confirm is that it takes more concentration to avoid sounding the wrong adjacent hole when playing the DM48 compared to playing my Hohner chromatic harmonicas. The reason why is well covered by the saga described in previous postings. Whatever, I am now more motivated to practice my DM48 on a more regular basis. As an aside, some notes of my Hohner chromatic harmonicas are now hard to suck (or blow) due to lack of use.

28 May, 2023
Purchase of Dual 31-Band Citronic CEQ231 Graphic Equaliser

A few weeks ago, I experimented playing my DM48 without my hearing aids using my Beta Aivin amplifier and speaker which can control Bass, Middle, Mid Freq, and Treble frequencies. By adjusting the controls, I was able to partially compensate for my loss in hearing and I got more enjoyment out of playing my DM48 than when wearing my hearing aids. I came to the conclusion that my hearing aids are adjusted for clarity with conversations rather than for listening to music. I immediately purchased the above 31-band equaliser which a few days later I used to compensate for muddy audio while watching a video wearing my hearing aids. My hearing aids provide only a limited degree of adjustment. My 31-band equaliser provided the additional adjustment needed for speech clarity.

A week ago I listened to the track "Here Comes The Sun" on the Beatles Abbey Road CD without my hearing aid while using my 31-band equaliser to compensate for my loss in hearing. For the first time in years, I was able to distinguish the words being sung. The result wasn't perfect, but vocals and instruments merge into an indistinguishable mishmash when wearing my hearing aids. There are 12 semi-tones in an octave and there are 7 octaves on a piano keyboard. I suspect that with an 84-band equaliser tuned into each semitone I would get even better results when listening to music. I also suspect that I would still get better enjoyment listening to solo instruments than a full orchestra.

05 May, 2023
Hearing aids do not fully compensate for hearing loss.

I get no enjoyment out of listening to music now with my severe hearing loss - it all sounds like a mishmash to me. Today I practiced using my DM48 wearing my Phonak Audeo P70 hearing aids. What was striking to me was how the harmonics of my SWAM instruments sounded different to the extent it was difficult for me to find and play especially higher notes.

I then looked at the SWAM keyboard onscreen while playing and saw that the correct notes I played didn't sound to me as being the  correct pitch. I removed my hearing aid and turned up the volume - an instant improvement.

My Phonak hearing aid has 20 channels, but audiologists test for only 10 frequencies. My hearing aids then are tuned for all other frequencies by way of interpolation and extrapolation. Each octave has 12 semitones and if my hearing loss is due to playing my Hohner chromatic harmonica too loud at upper octaves with subsequent damage at specific frequencies, then my hearing aids do not fully compensate for cochlear hearing damage at these specific frequencies. The harmonics of each note subsequently sounds distorted. There is one semitone where my hearing loss is such that this particular note is difficult to play unless I am looking at the keyboard to confirm I am playing the correct note.

I will persevere and continue playing my DM48. I did get enjoyment out of my practice session. By the way, I still daily alternate running on the beach for 40 minutes and swimming for 40 minutes. I have added weight training and more focus on stretching exercises.

22 January, 2023
Hearing Loss

Over the past two years my hearing has deteriorated to the extent that I now need to use hearing aids. Multiple Instruments and vocals now sound blurred and I have lost my enjoyment of listening to music. I have also been less inclined to play my DM48 and chromatic harmonica.  Hearing aids do not fully compensate for hearing loss and there is one semitone in particular which I now find difficult to identify and locate on my chromatic harmonica. I will continue to play my DM48 and chromatic harmonica, but not on a regular basis. I have always been careful to wear safety ear muffs when using power tools, but I have listened to classical music at too a high volume for many decades and playing my chromatic harmonica vey loud has contributed to my hearing loss - a cautionary tale for younger players.

13 March, 2021
Update on Activities

We are what we do. Since the age of 10 I have done some form of daily exercise. I am now 71 and I still daily alternate running on the beach for 40 minutes and swimming 2 km. This is not the case when it comes to playing my Hohner chromatic harmonica and, in more recent years, my DM48. Over previous years I have played my Hohner chromatic harmonica only when I am in the mood to do so. This now applies also with my DM48. I am well aware that lack of regular practice is not the way to improve at any activity, but that is the way it is for me. I simply enjoy playing my DM48 when I am in the mood to do so. In recent months I have started playing my Hohner chromatic harmonica again at home. I prefer to play this instrument in a stairwell or carpark building. 

On the mouthpiece front, I use my 3D printed extension with cover plates from an inexpensive Swan harmonica - see my previous postings for details. The size of the holes in the extension I have settled with are 4 mm in diameter. The chrome plated cover plates of the Swan harmonica provide the slipperiness that I want. The 4 mm diameter holes reduce unwanted notes on the DM48 while retaining a range of pressure resistance that feels natural to me. I still prefer to use a chrome plated mouthpiece similar to that of a Hohner chromatic harmonica, but with 4mm diameter holes. Getting a CNC version and chrome plating of my preferred option has proved to be difficult - it has been a real saga. For the moment, I have given up on that option. I am still using my 3D printer as an infrequent hobby.

07 April, 2020
Classical Melodies (MIDI format) for Download here

The download ZIP file consists of 22 classical melodies in MIDI format. I have extracted the solo instrument which carries the melody from orchestral MIDI files using Mixcraft Studio. I then use MIdiEditor for learning and practicing. In order to avoid breach of copyright, I have restricted the download melodies to classical melodies - Brahms, Paganini, Saint Saens, Vivaldi, Mozart, Satie, Bach, Beethoven, Boccherini, Puccini, Chopin, Grieg, Telemann, Strauss, Schubert, and Purcell.

01 April, 2020
DM48 Medley of Melodies

I have still been practicing my DM48 since my last posting, but not as often as I should. My focus has been diverted to writing an open letter to our New Zealand Government for more and immediate action on a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and infrastructure. In recent months the development of the coronavirus pandemic has also captured my attention. New Zealand is currently in lock-down and I am now looking at practicing my DM48 on a more regular basis.

Yesterday, I compiled a medley of melodies from previous MP3 files that I have posted on this blog and I uploaded the compilation to YouTube – link here  A longer version can be downloaded here 

In my medley I have used a Chinese Erhu instrument, SWAM instruments, and Mixcraft Studio instruments. The audio quality of my medley does not do full justice to what can be achieved due to my processing audio files a number of times resulting in degradation in the same way as when each photocopy is repeatedly photocopied. My expression control of the SWAM instruments is also limited - I am currently using only vibrato. The following YouTube videos demonstrate what is possible using a keyboard: Links  here   here  and  here 

16 December, 2019
Establishing the key of a melody using Keyfinder

Keyfinder is an Open Source utility which you can use to establish what key a melody is played in by simply dragging and dropping an MP3 file (and other codecs). The key can be written to the file if desired. Batch processing is also available. As an enthusiastic amateur player of the DM48, I have found this utility to be very handy when practising a new melody by playing along with a music track. I had no hesitation in making a donation.

24 October, 2019
Testing Snippets on SWAM Clarinet  - MP3 link here

I have splurged out yet again on the SWAM Clarinet. This SWAM instrument is more sensitive to unwanted notes with my current DM48 settings. I might need to change my DM48 settings to suppress unwanted notes.

05 September, 2019
Practicing new melody - "Song from a secret garden" using SWAM violin - MP3 link here

This is my second session of learning a new melody "Song from a secret garden". The next step is to improve my timing and to use my vibrato foot pedal for expression.

04 September, 2019
Testing Kong Chinee-Erhu Instrument - MP3 link here

In 1996 I visited Beijing and I brought back with me a box set of Chinese music CDs which, over the intervening years, I have very much enjoy listening to. It was my 70th birthday recently. One of the presents I purchased with my Prezzy Card was the Kong Chinee-Erhu (US $40). I am very impressed and happy with this VST in terms of its sound quality and control. There is a free Mini-Erhu version by Kong, but purchase of the commercial version is well worthwhile considering. I have yet to explore all the many control features.
01 September, 2019
Practicing melodies using MidiEditor

Today I was practicing the melody “Song from a secret garden” using both PitchSwitch and MAMPlayer (Music Animation Machine Player). Both software packages have their pros and cons. While using MAMPlayer for anticipated timing (horizontal scrolling of MIDI notes) with the sound turned off so I could focus entirely on what I was playing, I wished that MAMPlayer had the same feature of looping a selected section of a melody that PitchSwitch provides. And yes, there is a freeware software package called MidiEditor which provides a form of looping. The start of a loop can be selected by doubling clicking on the time line and pressing the space bar. Pressing the space bar ends the loop and pressing the space bar again restarts the loop. The tempo of the melody can be slowed down or quickened by 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%. The MIDI file cello instrument used by MidiEditor sounds more realistic than that used by MAMPlayer. Both MidiEditor and MAMPlayer show different tracks or instruments in different colours so that the melody of a MIDI file can be followed when there is more than one instrument. From now onwards I will use MidiEditor instead of MAMPlayer when practicing my DM48 and I will give MidiEditor a well- deserved donation. PitchSwitch can change the tempo of an MP3 file by increments and can change the key of an MP3 file, but doesn’t provide visual anticipation of timing.

I find it difficult to identify which key a melody is played in just by listening to the melody. In order to practice my DM48 in the same scale as that of an MP3 file when using PitchSwitch , I play part of the melody on my DM48 in the key of C and I then use PitchSwitch to establish the key of the melody by adjusting the pitch of the melody up or down to the same key as my DM48. I can then count the number of semitones difference from the key of C and change the key of my DM48 accordingly. When using MidiEditor for practicing, I play part of a melody on my DM48 and choose a convenient note (hole) to play. Clicking the same note within MidiEditor plays that note. I can then change the scale of my DM48 to match the MIDI note while playing the same hole on my DM48.

Update: See my 16 December 2019 posting about the utility Keyfinder which identifies the key that a melody is played in.

12 August, 2019
Practicing melody of "Now We Are Free" using SWAM Cello - MP3 link here

I have subscribed to the website MuseScore and downloaded the MIDI file of "Now We Are Free" (Gladiator). I used the MIDI Editor in Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio to create a MIDI file of the main melody which I then played using MAMPlayer while playing my DM48. Alternatively, I could have created an MP3 file and used Pitch Switch to create a loop for practicing by ear alone. Although I find both the visual and audio feedback that MAMplayer provides is helpful while practicing a new melody, I didn't use MamPLayer when recording myself because hearing audio from MAMPlayer is distracting once I have learned  a new melody. I like to focus entirely on what I am playing. I should have turned the volume of MAMPlayer down and used the visuals on screen as a metronome for timing. My timing is subsequently not as precise as I would like after listening to the recording. The next step for me is to learn the entire melody.
29 July, 2019
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum  Re: NOISE App for ios devices & SWAM strings IN-App purchase for $9.99

Have a look at the NOISE App for ios devices:

and click on "More IN-App Purchases"

I have a number of SWAM instruments on my Windows based desktop computer and I have paid a damn sight more than US $10 for each instrument. I use an Android mobile and tablet, and it is a shame that the NOISE App seems to be available for only ios devices (I will do a double check on that). It would be worth buying a second hand iPhone 6 for portable playing of my  favourite string instruments. The iphone 6's low latency would also be handy for using Hearing Assistance Apps and one of the listed Apps might be also be a decent electric guitar.


The NOISE App might be compatible with only Roli Blocks devices and not be MIDI compatible i.e. compatible with the DM48.

The NOISE App is free, so would a DM48 player with an iPhone please download the app and report back to the forum.

Many thanks, Ivan

18 June, 2019
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum  Re: Update of CNC Engineering

I am still playing my DM48 with a 3D printed base with 4mm holes and chrome cover plates as shown in the photo of my posting on 23 August 2018. On 27 September 2018, I contacted a local CNC firm in Dunedin to manufacture a mouthpiece using brass.

I have yet to receive a reply from the CNC firm after Christmas as expected or from the model engineering club. I haven't pursued CNC engineering of a mouthpiece any further  because I have been heavily involved in research and my other website.

I get a great deal of enjoyment playing my DM48 with the above mouthpiece configuration, but nonetheless this configuration is a compromise compared to using a 3D printed base with chrome cover plates and chrome plated mouthpiece with 4mm holes. Each time I occasionally play my 16 hole Professional 16 chromatic harmonica by Hohner, I am reminded of what could be in terms of ideal slipperiness and when I play this reed based harmonica I am also reminded that I am able to play without any unwanted notes.

Out of curiosity, are there any players of the DM48 who use a chrome plated CNC manufactured mouthpiece made of brass either attached to a 3D printed base or directly to the DM48?

My next experiment will be to 3D print a base with holes the same size as the DM48 and a separate 3D printed mouthpiece with 3mm holes and smaller to test the pressure resistance of blowing and especially sucking while keeping the screw closures at each hole in the DM48 at 50%. The principles of airflow through a tube tells me that a large proportion of air flow resistance is due to the length of the tube as opposed to the diameter. For me, I find the greater the separation of the holes (i.e. the smaller the holes) when playing the DM48, the less likely I play unwanted notes adjacent to the note I want to play while retaining the full range of volume instead of suppressing unwanted notes by increasing the pressure threshold for triggering notes.

As an aside, I enjoy whistling when I am in the right frame of mind (happy) and I find that whistling is great practice for breath control. How many other DM48 players also enjoy whistling and use whistling to practice breath control when not near their DM48?

24 February, 2019
Still practicing, but energies diverted to writing

I am still practicing my DM48, but not on a regular basis as my energies and focus has been on writing an update on issues of sustainability (see my other website). When I do practice my DM48, I get a great deal of pleasure while doing so. I am so pleased I forked out large on my SWAM instruments. I am now not so keen on disciplined practice, recording my progress, and posting the results on this website. Whenever I record myself I feel less spontaneous and spontaneity is a large part of the enjoyment I get from playing a musical instrument. If I were a professional musician, then I would adopt a disciplined approach. This section of my website has provided technical assistance for newcomers to the DM48, and I will continue adding to my diary. Occasionally I might record myself etc., but at the moment I don’t feeling like doing so. The DM48 is not just for professional musicians. It is a great instrument for amateurs who are able to play a chromatic harmonica or diatonic harp. I stand corrected. I would encourage even beginners to play the DM48, but not if they are technophobes who have difficulty in using, say, a smart mobile. A decent background on using a computer is helpful and a prior knowledge of MIDI is not necessary. There will be, of course, a learning curve.

04 January, 2019
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum  Re: DM48 and Android Mobiles

Hi Arnaud, I practiced playing my DM48 connected to my Samsung J2 Prime Android mobile during my Christmas holidays and all went well as expected. In November of last year I fully tested out the viability of connecting my DM48 to my Android mobile before posting my comments. I have no additional feedback or comments to make apart from my preference to hear myself playing from a distant loudspeaker rather than through headphones. If I had included my Beta Aivin portable amplifier/loud speaker in my luggage, then I would have been perfectly happy. Well not quite. Back at home I play SWAM instruments on my desktop computer and I could have done the same on holiday using my laptop. I prefer playing SWAM instruments, but the portability of connecting my DM48 to an Android mobile when on holiday is useful. Being able to play through headphones when on holiday is also useful. Not everyone wants to have their peace and quite interrupted by a visitor practicing their DM48.

18 November, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum  Re: DM48 and Android Mobiles

In May 2017 I tested out my DM48 on my Android mobile, an inexpensive Samsung Galaxy J2 Prime. I downloaded a number of Digital Audio Workshop (DAW) Apps, and back then I found that Audio Evolution was the most sophisticated App available. In May 2017 it was necessary to use multi-channels when playing the DM48 so as to reduce the possibility of unwanted notes. A subsequent firmware update suppresses unwanted notes from adjacent holes in Monophonic mode using a single channel. In May 2017 I couldn't recommend playing the DM48 using an Android Mobile. The latency of my Android mobile was too great and the sound quality of the Audio Evolution App using multi-channels was unsatisfactory.

