ChanterMaeven

User's Guide
by Maetion Software

Introduction

About the Application

ChanterMaeven is a fun way to practice the bagpipe practice chanter.  It presents several short & simple exercises and it listens to you to determine if you are playing them correctly.  Some of the exercises have a 'scorecard' associated with them to help encourage you on to a higher level of performance. 

The final exercise is a recital.  I have prepared simplified versions of Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace.  Most of the embellishments have been removed and only a scattering of grace-notes remain.  Still they are satisfying renditions and will be a fitting milestone in your chanter education.

ChanterMaeven is no substitute for a good teacher.  In fact you will probably be able to complete these exercises in a week or two.  At that point, if you are still interested in piping, you should find a proper instructor.  Hopefully you will not have not picked up to many bad habits.

About this Document

The purpose of this document is to give you all the available details on how this application works.  If you are good at figuring out puzzles you could probably just read the 'Getting Started' section and figure out what you need as you go along.  However, if you prefer to know what you are doing, read on...

The Active Views

Besides the documentation panels, there are five interactive views.

Calibrate

The purpose of the Calibrate view is to tell the application how your chanter is tuned.  To state that more precisely, using the microphone on your phone/tablet, ChanterMaeven can hear the full spectrum of audible frequencies.  It needs to know which frequencies correspond to the nine notes on your chanter.  If you are a raw beginner you may want to get some help with this process the first time.

What is displayed:

There is also a Device Performance monitor that can be invoked by a swipe of the finger below the threshold bar.  See below for details.

Set the Input Gain:

  1. Get to a quiet space. 
  2. Turn the Input Gain all the way down.  The frequency bars should be very short.  If they are not then your space is too loud.
  3. Play a low G note.  Ideally a single green frequency bar should cross the red Threshold Bar.  If no bars cross the threshold, then increase the Input Gain.  If to many frequency bars cross the threshold, then you may be to close to the microphone or perhaps you are not blowing smoothly & evenly enough.
  4. Play all nine notes, adjusting the Input Gain, until all notes easily cross the threshold.

The Input Gain value is saved to disk, so you won't have to go through this process every time you start ChanterMaeven.

Tune ChanterMaeven

For each of the nine notes, you need to go through the following process:

  1. Play the note
  2. If a green bar crosses the threshold bar and the correct Note Circle gets a red outline, then you are good; move on to the next note.

If the Note Circle does not become highlighted, we need to adjust it's associated frequency.

  1. Touch the Note Circle to enter editing mode. 
  2. Play the note again and watch where the frequency bar(s) cross the threshold bar.
  3. The leading frequency should be automatically copied into the Assign box.
  4. If you want to manually adjust this number, tap the Assign box to bring up the keyboard editor.
  5. Once a reasonable number for the note frequency is entered in the Assign box, the DoIt button will become enabled.
  6. Press the DoIt button to save the frequency assignment.

The note frequency assignments are saved on disk, however the tuning of chanters does tend to drift over time.  You may need to re-calibrate once or twice during a practice session.

Device Performance

ChanterMaeven does not use a lot of processor time, but it does need a fast processor.  Specifically it tries to process as many small chunks of audio data as it can, each second.

To test the speed on your device do a touch swipe on the display below the Threshold Bar.  After about 5 seconds the samples per second measurement will be displayed.  It should be ~16 samples per second.  Touch the performance number to make it go away.

Scale

The purpose of the Scale view is to help build playing skill and note staff recognition.

What is displayed:

Finger Position Diagrams

The finger position diagrams are a bit of 'odd art'.  There is no money to pay for a real artist, so I wrote some code to draw an abstract rendition.  The yellow blobs are supposed to be your hands and fingers.  If you can see the hole on the chanter, then it is not covered.  Otherwise it is covered by the proper finger.  The yellow circle at the top represents the thumb on the left hand.

Hopefully you already know, on the left hand you use the tips of your fingers to cover the holes.  On the right hand, you use the pads between the 1st and 2nd knuckle for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finger, and the tip of your pinky finger.  If you have any doubt about this, talk to piper friends or look for clues on the internet.  I'll try to enhance this in future versions.

What to do:

Just play the notes slowly in order, over and over again.  You are trying to build muscle memory based on the notes you are seeing.  Don't confuse the learning process by trying to play to fast to soon.

If 'Instructions' is checked, then you can touch any of the notes, and the finger position graphic will be displayed for that note. 

As soon as you can play the scale in one breath, turn on the 'Keep Score' check box. 

