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Let the Bontempi roll

Phil Edwards 14 Oct 11 - 06:24 PM
Tootler 15 Oct 11 - 05:00 AM
Phil Edwards 15 Oct 11 - 07:01 AM
Phil Edwards 17 Oct 11 - 04:54 PM
Jack Campin 17 Oct 11 - 05:56 PM
Tootler 17 Oct 11 - 06:03 PM
Tootler 17 Oct 11 - 06:10 PM
Phil Edwards 18 Oct 11 - 03:38 AM
Phil Edwards 04 Nov 11 - 04:17 PM
Tootler 06 Nov 11 - 02:53 PM
Phil Edwards 06 Nov 11 - 03:11 PM
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Subject: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 06:24 PM

Some time ago, following advice from Suibhne and others, I bought one of these. I didn't do much with it at the time, although I did like the sound; the fan was a bit too vocal for me to want to take it out with me, and I wasn't doing any recording at the time.

Seven weeks ago I started the 52 Folk Songs project. One of the nice things about 52fs is that it's forcing me to listen to myself singing, and to think about how I could make improvements to the - indubitably mellifluous - noises I make. One possible improvement would be a chordal or drone backing, such as might be provided by... aha!

And so it was that I recorded Derwentwater's Farewell with Bontempi B1 drone backing and melody intro (plus whistle outro). Has anyone else recorded with one of these things? I like the sound a lot, apart from the sound of the fan; I wonder what someone who can actually play keyboards could do with one. In my defence, the halting phrasing at the start of the track is deliberate; it doesn't just mean I was playing badly (if I was playing badly I'd be hitting the wrong notes, not playing the right notes slowly). I'm not sure where I got the idea - it might have begun as a homage to Julian Cope's harmonium work on "Hey High-Class Butcher". If the whistle at the end sounds amateurish, on the other hand, that's not deliberate - it's played about as well as I could manage it.

One other technical note: when I dusted off the Bontempi I found that the bottom six keys had gone dead since I last played it, reducing its original two-octave range by half an octave. This meant that I had to transpose the melody from D into G in order to play the whole thing. Since I was singing it in D, I also had to pitch-shift the recording back down from G to D; if you listen carefully to the first few seconds you can hear the sound of the fan being pitch-shifted down.

Links:

Derwentwater's Farewell (Phil Edwards: vocal, Bontempi B1 reed organ, whistle, processing)
Notes on Derwentwater's Farewell
52fs


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 05:00 AM

Playing or singing over a drone works well for a lot of traditional songs/tunes and it certainly does here for Derwentwater's Farewell.

I use a shruti box for that purpose - It looks and sounds like this

Is it possible to open up the case of your Bontempi and check the contacts of the keys that are not working? It may be that they just need a clean or that a wire has come loose and it's fixable.


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 07:01 AM

Cheers, Tootler! Just been listening to your Unquiet Grave - shows how well drone accompaniment can work, particularly with a relatively complex song tune.

The arrangement isn't my own - it's ripped off from inspired by Bob and Sue van Gaalen's vastly superior rendering (Bob plays Northumbrian smallpipes rather than a Bontempi!).

I was a bit lazy when I recorded the D/G drone; I only recorded half a minute and then looped it, rather crudely, by copying and pasting the waveform in Audacity until it was the right length. If you listen closely, particularly near the end, you can hear how the drone stutters & pops where the copying has introduced artifacts - digital scratches...


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 17 Oct 11 - 04:54 PM

Just bumping this thread to ask: have people got any other favourite examples of folk performance consisting of vocal + unornamented drone, whether using Bontempi, shruti box, squeezebox, harmonium, smallpipes or w.h.y.?


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 Oct 11 - 05:56 PM

Sheila Chandra: MacCrimmon Will Never Return


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Tootler
Date: 17 Oct 11 - 06:03 PM

I was a bit lazy when I recorded the D/G drone; I only recorded half a minute and then looped it, rather crudely, by copying and pasting the waveform in Audacity until it was the right length. If you listen closely, particularly near the end, you can hear how the drone stutters & pops where the copying has introduced artifacts - digital scratches...

If you paste each copy into a separate track and overlap them slightly. You can then use fade in/fade out over the overlap to create a continuous drone of the desired length. Once you have the drone the length you need, select all the drone tracks and mix and render to create a single track. If you fine a slight dip in the volume in the overlaps, then select the relevant section and apply a little bit of amplification - how much is a matter of trial and error.

Once you have your continuous drone, export it to WAV and save it for future use.

The drone on this track was created this way by recording my shruti box. Unfortunately I had not recorded quite enough so I had to merge two copies of the drone.


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Tootler
Date: 17 Oct 11 - 06:10 PM

"If you fine a slight dip..." should be "if you find a slight dip..."


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Oct 11 - 03:38 AM

Tootler - that works well; I couldn't see the join!

Jack - blimey, that's good. I'm stunned.

Any more suggestions?


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Nov 11 - 04:17 PM

Is it possible to open up the case of your Bontempi and check the contacts of the keys that are not working?

I finally got round to taking the top off the Bontempi today. No dice; it's a mechanical system (the batteries drive a fan which blows through the reeds) and I couldn't see how to dismantle the key/reed assemblage, even assuming it is user-dismantle-able. It looks as if the lower reeds have gone dead with disuse - maybe the bit that moves has got stuck in one position. I don't know how to get at them, though.

On a more positive note, your DIY looping tip worked like a charm; I've now got several minutes of drone recorded on G/D, C/G and A/E. The A/E drone can be heard to good effect on this one:
The bonny bunch of roses


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Tootler
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 02:53 PM

That worked well.

I liked the idea of fading the drone down then bringing it back up again.


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Subject: RE: Let the Bontempi roll
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 03:11 PM

Cheers, Geoff!

That particular drone was forced on me by the dead notes at the bottom of the keyboard - usually I use the fifth an octave below the tonic, but in this case the low E wasn't available. I think it came out OK.


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