Yesterday I tested out Apps which amplify sound from the microphone and boosts the upper frequencies in the ear buds on my J2 Prime mobile. It is well known that the iPhone has been (still is?) superior to Android mobiles with respect to latency and, indeed, I found this to be the case with most amplification Apps. However, when I tried out Petralex I found that any latency was indiscernible. This prompted me to try out the Audio Evolution App again which has updated a number of times since May 2017. A number of months ago I also upgraded my version of Android to 6.0.1.

I can now recommend playing the DM48 in Monophonic mode on a single channel using an Android mobile with USB OTG to power the DM48, Android 6.0.1 or later, and the processing power of an inexpensive Samsung Galaxy J2 Prime or better. This hardware and Android operating system together with the Audio Evolution DAW App provides indiscernible latency. Please note that not all Android DAW Apps would necessarily provide indiscernible latency. In order to reduce latency, Audio Evolution might be circumventing the Android operating system.  

I find that the sound quality of many of the instruments provided with Audio Evolution are comparable to that of Mixcraft 8 Pro on my desktop computer and Audio Evolution offers a wide range of additional sound fonts at a reasonable cost (typically US $3.50).
Although I now mainly play SWAM instruments on my desktop computer using Mixcraft 8 Pro, I look forward to practicing my DM48 using my J2 Prime mobile and Audio Evolution when I visit my daughter in Wellington at Christmas. In terms of portability, using a mobile to practice my DM48 beats hands down lugging around my laptop with a second version of Mixcraft 8 Home Studio, an entry level version which also accommodates SWAM instruments.

25 October, 2018
Testing of SWAM Tenor Saxophone (Snippets) - MP3 link here  

23 October, 2018
Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone using SWAM Oboe  - MP3 link here        MIDI link here

Here is the best example of a practice session today. I have yet to tap into the full expression available using the SWAM Oboe. This example makes use of Vibrato only. The ending finishes too abruptly and I am not used to sustaining long notes. It doesn’t help having a head cold. Using MusAnim with the sound turned off is definitely very helpful with a melody which has changes in tempo and long sustained notes. A metronome would be of less help to me.

22 October, 2018
MusAnim Software, SWAM Double Reeds, and SWAM Saxophones

I have been busy with my Sustainability website over the last month, but I have been practicing my DM48 on a regular basis. One melody in particular that I have put a great deal of time into is Ennio Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe. I have found that using the MusAnim software has been an excellent and ideal way to unlearn and relearn this melody (see my revised SOFTWARE FOR PRACTICING ALONG TO).

Practicing Gabriel’s Oboe has prompted me to purchase the SWAM Double Reeds VST which includes the Oboe instrument. Today I decided to also purchase the SWAM Saxophones. I enjoy playing the sound of different instruments, and I find that doing so prompts me to remember different melodies, some of which I haven’t played for many years.

My efforts to procure an Hohner profile mouthpiece has stalled as I am still waiting for a quotation from a local CNC manufacturer and I have not yet received an email reply from the local model engineering society. I still prefer to have a chrome plated Hohner profile mouthpiece than using chrome plated cover plates as used by diatonic harps. I get great pleasure out of playing my DM48, but I find it irritating that it has been so difficult to get a final resolution.

27 September, 2018
Obtaining Quotations for Machining Mouthpiece with Hohner Chromatic Harmonica Profile

I have had a look at a number of harmonica forums where members have reported difficulties in finding electroplating firms who are willing to re-chrome harmonica mouthpieces. Given this feedback and my own experience, I expected similar difficulties in finding a CNC engineering firm prepared to manufacture a Hohner profile mouthpiece for me. A week ago I emailed a request for a quotation from a Christchurch firm and I have yet to receive a reply. Yesterday I visited a local firm in Dunedin with a 3D printed prototype and a hand written specification. A single harmonica mouthpiece is a trifling item to book time for on a CNC machine which can be put to better use on much larger projects. However, the Dunedin firm is prepared to provide a quotation, but manufacturing could take 6 to 8 weeks due to the firm being so busy with current orders. I emailed the following confirmation of my request for a quotation:

“Please provide a quotation for manufacturing a Harmonica Mouthpiece that I discussed today. I brought a 3D printed prototype that I left with your firm and I have attached a STEP file of the mouthpiece as requested should CNC machining be the most appropriate method of manufacturing. It is possible to manufacture the mouthpiece out of standard size flat bar using milling and drilling instead of CNC machining. I understand there could be a delay of 6 to 8 weeks to manufacture which is OK by me.
I confirm the following:
Materials: 385 Brass
Dimensions: 3/8" x 3/4" (9.53mm x 19.05mm) i.e. standard flat bar x 143.25mm long
Machining as follows:
2 x 2mm diameter holes at each end with 45 degree tapered recess for 5.0mm diameter flat head screws.
12 x 4mm diameter blow/suck holes.
All holes to be at 9.55mm centres as per the prototype.
The two long sides to be bevelled at 65 degrees internal angle at and from the base.
The long edges created by the bevels at the top surface to be rounded to a 2mm radius.
All remaining upper surface edges only, including all holes, to be rounded to a 1mm radius.
Final product to be buffed and polished to a smooth surface suitable for chrome plating by client.”

A few days ago I requested a quotation for supply of 2 x 200mm lengths of 3/8” x 3/4” 385 brass flat bars from a firm based in Auckland and yesterday I received a quotation of $30 including postage. I hope that a CNC quotation will be reasonable. If not, then an alternative is to approach the local miniature steam train society for a hobbyist member with metal milling and drilling machinery who might be prepared to accept a small scale commission to manufacture my mouthpiece.

Download FreeCAD file of mouthpiece here     Download STEP file of mouthpiece here

23 September, 2018
Trial of 4mm  Diameter Hole Base Successful

My trial of a 4mm diameter hole base was successful using the SWAM violin and flute by closing the exit holes by 75% and using a Sensitivity setting of 15 and a Trigger Level of 6. These setting ensure a full range of volume and ease of transitioning naturally at fast tempo to adjacent notes. It is possible to reduce the possibility of blips by increasing the Trigger Level, but the range of volume and the natural response of the DM48 for me are diminished by doing so. I will now proceed with designing a Hohner profile mouthpiece for CNC machining out of brass to be chrome plated and a 4mm diameter hole base to fit the wider mouthpiece. The recommended thickness of hard chrome or engineering chrome plating for high wear applications ranges from 0.02mm to 0.04mm which reduces the diameter of each hole by 0.04mm to 0.08mm. It should be OK to specify 4.0mm holes for CNC machining.

When playing the SWAM flute at the above DM48 settings, I use the SWAM Attack Sensitivity set to Express and the Style set to 0. There are further settings under Options which I am starting to experiment with. When playing the SWAM violin and cello I also set the Attack to Expression and I prefer the Cremona M Instrument. These are the only settings that I have changed with these two instruments and playing them on my DM48 feels natural. It will take me some time to adjust to playing the flute and this may involve changing settings or possibly changing my usual breath control style of playing.

21 September, 2018
Decision to CNC Machine a chrome plated mouthpiece to fit a 3D printed base

This morning I alternated between playing my DM48 with a diatonic type mouthpiece and my Hohner 16 hole chromatic harmonica. The mouthpiece of my Hohner harmonica is definitely more slippery and easier to play. I also tried reducing the size of the exit holes of the DM48 to make playing the SWAM flute easier to play while retaining a full range of volume. With 3mm diameter holes in the 3D printed base, the DM48 is at its limits of settings and closure of exit holes and other instruments might be more demanding yet again. I have therefore switched back to my 5mm diameter hole base and I will print a 4mm diameter hole base and trial it before ordering my CNC mouthpiece and printing a base to match the width of the mouthpiece.

By switching back and forth between my DM48 and Hohner instruments is a reminder why I haven’t played my Hohner instrument on a regular basis in recent years. My tinnitus and hearing loss can no longer tolerate playing a reed instrument so close to my ears. I don’t miss playing my Hohner instruments at all and I get great pleasure out of playing my DM48. I love playing the sounds of different instruments and the ease with which I can play at different scales. Using SWAM instruments has opened up a whole new world of controlling expression and I am so pleased I purchased my Behringer MIDI foot controller which has two robust foot pedals and 10 buttons. Fully controlling expression using two foot pedals and buttons on either my Behringer or DM48 will take time and effort, but doing so will be well worthwhile.

18 September, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Suppression of Unwanted Notes

Erik, with regards to suppressing unwanted notes using DM48 settings, yes, I agree that is possible, but all along I have used settings that provide for me a natural response and a wide range of volume. For me that involves a compromise between achieving a natural response and occasionally playing an unwanted blip when shifting from one hole to a distant hole. Lifting my lips and landing on a distant hole instead of sliding to the distant hole eliminates blips, but that style of playing is not natural for me and is more difficult to do when playing at a faster tempo. Given the choice of playing naturally or sounding the occasional blip, I choose to play naturally. This choice is easy for me to make because I am a keen amateur who plays for my own enjoyment without an audience and not a professional where unwanted notes or blips would be an embarrassment. For example, before the monophonic mode became available and we used what is now called the Assisted Polyphonic Mode to suppress triggering neighbouring notes, I never used the full strength setting because this setting didn't feel natural when transitioning to adjacent notes.

With regards to separation between holes, absolute separation between holes using a Kettlewell Frictionless Slider or similar device to cover up adjacent holes does absolutely suppress triggering neighbouring notes both at the sounding level and MIDI unsounded notes level - there are no blips or unwanted very low volume and very short duration notes in a MIDI file. I found that a slider device over the mouthpiece is not for me.

The next best form of separation is separating the distance between the outer perimeter of each hole - i.e. smaller holes while maintaining the same centres between each hole. I have found that when using DM48 settings which enable a natural feel of play for me that a 5mm hole and then a 3mm hole further reduces the frequency of occasional blips when shifting from a hole to a distant hole.  

The separation between holes of a chromatic harmonica and especially a diatonic harp means that most players envelop three holes simultaneously (unless they are seriously puckering their lips) while intentionally sounding notes in only the central hole. Because the centres of the holes in a diatonic harp are closer together than that of a chromatic harmonica, I am able to play faster tempo single note melodies more easily on a diatonic than on a chromatic. I have also played a 4-hole diatonic harp which fits entirely in my mouth and I can play single notes on this tiny harp as equally as well as that on a standard 10-hole harp. The presence of adjacent holes in a reed instrument even with very small centre spacings between holes does not impede reliable playing of single notes.

Although each of the above instruments has a series of holes at different centre spacings, the brain enables an immediate adjustment to the different spacings. It would be possible to construct a base with widening splayed holes from the DM48 to a mouthpiece with holes at greater centres. Brendan Power has done the reverse with his 10-hole diatonic base connected to the DM48. In the extreme, the centres of the holes could be so far apart that there would be an absolute effective separation between holes when playing. The mouthpiece would be playable, but not easily at a fast tempo, and one would need to use a sustain pedal for some melodies when transitioning from note to note. I am not suggesting that anyone should construct such a base. The above description is just a thought experiment.  

It would be interesting to have measurements of breath pressure at 1mm intervals over 30mm (the width of lips enveloping 3 holes) while a player is intentionally sounding the central hole. I suspect the profile would be a bell curve with high kurtosis which would be different for different players and which would be different with different degrees of puckering for each player. Now place that bell curve over a mouthpiece with holes of different diameters and hence different spacings between holes. Lower breath pressure on the bell curve would land on the smaller diameter holes. Less breath pressure again would land on smaller diameter holes at greater centres between holes. In the extreme no suppression would be needed if the centres of each hole were 35mm apart instead of the DM48  9.55mm centres. Once again, the above is just a thought experiment.

17 September, 2018
Testing Response of 3mm Diameter Hole Base with snippets of SWAM Flute & Violin - MP3 link here

Yesterday I tested out the 3mm diameter hole base using the SWAM Violin instrument and I found the response of the instrument to be natural with Sensitivity set to 15 and Trigger Level set to 6. Today I practiced snippets of melody using the SWAM Flute followed by the SWAM Violin. With the SWAM flute I found that the breath resistance was too great to easily trip from note to note at a faster tempo and I had to change the Sensitivity Setting to 30 and the Trigger Level to 2 in order to play the melody snippet to my satisfaction. I then played the same melody using the SWAM Violin and felt that I had much greater control with Sensitivity set to 15 and Trigger Level set to 6. Different instruments require different DM48 settings and with the flute I am at the DM48 limits of settings and near the closure limits of the exit holes. I might need to do a rethink as to the final diameter of hole that I settle down to using before ordering a CNC chrome plated mouthpiece. I will try increasing the closure of the exit holes and if that doesn’t work out OK for the SWAM Flute, then I will 3D print another base using 4mm diameter holes.

16 September, 2018
Some hours later - 3mm Diameter Hole Base

After playing my DM48 with the 3mm diameter hole base and different Sensitivity and Trigger Level settings, I decided that the breath pressure required to sound notes was too high for me. Instead of changing back to the 5mm diameter hole base, I chose to try out adjusting the size of the exit holes as per the back page of the DM48 manual. I kept my 5mm base settings of 15 for Sensitivity and 6 for Trigger Level. I also turned the Gain Skew from 3 down to OFF. By tightening the screws at each exit hole I was able to reduce the breath pressure required to sound a note to a comfortable level. The default screw setting seems to close off about 50% of each exit hole. I adjusted the closure of each exit hole by separately sounding a note at each hole while keeping an eye on the volume indicator on my DAW and SWAM instrument. I finished up closing each hole by about 80% to 90%. My settings retain a full range of volume and my DM48 is a pleasure to play.

I do prefer the mouthpiece profile of a Hohner 16 hole chromatic harmonica compared to that of a diatonic harp. I will continue using my 3mm diameter hole base with diatonic harp profile and perhaps later on I might get a CNC machined and chrome plated 142mm x 18.2mm x 8mm mouthpiece with the same profile as a Hohner 16 hole chromatic harmonica, but with 3mm diameter holes. I would need to 3D print another base to match the width of the mouthpiece and I would use self-tapping screws to hold the mouthpiece to the top of the base. The base would incorporate 1mm holes for the screws. Using the software Cura I can set the minimum thickness of walls, including that of the 1mm holes, to be 2mm. By doing so I can ensure there is sufficient “meat” for the self tapping screws without resorting to a time consuming and heavyweight 100% infill base.

16 September, 2018
Experiments Using Slider Attachment and 3mm Diameter Hole Base.

I prefer to use chrome plated mouthpieces and over the last few months I have been using a 3D printed base attachment to my DM48 which makes use of Swan 1248 cover plates. I initially also fixed the Swan chrome plated mouthpiece on top of the base, but found that the 7mm diameter holes in the mouthpiece placed over the 5mm diameter holes in the base resulted in too many blips sounding when I shifted from one hole to play a distant hole. With a standard chromatic harmonica, the reeds have a threshold resistance to vibrating. Reeds adjacent to the one being sounded therefore do not also sound when low breath pressure is applied to these holes. This is not the case with a MIDI harmonica instrument which makes use of multiple highly sensitive pressure sensors unless the sensors of adjacent holes to the one being played are turned off, an approach which is impractical.

On the basis that a greater separation between holes would reduce the possibility of low breath pressure on adjacent holes, I removed the mouthpiece from the base but retained the cover plates. The resulting mouthpiece profile is now identical to that of a diatonic harp. Removal of the mouthpiece resulted in fewer occasional blips when shifting from one hole to a more distant hole.

