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You can play in a single register or choose from several options for controlling the register. Choosing 1. Single register will allow you to use breath or bag pressure to start/stop notes, but will only allow access to one register. The pressure sensor can be used to mimic the way that whistles, flutes, and some bagpipes can be "overblown" to reach the second octave. To use this feature, select 2. Overblow. For fingering patterns that don't use the left thumb, you can instead select 3. Thumb register to allow you use that finger to control the register, which will be familiar to players of many woodwind instruments. To play the upper register, simply uncover the thumb hole. Finally, you can use the "bell" sensor to select the register by choosing 4. Bell register. Uncovering the bell sensor (lifting it off your knee), will access the second register. The functionality for either of these two options can be reversed by turning on the Invert thumb/bell switch. Then covering the left thumb hole or covering the bell sensor will allow playing in the second register, depending on whether option 3 or 4 is selected. In the case of the thumb hole, this will be more familiar to players of instruments with a register key.
Turning on Bagless mode will allow you to configure a button to start/stop the sound instead of using the pressure sensor. This will be similar to many electronic bagpipe chanters that don't use pressure sensing. If you choose you can still select one of the options for controlling the register when using bagless mode. Note: if you choose the bagless option you must also configure a button to Play/stop (bagless mode).
The pressure sensor will normally be calibrated at startup, meaning that the pressure when you plug in the device will be used as a basepoint for determining the pressure level at which sound will be triggered. This is desirable if you are using breath to control the instrument. If you are using a bag with this setting, you will want to squeeze the bag when you plug WARBL in to "tell" it the pressure at which you want notes to begin playing. Alternatively, you can select Learn or enter pressure to use a different pressure. This is usually preferable if you are using a bag instead of breath, and you want to trigger notes at a higher pressure. You can squeeze the bag at the pressure that you would like to use for initial triggering of sound and then click Learn, which will cause WARBL to use the current pressure (as with all settings, you can save this pressure by saving the settings for the current instrument). After clicking Learn, the pressure input cell will flash green and the learned pressure will be displayed. You can also enter the desired pressure manually if you prefer. Simply type in a pressure between 0.0 and 24.0 (inches water) and hit return or enter. The input cell will momentarily turn green to indicate that the pressure setting was sent to WARBL.
If you're using the vented mouthpiece with the small hole in the side, or other mouthpiece or bagpipe bag that allows some air to escape, you can turn on the Vented mouthpiece switch, which uses more sensitive settings for triggering notes and controlling the register in order to compensate for escaping air. The settings that determine how difficult it is to jump to the second register are customizable using the Advanced panel if desired (please see the help file within the advanced panel for information about these settings).
WARBL mimics open-tone hole instruments by sensing the distance of your fingers from the holes and using this information to bend notes downward. It can detect your fingers a maximum of about 1 cm (~1/2") from the holes. You can reduce this distance using the slider if you don't want to have to remove your fingers as far from the holes to turn off the pitch bend. The downside is that you'll have less precision in bending notes.
You can choose 1. Slide and vibrato, 2. Vibrato only, or 3. No pitch bend. The way slide works is that lowering the finger over the highest uncovered hole will gradually flatten the current note down to the next lower note on the scale, much like on a real instrument. This can also allow you to approximate "half-holing" accidentals. Because of the nature of note transitions in MIDI, sliding between notes can sometimes result in a slight "popping" sound when the new note is triggered. This is quite apparent with some sounds like whistles and less so with other sounds like reed instruments. Whether you choose to use slide may depend partly on the MIDI host and sounds that you're using.
With vibrato, lowering fingers over any open holes (other then the "slide" hole, if you also have slide turned on) will gradually flatten the note down to the selected maximum vibrato depth. The pitch bend contributed by each hole is cumulative, meaning that lowering fingers over multiple holes simultaneously will flatten the note more than lowering just one finger. This gives control over the amount of vibrato, and can be used to simulate sliding even when "slide" isn't turned on. If a finger is covering a hole when a note is triggered and subsequently lifting that finger doesn't cause a different note to be triggered, then that finger will be available to use for vibrato. However, to enable that finger, you first must remove it completely, past where WARBL can first detect it. This is to prevent problems with closed fingering patterns. As an example of how this works, if you trigger a note, completely remove a finger (one that doesn't change the current note), and then place it back down, the resulting pitch will be lower than the originally triggered note because vibrato has been enabled. This is usually intuitive, but it's important to understand because in certain cases it might not be immediately apparent why the resulting pitch is lower than the original pitch.
You can select at the bottom of the panel which holes you'd like to have available for vibrato. If you normally only use a few fingers for vibrato, you may want to select only those holes, to prevent unwanted behavior.
Custom vibrato is a different vibrato option that is only available for some fingering patterns (currently tin whistle and uilleann pipes). The differences from normal vibrato are as follows: 1. Only the first and/or second fingers of the right hand are available for vibrato, depending on the fingering pattern (you cannot select vibrato holes if this option is turned on). 2. Vibrato is not cumulative, meaning that lowering more than one finger doesn't increase the vibrato depth. 3. If a vibrato hole is covered when a note is triggered, the note is immediately flattened (this is the major difference and may be more natural in certain circumstances). 4. When playing a back D with uilleann fingering, uncovering a vibrato hole actually lowers the pitch instead of raising it, which is how real pipes behave.
Note that custom vibrato is not available when Slide and vibrato is checked or when any unsupported fingering pattern has been chosen.
Note: For MIDI host apps that allow you to choose the maximum pitch bend depth, you should choose 2 semitones as the maximum depth so that WARBL pitch bend will function as intended.
The three buttons can be programmed to perform different actions. This is useful for sending special commands to MIDI apps or customizing the ability to switch modes.
If a button click is configured to send MIDI Note On/Note Off messages, the normal behavior is to alternate between sending Note On and Note Off messages each time the button is "clicked" (the action actually occurs when the button is released). There is also the option to choose momentary behavior, meaning that the button will send a Note On message when pressed and a Note Off message when released. This is useful if you only want a note to be on when the button is held down, for example for mimicking uilleann pipe regulators. Note: If momentary is selected, other actions using that same button will be disabled, because it's not possible to differentiate other intentions from a momentary press.
If you are sending Note On/Note Off messages, byte 2 is the MIDI note number, and byte 3 is velocity. If you are sending CC messages, byte 2 is the CC number and byte 3 is the value.
Please note that CC messages 102-119 on channel 7 are reserved for the Configuration Tool, so WARBL cannot be programmed to send additional messages in this range.
Selecting Send PC will send a Program Change message to the selected channel. This would be useful, for example, to select a particular instrument in a MIDI host app. Increase PC and Decrease PC are different in that they assume a Program Change value of 1 when WARBl is started, and then increase or decrease it from there. For example, clicking a button assigned to Increase PC after starting WARBL will send a PC message of 2 on the selected channel. These commands are useful for consecutively stepping through the available sounds in a MIDI app.
The momentary switches can also be used when you have selected Octave shift up, Octave shift down, Semitone shift up, or semitone shift down. This allows you to use a button to momentarily shift the octave or key, extending the range of the instrument and allowing any button to act as a "key" for sharpening or flattening a note.
The "secret" button commands are a few additional hard-coded actions that involve covering certain tone holes while clicking button 1. These can be useful if normal button actions are used for other functions. They give you an alternative way of changing slide/vibrato mode and instrument. With the “secret” commands turned on, covering only hole L3 while pressing button 1 will change the slide/vibrato mode, and covering only R3 while pressing button 1 will change the instrument. Note that the Use "secret" button commands switch does not have to be on to use the "secret" drone control button, if that option is selected in the Drone Control panel.
The optical sensors may occasionally need to be calibrated, for example when the device is new, if a new person is playing the device, or the sensors are a bit dirty. Calibration can also be used in a pinch to compensate for having dirty hands, but it's easier to wash your hands...
