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Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Musical Instrument Modeling: Lute Family Models (with Videos)

Lute (/luːt/). In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, lutes have the classification number 321 and are characterized as string instruments in which the resonator and string bearer are physically united (composite chordophones), the strings running in a plane parallel to the sound table.

So how could we model all lutes at minimum overhead?

Big, brave, open-source, non-profit, community-provisioned, cross-cultural and looney tunes crazy. → Like, share, back-link, pin, tweet and mail. Hashtags? For the crowdfunding: #VisualFutureOfMusic. For the future live platform: #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory. Or just register as a potential crowdfunder..

Lute Family Modeling

Note: some images in this post are drawn from external sites which you are encouraged to visit for further information.

Let's get some idea what visual forms the lute instrument family might take. These are examples of instruments which could theoretically be modeled from a generic lute base.
Lute Family Instruments. Some Examples.

This is just a tiny selection. Keeping in mind the Hornbostel-Sachs classification number for lutes, you can browse others directly on these sites: Already from the above, though, we can derive some general guidelines or principles.

Each instrument has a box-like body, a characteristic scale length, a neck with or without some form of fretting, a tuning head, it's characteristic temperament or intonation (fret layout), number of courses and a set of tunings common to the underlying culture or genre. We can, for example, do away with representing the instrument body, as this is of only scant informational value to the user. While it may be helpful to show the strings under the plucking or strumming hand, often the information essential to this can be represented in the notation, tablature or, indeed, on the instrument fingerboard. Though remaining open to such views, for the meantime, we focus on the fingerboard.

Generic Configuration As Modeling Base

Most instrument fingerboards lend themselves well to modeling from a generic base. Here a generic base for the Lute family. As we will later see, working from this, there should be at most some five of six configuration actions needed to define the entire fingerboard layout.
Generic Lute Instrument Modelling Base #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Generic Lute Instrument Modelling Base

Each fingerboard derivation is then configured with it's temperament or intonation, number of notes or tones per octave, scale length, number of courses (were we talking of wind instruments, channels and of keyboard instruments, rows) or tuning.

This early prototype uses discrete menus, but ultimately dialog elements will be tied much more closely to the longitudinal and vertical fingerboard layout dimensions.

In the following video (built to test feasibility rather than win a graphic design prize!), we see how we might configure and save a specific instrument (here, Charango) for use by anyone.

Loading from an Instrumental Preferences Menu
This process represents 'community provisioning', in the sense that a generic model can be used to create any thousands of specific configurations.

Community Usage

Here we see how members of the user community might load an instrument from their preferred instruments list.

Loading from an Instrumental Preferences Menu
Such an approach is more or less essential to any 'aggregator platform' for remote, person-to-person teaching.

Instrument Modeling: Identifying All Configuration Derivatives

In the video below (again a quick feasibility test), we see how we might -in one short session- cycle through any of several instrument configurations, saving the results of each for use by other users.

One generic (lute-like) instrument model. Countless fully interactive derivations.

Potential Crowdfunder?

In quick succession, we see the definition of an Irish bouzouki, a typical violin (fiddle), a Turkish cura, a South American charango, an Arabic oud and an equal-tempered but microtonal (24 notes or tones per octave) guitar.

Any specific instrument customisation can be configured in less than a minute, saved, and (potentially) made available for use by any and all users, worldwide. The only limitations are those imposed by the source music exchange format (think audio, midi, ABC and so on) and resulting music notation.

The tuning menu serves -at this point- mainly to allow crosschecking of behaviour with the currently loaded score. This, score-driven fingerings and much more are demonstrated in separate videos.

What has been done for lutes can naturally be done for other stringed instrument types such as harps and zithers, or indeed any of the other high-level instrument families, such as percussion, wind, brass and keyboards.

With time it should be possible to model at least 80% of the world's instruments in this way, providing a solid base for ventures into direct, person-to-person teaching and learning online.

Associated Theory Tools

World Music Visualisation: Instruments And Theory Tools Are Intimately Related #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Instruments And Theory Tools
Are Intimately Related
The same principle can be applied to the associated theory tools: for each instrument configuration, the corresponding, dedicated theory tools and configuration.

As with instruments, theory tools may share or build on certain visual characteristics. For this reason we have to be careful to keep the theory tool classification system equally simple to use and entirely pragmatic. Find out more about this here.


online music learning,
online music lessons
distance music learning,
distance music lessons
remote music lessons,
remote music learning
p2p music lessons,
p2p music learning
music visualisation
music visualization
musical instrument models
interactive music instrument models
music theory tools
musical theory
p2p music interworking
p2p musical interworking
comparative musicology
world music
international music
folk music
traditional music
P2P musical interworking,
Peer-to-peer musical interworking
WebGL, Web3D,
WebVR, WebAR
Virtual Reality,
Augmented or Mixed Reality
Artificial Intelligence,
Machine Learning
Scalar Vector Graphics,
3D Cascading Style Sheets,

Comments, questions and (especially) critique welcome.