Ideally, I would like to totally eliminate blips when playing my DM48. One solution is to block out adjacent holes to the one being played and I have carried out experiments as described in my previous diary entries which confirm that this approach is feasible, but not necessarily viable. A week ago, I emailed a price request to Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece for his slider and mouthpiece combination which blocks out adjacent holes. Kettlewell has not replied to my email. I have therefore carried out further experiments 3D printing sliders which fit over the chrome plated Swan 1248 mouthpiece. To ensure a tight seal between slider and mouthpiece, I have immersed each slider in boiling water and then pressed the slider over the mouthpieces while sliding back and forwards to ensure it moulded to the exact same profile. Using my lips alone, the friction between slider and mouthpiece is greatly reduced to the extent that the combination of slider and mouthpiece is playable. However, there is a problem. To ensure there is a tight seal between slider and mouthpiece, one’s lips need to constantly press the slider firmly against the mouthpiece and the slider will not stay on the mouthpiece by itself. I find this to be cumbersome and restrictive. A slider approach similar to the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece to eliminate blips when playing the DM48 is not a solution for me.

Going back to the greater separation between holes approach, I have 3D printed a base with 2mm diameter holes which further increases the separation between holes. However, I found that 2mm diameter holes are too small. It took too much effort to produce a sounding note when blowing and I couldn’t produce any sounding note when sucking regardless of any DM48 setting. A few days ago, I 3D printed a base with 3mm diameter holes. The result so far seems to be an improvement over the base which uses 5mm diameter holes and I seem to have greater control over the occurrence of blips using the Sensitivity and Trigger Level settings. A balance of settings is needed to provide a wide dynamic range of volume and ease of playing because the smaller holes not only result in greater separation between holes, but also require greater breath pressure to blow or suck air through each hole. I have come across a research paper Characterisation of Flow-Resistant Tubes Used for Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Voice Training and Therapy which states:

“… resistance can be characterized for any tube based on diameter, length, and flow rate. With regard to the original questions, we found that …  for commonly used tubes, diameter is the critical variable for governing flow resistance”.

There might be a fluid dynamics parallel between flow resistance of a tube and the threshold resistance of a reed in a standard chromatic harmonica to sound a note. To make a comprehensive comparison between using a base with 5mm versus 3mm diameter holes and the prevalence of unwanted blips I would need to have two DM48 instruments with the two bases attached. Swapping bases over is too cumbersome and time consuming to make quick comparisons. In the meantime, I will continue using the 3mm diameter hole base.

I have also carried out an experiment playing my DM48 using the exit holes at the back of the instrument. I was able to play with far less resistance than through the base mouthpiece. I then taped over the holes in the base mouthpiece and I was still able to play notes with the same reduced resistance. I initially wondered where my air was escaping to and how effective the separation between the channels and the air seals are within the DM48 until I remembered that I can maintain air pressure in my lungs underwater without blowing any bubbles. Maintaining air pressure to sound a note inside the DM48 doesn’t require a flow of air. I hadn’t full sealed the exit holes with my lips, so after initially setting a new level of pressure in the DM48 my breath would have escaped from the sides of my lips. Although I was able to play the DM48 using the exit holes, I sometimes played blips when shifting to play on adjacent notes. This never happens when I play through the base mouthpiece. It was also possible for me to deliberately play a series of blips without moving my DM48 from one position. It is of note that the separations between the exit holes are minimal.

09 September, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: 3D Printed Slider Attachment

As an experiment I have 3D printed slider attachments (see photograph) which fit over the 3D printed bevel profile mouthpiece as described in my previous diary entries. The slider attachments have a single 5mm diameter hole which enable sounding of selected holes, but which blocks low pressure on adjacent holes. Low pressure on holes can cause blips for me when shifting to much higher or lower notes with my lips sliding along the mouthpiece and do include unwanted short duration and low volume unsounded notes when recording a MIDI file. I am not into recording my own MIDI files, but I do want to totally eliminate occasional unwanted blips.

My previous experiments have established that a slider attachment is a feasible solution to eliminating unwanted notes, sounded or otherwise, but this experiment has confirmed for me that a 3D printed slider attachment fitted over a 3D printed mouthpiece is not viable in practice. The reason is because although the slider easily glides over the mouthpiece when I use my finger, the friction is too great between the two surfaces when I use my lips. That is why one of my slider attachments has a pyramid shaped bevel to assist greater friction between my lips and the slider attachment. Even with the pyramid profiled slider attachment, I am unable to play my DM48 naturally. There is a good air seal between the slider attachment and mouthpiece and I am able to play clean and record clean MIDI notes if I hold the mouthpiece between my lips to reduce drag on my lips and slide my DM48 sideways to play.

Solutions to reducing friction is to use more slippery surfaces and to reduce the surface area of contact. Kettlewell has adopted this approach with his Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece I have emailed Kettlewell with a price request for supply of the slider attachment and mouthpiece only which I would fit to a 3D printed base with cover plates as described in previous diary entries. Failing supply of a Kettlewell frictionless mouthpiece at a reasonable price, I will 3D print a sliding attachment to fit over my Swan chrome plated mouthpiece version as described in previous diary entries. The problem is to ensure a tight air seal between attachment and mouthpiece. In my above experiment I already had precise measurements for the 3D printed mouthpiece and I used the “Cut of Two Shapes” function with FreeCAD to create the same inverse profile for the slider attachment. My 3D printer is able to print within 0.1mm precision. With a Digital Caliper I am able to measure the Swan Mouthpiece to the same and greater precision, but a 3D printed slider attachment needs to be sanded smooth which changes the dimensions of the slider. This will be a process of trial and error to get a good airtight match. At least it won’t involve hours of 3D printing to create different versions of a tiny slider attachment.  

07 September, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: MIDI recordings not clean

Hi Brendan, my sample MIDI file using the Sonuus i2M  for recording is short because my Samson Q7 microphone is very sensitive to distance and positioning of my chromatic harmonica. I cannot hold the microphone steady up against the back of my harmonica and record quality audio.

To ensure a constant distance and positioning of my microphone I set up my microphone stand in front of one of my computer speakers and I downloaded your YouTube video called "Syncopation" and played it through an audio utility called Pitch Switch which can play MP3 and MP4 files, save MP4 to MP3, change pitch and tempo, has selective looping, and has a six band equalizer.

I did a quick and dirty recording of your syncopation video to MIDI at normal tempo and MIDI at 50% tempo using Pitch Switch. The normal tempo MIDI file has errors, but much fewer  than 10%. The 50% tempo MIDI file has even fewer errors. I am sure I could get better results by using a Green Bullet Shure 520dx microphone and playing around with the Sonuus i2m settings. My cheap  Samson Q7 microphone doesn't handle high frequencies very well

07 September, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: MIDI recordings not clean

Hi Brendan, before buying my DM48 I had used the Sonuus i2m musicport to create MIDI files and I had also experimented with MIDI Guitar The Sonuus i2M uses hardware, whereas MIDI Guitar is purely software.

It is some years since I last used my Sonuus i2M and it took some time for me to set up the microphone. I use an inexpensive Samson Q7 microphone plugged into the Sonuus i2M and I suspect it would be much easier to use a better quality microphone designed specifically to record a chromatic harmonica.

Anyway, I managed to get 100% accuracy out of my Sonuus i2m as per the attached MP3 file and MIDI file. My settings were as follows:

Instrument  set to Voice/Wind
Breath Controller set to ON   34: Breath
Velocity Filter set to 27
Velocity Curve set to Linear
Breath curve set to Linear

Pre-Amp Gain set to 0 DB

There are many more settings which I have never got around to experiment with.

03 September, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: MIDI recordings not clean

I have done some more experimenting. First, I used my Graphite 49 Keyboard (I am not a keyboard player) to create an MP3 file and MIDI file from the same recording. As I expected, there are no unwanted notes in the MIDI file. Brendan has pointed out that Sibelius (and also MIDI editors) can tidy up timing errors in notes. I found it very interesting that Sibelius can also suppress very short notes which an amateur pianist might play by accident. These short notes occur only if a piano key is briefly pressed by accident. When using a keyboard, unwanted notes in a MIDI file are not an inherent feature of MIDI itself.

My next experiment was to play my DM48 which has a modified mouthpiece with 5mm diameter holes to create an MP3 file and a MIDI file from the same recording. The MP3 file doesn’t have any unwanted notes, but the MIDI file has plenty. I then 3D printed another base with extreme 2mm diameter holes to increase the separation between notes because unwanted notes come from very low pressure on adjacent holes. It was too hard to blow a sounding note and I couldn’t sound a suck note at any DM48 setting. I am happy to settle with my 5mm holes as this size of hole feel natural for me to play.

In a previous Internet search, I had come across frictionless mouthpieces with hole(s) which slide over a standard mouthpiece:

This got me thinking that whenever a DM48 player might want to create clean MIDI files, why not use a frictionless slide with only one hole to cover up adjacent holes. I had removed the Swan 1248 chrome plated mouthpiece from my 3D printed base and retained the cover plates as per my postings under Chrome Plated Mouthpiece. I taped holes 1 to 6 and 8 to 12 of this mouthpiece and held the mouthpiece in my lips over the top of my 3D printed base. I then slid my DM48 underneath left and right to play. The combination was awkward to handle and play, but I managed to create an MP3 file and a MIDI file from the same recording. As I expected, there are no unwanted notes in the MIDI file. This rough and ready experiment has confirmed for me that a properly designed sliding attachment with a single hole is not only feasible but is also viable for creating clean MIDI files.

A sliding mouthpiece attachment might feel different to play compared to a DM48 or standard chromatic harmonica mouthpiece. If so, then a melody can be played and recorded as a MIDI file at a slower tempo and then speeded up again in a MIDI editor or scoring software.

A further note. A sliding mouthpiece attachment would eliminate unexpected and occasional (for me) blips which sound when shifting with lips on the mouthpiece to a much lower or higher note.

02 September, 2018
Solo Instrument MIDI Files for Practice Use in Harping MIDI  - Download Zip File here  (Modified 21 September)

I have made a start downloading free MIDI file copies of my favourite melodies (popular classical etc.) and stripping these files of backing instruments for use in Harping MIDI In some MIDI files I have retained chords created by multiple solo instruments and, in due course, I will convert those chords into a primary note. I will also add the key of each melody to each filename. In some MIDI files the duration of some notes need to be extended to enable a natural progression to the next note. In due course I will edit these MIDI files accordingly. Deletion of backing instruments has resulted in long gaps in some files. In due course I will close those gaps. When I make additional MIDI files available for download, I will include all files which have been modified.

01 September, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: MIDI recordings not clean

Thank you Erik and Brendan for your postings. I too absolutely love playing my DM48 especially after monophonic mode became available and even more so when I started to play SWAM instruments.

When recording audio I occasionally get a blip when I shift to a much higher or lower note with my lips sliding on my mouthpiece. I forgot to mention in previous postings that if I  lift my lips off the mouthpiece and land directly over a much higher or lower note, then I can avoid blips. Doing this  does not feel natural for me and I am unable to do this when playing melodies which require a fast tempo. Transitioning from note to note at a fast tempo with one's lips on the mouthpiece might result in greater lack of clean midi recordings. With a MIDI editor it is possible to record a melody at a slow tempo and then increase the tempo for printing out a score in Muse (Freeware).

31 August, 2018
Copy of postings to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: MIDI recordings not clean

First Posting
I have found by setting Sensitivity below 5 (I normally set it at 15) that very low pressure over a hole doesn't result in a MIDI signal to Mixcraft 8 Pro or my SWAM Cello instrument. This is not a solution for those who wish to record clean MIDI files and who have problems doing so because low Sensitivity settings severely restrict the volume range. I will now 3D print a base with 3mm diameter holes for my chrome plated cover plates. There will be greater spacings between the holes compared to the 6.5 mm diameter holes in the standard DM48 mouthpiece. This greater spacing should reduce the possibility of low pressure over adjacent unwanted notes. I will then report on the results.

Second Posting
The plot thickens. I have just tried recording a MIDI File A with only very low pressure over a hole. Within Mixcraft 8 Pro I can see the MIDI In red light come on and the volume indicator of my SWAM Cello instruments flickers. There is no sound while I am recording and no MIDI notes are recorded. I then did another recording of a MIDI File B by blowing and sucking notes and deliberately spreading my breath over adjacent holes. The notes I played were recorded in the MIDI file and also the low pressure adjacent notes as blips of very short duration and low volume if at all. This result might help diagnosis of an electronic solution.

30 August, 2018
Copy of postings to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: MIDI recordings not clean

First Posting
I record clean Midi files that reflect the sound of the clean audio files using Mixcraft 8 Pro on a desktop PC under Windows 7 Pro. Over a year ago I posted a comment that I had noticed unwanted notes on Midi files that didn't sound in an audio file. That was before monophonic mode. I am unsure whether monophonic mode is absolute in suppressing adjacent notes. I get blips sometimes if I am insufficiently precise when shifting to a much lower or higher note. My notes are clean on a standard chromatic harmonica, so greater precision is still needed for me when playing my DM48. If monophonic mode is not absolute in suppressing adjacent notes, then raising the trigger level might help eliminate very low pressure on adjacent notes, especially if your modified mouthpiece has closer together holes. I now use a modified mouthpiece as per my recent posting which has 5mm diameter holes with subsequent larger separation between holes.

Second Posting
I have just finished experimenting with different levels of Trigger Levels with Monophonic Mode while looking at the Midi In red light indicator within Mixcraft 8 Pro and the Volume Indicator within my SWAM Cello instrument. When I am resting my lips on the mouthpiece and hardly breathing in or out the red light indicator flashes on, the SWAM volume indicator flickers at the lowest level, and there is no audio ouput from my speakers. Whether I get audio or not depends on sucking or blowing harder with the Trigger Level setting determining the lowest pressure required to achieve any sound. With a higher Trigger Level, sound first occurs at a higher level on the Volume Indicator. A high Trigger Level limits the range of volume. These results suggest to me that very low pressure on adjacent notes result in a MIDI signal because monophonic mode does not temporarily turn OFF the pressure sensor of adjacent holes. The same low pressure on an adjacent hole in a standard chromatic harmonica would not sound any unwanted adjacent notes. These results also suggest that it might be worthwhile for me to print another base with yet even smaller holes than 5mm diameter with subsequent larger separation between holes because there would be less liklihood of very low pressure on adjacent holes. A change in lip shape might also help, but I prefer to play the same way that I have done for many decades.

Third Posting
On reflection, it has occurred to me that turning the pressure sensors of adjacent holes on and off while playing could be totally impractical. My experiment confirms for me that very low pressure on a hole creates a Midi signal with no sound in monophonic mode. There may be an electronic way to prevent these signals from arriving at a DAW. Another approach is to reduce the possibility of very low pressure on adjacent notes. Greater precision of lip placement on each hole is a given must and the shape of one's lips would also help. Smaller holes with greater separation between holes could be a good solution. Experimenting is needed to confirm this.

23 August, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

I prefer chrome plated mouthpieces for their slipperiness when dry. As per my earlier postings, I commissioned an electroplater to chrome plate a DM48 matte finish anodised aluminium mouthpiece. This approach was not ideal from the outset because chrome plating cannot be applied directly to aluminium. The anodised surface, including the interior surfaces of the holes, needs to be fully removed, the surfaces polished to a smooth finish, and then a plating of copper needs to be applied to the prepared aluminium before the final chrome plating. Silver plating can be applied directly over aluminium, but once again the anodised surface first needs to be fully removed and then polished to a smooth surface.

For reasons given in an earlier posting, my first attempt at obtaining a chrome plated mouthpiece for my DM48 was initially successful until six months later when the electroplating proved to be defective. My subsequent efforts at 3D printing a mouthpiece, including ABS filament, have also been unsatisfactory. For me, the slipperiness of chrome plating when dry is far superior. For others, a 3D printed ABS mouthpiece might be a satisfactory replacement of the DM48 aluminium mouthpiece. Being able to change the diameter of the holes in a 3D printed mouthpiece might be an advantage for some DM48 players.

My second attempt at obtaining a chrome plated mouthpiece for my DM48 has been successful. This solution adopts the same approach as that of a standard diatonic harp which uses chrome plated cover plates. A photograph of my solution is attached and I have also attached a screen shot of the 3D printed base, the STL file, and the FreeCAD file for further modification by others.

