New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Just received of the new “WARBL” MIDI wind controllers from developer and instrument builder Andrew Mowry to evaluate and provide feedback.

https://warbl.xyz

I’m really impressed with this device, very slim and elegant, extremely responsive and software configurable. It’s a USB MIDI controller, to connect it to an iOS device you use the USB Camera adapter which plugs into the Lightning port on the iPhone or iPad. Works with any MIDI software.

Here are a couple of demo videos:

Playing the whistle sound in my “Celtic Sounds” iOS app running on my iPad:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9D4J8CSwLo&feature=youtu.be


Playing the cello sound in Jesse Chappell’s “ThumbJam” iOS app running on my iPad:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t7cPfQNheQ&feature=youtu.be


The device supports both whistle and bagpipes style fingering and is fully configurable using the online configuration app at:

https://warbl.xyz/configure.html

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Hi, I looked over this post but could not see a price for this little gem.
I use a Degger electronic chanter and have had it for many years . The whistle function on this sounds good for “ silent “ practise purposes. Could you enlighten me as to the cost of the WARBL please. Is the App a separate purchase.

Thanks
Ian.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

…. I checked to see if I could still redownload thumbjam to my Iphone, I can, and they’re still developng it. How much is one of these things? I’m interested. Would be a way to practice flute silently.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I wonder what is meant by “bagpipes style fingering”.

There being dozens, perhaps hundreds, of different bagpipe fingering systems. I have used six different bagpipe fingering systems myself, which doesn’t include all the variant fingerings possible on a single species. For the uilleann pipes, for example, it might have to recognize a half-dozen different fingerings for one particular note. Of course if it’s programmable then you could set it up to recognize any fingering system you want, I would think. (How difficult is this programming, I wonder? Can a musician who is not also a software engineer do it?)

How does it do octaves? As we know on many instruments (such as flute and uilleann pipes) the same note might be fingered the same way in more than one octave. MIDI wind controllers usually have to have some sort of artificial octave-button (artificial in that it doesn’t exist on the actual instrument) requiring the player to learn a new artificial fingering system.

As before the main question, for doing (for example) Irish woodwind and Scottish Highland pipe ornaments, is response time. Gracenotes are quicker than any note could possibly be in ordinary music, and usually these devices and apps are far too sluggish, not being able to distinguish between gracenotes and melody notes, gracenotes either lengthened into full-length notes or ignored altogether.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Hi Richard!

The octave switching is done via wind pressure threshold, which is adjustable on the web-based configuration page. Playing it like a whistle as I do in the videos, it feels like any whistle with a bit of back pressure, and you switch octaves just like you would on a whistle, by blowing harder.

As far as the fingering charts for the various whistle and bagpipes options, they are all listed in the PDF manual at:

https://warbl.xyz/WARBL%20User%20Manual.pdf

This is not a standalone device. It does not make any sound on its own. It’s a USB MIDI wind controller along the lines of the Yamaha WX7 or Emu EWI. You need to plug it into a computer or iOS device running a MIDI synth app as the sound source.

As far as any specific bagpipes fingering style, the developer has a few baked-in, but can add more if requested.

I think your evaluation of the state of apps repsonsiveness is still based on your trying my 1.0 version apps seven years ago on a first generation iPad. Things have improved a lot, with iOS audio latency now in the 5 ms range and processing power 10x what it was back then as features on par with MacOS. Response is even faster if you use a hardware MIDI controller device like this one or the Technopipes as a hardware chanter instead of touch-screen detection.

As far as price, I don’t know what he’s going to charge for the device. I’m just evaluating it and giving suggestions back to the developer. It doesn’t absolutely require my “Celtic Sounds” iOS sound module app, which is less than $5, but it does work well with it. It will work with any MIDI sound module app on iOS including the Roland Sound Canavs, IK Multimedia SampleTank, ThumbJam, and many others, most are under $10.00.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I’m going to be keeping an eye on this one, very very interesting device. How large is it roughly in the hands? is the finger spacing about that of a whistle? or can you change it to a bit mroe of a flute hand stretch? Noticed when I’ve tried messing with whistle after fluting is hard to switch.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Hi all,

I’m Andrew, and I’m responsible for WARBL. I’ll try to answer a few of the questions here so far. Thanks to Michael for posting about it and helping me out with testing. His apps are the perfect match for WARBL.

