Physically Modeled Instruments Playable in Real-Time

In the past few decades, much research has been done on digital sound synthesis. Using a physical model of a musical instrument, rather than using samples or recordings of an instrument for creating sound, makes the playability of the digital instrument very flexible. In other words, the now-virtual instrument can easily adapt to changes in performance and playing style. Many physical models already exist and can output high quality sound which is sometimes indistinguishable from the real instrument.

“Why not just use the real instrument?” you might ask. Physical modelling makes it possible to extend traditional instruments in ways that would be impossible in the real world. Changing the shape, size or material of the instrument over time potentially results in interesting sounds and could even extend the possibilities for expression for the musician. Furthermore, old or rare instruments that can not be played anymore -- as they are, for example, damaged or valuable museum pieces -- can be resurrected virtually.

To date, instruments modelled in real time include the Esraj (bowed sitar), the hammered dulcimer and the Hurdy Gurdy in [1], and the Tromba Marina in [2, 3]. Interaction with the instruments has been done using the expressive Sensel Morph controller and the PHANTOM Omni.

This PhD project is performed by Silvin Willemsen and supervised by Stefania Serafin. The project is funded by NordForsk's Nordic University Hub Nordic Sound and Nordic SMC. The project involves collaboration with Stefan Bilbao and Michele Ducceschi from the University of Edinburgh and Karolina Prawda and Vesa Välimäki from Aalto University.

Selected publications: Real-Time Control of Large-Scale Modular Physical Models using the Sensel MorphReal-time Implementation of a Physical Model of the Tromba MarinaResurrecting the Tromba Marina: a Bowed Virtual Reality Instrument using Haptic Feedback and Accurate Physical Modelling