I have finished up 3D printing using PLA filament, draft print at 0.2 mm, 1.4 mm walls, and 20% infill density. It took 7 hours 15 minutes to print and used 89 grams of filament. To print at 100% infill density would have taken 18 hours 35 minutes to print and would have used 194 grams of filament. I found that ABS filament delaminated at 20% infill density at various nozzle temperatures. On previous successful ABS prints I have used 100% infill. All my PLA printed objects have been 100% successful and I don't have patience for long prints, so I used PLA instead of ABS filament. I smoothed the top surface of the draft quality PLA base with a very light sanding of 60 grit sandpaper followed by 240, 400, 800, and then 1200 grit sandpaper. I then used a small roll (reefer) of 1200 grit sandpaper to smooth the sharp edges of each hole. I didn't use polishing compound as I didn't want remnants entering each hole. The sanded surface of the top of the base is as slippery as that of my diatonic harps.

I have adjusted the positioning of the Swan 1248 chrome plated cover plates to be flush with the top of the 3D printed base and also slightly proud of the PLA surface. I prefer the second option. The cover plates from any manufacturer of 12-hole chromatic harmonicas can be used on the 3D printed base. Second hand cover plates can be sterilised in a pressure cooker.

With the 5mm diameter holes in the 3D printed base and subsequent greater spacing between holes, I am able to quickly transition notes from hole to hole without blipping or sounding of unwanted holes (MP3 file attached). The diameter of the holes in the standard DM48 aluminium mouthpiece is 6.5mm (correction to previous posting).  

The round headed bolts used to secure the original DM48 mouthpiece to the DM48 electronic base are best tightened and loosened using a TEX screw driver held vertically. Given the necessary configuration of the 3D printed base, it is not possible to use any screw driver held vertically, so I tried using an Allen key which was not ideal. I have found that Phillips (star shaped) round head bolts can be more easily tightened and loosened with a screw driver held at an angle. The round head bolts I have purchased from the local hardware store are M3 x 25mm zinc plated and I have used the same M3 bolts (and nuts) to secure the cover plates.

Before screwing the 3D printed base to the DM48, I first removed the DM48 lid to expose the interior nuts. At one end an M3 X 25mm round head bolt can be used to secure the 3D printed base to the DM48 electronic base. At the other end a shorter round head bolt is required. Shorter than 25mm round head bolts might be available at specialised outlets, otherwise a 25mm bolt can be shortened by first threading two nuts for locking purposes on the bolt to the required length of bolt and then cutting the bolt with either a thin abrasive disk attached to a drill or a very fine-toothed hacksaw blade. Removing the nuts usually removes blemishes to the thread of the bolt. If not, then carefully file the end of the bolt to a pointed end to remove any remaining burs of metal from the threads.  

20 August, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

When practicing Schindler's List by John Williams I use Hole 1 in the key of F. The left edge of my 5 mm diameter hole in the 3D printed base is at the left edge of hole 1 of the Swan 1248 chrome plated mouthpiece that I have screw fixed to the top of the base. Using the monophonic setting I find that when I blow notes on hole 1 the sound initially blips in deciding whether to play hole 1 or hole 2.  The diameter of the holes in the Swan mouthpiece is 7 mm so the effective separation between holes is therefore less than that of the 5mm holes in the base and also less than that of the 6.35 mm holes in the standard DM48 aluminium mouthpiece.

I have removed the Swan mouthpiece and I no longer have the same possibility of blipping. The separation of my current base between the Swan cover plates as 3D printed is 14.7 mm compared to 8.0 mm of an Hohner diatonic harp which I am used to playing. I will therefore print a new base with an 8mm separation between the cover plates and when I do so I will post this new STL file on the forum. I will 3D print using ABS filament so that I can smooth and polish the top of the base to a more slippery finish than is possible using PLA filament. Another advantage of using ABS filament is that I can more easily smooth the sides of a draft 3D print using acetone.

19 August, 2018
Practice Session - SWAM Violin - MP3 link here

At the end of today’s practice session I recorded my own arrangement of the song “Never Say Goodbye” by Maurice Ravel and Pamela Sheyne as sung by Hayley Westenra on her CD “Pure”. I have recorded the song in the same key of G and at the same tempo.

When practicing I use Pitch Switch (see Software For Practicing Along To). Pitch Switch is proving to be superb.

When recording, I turn Pitch Switch off as I find listening to someone else’s melody while recording to be distracting. Although the software metronome TempoPerfect is useful in visual mode, I didn’t use a metronome in this practice.   

It will be a while before I include a backing track to my solo instruments when recording. In the above CD track there are long intervals  of instrumental backing between Hayley Westenra’s vocals which carry the melody. I have therefore rearranged the song to eliminate silent intervals and I have also rerranged the ending to one that I prefer.

I compared the above recording against my first DM48 recording of a shortened version of the same song that I recorded on 2 May 2017. This recording used the Mixcraft Pro Oboe instrument. Although the SWAM violin is a more realistic sounding instrument, I prefer the more haunting shortened version using the oboe instrument in the key of C, a slower tempo, and with a longer reverberation sound effect. I look forward to playing the SWAM Oboe virtual instrument in the future.   

16 August, 2018
Purchase of SWAM Flutes from Audio Modeling

Today I purchased the SWAM set of flute wind instruments - the Flute, Base Flute, Alto Flute, and Piccolo. Playing the SWAM flute wind instruments with appropriate and controlled expression using the default settings is more difficult than playing the SWAM string instruments - the Violin and Cello. It will take me some time to come to grips with the settings and the differences in breath control.

13 August, 2018
Purchase of SWAM Violin from Audio Modeling

Today I purchased the SWAM violin. I have been very impressed by the SWAM Cello, so I used my birthday Prezzy card to obtain another SWAM instrument.

I have been practicing playing my DM48, but not as frequently as I should as my focus has been on my other website. Sorting out a chrome plated mouthpiece for my DM48 has motivated me to put more time into regular and frequent practices sessions. So far I have barely tapped the potential of expression which can be achieved using a SWAM Engine instrument. It is a shame these instruments are so expensive. I would love to have the SWAM flute and saxophone on my system.

12 August, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

At long last I have another chrome plated mouthpiece for my DM48 chromatic harmonica. I have 3D printed a base to take the chrome plated coverplates and mouthpiece from a Swan 1248 chromatic harmonica.

Although the centre of the holes of the DM48 do not exactly coincide with centre of the holes in the Swan mouthpiece, this is not a problem.  I have reduced the diameter of the holes in the connecting 3D printed base to 5 mm and the left edge of hole 1 in the base coincides with the left edge of hole 1 in the chrome plated mouthpiece. The right edge of hole 12 in the base coincides with the right edge of hole 12 in the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is screw fixed directly to the top of the base and there is no air leakage between adjacent holes.

The total depth from the back of the DM48 to the front of the mouthpiece is 125 mm. This depth is necessary to accomodate  screw fixing the 3D printed base to the DM48. Playing the DM48 with the mouthpiece extension would be similar to playing panpipes. I have played standard chromatic harmonicas for 60 years and adjusting to the deeper instrument has been no problem for me. The total weight of the combination is 300 grams.

I have attached a photo, the STL file of the base for sending to a 3D printing firm, and the FreeCAD file for additional modifications. FreeCAD is fereeware software.

In New Zealand it would cost NZ $33 plus postage to 3D print the base. I printed the base using PLA, draft quality, 20% infill and it took 7 hours to print. The costs of materials for me was about NZ $3. My Swan 1248 chromatic harmonica cost me NZ $58 including postage from overseas.

A more elegant solution would be a solid chrome plated brass mouthpiece, but the total cost of CNC machining brass and then chrome plating would be well over NZ $200. One advantage of using the Swan cover plates and mouthpiece approach is that I now not only play my DM48 with a chrome plated mouthpiece, but the mouthpiece has the profile of a standard chromatic harmonica.

29 June, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

Alternative DM48 Mouthpiece

I have come across the following Sleidmeister Forum postings on the slipperiness of mouthpieces made of various materials when wet and dry. The playability of a mouthpiece when dry as opposed to when wet is an issue with a number of players.

The postings confirm my own findings. I have used chrome plated mouthpieces for 60  years and for me chrome plating is the ultimate. I have never tried silver plated mouthpieces.  

A number of days ago I 3D printed a beveled and a rounded mouthpiece using PLA. I then carefully can sprayed multiple light coats of Liquid Chrome on the mouthpieces allowing plenty of time for drying between coats. Liquid Chrome takes ages to dry hard and after sanding and polishing the mouthpieces three days later I found that the surface of the Liquid Chrome coating was not as hard as that of the same coating I had applied to the standard DM48 matte anodised aluminium mouthpiece many months ago. My Liquid Chrome over PLA mouthpieces are currently less slippery when dry than the Liquid Chrome coating over a standard DM48 aluminium mouthpiece and also less slippery when dry than my ABS mouthpiece.

According to the Internet, the Hohner CX12 black mouthpiece is made of ABS (not 3D printed). I will continue trialling my ABS mouthpiece (I prefer the beveled profile). If ABS should prove not to be a long term solution for me, then to keep costs down I will 3D print an extension to my DM48 which will take the chrome plated mouthpiece and cover plates of my Swan 1248. A slight hiccup if I should do that. The round holes in the Swan mouthpiece do not match up exactly to the holes in the DM48. Over 12 holes the Swan mouthpiece holes are half a hole shorter. I could try doing without the mouthpiece and use only the cover plates in the same way as diatonic harps.

22 June, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

Alternative DM48 Mouthpiece

I have carried out a slipperiness test of a variety of mouthpieces when dry as follows:

First, I sanded each 3D printed mouthpiece to a smooth surface using 240, 400, 800, and then 1200 grit sandpaper removing dust between each sanding. I then polished the smoothed surfaces of each 3D printed mouthpiece using Lucite finish polish.

Testing of slipperiness when dry.
1. I dried each mouthpiece with absorbent tissue and my lips before each test.
2. I slid each mouthpiece on only my upper lip backwards and forwards by one hole and then backwards and forwards across all 12 holes.
3. Ditto for only my lower lip.
4. Ditto with both lips.

With the less slippery mouthpieces my upper lip was pulled sideways and I felt more sideways resistance on my lower lip. The ranking was the same for both lips.

My rankings of slipperiness when dry are as follows with the most slippery ranked first.
1. Chrome plating on DM48 aluminium mouthpiece.
2. Chemtech Liquid Chrome in can sprayed on matte anodised aluminium mouthpiece.
3. ZAP PT36 Z Poxy 5 Minute Epoxy Quick Shot Dual Syringe applied to PLA mouthpiece.
4. ABS mouthpiece.
5. PLA mouthpiece.
6. Matte anodised aluminium mouthpiece.

I haven’t tested a 3D printed mouthpiece using PMMA filament. The one I ordered from the UK went missing in the post. According to Augustin, his mouthpiece which is made of the same material as PMMA is as slippery as an Hohner CX12 mouthpiece. I am not familiar with this mouthpiece, but from the Internet I see that it is not chrome plated. Until I test a PMMA mouthpiece, I am unsure whether it can match a chrome plated mouthpiece for slipperiness when dry.

All the above mouthpieces were slippery enough for me when wet.
I will now 3D print a rounded profile mouthpiece using PLA, apply coats of Chemtech Liquid Chrome, sand the surface to smooth finish, and then polish. Fingers crossed that this mouthpiece will be acceptable to me when playing my DM48. Failing that, I think I will go for my first option which is chrome plating. Chrome plating can be applied directly to brass, but not aluminium unless a copper base is electroplated on first. Removing the matt anodising from a standard DM48 aluminium mouthpiece before electroplating, especially from the holes, might prove to be a problem. The safe way to go would be to obtain a CNC manufactured mouthpiece made of brass using my STL file and chrome plate this mouthpiece.

21 June, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

Alternative DM48 Mouthpiece

Augustin, thank you for your advice to use Lucite finish polish.

Wiping my ABS mouthpiece with acetone to produce a glossy surface hadn't produced the chrome plated slipperiness I have been seeking. Sanding this surface again with 1000 grit sandpaper resulted in an improvement which got me thinking.

Many months ago I tried Chemtech Liquid Chrome sprayed directly from a can onto a spare standard DM48 aluminium mouthpiece. Spraying from a can didn't provide a fine mist, so the surface wasn't as smooth as a professional finish of spray painting a car for example. The surface was more slippery than matte anodised aluminium, but not as slippery as a chrome plated mouthpiece.  At the time I thought that Liquid Chrome would not be durable. I was wrong. I have been using the Liquid Chrome mouthpiece with a coating of white petroleum jelly for many months now while seeking a better alternative.

Last night I sanded the surface of my Liquid Chrome mouthpiece using 1000 grit sandpaper and the result was a definite improvement in slipperiness. The downside was that the standard DM48 aluminium mouthpiece has relatively sharp corners which became exposed. A sanding block would help to prevent this. As part of my experiments I will 3D print a rounded version mouthpiece using PLA, sand it to a smooth finish, spray paint with Liquid Chrome, wait until fully dry, sand to a smooth finish, and then polish using Lucite finish polish. I will also sand and polish my ABS and PLA bevelled profile mouthpieces and polish with Lucite finish polish. Ditto with a previous experiment using an epoxy coating over a PLA mouthpiece.

Why bother with all these experiments? First and foremost, I have been playing chromatic harmonicas with chrome plated mouthpieces for 60 years and I want a mouthpiece with the same slipperiness when playing my DM48. I didn't need to buy a 3D printer to achieve this - I bought one as a hobby that I have been interested in for a number of years.  I also didn't need or want an electroplating firm to disregard a standard specification for chrome plating over aluminium and I also didn't need or want a PMMA 3D printed mouthpiece to go missing in the mail. Out of curiosity, I will obtain a quotation for a CNC manufactured mouthpiece made of aluminium (no anodising) and brass using my STL file and then chrome plating.  For me it will be interesting to compare the slipperiness and costs of each option. So far, 3D printing a mouthpiece using a plastic filament is winning hands down so long as these mouthpieces are sufficiently slippery for the end user. Additional cost savings can be achieved by getting a third party to 3D print with the end user sanding and polishing the mouthpiece. For me, the winning option is the option that matches the slipperiness of chrome plating. The cost is secondary.

21 June, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

Alternative DM48 Mouthpiece
A quick summary. The standard mouthpiece of the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica is made of matte finished anodised aluminium. For me, the surface is slippery when wet but sticky when dry. When I play mainly on the high notes and then move my lips across the mouthpiece to play a low note, the surface of the mouthpiece has in the meantime dried and my lips are unexpectedly pulled sideways. The result is that sometimes I play the wrong note. Some DM48 players find the solid block of aluminium to be too cold for their lips. This has not been a problem for me.

My above postings have described what has been a bit of a saga for me to get an alternative mouthpiece which is sufficiently slippery for me when both dry and wet. The slipperiness of a Hohner chrome plated mouthpiece is the standard I have tried to achieve and chrome plating the standard aluminium DM48 mouthpiece is possible by following the specification in one of my previous postings. Silver plating the standard DM48 mouthpiece is another option, but both these options are not the cheapest options and for some player these modified DM48 mouthpieces may be too cold for their lips.

The above saga has continued. I have successfully printed a DM48 mouthpiece using PLA filament, but PLA is not slippery enough when dry and wet. Given Brendan Power’s posting that he uses ABS filament to print an alternative DM48 mouthpiece, I decided to try out the same. A 1.0 kg reel of ABS cost me NZ $33 including postage and a 100% infill mouthpiece would use 59 grams (i.e. less than $2 of ABS material) and take 13 hours to print at 100 micron quality using my Creality CR-10S 3D printer.