My main initial goal with this was as a way to practice whistle and flute silently, but it has the thumb and pinky hole for pipes and I’ve been adding more pipes fingerings. The main differences from existing electronic chanters are that it doesn’t make any sound on its own (because MIDI is so good these days and most people have a device to plug into) and it has the pressure sensor for controlling the octave with either breath or bag. As a USB MIDI device, it also doesn’t require batteries. I’m currently working with Michael to make the octave shift response as realistic as possible.

Regarding speed, I’d agree with Michael that in iOS, MIDI is very fast, and I don’t think I can notice any latency. WARBL responds in a maximum of about 2 ms, so you’d be looking at a total latency of about 7 ms or so, which should be plenty fast to catch grace notes. I’ll be interested to get feedback on this in the testing phase, though.

I don’t have pricing or a definitive timeline nailed down yet, but I’m hoping to have something available in a few months. I’m (very tentatively) thinking the price will be in the $200 range. There will be an optional “bagpipe kit” that includes a collapsible plastic bag and a sensor that plugs into the end for playing uilleann pipes “on the knee”.

I have four fingering patterns now (tinwhistle/flute, uilleann, GHB/smallpipes, and Northumbrian), but I’ll add more when requested . I don’t anticipate users being able to modify fingering patterns themselves (unless they have some coding experience) because it would be a bit challenging. It’s pretty easy for me to do, though, so I’m open to suggestions.

The hole spacing is about the same as a D whistle or a child’s practice chanter. I chose that for portability, but if there’s much interest I’ll consider making other hole spacings available in a later phase.

I set up a Facebook page, where I’ll post updates: https://www.facebook.com/WARBLmusic/
You’re also welcome to email with questions (or if you’re like to receive occasional updates) at: info(at)warbl.xyz

In case you’re interested, my main occupation is as a luthier, and that site is here: https://mowrystrings.com

Thanks for the interest!!

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Oh wow, wonderful to have you here.
Hat goes off to you for coming up with such an interesting device. I’m curious, are the buttons something you can physically feel on the device? I’m blind and rather interested in the device for recording stuff a bit easier and working on music with a friend of mine. The leds wouldn’t be useful but I’m thinking if it is a plug and go experience that it wouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Thanks

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Thanks! I’ve used The Session as a sheet music resource for about as long as it’s been around, but I don’t think I’ve posted anything before today.

Yes, the buttons are tactile switches, so you can feel them and they click when you press them. The LED is mostly just used to indicate that you’ve switched modes, so it isn’t strictly necessary. In theory it would be possible to have it play a sound in addition to blinking the LED, if that would be useful.

The sensors may need to be calibrated occasionally and that and other setup is done on the web site. However, once that is done you can just plug it in and play.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

The tactile feedback should be enough, bot the inclusion of a beep wouldn’t hurt either. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one. Good stuff.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I’ve been working on some custom Arduino firmware for the WARBL to add my full iOS app whistle fingering map, and finger vibrato features:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIV5g0at5iM&feature=youtu.be


Sound module is my “Celtic Sounds” iOS sound module app setup as a Bb tin whistle.