Scorecard

The Scorecard keeps track of how long it takes you to play the scale.  The red rectangular box indicates which note you are expected to play next. 

You should be able to play all nine notes with one breath, so breathe deep and play the boxed red notes.  If you play a wrong note, a red 'x' will appear in the scorecard.  If you pause a red dash '-' will appear in the scorecard.

When you complete the last high-A note, your score will be entered as the 'Last' entry.  If you did not make any errors or pauses and the total time is less than you best time, the best time will be updated.

You will probably find that the change from D to E to be difficult.  There are a lot of fingers moving on that transition and lots of opportunity for unwanted noise.  Don't raise your fingers to far off the chanter and focus on moving fingers in unison.  In this particular case, raising the 'E' finger (left 3rd finger) crisply is the key.

Start slowly.  The application samples 16 times each second.  When you pass this test you are doing pretty good.

Flash Cards

The Flash Card view is similar the Scale view except the notes are not in the scale order and the Scorecard is always on.  The main point of this exercise to to build your sight reading skills.

An eight note sequence is randomly taken from the set of pre-loaded tunes (Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace).  The Scorecard works the same as it did in the Scale view.

If you touch the screen it will reset and bring up a new set of flash cards.

Remember, your 'Best' time will have no error or pauses, so start slow. 

Embellishments

In bagpipe music there are 'melody notes'  and 'embellishment notes'.  Usually the stem of melody notes are pointed down.  Embellishment notes are written smaller and the stem points up.  Embellishments are written as 32nd notes but technically in the music they have zero duration.  Of course that's impossible...therein lies the challenge and the art. 

The simplest embellishment is the grace-note, which is a single note that is quickly played in between two melody notes. 

In the Embellishment view we have collected all the embellishments that you will need to play Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace.  Keep in mind that the provided arrangements of those tunes have been greatly simplified for beginners.  As a result only grace-notes are presented here.

We mentioned before about not picking up bad habits.  Here are two areas to pay attention to:

Observe that the fingering positions of a grace-note is often different from the melody note.  For example you know how to play a high-G melody note, but when you play a high-G grace-note, the fingering depends on the surrounding melody notes.  So pay attention to the finger position graphics. 

We said above that embellishments have zero duration, but really the trick is how you squeeze them in between the melody notes.  For simple grace-notes, the leading melody note has full duration and the grace-note should begin playing when the trailing melody would normally start.  But of course you release the grace-note fingering as quickly as you can and go to the trailing melody note. 

The skill you need to develop is to clearly hear the grace-note, and to start it on the correct beat.

As embellishments get more complicated, the rules for inserting them into the rhythm of the tune also gets more complicated.  That's why you need to find a good instructor if you carry on with piping.

What is displayed:

What to do:

Tap on the first embellishment and examine the fingering graphics.  Look closely at the fingering of the grace note to see if it is different from the normal melody note.  Normally you will find that they are much simplified.  Often you only have to move one finger.

To practice grace-notes you have to tap your foot.  The leading melody note gets one full tap, the grace-note starts on the second tap, and is quickly released to the trailing melody note.

Assuming you have an embellishment selected, as you play the notes the display will 'flash' the display note heads as they are recognized.  The application will not flash the trailing melody note unless it clearly hears the grace-note and the final melody note with no wrong notes or pauses in between.
 
After you play the embellishment take a breath.  That will tell ChanterMaeven that you want to try again.
 
Start slow and watch the notes flash. Try to make the grace-note crisp and clear.  If you are having trouble getting the grace-note to flash, be sure that the 'Calibration' is spot on.
 
If you turn on 'Auto Advance', then after each embellishment, take a breath.  If ChanterMaeven sees that you have successfully played the trailing melody note, followed by a pause (silence) it will automatically select the next embellishment and scroll it into view.

Tunes

The music for two tunes have been included:

The arrangements have been greatly simplified with respect to embellishments.  Still you should be able to work through them and get a modicum of satisfaction.

What to do:

Select the name of the tune you want to play from the dropdown list. 

By default the 'Listening' box is checked.  That means some note will have a red box around it and the system is waiting for you to play that note.  After you play the boxed note the red box will advance to the next note, scrolling when necessary.  You can touch any note to establish it as the next note to play.

This version of ChanterMaeven does not pay attention to the rhythm and timing of the notes.  Hopefully you know these tunes well enough to supply the correct timing.

If you don't want the red-box prompting, uncheck the 'Listening' item in the command bar.


Have fun.  Let me know if you have problems.  

   --- patrickH