GASP: Timeline and Development

GASP V0: During the period 2012-14 we made initial investigations into use of Ubertar divided/hex pickups; we purchased two, one was installed on our Japanese Fender Stratocaster, the other on a Yamaha APX acoustic guitar. University of Derby MA Music Production students Charlie Middlicott, Sam Speakman, and Alex Wardle made significant contributions to our initial multichannel guitar productions, which were performed by Fred Baker The outcome of this work was showcased at University of Derby, Sounds-in-Space symposium in June 2014.

GASP V1: University of Derby internal funding in 2014-15 through the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS) enabled further multichannel guitar recordings by BSc Music Technology & Production students Tom Lawson and Tom Weightman. Additionally, BSc Electronic Engineering undergraduate Joe Callister worked with Bruce Wiggins to create a bespoke GUI which allowed us to integrate Guitar Rig ‘stereo’ presets on separate individual strings on the guitar into Ambisonic 2D processing; the key features being ‘Spread’, ‘Angle’ and ‘Distance’ variable parameters, this was a significant step forward in enabling the immersive possibilities of the system. The outcome of this work was a poster shown on GASP V1 page.

GASP V2: Further URSS funding in 2015-16 enabled BSc Music Technology & Production students Dominic Dallali, Jack Hooley and Charlie Box to be employed in dual roles as both session musicians and research assistants, creating some good quality content for demonstration purposes. At this point we were recording into ProTools, then timbralising individual strings with Native Instruments Guitar Rig, and then exporting into Reaper for spatialisation production. Previously recorded material performed by Fred Baker was used for experimental post-production; the recordings of Elliot’s Joy and Prelude to Life were re-timbralised and spatialised using Wigware within Reaper. Further to this Dominic Dallali recreated the guitar part from the track Pale Aura by Periphery, this is in the progressive metal genre, the post production on this track experimented with dramatically spatialising temporally closely played notes. In the same sessions Jack Hooley recreated the guitar part from the track Cat Fantastic by TTNG, in a picking style. The outcome of this work was showcased at University of Derby, Sounds-in-Space symposium in June 2016, the accompanying poster info is shown on GASP V2 page.

GASP V3: During the period 2016 – 18 we covered a lot of new ground. Our objective was to investigate possibilities for live performance implementation, utilizing a number of external MIDI parameter controllers. Further URSS funding employed BSc Music Technology & Production students Beth Mansfield, Thomas Nash, and Emma Fitzmaurice. Efforts were focused on integrating several external hardware MIDI controllers (Behringer BCR and BCFs) to facilitate experimentation of real-time (i.e. live performance) control of timbral and spatial parameters. The experimental system set-up provided enough evidence to suggest a way forward with a more sophisticated control system using a second computer for control messages.

Funding from the University of Derby’s ‘Vice Chancellors Ideas Fund’ enabled the purchase a more powerful MacPro computer allowing us to use our existing iMac for control purposes. These developments enabled us to move forward with a different approach for timbral and spatial control mechanisms; the new MacPro now doing all the intensive real-time timbral processing of six simultaneous Line 6 Helix Native guitar processor plug-ins and also, six independent spatialisations of each string using bespoke Ambisonic Wigware panners

Emma Fitzmaurice played a major role in setting up the system interconnections and implementing the use of Ableton Clips for easy selection of timbres and spatialisers. Additionally, as a further feature we implemented  the use of MIDI based programmable audio gate switching with ‘TrackGate’,793  on each individual string, such that with one strum of all strings, an arpeggiation like effect is achieved where each string can rapidly switch on and off in a programmable rhythmic fashion.

At this time we became aware of a growing interest in divided pickups in the general guitar community, which was largely due to their improved timbral clarity. Although our Ubertar hex pickup worked well, we came across a new ‘active’ divided pick-up, known as Cycfi Nu-Series Modular Active Pickups from, we installed one onto another Strat type guitar for test purposes, and a different, more transparent output was noticeable.

During 2018-19 BSc Music Technology & Production student Harry Dale joined the team as a recipient of further URSS funding. We now needed some way of allowing guitarists to independently select timbre (Helix presets), spatialisation SAD presets (Wigware) and ‘Guitarpeggiation’ presets, which are all stored as independent Clips within Ableton; our solution was to use a Behringer FCB 1010 MIDI foot controller|en) this could now enable the guitarist to select Ableton Clips and also operate the continuous controller pedals to control aspects of spatialisation. The spatialisers not only position audio to a given location, they are controllable via the tempo of Ableton’s sequencer, which is in turn mapped to continuous controller pedals of FCB1010, allowing real-time user (guitarist) control. Note: the original firmware of FCB101 was notoriously challenging to program, however we upgraded to UNO/FCB control center to facilitate much easier programming

Our GASP system set-up by this time had become somewhat unwieldy, so we took the opportunity to remount the computers and interfaces onto a dedicated GASP station. And during this process we documented and labelled all interconnections and created system diagrams for easy teardown and rebuild when needed. The outcome of work is documented in the poster on GASP V3 page.

Academic Paper: Developments so far have been disseminated at three conferences: Firstly at ‘Klingt Gut! International Symposium on Sound’ Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, June 2017 Then at the University of Derby, Sounds-in-Space symposium in June 2019, where we demonstrated the GASP project in a live environment with drummer George Grignon and various invited guitarists, including Fred Baker and session guitarist Emiliano Bonanomi And in December 2019 we presented at ‘Innovation in Music’ conference at the University of West London, our paper entitled ‘Development of an Ambisonic Guitar System, aka GASP: Guitars with Ambisonic Spatial Performance’, is to be included as a book chapter of the proceedings, published by Routledge.

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