Having a great time with this device. Having a completely customizable open-source USB MIDI wind controller is a dream come true for me! Setting up the Ardurino IDE environment and required libraries was pretty easy, was up and building firmware in less than an hour.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

“The Gravel Walks” using the WARBL at the Fourpenny House session in La Mesa, CA., on 18 Nov 2018. Sound source is the tin whistle patch in my “Celtic Sounds” app for iOS running on my iPad. I’ve developed some custom firmware for the WARBL to optimize it’s response played as a tin whistle.

https://youtu.be/cezpVcPoKDs

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I got my warbl about three or four months ago and it is a brilliant device and I have just posted my first video of me playing it.

https://youtu.be/RXdjCW37-ic


It does not really work with my older Android phone as there is too much latency for me (I have not tested it yet on my son’s more advanced Android phone). But it works perfectly with my laptop and now I have got a Zynthian which is even more convenient than a phone or a laptop because I can very quickly make adjustments using one hand to twiddle a knob to change presets, volumes etc, I cannot detect any latency either on the laptop or the Zythian and I am quite sensitive to any latency

Initially I had problems with overblowing as it did not respond like my favourite Dixon whistle and there were also a few bugs in the code. But I have managed to fix these issues myself (the code is publicly available) and so overblowing is working really very well for me now.

I hope to post more videos of me playing the Warbl and possibly do a review and explanation of the device at some point. If you have any questions about the Warbl or my setup please feel free to post them here or as youtube comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Louis

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Honestly, I don’t like the sound of that at all. It just sounds like any other synthesized thing that could be played on a cheap keyboard.

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Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

It’s a MIDI controller. It doesn’t have a sound. Let’s be clear about what we’re criticising.

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Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

yes I’ll post some other sounds and some point -- there are some better sounds available. I’ll perhaps do a video about the different sounds. Also the sound for the first half was recorded using my phone, the second half a the properly recorded sound.

But how it sounds is not quite the point and not the reason that I bought it. If I wanted a whistle that sounds good I would just play an ordinary whistle which obviously I prefer.

But it has two advantages that is not available on an regular whistle:
1) I can use headphones and so can play at any time anywhere.
2) I can use it with MIDI for all the same reasons that people use MIDI output on a piano keyboard and connect it to their computer.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

The WARBL isn’t a substitute for an acoustic instrument, so don’t anyone get their feathers in a ruffle. 🙂

I bought one a few months ago and I’m having fun with it. My fiddler S.O. has always wanted me to learn to play the pipes, which isn’t going to happen in this life at my age. But we’ve been playing some pipe tunes together on flute and fiddle, and this just gives us a fun way to fake playing the pipes on those tunes at home where an actual pipe sound cuts through better than the flute. Things like Calum Stewart’s “Am Monadh Ruadh.”

https://thesession.org/tunes/16550

I’m using it with Michael Eskin’s Celtic Sounds app on an iPad Mini, just for the pipes sound and playing it like a whistle with air pressure to switch octaves instead of a bag or the thumb switch. It can play any sound, but for me it’s a pipes substitute because it sounds really good in that mode and with that app. I don’t foresee using it as a general-purpose Midi controller because it’s basically a diatonic “trad” device, and there are more flexible things like keyboard or other Midi wind controllers if you’re going beyond that.

I’ll never sound like a piper because I don’t have the finger ornaments, but it’s good enough to have fun with at home. The response from the optical sensors in the finger holes is tight and crisp, with no lag like I experienced years ago fooling around with pitch-to-Midi conversion on guitar. I would never bring it to a session, and probably wouldn’t want to hear it at a session because it requires amplification, and that’s always problematic to bring into an acoustic-oriented group. As a gadget to have fun with at home, or for those whistle and pipes players who need silent practice to avoid annoying neighbors or roommates, it’s a useful instrument.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

“The WARBL isn’t a substitute for an acoustic instrument, so don’t anyone get their feathers in a ruffle”…… Yes, sorry folks, I realise now that I was criticising the thing in my ignorance. I should have read the whole thread rather than just respond to the video.

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Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

It’s a fun device, I have several of them, from the early prototypes to the latest release version.

I helped initially with the firmware, helped out with the fingerings for both the whistle and Uilleann pipes configurations as well as helped out on some general re-organization of the code.

I also wrote the iOS Celtic Sounds app to work well with it as well as the iOS WARBL Control app that allows you to program the WARBL presets from your phone.