3D printing with ABS filament requires higher plate and nozzle temperatures, is more difficult to stick to a plate, and tends to bow unless firmly stuck down to the plate. My first 3D printing using ABS filament was unsuccessful when using hairspray or paper tape which had been adequate for PLA. After two hours of printing the paper tape came unstuck and the 3D print bowed. I sanded the bottom of the defect and used a fine haired paint brush to apply acetone as described in Brendan Power’s posting. Yes, ABS is sufficiently slippery enough for me when both dry and wet.

I have mastered printing PLA filament but not ABS. By this time I was getting impatient to get a final result, so I used 3D Hubs (middleman) to identify a professional 3D printing firm based in New Zealand to print my mouthpiece for me. A 3D printing firm based in Queenstown provide a quotation of NZ $27 including postage based on the STL file that I uploaded to the 3D Hubs website. My mouthpiece arrived a few days later, but the 3D printing firm had misread my specification to print a mouthpiece using ABS filament and had instead printed one using PLA. The firm apologised for its mistake and undertook to print again using ABS and posting to me by one day courier. A few days later 3D Hubs advised me I would receive a full refund because the Queenstown firm could not meet the quality standard of my specification.

On Wednesday last week I bypassed any middleman by requesting a direct quotation from a well-established 3D printing firm based in Auckland, New Zealand. The website provided an estimate of NZ $31 based on the STL file I uploaded. By Friday night I had not received a reply, so I ordered a heat resistant 3M mat (NZ $12 plus $5 courier) to stick to the glass plate of my Creality CR-10S 3D printer. The 3M mat arrived on Tuesday and on the same day I successfully printed my alternative DM48 mouthpiece. I still haven’t received a reply from the Auckland firm.

The specification and procedure I used to print and smooth my ABS mouthpiece are as follows. I printed my mouthpiece using 1.75 mm ABS filament, 100 micron quality, and 30% infill using a 90 degrees Celsius plate and 230 degrees Celsius nozzle. The nozzle was 0.4 mm brass. I chose 30% infill because it took 5 hours 15 minutes to print on my 3D printer compared to 13 hours for 100% infill. 30% infill is robust – no problems there. To be doubly sure that the mouthpiece would stay stuck to the 3M mat during printing, I painted a slurry mix of ABS dissolved in acetone to the mat when fully heated. This may have been an overkill. It took quite a bit of effort to remove the mouthpiece from the 3M mat when the mouthpiece and plate had cooled.

I then spent a considerable amount of time sanding my mouthpiece to a smooth and dull surface using 400 and then 1000 grit sandpaper. I had already established that brush painting my previous defective mouthpiece with acetone created a glossy but uneven smooth surface. I therefore tried an acetone fume approach to get some gloss on my sanded and very smooth but dull mouthpiece. Using acetone fumes to get a gloss finish requires experimentation. I placed toilet paper impregnated with acetone on the bottom and sides of a glass container as described on a number of websites and then placed my mouthpiece on top of a stand away from the toilet paper. A glass lid sealed the top of the container. I checked the mouthpiece periodically over a 90 minute period and there was little if any change in the upper surface. However, when I checked the bottom of the mouthpiece the surface had melted to a glossy but irregular finish. I sanded the bottom of the mouthpiece back to a smooth surface and then impregnated folded up toilet paper with acetone and lightly wiped the upper surface once in only one direction. The surface turned glossy and remained smooth to my finger touch. Success at long last. The soft and fine textured cloth to clean glasses might provide even better results.

I have just finished a practice session using my ABS printed mouthpiece and I have compared its slipperiness against my defective chrome plated mouthpiece, sections of which are peeling away. No, the ABS printed mouthpiece is not as slippery when dry and wet as chrome plating, but is definitely more slippery than the standard matte anodised aluminium mouthpiece when dry.

I tried 1000 grit sandpaper on the glossy finish of my ABS mouthpiece and this improved the slipperiness. Polishing the surface might result in an additional improvement in slipperiness. The coldness of the aluminium mouthpiece compared to the ABS mouthpiece was quite striking. The chrome plated mouthpiece felt even colder.

With my ABS mouthpiece in place, I will now focus on playing my DM48 on a more regular basis. I will continue experimenting to improve the slipperiness of the ABS mouthpiece and I might try 3D printing a mouthpiece using PMMA filament as I understand from the Internet that this type of filament is the most slippery. I might also print a rounded version of an alternative DM48 mouthpiece for comparison. The STL files for both a beveled and rounded mouthpiece can be downloaded from a previous posting above.

17 June, 2018
Example of practice on SWAM Cello recorded using TASCAM DR-05  Linear PCM Recorder - MP3 link here

As per my same day posting below, I tried out recording my practice session using my TASCAM DR-05. When I copied the recording over to my hard drive I was surprised to find that multiple MP3 files had been recorded. The TASCAM DR-05 had automatically stopped recording each time I paused during my practice. This makes editing much easier. I deleted all the short length MP3 files and focused on the longer length files. I have included only one MP3 file as an example of the audio quality of my TASCAM DR-05. I had located my TASCAM DR-05 on top of the sound box which encloses my desktop computer to reduce hum while recording from a microphone. I used to have a door to this sound box which I removed because my desktop computer risked becoming overheated. I positioned my Beta Aivin BM6 mains and battery powered guitar amplifier/speaker 800 mm away from my TASCAM recorder and the result is that I cannot hear any computer hum on the TASCAM DR-05 recording. From now onwards I will use my TASCAM DR-05 to record my DM48 practice sessions.

17 June, 2018
Ongoing saga with mouthpiece

When my UK printed mouthpiece using PMMA filament went missing in the post back in April, I toyed with the idea of purchasing PMMA filament and printing a mouthpiece using my own Creality CR-10S 3D printer. What put me off from doing that was the costs of buying a 0.5 or 1.0 kilogram reel of PMMA filament and postage from overseas (none available in New Zealand) when all I needed was 75 grams of filament. PMMA also requires higher printer bed and nozzle temperatures than PLA and is more difficult to print.

I saw from the DM48 User Forum that Brendan Power uses ABS filament to 3D print mouthpieces. He sands the printed mouthpieces to a polished surface and then applies a coating of acetone. I decided to give ABS filament a go to see whether the finished mouthpiece was slippery enough for me, so I purchased a 1.0 kg reel for NZ $33. Printing ABS also requires a higher printer bed and nozzle temperature than PLA and ABS tends to bow unless firmly stuck to the printer bed. On my first attempts to print a mouthpiece using ABS I found that both hairspray applied to the printing plate and printing tape were inadequate. The paper tape came unstuck from the printing bed and the start of a mouthpiece bowed into a curve. I sanded the surface of this reject with 400 followed by 1000 grit sandpaper and then applied acetone. The resulting glossy surface of the reject was slippery when dry - similar to chrome plating - and very slippery when wet. 3D printing a slippery DM48 mouthpiece using ABS filament would cost under NZ $3 in ABS materials and take 13 hours to print when 100% infill or 5 hours when 30% infill using my Creality 3D printer.

A search of the Internet established that printing ABS requires a high temperature mat stuck to the glass surface of my printing bed. Yet another consumable,  and I might have to go through a number of tests to come up with the right settings to successfully complete a 3D print. By this time I was getting a bit impatient. I wanted a final result now, so I got a quotation from a professional 3D printing firm based in New Zealand via 3D Hubs to print my ABS mouthpiece. I accepted the quote of NZ $26 including postage and a few days later the mouthpiece arrived. I sanded the mouthpiece and applied acetone. %$##@!!! The mouthpiece had not been printed using ABS. The surface of the mouthpiece was the same as acetone applied to PLA - sticky to the lips when dry or wet. The 3D printing firm apologised for its mistake of misreading the specification and undertook to print another mouthpiece using ABS and posting it to me using a one day courier service. A few days later 3D Hubs notified me that I would receive a refund because the 3D printing firm “Cannot produce this model in ABS that meets the quality guide lines". I read between the lines that the “3D Printing Firm” simply did not have sufficient technical expertise to print in ABS.

I decided to bypass the 3D Hubs middleman and get a quotation directly from a New Zealand based 3D Printing Firm. On Wednesday 13 June I used the website of an Auckland based firm to upload the STL file of my DM48 mouthpiece and I requested a quotation to print my mouthpiece using ABS filament, 100 micron quality, and 100% infill. The website provided an estimate of NZ $31 to do so. By Friday night 15 June I had yet to receive a response to my request for a quotation, so I ordered a high temperature printing mat for NZ $17 through Trademe so as to be fully prepared to do my own printing even if it took a number of trials and errors to do so. Delivery should be early next week. By hook or by crook, I will eventually acquire a mouthpiece for my DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica which is equally as slippery as the chrome plated Hohner harmonicas I have been playing for 60 years.  

In the meantime, I have been practicing my DM48, though not on a regular basis or as frequently as I should. When I do practice, I find that I play better when I don’t use my Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio DAW to record myself. Each time I record myself, I tend to tense up. I prefer to just play my DM48  and lose myself and go wherever my mood takes me. I have a TASCAM DR-05  Linear PCM Recorder which I might use to record a session and forget that it is recording in the background. If I should feel that I have improved my playing, then I would be able to edit the TASCAM recording and post the results on my website.

18 April, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Expression

Creating Expression on the DM48
Check out the Neova Ring MIDI expression controller which works in conjunction with the SWAM Cello. Copy of email received here

"Neova | A Unique Connected Ring For Musicians. Add musical effects to your play using simple and natural hand gestures. A brand new way to enhance musical performance".

Link to Neova Ring Kickstarter link here   YouTube demonstration link here

Food for thought

14 April, 2018
3D printed mouthpiece went missing in the post - back to square one (revised 17 June 2018)

My 3D printed mouthpiece using PMMA filament arrived in New Zealand from the United Kingdom and then went missing in the mail. I have opted for a refund instead of a reprint and another 4 weeks delay in delivery with the risk of the small item going missing again. It has all been a bit of a saga. My options now are to either silverplate a spare DM48 mouthpiece, use my 3D printer to print a base to take the mouthpiece and cover plates of my Swan 1248 chromatic harmonica, or print a mouthpiece using PMMA filament. I haven't yet decided what option to take. In the meantime I am using a spare anodised aluminium DM48 mouthpiece which I coated with chrome spray paint. This mouthpiece is more slippery than the anodised aluminum mouthpiece, but I still am using white petroleum jelly for additional slipperiness. I have now got used to the taste.

01 April, 2018
Snippets of practice on SWAM Cello -  MP3 link here

In the last few months I haven’t practiced as much as I could or should. My 3D printed mouthpiece has yet to arrive from the United Kingdom. For this practice session I have used a spare DM48 anodised aluminium mouthpiece which I had spray painted with liquid chrome. For additional slipperiness I have smeared a coating of white petroleum jelly on the mouthpiece.

The new monophonic mode has made a big difference for me. When playing the SWAM Cello I can now concentrate more on timing and expression instead of avoiding unwanted notes. While playing the SWAM Cello I have so far used only one foot pedal to control vibrato. The next stage is to use a second foot pedal for additional expression.

20 March, 2018
Edited copy of an email reply I made to a query about the Chris Hein Harmonica instrument

The Mixcraft harmonica instrument is not very good and the only decent digital harmonica instrument that I have come across so far is the Chris Hein Harmonica which requires use of the full version of Kontakt 5.2 Player in order to be played within a Digital Audio Workshop (DAW) such as Mixcraft. The full version of Kontakt 5.2 is expensive.

My first choice of instruments is not the sound of a chromatic harmonica. From the age of 9 I have tried to make my Hohner chromatic harmonica sound like a flute. I have subsequently hunted down the best sounding orchestral instruments and, for me, the best are from SWAM Engine. I have purchased the SWAM Cello rather than the Flute because it was less expensive. Now that I know the full extent of control over expression that SWAM Engine instruments provide, I have confidence in purchasing additional instruments that are more expensive than the Cello.

Experienced digital instrument players advise newcomers to focus on one instrument and master it. The SWAM Cello requires use of programmable foot pedals in order to make full use of the richness of the instrument. This is the case with any sophisticated instrument and I am sure the Chris Hein Harmonica is no different. Notwithstanding the above advice, I will purchase additional SWAM Engine instruments - the flute and the saxophone - because I like playing a variety of instruments. It is a shame SWAM Engine doesn't have a Chromatic Harmonica because their high quality instruments do not require purchase of an additional expensive sampler player.

The Chris Hein Harmonica instrument was released before the DM48 and would have been played using a keyboard with foot pedals and possibly also a wind controller for expression. Whether the same expression can be achieved using the DM48 needs to be checked out. This is where lack of a demo version is a big handicap. I have been disappointed by a number of good sounding instruments that lack MIDI control of expression within the VST. This can be overcome to a limited degree by using programmable foot pedals.

I too lament the fact that providers of expensive digital instruments do not provide a demo version for download. I am therefore forced to base my choice of instruments on audio demonstrations. The Chris Hein Harmonica audio demo is impressive and I would buy that instrument if there were not the added expense of buying the full version of the Kontakt sampler player.

I do not feel any loss playing a digital instrument that sounds like a chromatic harmonica. I sympathise with those whose first choice of digital instrument is the chromatic harmonica. To the best of my knowledge the Chris Hein Harmonica is the supreme digital harmonica instrument on the market and all other freeware or commercial digital harmonicas lag far behind. If you should come across a comparable harmonica instrument which is a standalone VST, then please let me know.

11 March, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

Chrome Plating Mouthpiece
I have now established that the chrome plating of my spare anodised aluminium DM48 mouthpiece was unsuccessful because the electroplater chromeplated directly to the aluminium instead of over a copper plating as specified and agreed. I received a full refund for the faulty electroplating which I attribute to lack of proper supervision.  Silver plating can be applied directly to aluminium and I have received quotations in the order of NZ $120 for this option. In the meantime I have 3D printed a preliminary mouthpiece using the white PLA filament supplied with my 3D printer. After checking out the slipperiness index of different filaments, I have opted to use PMMA filament for the final version. PMMA filament  is substantially more expensive than PLA and ABS filaments and I need only 75 grams of filament for my mouthpiece. PMMA is more tricky to print, I am a novice at 3D printing, and I have had a minor setback with my 3D printer which has put it out of action while I await a $10 replacement component. I have therefore used a 3D printing firm based in the United Kingdom (Ashton Watts: contact via 3D Hub link here) to print a PMMA mouthpiece using my FreeCAD STL file. I have opted for the highest quality 0.1 mm 3D printing. The cost of my PMMA mouthpiece was NZ $58 including postage to New Zealand. I will post photographs when it arrives.

An advantage of printing a plastic mouthpiece is that both the profile of the mouthpiece and the diameter of the holes can be tailored to suit the player. I have used 5.0 mm instead of 6.5 mm diameter holes as used in the DM48 aluminium mouthpiece. I have attached STL files of a bevelled and a rounded version of the mouthpiece and also the FreeCAD files which can be modified.

Download STL files:  Bevelled Version here    Rounded version here

Download FreeCAD files: Bevelled version here   Rounded version here

24 February, 2018
Firmware 1.20 Update - Monophonic Mode

Prior to the 24 February 2018 Firmware 1.20 update,  I found that the DM48 required greater precision of positioning at each hole compared to a standard chromatic harmonica. The new Firmware 1.20 has added a Monophonic Mode whereby whatever hole receives the highest pressure determines what note is to be played and no more than one note is ever triggered at a given moment. The Monophonic Mode has made a big difference for me. Prior to the new update, I was able to play some patches without unwanted notes, but not so with my favourite and most natural sounding patch - the SWAM Engine Cello -  especially when shifting from high to low notes. Using the Mononophonic Mode I am now able to play this patch equally as well on my DM48 as I can on my Hohner chromatic harmonicas. I have subsequently regained confidence to play the SWAM Cello on my DM48 in publi

27 January, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re Mouthpiece

Chrome Plating Mouthpiece

The New Zealand firm from which I ordered a 170mm length of 30mm half round Polymethyl Methacrylate hadn't read my request for a quotation carefully enough and was going to supply a full round rod. Fortunately when I accepted their quotation, I made sure that it was a half round and not a full round rod they were offering. Unfortunately 30mm half round rods are not available in New Zealand. The largest half round rod is 20mm. After doing an extensive global Internet search for 30mm half round rods, the only website I have been able to come across so far is the same website that Augustin used. This website is geared up for orders and delivery to only  European countries. Nonetheless, I have emailed a request for a quotation and delivery to New Zealand, I have yet to receive a reply. Link here

In the meantime, I have done an Internet search on whether one can 3D print Polymethyl Methacrylate and yes, one can. The filament is called PMMA (Acrylic). Link here

One advantage of 3D printing over modifying a rod of Polymethyl Methacrylate is that the same mouthpiece profile of an Hohner chromatic harmonica can be far more easily created. The 3D printer I have ordered does quality printing. In terms of final smoothness, at worst I might need to do some light sanding or use polishing paste. I like Augustin's idea of using smaller holes to reduce the possibility of sounding unwanted notes on adjacent holes. This would be an advantage as I like to keep the Solo Assist setting off to enable rapid transitions to adjacent notes. I am still experimenting. Some patches are easier to play without unwanted adjacent notes than others.   

24 January, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re Mouthpiece

Chrome Plating Mouthpiece

Today I received a full refund of $120 (NZ) for the defective chrome plating. Before reading Augustin's posting, I had ordered a Swan 1248 chromatic harmonica for $58.53 (NZ) delivered to New Zealand. Yesterday I ordered a 170mm length of 30mm half round Polymethyl Methacrylate for $15 (NZ) from a local supplier. When it arrives I will shrink wrap the half round rod back to back to one of my spare DM48 mouthpiecs and line up the combination in a drill press. I will use the maximum size drill that will fit in each DM48 mouthpiece hole, including the screw holes, and line up the combination as near vertical as I can. In hindsight, if I had ordered a longer profile, then I could rest a small level on one end of the profile for greater accuracy of vertical alignment. The horizontal spacings will be precise. Rounding the ends of the half round profile and smoothing the top surface and top edge of each hole will be the final task.

On the 3D hobby printing front, I have decided to take the plunge now and I have ordered a Creality3D CR - 10S 3D Desktop Printer for $526.71 (US) delivered to New Zealand. Link here

One of my first tasks will be to create a base for attaching the Swan 1248 mouthpice and cover plates. By doing so, the profile of the mouthpiece and sliperiness will be the same as to what I have become used to over a number of decades. The screw holes of the mouthpiece are likely to interfere with the spacing for attachment to the DM48. If so, then the base from the rear of the face plates will project by an extra 40 mm to allow a recess for inserting the base screws and using an L shaped Allen key for tightening to the DM48. When I have successfully completed this project I will post the 3D stl and obj files for other DM48 players to use.

20 January, 2018
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re Mouthpiece

Chrome Plating Mouthpiece
I regret to inform the DM48 User Forum that chrome plating a DM48 aluminium mouthpiece has not been successful. Chrome plating is best done on brass and not aluminium. The electroplater advised me that chrome plating the interior surface of the holes might not be possible and I agreed that doing so was not critical. This was a mistake. Continual exposure to moisture over time has worked its way under the final chrome plating resulting in bubbling up and lifting away from the copper plating. The top surface is no longer smooth and catches on my lips. The bottom surface has undergone substantial corrosion. I have a number of spare mouthpieces at hand including one which I spray painted with a liquid chrome finish. This mouthpiece is satisfactory for me to play, especially compared to the corroded chrome plated mouthpiece. Silver plating can be directly electroplated on aluminium. The anodised surface of the DM48 mouthpiece would need to be stripped off before electroplating. Another alternative is to use a 12 hole Hohner mouthpiece attached to a 3D printed base which in turn is attached to the body of the DM48. Brendan Power has used this approach for his 10 hole harp. The chrome plated mouthpieces of my Hohner chromatic harmonicas have proved to be durable over decades of playing, so this alternative would be the least risk option.

The chrome plating failure was not caused by moisture. I have lifted up and removed slivers of the chrome plating. There is a white powdery residue underneath the chrome plating which indicates faulty electroplating. I am not prepared to risk faulty silver plating and the safe alternative is to use a chrome plated mouthpiece and cover plates from a 12 hole chromatic harmonica attached to a 3D printed base. I could use the mouthpiece and cover plates from my 12 hole Hohner Chromonica 270, but I am not too keen on this option because the holes are square and I prefer the round holes on my 16 hole chromatic harmonicas. One option is to purchase Hohner cover plates and a mouthpiece with round holes for US $108 plus postage. A less costly option is to the cover plates and mouthpiece with round holes from a 12 hole Swan 1248 chromatic harmonica. The cost on eBay would be US $42 with free delivery to New Zealand.

18 December, 2017
Getting More Expression out of the DM48

I have been practicing my DM48 over the last 4 weeks with a focus on controlling expression using my Behringer FCB1010 MIDI Foot Controller.

I now use only 2 channels instead of 4 which enables me to apply foot pedal expression to all notes whenever a particular VST instrument plugin is unable to receive ALL channels. See my PLAYING THE DM48 section for more detail.

In recent weeks I have come across the MuLab Free DAW which provides control of all expression parameters that are available for control within a VST instrument plugin. See my MY COMPUTER & DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSHOP (DAW) SETUP section for more detail.

23 November, 2017
Practicing DM48 Mixcraft Pro Oboe -  MP3 link here

I enjoyed this session. It does take more concentration playing the DM48 to avoid unwanted notes as compared to playing my Hohner chromatic harmonicas, but I much prefer the tone of the Mixcraft Oboe.  

06 October, 2017
Practicing DM48 Snippets of Melodies - MP3 link here     Diary note revised 19 November 2017

I have been busy on my other website. For this practice I have used a metronome for the first time. It is definitely helpful and I will continue using it.

When playing my DM48 I am still sounding unwanted simultaneous notes which are adjacent to the notes which I want to play and actually do play. This may be due to my not practicing on my DM48 on a regular basis. If I haven’t played my 16 hole Hohner chromatic harmonica for a number of months, I occasionally play a wrong note as opposed to an unwanted note when the note I want to play is many holes away from the previous note. Just like in tennis when you know that the ball you have just hit will go beyond the back line before it actually does, I am aware of playing the wrong note and the wrong note is not unexpected.

The Hohner instrument provides feedback as to the correct positioning so as to avoid making the same mistake again. By doing so, a feel for the correct positioning of notes is reinforced. If I haven’t played my Hohner instruments for a number of months, I simply do not play the wrong note when the holes of the notes are grouped closely together. In terms of error free playing, this is not the case with the DM48. Every simultaneous unwanted note on the DM48 is adjacent to the notes that I wish to play and do play. When these unwanted notes occur, they are unexpected and seem to be at random. Consistent reinforcement of correct and more precise positioning over each hole is therefore lacking. Changing the settings of ‘Solo Assist’ help to suppress and prevent these unwanted adjacent notes, but too high a setting changes the natural feel of the instrument. Even though some VSTs are easier to play without any unwanted notes than other VSTs, the DM48 is less forgiving than my Hohner chromatic harmonicas. More precise positioning over each hole is needed.

When I first started playing the DM48, I had expectations that I would eventually gain the same proficiency of error free playing that I have developed over 60 years on my Hohner instruments. This might be possible if I were to practice on a regular daily basis on the DM48, but I doubt that I will ever do that. I have too many other interests and my urge or passion to play a musical instrument is intermittent. Early on I toyed with the possibility of playing my DM48 in public and busking, an activity which would challenge my comfort zone. As a dare I would rise to the challenge of playing my Hohner chromatic harmonicas in public, but I would not play my DM48 in public as I have no wish to unnecessarily embarrass myself.

Do I have any regrets about buying my DM48? No, I am pleased that I bought my DM48 and and I will get many years of pleasure out of playing it, but my playing will be in private from now on. This diary note might be my last.

14 September, 2017
Practicing - Garritan Instruments - Snippets of Melodies - MP3 link here

11 September, 2017
Practicing - Garritan Oboe - “Bright Eyes” Melody - MP3 link here

OK, enough with testing out instruments and DM48 settings. Now down to practice. Comment - I need to slow this melody down and use a metronome or play along with a recording of the melody to improve my timing.

09 September, 2017
Settings for Sample Modeling Cello SWAM Engine VST Continued #2

I haven’t played my DM48 since 30 August as I have devoted my time to developing an e-Learning course and video of that course. Upon returning to play the Cello SWAM VST, I have found that the following DM48 settings are best with Mixcraft set up with one channel and the VST set to ALL channels in.

Sensitivity: 15; Response: Linear; Trigger Level: 6; Solo Assist: 6; Tuning: Solo; MIDI CC No: 11 Expression; MIDI Velocity: 127; MIDI channel: 1; Double Notes: Block; Gain Skew: 3.

This is the first VST that I Have tested which requires blocking of double notes. I have also found that 4 channels out of my DM48 to 4 channels in to be inferior to the above settings. This may be due to the greater demands on computer resources when using multiple Cello SWAM VSTs set up on four channels.

30 August, 2017
Settings for Sample Modeling Cello SWAM Engine VST Continued #1

On further investigation of the settings within the Cello SWAM engine, I have found that the VST allows different settings for MIDI Channel IN, namely ALL, Channel 1, Channel 2, etc. I have accordingly set up 4 tracks in Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio with MIDI IN set to 1 to 4 respectively. I can now use the same DM48 channel setting of Multich 1-4 for all my VSTs and other settings. I note that with the Cello SWAM engine VST that all 4 tracks play at the same time instead of as per the DM48 hole being played. The output volume is much greater than that for a single track with a MIDI IN set to ALL in both Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio and the Cello SWAM VST.

27 August, 2017
Settings for Sample Modeling Cello SWAM Engine VST

I prefer to use 4 channels when playing my DM48, but the following settings are the best for me to play the above instrument without unwanted notes and, in particular, to play all notes as and when I expect them to play.  

Sensitivity: 15; Response: Linear; Trigger Level: 6; Solo Assist: 6; Tuning: Solo; MIDI CC No: 11 Expression; MIDI Velocity: 127; MIDI channel: 1; Double Notes: Allow; Gain Skew: 3.

If I set Trigger Level too high, e.g. 10, then the setting sometimes prevents a note from sounding unless I maintain a minimum breath pressure at all times.

If I set Solo Assist too high, e.g. 10, then the setting sometimes blocks playing adjacent notes.

When playing the Garritan ARIA player and Mixcraft VSTs I use the following DM48 settings:

Sensitivity: 15; Response: Linear; Trigger Level: 10; Solo Assist: Off; Tuning: Solo; MIDI CC No: 11 Expression; MIDI Velocity: 127; MIDI channel: Multich 1-4; Double Notes: Allow; Gain Skew: 3.

14 August, 2017
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Settings

Beginner’s Settings
David, I have recorded the progression of my experiments, including settings, in a diary on my website.

It has been a learning curve for me. For example, when I started out playing my DM48 I changed the sensitivity setting on my DM48 according to the VST I was using. Some VSTs sound quieter and some louder. I now adjust the volume of my amplifier system (Steinberg UR22 USB Audio Interface and Beta Aivin Guitar Amplifier) accordingly and keep my DM48 sensitivity setting low in order to retain a wider dynamic range.

When I started out using only one DM48 MIDI channel out, I needed to use solo assist to avoid unwanted notes. I would still need to use Solo Assist to avoid unwanted notes if using only one DM48 channel out, but I now use four DM48 channels out.

As I have become more used to playing the DM48 I have perhaps adjusted to playing each hole more precisely square on. I now turn Solo Assist off when using 4 channels.

I suspect the trigger level is more of a personal setting which is a balance between sensitivity and avoiding unwanted notes.

The DM48 has a number of settings. Inexpensive VSTs have similar hardwired settings. Expensive sophisticated VSTs (e.g. Sample Modeling SWAM engine instruments) have a wider range of settings, including variable settings which can be controlled using the pitch bend wheel, modulation wheel, and sustain pedal on a MIDI keyboards or foot pedal and foot buttons on a MIDI controller (e.g. Behringer MIDI Foot Controller FCB1010). The overall effect coming out of the speakers is the end result of a combination of the DM48 settings and the settings of the VST. Sophisticated VSTs enable savings of settings. The DM48 also saves settings. The approach I prefer to adopt is to reserve the DM48 settings for changes in Octave Transp and Key Transp and control of sliders while keeping all other settings fixed. My approach now is to adjust the settings in the VST to suit my preferences according to the fixed settings in my DM48 and then save the VST settings. The DAW file saves the number of tracks and MIDI channels allocated to each track, the VST instrument (patch), and the settings of the VST. The filename of the DAW file can be used to describe the setup (see my posting on filename convention of DAW files).

29 July, 2017
Electric Guitar Experiment Warts & All - MP3 link here

Today I was looking for a electric guitar instrument among the many VST plugins that that I have collected so far, and I came across one called ‘Alien 3003 Bass Synthesiser’ with a ‘Acid Pulse’ patch which sounded promising. This patch has a sharp attack and a sharp release with sharp zero breath pressure, but enables a sustain upon a gradual reduction in breath pressure. The patch was initially difficult to play without unwanted notes.

I experimented with different settings on my DM48 to gain better control, and these settings were very different from most of my other patches. Some six minutes into the experiment I added DM48 bending which I normally turn off. By the end of the experiment I was still playing unwanted notes. The main reason for unwanted notes was that I needed to maintain a constant minimum background breath pressure between notes otherwise the next note wouldn’t respond as expected. I had to breathe through my noise to provide this constant minimum pressure and, in doing so, it was the first time that I felt I was playing the DM48 from the back of my throat in the same way that I feel when playing my Hohner chromatic harmonicas.

I have yet to experiment with the many settings of this patch and, by altering the settings on my DM48, I might be able to make the patch easier to play without unwanted notes. All in all, this patch is very promising as an electric guitar. It is also a reminder and an example of the extent that settings of the DM48 need to be altered in order to avoid unwanted notes.

Some patches are easier to play than other patches of the same instrument without major changes to the DM48 settings. Patches with a sharp attack are generally more difficult to play on the DM48. The DM48 is a MIDI wind controller more suited for playing wind and string instruments. But there are VST plugins and patches out there which have a sharp attack - pianos for example - which can be played without unwanted notes on the DM48. It is just a case of identifying them. I wish that more of the expensive VST plugins provide a demo version.

28 July, 2017
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Filenames

Filename convention of DAW files to enable a record of settings and quick changes to instruments
The following filename convention (or similar) might be helpful for those who play a variety of instruments with different settings. The range of notes in the sample based Garritan Orchestral Instruments VST plugin differ from instrument to instument. This has prompted me to develop the following convention for the name of the DAW file (empty of MIDI notes) in which the DAW and VST plugin settings are saved. Each DAW settings file enables a quick shift from instrument to instrument with different settings. Changes to settings during playing can be achieved by sending MIDI Control Change messages to the DAW using a MIDI controller with foot buttons and pedals.

The name of the VST plugin patch (Instrument) and the  name of the VST plugin or Effect which modifies that patch (instrument) are used in the filename in the order of chaining.

1. Name of VST plugin. e.g. ARIA, MiniErhu.
2. Number of MIDI channels OUT of DM48 e.g. X04. 4 MIDI channels OUT of the DM48 is best in order to avoid unwanted notes, so set up 4 tracks in the DAW. If the VST plugin can handle 4 MIDI channels IN, then one track is sufficient.
3. Depending on the VST plugin and context, the MIDI channels setting for each track could be set to ALL for each track or the MIDI channel IN corresponding to the DM48 MIDI channel OUT. e.g. ALL or 1to4.
4. Name of patch (instrument) in VST plugin if more than one patch (instrument) in the VST plugin.
5. Name of the expression set as a default in the VST plugin controlling that patch (instrument) on each track. e.g, AutoLegato, Sustain, Vibrato, NonVibrato.
6. DM48 Key Transpose setting so that lowest note of the patch (instrument) is at minimum hole number for the preferred key. e.g KeyMinus2, KeyPlus2.
7. DM48 Octave Transp setting so that the widest range of notes are included over the 12 holes. e.g OctaveMinus1, OctavePlus1.
Examples of filenames:
PIZmidTranspose-PianissinoX04To1to4-settings.mx8 (Turn tracks on and off for chords)

25 July, 2017
Chrome plated DM48 mouthpiece has arrived in Dunedin

Precious Metal Services based in Auckland (New Zealand) has done an excellent job in chrome plating the mouthpiece of my DM48 harmonica. I have referred to a specification for chrome plating in my 2 July 2017 diary entry.

