A dive in Ethiopian & Malian blues

Testing two Scalers for the guitar, a Malian blues close to Tinariwen or Terakaft ones jumped out

Then I tried some world instruments for the masinko solo, but just a Broomstick Bass item had the needed screeching, even if it is too much “in tune” compared to the original

Anyway, here is the routing

The guitar (2 Scaler instances for the Guitar option) and its amp

The regular bass

As I said, I wanted the Ethiopian masinko for the solo, but it is not in my Garritan World Instruments, so I used another Scaler instance to drive the bass below

The sound is not close enough to the original, but I have to content myself at the moment

The Middle East percussions used

And the Final Visual Mixer with instruments in space

Below the various Scaler status files

Scaler 1 for guitar.xml (9.9 KB)
Scaler 2 for guitar.xml (10.8 KB)
Scaler-for bass violin.xml (14.6 KB)
Scaler-for percussions.xml (11.4 KB)

and here the resulting song: EthiopiaMali Blues

I forgot to say I have a masinko :grin:

It is not a gadget for tourists, it can play well, but I don’t have the needed incense block to glue horsehair together, and is hard to play anyway: it’s a pity because with the modern sampling tools I could have the option to sample it


Agreed about tuning. As an ethnomusicologist working with electronic tools, I find that few of them allow for the kind of intonation work typical of most of the musics in the World (i.e., everything besides mathematically precise pitch from electronic processing). Of course, there’s a whole scene for “microtuning”, much of it focused on mathematically precise pitch from electronic processing as opposed to the kind of lively pitch variation we find in the real world.
Given the “Blues” framing, that can be especially important, as much of Blues is about interactions.

It’s very unlike that Scaler will ever allow for any kind of tuning that’s not based on 12TET/12EDO (“Twelve-Tone Equal Temperament” or “Twelve Equal Divisions of the Octave”, the tuning we have in MIDI). Still, it could really help us connect to diverse traditions.

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Hi Alex

I take advantage of your double skill then:
Do you know a MIDI tool that let you randomly detune any instrument?
it could be useful to make my bass sound closer to the masinko

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Since I see you use Ableton, there is a brand new pack to download…Microtuner…maybe it could be helpful


Or…Micropitch from Eventide…but this one doesn’t come for free

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unfortunately, it is for Live 11 Suite, and I have the Standard one :sleepy:
well, maybe a day or another I’ll find it

maybe a Chorus can do that effect?
or Melodyne or Nectar used in the opposite way as they are normally used?
I’ll try that tonight

If you have an iPad/iPhone MicroPitch is only around 10 euro on the AppStore. As usual, on desktop is 10 times more at 100

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I’d check tools which support MTS-ESP.

One way to do it with monophonic instruments, though, could be with any pitchshifter and some random modulation through MIDI. Dunno how that works in Live 11 Standard. In Bitwig Studio, it’s trivial. (BWS also has a Micro-pitch module which is easy to modulate.)

And it goes on sale, once in a while.

These can work as well, if you have them.
Melodyne is quite interesting, for this type of thing, especially since it does support dynamic tuning. So you could technically have chords which are always in tune, based on each note’s function in the chord.
Maybe less of the effect you want on the masinko. :smiley:

So, yes, any kind of modulatable pitch effect could work.

Omnisphere supports over 60 alternative tunings as well as 12TET, so with MPE should give a pretty good range of alternate options.

Right. There’s a lot of support for alternate tunings. Not really dynamic, though.

the problem is that the masinko is almost NEVER in tune, as far as I can understand: this is why nectar or melodyne (I have both) can do the job if they can be used in the opposite way the were developed for

but I don’t know music so maybe I am just wrong telling that the masinko is always out of tune :cold_face:

as far as I understand, Omnisphere is an instrument (synthesizer), not an effect: do I am wrong?
I need rather a detune effect for certain world instruments

Correct. Spectrasonics - Omnisphere 2.8 - Features
I mentioned it in the context of it being in that minority of VST instruments that support other tunings.

is pitch shifting with these tools on the MIDI or Audio level?
Does the standard MIDI (not MPE) allow for pitch detuning as part of its protocol? Or does that go into MPE territory?

rethinking to the matter, and looking at your posts, I suspect a pitch control is not suitable

I am not sure but I think that the masinko doesn’t have a variable pitch, but rather a variable tune that changes at each note

in other words, it is always out of tune because it has no fingerboard

Do I am wrong @Enkerli ?

The new Ableton Microtuner is a midi instrument

Yes as a channel message, and also as an RPN to define sensitivity.

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tl;dr You can use an instrument tuning in Melodyne and possibly add a bit of pitch randomization to make it sound like the effect you have in mind.

I don’t know the masenqo specifically (my main field research was in Southern Mali).
Sounds like Timkehet Teffera Mekonnen might have more insight as she has a draft piece about it: (PDF) Timkehet Teffera (2009). The One-Stringed Fiddle Masinqo: Its Function and Role in Contemporary Ethiopia and its Future (unpublished) | Timkehet Teffera Mekonnen - Academia.edu

Not having a fingerboard or frets brings it closer to many instruments in the world, from the musical bow, trombone, and human voice to… the cello. :wink:
Even fretted instruments vary in pitch. Some instruments are more fixed pitch, though there are minute variations based on performance (harps, xylophones, zithers including the piano, lamellophones, etc.).

From Taffeta Mekonnen, the instrument typically uses the Qəñət pitch sequence as a tuning system, which she also explained here:

This other paper covers a whole lot about some notions floating around, describing this tuning system, including its presence in the well-known Éthiopiques series (Francis Falceto is a co-author and he’s the musicographer behind Éthiopiques):

A cursory glance at that paper hints at a relatively stable tuning system which has later been influenced by theoretical work. With popular music like that present in several Éthiopiques releases, there’s a strong tendency to adapt the tuning to something closer to 12TET. Especially when you play with instruments which only allow for 12TET.

Of course, since the masenqo itself only has one string, you don’t get access to that tuning system from the instrument itself. In other words, you could play the instrument using any tuning system. If you want to bring it closer to something authentic, it’s useful to refer to the way it’s used with other instruments (including the voice, since it sounds like it’s mainly used as an accompaniment by “minstrels”).
Which brings us back to “the Blues”, from one part of the continent to another.
For “Malian Blues”, I most frequently think of “Kar Kar” (Boubacar Traoré). Although, Ali Farka Touré is better known outside Mali. They come from radically different musical backgrounds. Traoré (may he eat beans!) blends Blues and Arabic music with the longstanding musical traditions of the Mandé (from the jeliw praise singers and tradition keepers, the so-called “griots” who sing the Sunjata epic). Touré also used to merge several influences in his music.
In terms of Targi music, like that made popular by Tinariwen who infused it with Rock, it’s yet another tradition.

All of these use different tuning systems. And radically different languages (as different as English is to, say, Finnish).

So, how do you merge all of that? Well, it’s your choice. As it is for a lot of contemporary musicians who combine diverse traditions (including all those mentioned). Most people do it by ear.

Back to the masenqo. You could use Melodyne to repitch it, using one of its “Instruments” settings. (Its “Blues” tuning is based on 12TET.) Then, based on the pitch variability involved in playing a fretless instrument, you could apply a bit of pitch randomization as we’ve discussed. Or just a bit of chorus, as it blurs the pitch enough to make it sound “pitchy” (as we might say for voice).
And it’s probably a good idea to use the same Melodyne tuning for all sound sources in your track, whether or not you add pitch randomization to the others. (It’s very common to have instruments with fixed and variable pitch playing together.

Apologies for length. That’s what happens when you ask. :wink: