A bow sensor musical instrument
(Optical bow a.k.a L-Bow, Light bow. Pick your preferred pun..)
news | latest prototype | first prototype | background
Following a demonstration and paper at the Tangible Embedded Interaction conference in Barcelona New Scientist magazine ran a feature on the O-Bow. In response to this a short new video (added below) was prepared which triggered more magazine articles and then a story in the paper edition of The Daily Mail. Not all the information published is accurate but the overall response was very positive. Here are links to some of the articles:
The Daily Mail
Short violin run. I'm using a short bow which is easier to handle. Longer bows are good for long sustains.
See below for high quality wav audio.
The fifth prototype is finished.
New feature summary:
- robust tracking from low to high speeds for variety of surfaces including standard bow hair types.
- bow contact parameter, enables ringing string sound when bow is removed while bowing.
- all communication is using the USB-MIDI protocol providing immediate connection to music software.
- cylindrical casing design for flexible configuration and orientation, for example using standard mic holder.
- contact saddle manufactured from optimized CAD design, for bow engagement and tracking.
- software moved to the Native Instruments Kontakt platform. The script language is strong enough to implement all the O-Bow features. This allows the O-Bow to operate as a virtual instrument in a wide variety of music software.
- manipulations are possible on the control data directly in a sequencer.
- speed to gain warping for a variety of playing feel.
- new violin sample recordings, including ringing. Many thanks to violinist Motje Wolf. The sample sets are incomplete and not fully produced. Complete sample sets will be incorporated later.
The following clips were produced by recording gestures in a sequencer then synthesizing, some with pitch/tempo edits.
Sequencer screen shot:
An example of how control parameters can be edited directly.
following photo shows a new prototype being used with Eigenlabs
Eigenharp Alpha. This allows precision bowing to be combined with the
sensitive and highly controllable keys of the Eigenharp, in a natural
of the O-Bow prototype -
The first prototype. Synthesis implemented using Max/MSP and a single violin sample.
A youtube video is shown below. The original video (for better quality) is available here.
prototype works with a wide variety of bowing material, including real
bows and wood. The natural grain of wood provides useful passive haptic
feedback, whereas the spring of the real bow helps with bouncing off
the contact. The reduced weight of a simple wooden rod can be an
It is not
intended as a replacement for a real violin!
From a broad perspective, bowing is a very natural, ancient mode of expression. It deserves to be integrated better into the modern world of electronic sound. This includes the creation of instruments that go beyond direct emulation of bowed instruments.
synthesis adopted here is based around the modification and playback of
recorded string samples. In practice this approach works better than
expected, partly because the variety of bowing produces a wide variety
of gain profiles, and variation in resynthesis, particularly at the
critical onset stage. Of course it is difficult to capture every detail
of behaviour in this way. Physical models offer the potential for much
more realistic and rich behaviour, but they have some disadvantages: It
is hard to make a physical model fit well to a given instrument. Even
when this is achieved successfully, the result may be as difficult or
more difficult to play than the original and require many sensor
inputs, particuarly true in the case of the string instruments. So
while physical models are expected to play an important role in the
future, they are not a focus initially in this project.