Finally, now I have a proper setup for sound recording, I made a recording of the kontrabas nyckelharpa. This is “Polska från Hälleforsnäs”, solo at the start and end, but with two other tracks overlaid, thickest in the middle. I think that there it sounds almost like a Breton pipe band – but then it is a drone instrument.

The video has photos of the construction – with one taken at Halsway in September 2017 (thanks Linda Hall) of two kontrabasharpa players – me and Vicki Swan.

The setup for recording, using Audacity on the Raspberry Pi, is great. However Audacity is a bit limited in what it can do when mixing the tracks down (though it can do a lot). I don’t think that Ardour, a more complex DAW (digital audio workstation – hah!) will run on the Raspberry Pi, although there are other possibilities that might.

I recorded 11 tracks using the nyckelharpa, fiddle, and lever harp, all on Audacity. I then exported them as .wav files and imported them into an Ardour session so that I could use the programmable faders in Ardour. Here’s a screenshot:

Ardour screenshot

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The nyckelharpa had a great time again at the Edinburgh Scandi Session – together with the fun of meeting a microphone from the BBC! The producer of BBC Radio Scotland’s “Travelling Folk” had sent someone along to listen to us and talk to us. Yay! (They are doing a special on Scandi music next month.)

Time to get an improved system to get the sound into the computer – a better usb interface. I bought a Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd edition) which is adequate for my needs – I just have the one decent microphone with no plans for others at present.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

The build quality is excellent – a nice solid case, smooth controls, good large rubber feet to stop it slipping. It was easy to set up the latency in Audacity, and easy to adjust microphone input level and monitor headphones output level.

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I am gradually working up to having a better sound recording setup. One concern is the computer used to do the recording; computers usually have fans that sometimes fire up at unexpected moments, and for sound recording you need quiet.

The Raspberry Pi has given me a lot of fun already for amateur radio, and I wondered if the most powerful version I have – the Raspberry Pi 3 model B – would be sufficient to make overdub recordings. Online research suggested that at least some people had made the Raspberry Pi work for sound recording, and there are versions of Digital Audio Workstation software that can run on it, for example

I installed Audacity (as a simple recording system that I am familiar with) on the Raspberry Pi (simple, using the package installer) and it seems to work. I set up a quick and easy system (which I can test with until I get a proper usb sound interface), using a cheap mixer to provide phantom power to the microphone, and a cheap usb sound dongle to provide the audio interface to the Pi. It looks like this:

Hardware photo

For those not familiar with it, the Raspberry Pi computer is the small bare circuit board left centre. (I have ordered a box for it!) The sound dongle is plugged into the powered usb hub (as is the mouse) just below the monitor.

I recorded a click track, and overdubbed it onto itself to determine the latency correction needed; this is easy in Audacity (and well documented). I then recorded a track with the nyckelharpa, and overdubbed a second part with the fiddle. It was OK, in that I could monitor the first track on headphones whilst playing, but a proper usb interface will enable me to monitor both properly in the headphones. Watch this space!

The final photo of Starman from Elon Musk / SpaceX. Sadly there won’t be comms at all in future close approaches to Earth (or anywhere). So … I’ll have to get cracking on my own project to receive signals from deep space craft.

starman in car