If the calibration is far off or you want to calibrate quickly, you can run auto-calibration. Begin by holding WARBL in a well-lit room (but not direct sunlight) in such a way that no tone holes are covered (important because it gives WARBL examples of raw sensor readings) and then click Begin auto-calibration. The LED on WARBL will turn on and then you'll have ten seconds to lightly place your fingers over all the tone holes. Pressing harder on each tone hole will make it more difficult to "cover" after auto-calibration. After this the calibration should be reasonably close. Note that the bell sensor will only be calibrated if it is currently plugged in. If this is the case, rest the bell sensor on whatever surface you intend to use with it while also covering the tone holes with your fingers. Note that auto-calibration is always saved immediately; it is not necessary to click Save calibration afterward.
You also have the option of auto-calibrating only the bell sensor. This is useful because the sensor may respond differently depending on the type of clothing you're wearing. To do this, hold WARBL up in the air so the sensor is completely uncovered, click Auto-calibrate bell sensor only, and then lower the sensor onto your knee. After five seconds, the LED with turn off and the sensor will be calibrated.
After auto-calibration or for more frequent adjustments, you can just fine-tune each sensor individually. Clicking the up arrow will make it easier to "cover" the tone hole, while clicking the down arrow will make it more difficult. Note that when you plug in WARBL, values for each sensor will always read zero, and any changes will be relative to the current calibration. Changes to individual sensors will take place immediately so you can test them as you are changing them, but you must click Save calibration for the changes to be saved. Otherwise the calibration will be reset when WARBL is unplugged.
The Configuration Tool connects to WARBL using MIDI protocol to let you control settings. It is necessary to use a browser that supports Web MIDI, which currently includes Chrome and Opera on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, or Android. You can also use Firefox or Safari on Mac if you install the WEB MIDI extension. Safari on iOS unfortunately does not yet support Web MIDI, but on iOS devices you can use the free WARBL app, generously made by Michael Eskin of Appcordions. You can also use the free Web MIDI Browser app. For the latter, navigate to this page within the app, and select "Enable SYSEX" in the settings. You may also want to bookmark this page for later use.
WARBL has three "instruments" available for use at any time. Each instrument consists of a fingering pattern and a set of associated settings. You can select different fingering patterns for each instrument, or you can select the same fingering pattern for more than one instrument. For example, if you only want to use tin whistle fingering, you can select that option for all three instruments, but still have three different sets of settings available at any time. You may want to have the buttons configured differently for each instrument, for example, or have different register control and/or slide/vibrato settings.
Selecting the tab for each instrument allows you to change the settings for that instrument. You can apply changes to settings to the current instrument, or you can choose to apply them to all three instruments. This can be useful if you want to make three instruments that are the same except for minor differences (which can be changed after applying the initial settings to all three instruments). You can also restore the original factory settings. Please note that WARBL responds immediately to changes to settings, but if you don't save save them, those changes will be lost when you unplug WARBL.
The Configuration Tool can produce simple square wave sounds if you click the volume icon in the upper-left corner. The sound will not respond to pitch-bend commands or CC messages, but can be useful for testing basic settings. It's also possible to have other MIDI apps running at the same time as the Configuration Tool, which is preferable and will give you higher-quality sound.
NOTE: The optical sensor calibration is separate from all other settings, and does not change depending on which instrument is selected. However, restoring factory settings will also restore the initial "factory" calibration.
These settings control the way that the register is changed by "overblowing". Each variable below has a setting for the "closed" mouthpiece (or bag) and one for the "vented" mouthpiece (or bag setup that allows some air to escape). The variables that are most likely to need adjustment are located near the top. Clicking the Breath defaults button will restore the default breath settings for all variables in the panel, and clicking the Bag defaults button will restore the default settings for a bagpipe bag. Units are not shown because the units are arbitrary for many of these variables.