22 July, 2017
Copy of postings to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Setup on DAW

DM48 SETUP WITH DAW:  4 MIDI channels OUT to 4 MIDI channels IN on 4 tracks or ALL channels IN on one track
In order to play the DM48 as naturally as a standard chromatic harmonica, I have found that setting the MIDI Channel to Multich 1-4 (4 channels OUT) is a primary must followed by adjusting Sensitivity (adjusting the volume control on the amplifier output has the same effect for me), Trigger level, and Solo Assist to personally best suit the patches (instruments) within a VST plugin. The DAW I use is Mixcraft 8 Pro. In my early experiments playing the synthesised patches provided within Mixcraft, I found that I had to set up 4 separate instrument tracks 1 to 4 with MIDI channel IN of each track set to channels 1 to 4 respectively. I got garbled sound using only one track with the MIDI channel IN set to ALL. Some DAWS may have a feature where a group of MIDI channels IN can be selected.

Now that I have experimented with a number of more sophisticated VST plugins, I have found that using only one track with some VST plugins is sufficient provided the MIDI channel IN of that track is set to ALL within Mixcraft 8. With the same sophisticated VST plugins, if I use 4 tracks with MIDI channel IN set to 1 to 4 respectively, then each track records all MIDI notes. Using 4 tracks is therefore redundant if one is recording only a DM48 player. However, if a MIDI keyboard player is recorded simultaneously, then using 4 tracks and 4 MIDI channels IN for the DM48 and track 5 with MIDI channel IN set to 5 for the MIDI keyboard would be necessary in order to separate the MIDI content being recorded.

Benchmark of expression and MIDI control features for commercial sampled based VST plugins
The expression and MIDI control features of Pianoteq set a bench mark against which the capabilities of other sampled based VST plugin instruments can be compared. Unlike many providers of commercial sample based VST plugins, Pianoteq provides a free trial. 8 Notes are disabled (F#1, G#1, A#1, C#5, D#5, F#5, G#5 and A#5) and the VST must be restarted after 20 minutes. I put Pianoteq through its paces using the key of C and I was most impressed as to how easily I was able to play single note melodies. But I was more impressed by the range of features provided to change expression and the ease that a MIDI controller could make use of those features.
Within my Mixcraft 8 Pro DAW, Pianoteq played chords with no problems using Tonespace 2.5, a MIDI chord generator which I have referred to in another posting. I was able to set up Pianoteq on separate tracks and using the PIZ midiTranspose VST plugin on each track with different settings I was able to play a variety of chords by manually turning different tracks on and off.  The next step is to turn combinations of tracks on and off by using control messages via a MIDI controller - for example the Behringer FCB1010 Foot Pedal Controller that I have referred to in another posting.

15 July, 2017
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Single Notes & Chords

Playing Single notes and Chords within the DM48 Solo Scale
Augustin, thank you for your Easy Chord Tuning example. I know that I installed your MIDI file correctly because I first installed Erik’s tuning example and it played as described. I installed your MIDI file using the same procedure.

Before installing your MIDI file, I was semi expecting that playing one hole on the DM48 would produce more than one note as a chord, but after seeing your MIDI file layout on screen with a progression of only single notes and not chords, I then realised this was not the case. In hindsight, I suppose an ability of the DM48 to play more than one note on each hole is a big ask. There are VST plugins that can do this for us - for example the Tonespace VST plugin that I have referred to in another posting. After reading your posting more carefully and playing my DM48 using your Easy Chord Tuning example, I realised that you had rearranged adjacent notes so that if you play more than one hole, you get harmonious instead of discordant chords. Well done.

A wish list of mine would be the ability to shift from a single note in the Solo scale arrangement of notes to a Major or Minor chord in the same arrangement of primary notes within each chord at the press of Slider 2 and 3.

The above wish list got me thinking about alternative ways of shifting from single notes to different chords at will while playing at all times in the Solo scale. The more I read about MIDI, the more I have become aware of its flexibility. A simple way of creating chords is to set up multiple tracks on a DAW each of which transpose a single note played by the DM48 by a predetermined number of semitones. My Mixcraft 8 DAW does not allow real time transposition of notes within a MIDI track, so I have installed the PIZ midiTranspose VST plugin on each track with different settings. By manually turning different tracks on and off I am able to play and record single notes or a variety of different chords. The next step is to turn combinations of tracks on and off by using control messages via a MIDI controller - for example the Behringer FCB1010 Foot Pedal Controller that I have referred to in another posting.

14 July, 2017
Copy of postings to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Foot Pedals

Behringer MIDI Foot Controller  FCB1010
A few weeks before purchasing my Behringer FCB1010 MIDI foot pedal controller I asked a professional musician playing at a bar how much his foot pedal controller cost and he told me NZ $1,000. His foot pedal controller was similar in the number and layout of foot buttons and double pedals to my FCB1010 for which I paid NZ $349, hence my comment in an earlier posting about it being value for money. To purchase a basic MIDI controller and two separate foot pedals in New Zealand would cost at least $300 and the FCB1010 with its additional foot buttons provides much greater functionality. I am very impressed by how rugged my FCB1010 is and especially the action of its pedals compared to the cheap sustain foot pedal I purchased for my MIDI keyboard. For a keen amateur musician, the FCB1010 is perhaps an overkill, but I have never regretted paying more than necessary for my immediate needs in order to future proof. I am not impressed by the fiddly and tiresome routine required to program the FCB1010 which involves multiple use of the same foot buttons under different contexts to enter data into a display that shows a maximum of only 3 digits. Compared to programming my Samson Graphite 49 keyboard, manually programming the FCB1010 using foot buttons is cumbersome and its manual needs a rewrite. Fortunately there are numbers of websites and YouTube videos out there which provide quick and much better assistance and the PC FCB1010 editor for Windows is very user friendly.

MIDI Chord Generator
Tonespace v2.5.544 Chord Generator and Visualizer is available as a free download and use VST plugin. After testing it out in my Mixcraft 8 Pro DAW I immediately paid a well deserving donation
The above website link provides excellent documentation on how to use the VST plugin and also a video demo of its functionality.
The above website and YouTube also provide videos on how to install the VST into various DAWs.

To get Tonespace Chords up and running in Mixcraft 8 using only one DM48 MIDI channel I have carried out the following steps:

1. Set the first track up as Virtual Instrument Track.
2. Right click the track and set to the track to MIDI 1 channel by selecting Lanes | MIDI Channel | 1.
3. Select tonespace_64 (or tonespace_32) as an instrument from the VSTi Instruments Category to play on this Virtual Instrument Track.
4.  You will see the Instruments and Effects boxes at the bottom of the popup screen. In the Instruments Box you will see tonespace_64 listed as the first instrument under the Synth header.
5. Click the down arrow icon to the right of <Select Synth>, select either an instrument (a keyboard instrument is best) or a category of instruments followed by selecting the instrument listed under the Preset Heading to the right of the Category.
6. Click the edit button to the right hand side of the tonespace_64 instrument to bring up the Tonespace Chord Generator screen
7. To get started within the Tonespace window select EDU-C Major Chord (or another chord) from the white background menu box at the top of the popup screen.
8.  Select the following settings at the right hand menu
trigger - Midi triggers notes
assist - Play chords anywhere (you can make different selections)
midi in - VST/AU host
channel - 1
track - CMajor scale (this setting could possibly vary. I haven't had time to experiment so I selected what seems to be logical)
midi out - VST host
channel - 1 (It seemed sensible to me to choose the same channel)
9. Save New Preset.
10. Close the Tonespace window.
11. To get back to the Tonespace window click on the keyboard icon to the left of the tonespace_64 Virtual Instrument Track and then click on the edit button again.

If you record playing your DM48 and use the MIDI editor to have a look at the notes that have been recorded, then you will see only a single note for each chord and yet each chords sounds when playing back. The Score view also shows only a sequence of single notes and not chords. If you save the recording as a MIDI file, then only the notes you play on the DM48 are saved. This feature may be peculiar to Mixcraft 8.

12 July, 2017
Behringer MIDI Foot Controller  FCB1010

My Behringer Foot Controller arrived yesterday and today I have successfully set up both foot pedals on one channel only by using the foot controller buttons. This process will be greatly simplified by using a FCB1010 MIDI editor. I prefer to play my DM48 on four MIDI channels, so I now need to figure out how to program my FCB1010 foot pedals to control four channels.

12 July, 2017
Copy of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Volume Envelope VST

nvy – MIDI triggered volume envelope VST
In the Wish List Thread I made a request for a range of additional velocity curves with an S shape controlled by the DM48 in the Response Setting to enable both a softer start and finish to each note thus making it easier to play a range of orchestral type of instruments. I have come across a MIDI triggered volume envelope VST which can do just exactly that and much more for other types of instruments. The Envy VST can be downloaded for free use from the link here

Within my Mixcraft 8 Pro DAW, the Envy VST is chained to an Instrument VST as an Effect. The Envy VST controls volume attack, decay, sustain, and release on both left and right channels and the settings can be saved. I have tested out the Envy VST using 4 MIDI channels each with an Envy VST chained as an Effect and I am able to save all Instrument and Effects VSTs as an empty MIDI file ready for selection the next time I play.

07 July, 2017
Copy of postings to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Velocity Curves

Wish List Item: Additional Velocity Curves within the DM48 Response Setting
The DM48 MIDI velocity curves which can be selected using the Response Setting are a subset of all possible velocity curves. A diagram showing a larger set of possible MIDI velocity curves can be downloaded here. This diagram is a copy of a page from my Samsung Graphite 49 MIDI keyboard

The DM48 Linear curve is a known as a default curve which has a neutral bias. The remaining velocity curves controlled by the DM48 provide differing degrees of volume (or attack) at the start of sounding a note. These velocity curves are appropriate for certain types of instruments. However, orchestral instruments such an oboe, flute, violin, cello etc. are more easily played and sound more natural using the neutral linear velocity curve because the positive DM48 Response settings (convex curves) result in too sharp an attack at the start of each note and prevent smooth transitions from note to note.

When playing the end of a note using a synthesised VST instrument such as an oboe without an immediate transition to another note, one needs to subtlely reduce the breath pressure at the end of the note otherwise the note ends too abruptly. More sophisticated sampled based VSTs provide control of the appropriate velocity curve for each instrument, but these VSTs cost an arm and a leg. A range of additional velocity curves with an S shape (5 – Expand in the above diagram)controlled by the DM48 in the Response Setting  would enable both a softer start and finish to each note and make it easier to play this type of instrument.

Purchase of MIDI Foot Pedal Controller, Pedals, and Buttons
I have purchased a Behringer FCB1010 MIDI Foot Controller with 2 expression pedals and 12 foot buttons for NZ $349 plus $10 postage - very good value.

06 July, 2017
Practicing solo - Mixcraft 8 Oboe & Flute - Snippets of melodies & experimenting - MP3 link here

DM48 Settings: Sensitivity - 10; Response - Linear; Trigger Level - 10; Solo Assist - Off; Slider Delay - 5; Tuning Solo; MIDI CC No - 11;

MIDI velocity - 127; MIDI channel - Multitch. 1-4; Double Notes - Allow; Gain Skew -2 (no screw adjustments)

Am looking forward to playing on my chrome plated mouthpiece which should arrive by the end  of next week. It is practice time from now on instead of testing out DM48 settings and instruments.

06 July, 2017
Copies of posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Foot Pedals
Using footpedals to obtain greater expression using sophisticated sample based VSTs plugins

I am still experimenting. The following is discursive.

I find that using my right hand finger to control Slider 3 (Up button) is cumbersome (I need longer fingers), so I will now use Slider 1 (side button) to raise notes by one semitone. Using my left hand finger on Slider 2 (Down button) is ideal to lower notes by one semitone. Left hand lower and right hand upper for lowering and raising notes by one semitone corresponds to left hand side of keyboard with lower notes and right side of keyboard with upper notes. Great. Now what happens when I want to use my left hand to control the Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels on my MIDI keyboard to obtain greater expression with sophisticated sampled VSTs. (The best are so expensive). I don't want to be using the same finger to control raising and lowering notes by one semitone. Perhaps I should forget using a button to lower all notes by one semitone and just practice the chromatic scale so that I can use just Slider 1 to obtain all notes. And yet being able to lower a note by one semitone using a slider or button feels so natural, but unobtainable on a standard chromatic harmonica. Continuing to use a button to lower all notes by one semitone would/could interfere with one's mindset image when alternating between playing the DM48 and a standard chromatic harmonica. In my case, I willl be playing only the DM48 from now onwards because playing a standard chromatic harmonica exacerbates my tinnitus. Footpedals seems a good idea. MIDI keyboard players blow through a tube and/or use the wheels on their keyboards to obtain greater expression when using sophisticated sampled VSTs. Why not a DM48 player using variable footpedals and foot buttons to obtain the same.

Can anyone recommend a reputable and reasonably priced brand of foot pedals? These items are not stocked at the local music stores here in Dunedin, New Zealand, to try out.

02 July, 2017
Copies of postings to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Mouthpiece

Chrome plating
I have been playing a series of Hohner chromatic harmonicas from the age of 9 in the late 1950s and I am used to playing on the slippery chrome plated mouthpieces. The way that I play is totally self-taught. Even the way I hold a harmonica is different from anyone else I have seen on YouTube. I am right handed and I place my harmonica on top of my left thumb and palm with my fingers wrapped over the top. My left wrist is at 90 degrees to my forearm and my left elbow is hugged into my body and slightly over the front of my lower ribs. In my right hand my first finger is raised and pressing on the slide while I hold my harmonica between my remaining fingers and thumb. I play my harmonica with my mouthpiece at a 45 degree tilt. It works for me, and with this arrangement I am able to create a large hollow behind my harmonica with both palms and smallest fingers against each other forming a seal. I can break the seal to create special effects. When playing I keep my lips on the mouthpiece and slide the mouthpiece across my lips while keeping my head still.

I find that the matt anodised finish to the aluminium DM48 mouthpiece is not slippery enough for me unless the mouthpiece is well lubricated with spittle. When playing mainly at one end of mouthpiece the lubricant can dry at the other end. The result is that when I slide the mouthpiece to the other end my lips are pulled sideways with the friction and sometimes I initially play the wrong adjacent hole. I have therefore ordered spare mouthpieces from Erick Lekholm to experiment with.

I have tried a coating of Liquid Chrome (NZ $20 a spray can) and this is not a goer. The surface is not as slippery as a true chrome plated finish and the coating would not be durable.

My next “experiment” is chrome plating. My experience in finding a business in New Zealand that would chrome plate one of my spare mouthpieces has prompted me to report this experience to other DM48 players who may also wish to chrome plate their mouthpieces.

I finished up emailing 13 electroplating businesses in New Zealand to chrome plate the mouthpiece of my DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica. Some businesses did not reply, some replied they were unable (or not prepared?) to chrome plate my mouthpiece, and some provided an estimate to silver plate. Silver plating is not an option for me because it tarnishes with age. The chrome plate finishes to my Hohner chromatic harmonicas still provide a slippery surface after 20 years of use and outlast the reeds.