The beauty of this thing is that it’s completely open source. If you don’t like how it works, and you have the skills, you can build and install your own firmware.

I did use mine a lot when we were in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdowns at our outdoor sessions since it can be played under a mask if you use the little vented tube. I’d bring an iPad and a small battery powered amp. It was a bit odd, but did the job.

I have the velocity thresholds setup to make it play pretty much identically to my Copeland high D whistle. I believe my settings are the defaults now for use of the device as a whistle. I only use mine in the tin whistle configuration, find it to be the simplest setup.

Glad you’re enjoying it! Andrew is amazing, have you seen his stringed instruments?

https://www.mowrystrings.com/

The WARBL home page is:

https://warbl.xyz

Táimse Im’ Chodladh on the WARBL in its Uilleann pipes configuration (WARBL + bag + bottom D sensor) using Celtic Sounds for iOS as the MIDI sound module:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp03QFmcSPE

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I’d forgotten that! I withdraw my previous misjudgment. It’s amazing!

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Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Something else that’s fun about this instrument, although I will admit it’s cheating, is that you can do things like play Calum Stewart’s “Sueno’s Stone”…

https://thesession.org/tunes/20414

…which is in F# minor, by programming the WARBL app to just change every G natural you play to a G sharp as output to the Midi synth app. I have no idea how Calum plays that tune on Uilleann pipes, but this lets you play it with ordinary D whistle fingering. I will probably burn in Trad Hell for doing this, but at least I can play the tune with a pipes sound.

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I don’t think there’s any Trad Hell. Loads of passive-agressive namby-pambyisms. But that’s not Hell because those judging you are miserable. And the devil isn’t. The devil is quite content thriving in Hell.

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Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I really like that pipes sound. I can hardly believe that this morning I thought that those WARBLEy things were cheap, crapy sounding toys, and now I am seriously and enthusiastically thinking of getting one, even if it’s just to make some backing for my fiddle playing. Thanks Michael.

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Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I didnt want to start a new thread, but i also didnt want to get lost at the end of this one. I bought a WARBL and it seems to have great potential. As a GHB and smallpipes piper, with various e-chanters like Fagerstrom, Blair and Deger I was looking at adding Uillean pipes at some point, but figured this may give a sense of it without the thousands of $ required. So I looked at the warbl website manual and Quickstart guide, and the very limited number of useful Youtube videos (mostly playing examples, not detailed settings), and am perplexed by the huge number of options and tweaks. Are any of you out there a possible teacher on this? I would love to spend an hour on Zoom, Facetime etc walking me through the setups, when to use the Warbl app, how to set the Celtic Sounds App, Piper etc. Getting the finger vibrato just right, locking in the overblown second octave etc. Farting around on Thumbjam is a lot of fun but now that I’ve tried all the instruments (and some are truly fantastic, such as that trumpet) I really want to understand how to get this thing working for pipes. Or guide me to a website with more info than Warbl provides. Anything! my… desperate plea for help… Thanks!

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

Hello Nick W,

I really suggest you post this message on the Warbl forum. Please see https://warbl.xyz/phpbb/index.php . They are all very helpful there especially Andrew who designed the Warbl.

I could possibly help but not until mid Jan 2022 and also I am a whistle player and so cannot help you regarding getting it working for pipes.

Louis

Re: New “WARBL” MIDI Wind Controller

I just saw these more recent comments--the past few days I’ve been making some more detailed instructional videos for beginners, and I’ll try to continue to do so. I’m posting them on the WARBL “videos” page and YouTube channel. The newest videos focus on Michael’s Celtic Sounds app and the WARBL Configuration Tool, and my next planned ones (probably after the holiday break), will likely be bagpipe setup with the various pipes apps. I realize that can be complex, especially with feature-rich apps like Universal Piper. Here’s the videos page: https://warbl.xyz/videos.html

Thanks for all the feedback here!