Threshold represents how much pressure is required to move from the first register to the second register. If you are using a bag, increasing this variable to around 50 or higher can give you better register control.
With wind instruments that respond to overblowing, it typically requires more pressure to move to the second register from higher notes in the scale than it does from lower notes in the scale. The Multiplier setting controls how pronounced this difference is. Again, increasing this setting can give you better control over the register, especially if using a bag, but will also increase the pressure required to reach the second register, from higher notes in the scale in particular.
Note: Setting both Threshold and Multiplier too high can make it impossible to reach the highest notes in the second register because the pressure sensor is saturated, i.e. it has reached the highest pressure it can detect. If you find that cannot reach the highest notes in the second register, try reducing one or both of these settings slightly.
WARBL has the ability to jump directly from silence to the second register by detecting a rapid increase in pressure. Thus, by blowing forcefully, you can begin playing in the second register without passing through the first register. Similarly, by cutting off air pressure suddenly, you can drop directly from the second register to silence, without playing a passing tone in the first register. The Jump setting controls how difficult it is to move directly to the second register, and the Drop controls how difficult it is to drop directly from the second register to silence. You can increase these variables if you find you are "jumping" or "dropping" inadvertently, or decrease them if you are unable to move up or down between silence and the second register.
After a "jump" or "drop" occurs because of rapidly changing pressure, WARBL waits for a small amount of time before allowing another state change. This is to prevent rapid oscillations while the pressure stabilizes. Jump time is the amount of time (in milliseconds) that WARBL waits before allowing dropping back down to the first register after jumping directly to the second one. Decreasing it can allow faster response time if you want to be able to drop immediately down to the first register, but can also cause unwanted drops because the pressure hasn't had a chance to stabilize. Similarly, setting Drop time too low can cause a note to come back on immediately after dropping from the second register to silence. These two variables typically won't need to be adjusted.
Turning on the Send expression as pitch bend switch will cause WARBL to send pitch bend messages based on pressure. This means that for a given note, blowing (or squeezing a bag) gently will cause the note to play slightly flat, while blowing with excess force will cause it to be slightly sharp. This is meant to simulate the way that pressure is used to fine-tune the pitch of real instruments, and can make WARBL sound more lifelike. The Expression depth slider controls the amount of pitch bend. The pitch bend is added to any that is contributed by vibrato and slide, so they can all be used simultaneously.
WARBL also has the ability to map pressure sensor values to a MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) and/or note-on velocity, allowing it to function as a MIDI breath controller. An example would be to send pressure data to CC 7 to control the volume of notes with pressure. The input pressure range can be mapped to the output CC range using one of three curves: linear, a power curve (curve 2), or an inverse power curve (curve 3). Please see the user manual for diagrams of these curves.
Note: If the "send pressure as velocity" switch is not turned on, WARBL will always send notes with a default velocity of 64.
WARBL makes it possible to control drones in MIDI bagpipe host apps by assigning commands for turning the drones on and off, and then choosing from a few methods for sending those commands. You can choose to send either Note On, Note Off, or CC messages, assigning the channel, byte 2, and byte 3. For Note On and Note Off messages, byte 2 is a MIDI note number and byte 3 is velocity. For CC messages, byte 2 is the CC number and byte 3 is the value.
The commands used for turning drones on and off will depend on the MIDI host app. For example, the Celtic Sounds app uses a Note On command both for turning drones on and turning them off. In some apps such as Universal Piper, you can choose which command you'll use to control the drones.
Choosing Use secret button will allow you to turn the drones on and off by pressing button 1 while covering the right-hand index-finger hole.
Choosing Turn on/off with chanter will cause the drones to be on whenever the chanter is playing. This will be true no matter how you control the chanter, so will work in bagless mode as well as using the pressure sensor.
Selecting Pressure will turn the drones on and off at a given pressure threshold, so, for example, you can mimic real bagpipes by having the drones come on at a baseline pressure and the chanter come on at a higher pressure. You can either "learn" the pressure or enter it manually, as with the note trigger pressure.