Given the above responses, I modified my additional request for a fixed quotation to chrome plate my mouthpiece by specifying that I wanted a quotation and not an estimate, I described the process I wanted after doing research on the Internet, and I made it clear that a high quality chrome finish to the interior of the holes in the mouthpiece was not critical or necessary. I eventually received a reply from an Auckland based electroplating business in which I have confidence and I accepted their quotation of NZ $120 plus 15% GST.

My following request for a quotation may be helpful to anyone else who may wish to chrome plate their DM48 mouthpiece:

“I have purchased a digital chromatic harmonica which has a mouthpiece made of aluminium with a black matt anodised finish which is not slippery enough for me to play the instrument without unwanted notes. My Hohner standard chromatic harmonicas have a chrome plated mouthpiece.
Please provide a fixed quotation (not an estimate) for the highest possible standard and quality of chrome plating of my harmonica mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is 165 mm long x 15 mm high by 30 mm wide and can be viewed in the attached photographs. Only the exterior surfaces of the mouthpiece need to have a quality smooth finish. The internal surface of the holes in the mouthpiece are not critical and do not need to be chrome plated. Chrome plating must include the following processes and order of process:
1. Stripping the anodising,
2. Polishing the bare aluminium exterior surfaces,
3. Copper plating,
4. Polishing the exterior copper plating,
5. Nickel plating,
6. Polishing the exterior nickel plating,
7. Chrome plating,
8. Polishing the exterior chrome plating.”

As an aside, I have found that while waiting for return of my chrome plated mouthpiece, a smearing of white petroleum jelly on my current mouthpiece provides a sufficiently slippery surface to play without unwanted notes for up to an hour without needing a second coating.

An additional note. I hold my DM48 in a horizontal more traditional way between my thumb and fingers on both hands because the DM48 is less forgiving than an Hohner chromatic harmonica in the positioning of blowing and sucking over the centre of each hole. I prefer to use the right button on top of my DM48 as a slider to raise note by one semitone and the left button to lower notes by one semitone. I haven't practiced playing chromatic scales and using the left button to lower notes by one semitone sometimes feels more natural, especially with a new melody, than in hunting for the correct hole and deciding whether to suck or blow.

Software and hardware devices outside of the DM48 enable greater expression
Software control within a VST, chaining effects on the end of a VST, and hardware controllers such as foot pedals and variable pitch wheels all expand the flexibility of playing the DM48 MIDI controller. The DM48 provides a good range of MIDI controls and these settings can be saved, whereas the Jamboxx Pro MIDI controller harmonica is hardwired. In order to obtain variable pitch control one needs to use either a wheel or an expensive foot pedal. I saw a video of someone playing a sampled flute VST and thought to myself I can't play the same natural expression effect using my own sample based flute VST. And then I saw the player was using the variable pitch control on his MIDI keyboard. Software and hardware devices outside of the DM48 enable greater expression.

The person playing the sampled flute VST in my posting above was playing the flute using a MID keyboard and not a DM48. I believe that DM48 players would be able to better control the volume of each note by controlling their breath than it is possible to control volume on a keyboard by pressing down on a piano key. The DM48 is better suited to playing wind instruments VSTs than a keyboard. So far I find that using a DM48 to play the piano VST is far more difficult than a keyboard, and I am not a keyboard player. This may be due to a very different style of breath control than I am currently used to. I find that different wind and string instrument VSTs require different breath control, but not to the same extent as playing a piano VST.

Variable Pitch Bend Using a MIDI keyboard
It has just occurred to me that when I tested out the variable pitch wheel on my MIDI keyboard, the keyboard MIDI controller was possibly sharing MIDI input with my DM48 into my Mixcraft 8 Pro DAW on only one channel. This might explain the effect I found when playing my DM48 on four channels. I need to bone up on my MIDI keyboard manual as I might be able to send more than one channel of MIDI control messages from my keyboard. I hope so because I prefer playing my DM48 on 4 channels. In a previous posting I described the advantages of using 12 channels if one wants to edit a MIDI file within Mixcraft 8 Pro. I now prefer to use only 4 channels because I have resolved the issue of unwanted notes by tweaking the settings on my DM48. Multiple channels is an essential part of that tweaking and, apart from making editing easier within Mixcraft 8, 12 channels is far more than necessary. 

30 June, 2017
Pure testing only of pitch bend using MIDI keyboard - not a melody - MP3 link here

Variable pitch bend both up and down can be achieved while playing the DM48 using the pitch bend wheel of a MIDI keyboard. My MIDI keyboard is a Samson Graphite 49.  

When using 4 channels in my Mixcraft 8 Pro DAW I found that I could not guarantee controlling the pitch bend of the next note unless I had turned the wheel slightly before sounding the note. When using only one channel I had full control of pitch bend of all notes including chords.

25 June, 2017
Testing of Garritan ARIA Player Standalone Trumpet Solo KS and DM48 Settings - MP3 link here

My success yesterday in being able to play a piano instrument with my DM48 suggested to me to use similar settings for wind and string instruments. For the Garritan trumpet VST I used the following DM48 settings:

Sensitivity - 23; Response - Linear; Trigger Level - 10; Solo Assist - Off; MIDI Velocity - 127; MIDI Channel - Multich 1-4, Double Notes - Allow; Gain Skew - 3; Breathing Resistance Adjustment using screws - Factory Adjustment.

With the trumpet VST I found that changing the gain skew enabled equal volume for the same breath on all notes.

24 June, 2017
Testing of Garritan ARIA Player Standalone Concert D Grand Piano - MP3 link here

In a previous test I found it impossible to play a piano with precision on my DM48. This time around I used 4 channels within the Garritan ARIA Player Standalone and I used the following DM48 settings:

Trigger Level set to 20 to suppress involuntary triggering of neighbouring holes,

Solo Assist to Off to reduce delays in sounding notes on a piano instrument,

and Sensitivity set to 27 to reduce the breath pressure required to sound each note. I could reduce this setting and still play with the same precision.

I also lubricated the matt anodised mouthpiece with Rice Bran Oil Spread. Lubricating the mouthpiece made a marked difference. While easily sliding my lips across the mouthpiece I could feel the roughness of the mouthpiece on my lips. I am looking forward to fitting a replacement mouthpiece with a smoother surface. I tried using the slide at the end of the DM48 and found that this affected my precision of playing. On subsequent melodies I raised notes by one semitone by using the round button on top of my DM48. This is now my preferred slider as pressing down on the top of my DM48 does not affect sideways positioning over each note.

23 June, 2017
Testing of Garritan Alto Flute  VST within Mixcraft 8 Pro - MP3 link here

Setting the DM48 to output on 4 MIDI channels reduces the sounding of adjacent notes.  I am able to use 4 MIDI channels with the The ARIA Player Standalone, but so far can use only one MIDI channel when I use the Garritan VST within Mixcraft 8 Pro. In this test I have therefore set the Trigger Level of my DM48 to 10 and Solo Assist to 10 in order to reduce the sounding of adjacent notes. My other settings are Sensitivity -15, Response - Linear, MIDI CC No - 11 Expression, MIDI Velocity - 127, Double Note - Allow.

23 June, 2017
Copy of my posting to the DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica User Forum Re: Settings

Settings of DM48
Hi David, with regards to unwanted notes, the reason why I reported turning Solo Assist off when using a multiple channel setting was because compared to using a single channel I had far fewer problems with unwanted notes using a multi-channel. I am still experimenting with Solo Assist even with a multi-channel setting and I have also started experimenting with changing the Trigger level. When using a multi-channel setting there is less need to have a high Solo Assist and Trigger Level setting. Too high a level doesn't feel natural and this varies from instrument to instrument.

Even with tweaking the settings of the DM48 I still get unwanted notes because the matt anodised finish of the DM48 mouthpiece is less slippery than the chrome finish of my Hohner chromatic harmonicas. My lips tend to be pulled sideways unexpectedly when the mouthpiece is not highly lubricated and sometimes I initially hit the wrong note. When playing on a matt anodised aluminium mouthpiece I would need to be continuously slobbering in order to get the degree of slipperiness that I am used to. I have therefore ordered spare mouthpieces from Erik to which I will apply different finishes. I note that Brendan Power has created a 10-hole mouthpiece with diatonic harp spacing between holes. This mouthpiece will be commercially available. From time to time I play a set of diatonic harps and I have never had any problems in adjusting to the smaller spacing between notes. I do, however, find it easier to play a melody at a faster tempo on a diatonic harp than on a chromatic harmonica.  Different players of the DM48 are likely to have different preferences with regards to the mouthpiece they ultimately want to use.

In answer to a previous posting as to why I set the Response setting to linear is because this setting needs to be tailored for the instrument being played and also the particular VST being used for that instrument. I enjoy playing mainly popular classical music and I enjoy playing the DM48 as a violin, cello, flute, bassoon, oboe, Erhu, and saxophone etc. I want to have a smooth transition from note to note with those instruments without the immediate start of the next note sounding a bit like a blip. The initial attack on each note needs to be less abrupt, hence a linear Response setting.

I have purchased the Garritan Personal Orchestra based on sampling of real instruments and each instrument has a variety of styles and within those styles are further settings where the attack and decay at the start of and/or finish of the note is different. The VST settings enable a similar modification to the MIDI signal as the Response setting on the DM48. One needs to experiment to get the result one wants.

21 June, 2017
Purchase of Garritan Personal Orchestra

The quality of the sound produced by any DAW depends on the quality of the instruments used by the DAW. An instrument based on sampling of a physical instrument always produces a better result than a synthesised sound, and these instruments can be purchased separately and then used within a DAW so long as it is compatible with the DAW. Some of the best instruments based on sampling are very expensive. It is better to purchase a DAW which can use a number of the standard formats of instruments than be locked into using only the instruments provided by the DAW because it makes use of only it's own non standard format instruments.

Mixcraft 8 Pro provides a quality piano called Pianissimo which is based on sampling of a Steinway piano. The other instruments are based on synthesisers and the wind instruments are OK, but I want better quality orchestra instruments in addition to Pianissimo. After a review of what is available, including listening to demos of the instruments that I want to use, I have purchased Garritan Personal Orchestra for US $149.95. All the instruments are based on sampling and the sound of each intrument can be modified.

I have carried out preliminary tests of Garritan Personal Orchestra as a VST plugin to Mixcraft 8 Pro and I am very happy with my purchase. I am so pleased that Erik Lekholm (the designer of the DM48) has provided control of such a wide range of MIDI parameters and the latest firmware update is very welcome.

The Garritan Personal Orchestra VST also comes with the ARIA Player Standalone which is a MIDI player, records MIDI played by MIDI keyboards or my DM48, and saves to an audio WAV file using the quality sampled instruments in the VST. One doesn't need to have a full featured DAW to practice and record playing quality orchestral instuments using the DM48 as a MIDI controller. The Garritan Personal Orchestra is indeed value for money at US $149.95.

Brendan Power's mini pitch bender MIDI controller has given me the idea of using a foot pedal MIDI sustain controller in conjunction with my DM48. I can use my inexpensive foot pedal connected to my Samson Graphite 49 keyboard connected to my Steinberg UR22 connected to my PC computer to control sustain while playing my DM48. This saves me buying a separate foot pedal MIDI sustain controller. My foot pedal controls sustain only on those instruments that make use of a foot pedal. For additional controls of other instruments I need send appropriate MIDI messages to my DAW. I could send these messages using the DM48 arrow buttons, but I prefer to reserve these for raising or lowering notes by a semitone or octave. My model of keyboard allows me to send MIDI messages using four 30 mm x 30 mm large buttons on the keyboard. A multiple foot pedal MIDI controller is a preferred option, but comes at a price. My current setup will do me in the meantime and perhaps permanently. After all it is possible to play the DM48 with one hand or in a clamp.

08 June, 2017
Solo Assist set to 2: Testing of Mixcraft 8 Bassoon - MP3 link here   Testing of Mixcraft 8 Flute - MP3 link here

03 June, 2017
Testing of Mixcraft 8 Flute - MP3 link here

A different breath control is required compared to playing Mixcraft 8 Oboe.

01 June, 2017
Experiments with DM48 Settings

In the last week I have been experimenting with how best to practice playing my DM 48 along with a backing track. After a few weeks of practicing the DM48 solo I have settled down to playing Mixcraft 8's wind and string instruments (oboe, flute, violin etc.) because these instruments are the most natural to play. I have found it to be impossible to play a piano with precision. I will leave that to my MIDI keyboard which is unfortunate because I am not a keyboard player.

I have set my DM 48 Response to Linear and Tuning to Solo. I use 12 MIDI tracks with MIDI channel set to Multich 1-12, Double Notes set to Allow, and Solo Assist set to Off.

When practicing along with a backing audio track within Mixcraft 8 I can change the pitch and tempo of the audio track and loop any section of the audio track. Not all DAWs may have these features. If not, then I highly recommend Pitch Switch.  

I actually find Pitch Switch more convenient to use than the same features in Mixcraft. I use my Steinberg UR22 USB Audio Interface in order to separately control the volume generated by Mixcraft 8 and Pitch Switch. The sound from Mixcraft comes from headphones connected to my Steinberg UR22 (I could connect to separate speakers) and the sound from Pitch Switch comes from my computer speakers. Using Volume Mixer I first adjust the volume of Pitch Switch relative to Mixcraft 8. I then use the separate volume controls of my Steinberg and computer speakers. Within Pitch Switch I can adjust the audio balance to best hear the melody to play along with. Pitch Switch's equalizer also enables me to suppress distracting drums if these should be overly dominant while practicing.

22 May, 2017
Latency on Slow Laptop

Practiced playing my DM48 using Mixcraft 8 Recording Studio on my 10 year old Toshiba laptop (only 2 GB RAM running under Windows 7 Professional) in conjunction with my Steinberg UR22 USB Audio Interface.

With my slow laptop I found the best settings were for a single MIDI track on channel 1 so as to prevent overload. Mixcraft 8 shows the load on the CPU by Mixcraft and the System at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The best setting within Mixcraft 8 under File |Preferences | Sound device | Driver  was ASIO with my Steinberg UR22 set as the Playback Device. The resulting latency was 1.5 ms.

12 May, 2017
Testing of Mixcraft 8 Bassoon instrument under the category of ‘Wind’ -  MP3 link here

My DM48 settings were as follows: Response set to Linear; Solo Assist set to Off as per the manual. I was playing single notes and recording while keeping an eye on the four MIDI tracks. I noticed that there were many short duration ‘blips’ of adjacent notes being recorded on separate tracks in addition to the much longer notes that I was playing, but on playback these ‘blips’ were not sounded. Some longer duration ‘blips’ did sound on playback, so I used the MIDI editor within Mixcraft 8 to delete all ‘blips’ in this test. I then changed the Solo Assist setting  from Off to a maximum setting of 20. ‘Blips’ were eliminated, but the natural response of the DM48 was adversely affected. A setting of 6 produced the best results for me.

10 May, 2017
Testing of Mixcraft 8 Violin instrument under the category of ‘Strings - Solo’ - MP3 link here

Once again controlling the start and finish of virtual string instruments is very different to that of virtual wind instruments such as a flute.

10 May, 2017
Testing of Mini Erhu VST Instrument by Kong Audio. MP3 link here     

I have set the DM48 response to ‘Linear’. The challenge with this VST is controlling the end of notes of what is a string instrument.  

05 May, 2017
My shortened version of ‘Band of Brothers’ composed by Michael Kamen - MP3 link here

Comment 9 May 2017

I have just listened to the movie version which is played at a much slower tempo. I now prefer a slower tempo, but not as slow as the movie version when playing a single solo instrument. In due course I will record multiple MIDI tracks with different instruments or use a backing audio track which I play along with and record.

05 May, 2017
My shortened version of ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ using my DM48 - MP3 link here

Composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber & Time Rice in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.

02 May, 2017
My shortened version of ‘Never Say Goodbye’  using my DM48 - MP3 link here

Composed by Maurice Ravel/Pamela Sheyne (Sung by Hayley Westenra in the CD “Pure”).