What you need to know about

MIDI harps



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Electric Pedal Harps

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MIDI is a digital language that electronic musical instruments use to communicate with each other and with other types of electronic gear. (The acronym stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.) It is a worldwide standard, so all MIDI gear is compatible.

Most of us are familiar with keyboard synthesizers. By definition, the keyboard itself is a MIDI controller. Usually, there is also a synthesizer (sound producing module) built into these instruments. The keyboard controls the internal synthesizer using MIDI commands. My MIDI system enables a harpist to control any MIDI synthesizer using a harp instead of a keyboard (including the one that is in your keyboard instrument).

By using Kortier harp pickups on each string of a harp, the activity of each of those strings is captured separately. In this way, we do not have to employ any complicated pitch recognition system. For example, when you pluck the middle C string, the pickup that is in contact with that string generates an electrical signal. That signal goes directly to the microprocessor embedded in the harp, which responds by triggering the MIDI message "note 60-on." In addition, the velocity (how quickly the current rises) is measured, so the message sent to the synthesizer is truly representative of the manner in which you pulled the string. (This is another way of saying that the harp is touch sensitive.) When the string vibration decays below a certain threshold, the MIDI message "note 60-off" is sent to the synthesizer.

To be clear- the pickups themselves do not send out the MIDI information. It is the MIDI controller unit, a small circuit board inside the harp which contains a microprocessor (a computer on a chip, in a manner of speaking). This is what does the formulating of the digital MIDI messages. The controller board receives the impulses from the harp strings, and reacts accordingly, and it is this stream of MIDI messages coming from the controller board that activate your synthesizer.

Frequently Asked Questions about MIDI harps-

1.) What does a MIDI harp sound like?

The sound you hear when you play a MIDI harp is coming from the synthesizer that the harp is connected to, not from the harp itself. So, a MIDI harp has no sound, yet can sound like anything you wish.

2.) Can't I connect any electric harp to a synthesizer?

No, this doesn't work. The quick way to identify a MIDI controller is to look for the 5 pin MIDI output jack. If it is not present, the instrument is not capable of directly controlling synthesizers.

3.) Can I connect a MIDI harp to my keyboard synthesizer and use those sounds?

Yes, no problem. Run the MIDI cable from the harp to the MIDI-in jack of your synth. Now you can play your same music, with the same sounds, except you are playing the harp, not the keyboard.

4.) Will the MIDI harp work with Sibelius or Finale notation software?

Yes, no problem. You will need a MIDI-to-USB interface device to connect to your computer. These start at less than $50 from music retailers.

5.) What about connecting to an iPad? Will that work as my synthesizing source?

Yes, and this is an exciting new area! Adapters are available from many retailers that allow you to connect a MIDI controller (like my MIDI Pedal Harp) directly to your IPad. Complete docking stations are also available that give you all sorts of output jacks from your tablet. Apps for your tablet are very inexpensive, typically $5 or even free for downloading. These apps give you many virtual instrument sounds, and lots of options for using your MIDI harp.

6.) Do you have any MIDI harps for sale?

At the moment, I don't have any in stock. The component parts are on hand, I expect to have a MIDI pedal harp available in December 2016. Email me if you are interested.