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Northumbrian Smallpipes Simulator - A Quick Guide

This guide is written on the assumption that you have successfully managed to launch the application and that the sound is all set up. See the main page and the requirements section if this is a problem.

Using the simulator

When it is started, the program provides a simulation of a keyless 4 drone set of pipes in F; the drones are all off and randomly tuned. The aim is to be able to tune the drones to the chanter notes.

Start by playing a note on the chanter; either the bottom-most note (G) or the top-most (g), alternatively try the 'd' (fifth note up). Then choose one of the drones and turn it on by clicking the end stopper. You will now have two notes playing that are out of tune. Tune the drone by sliding the end part in and out (using the arrows on the keyboard or the mouse). Try and listen for the 'beats' in the sound, the slower the beat, the closer together the notes are. When the beat is gone the notes are in tune.

Now add another drone and tune that in. You might want to turn the chanter note off and tune the drones together. Once you think they are 'in', play the note on the chanter again and see if you think it's in tune.

At any time, you can turn the colour meters on and see how close the drones are. Try to do this as little as possible and train your ears to hear when the notes are in tune. Once you get comfortable with it you should be able to tune any of the drones to chanter notes and also use tuning beads. Just like with a real set, when you turn a tuning bead on, the 'in tune' point can be different to when just using the stopper. The drones can also sometimes be pushed into sounding a different pitch - again just like a real set!

When you want to have another go, select the Options menu and 'reset'. This pushes all of the drones out of tune and moves the 'in tune' point around. You can also choose different configurations to mimic different sounding sets of pipes and to experiment with more tuning beads.

Getting more help

The application has a lot more help built in. You can launch the help system from the Help menu.

How do I .. ?

.. turn a drone on and off? Either:
  • click on the drone stopper
  • click on the drone and press the spacebar
  • right click on the drone and use the menu
.. use a tuning bead? Tuning beads change the note the drone sounds (usually up by one or two tones). The drone stopper can be in or out, this does not make any difference. Either:
  • click on the tuning bead
  • click anywhere on the drone so it is highlighted. Press '1' for the first tuning bead (nearest the stopper) or '2' for the next one.
  • right click on the drone and use the menu
The beads are turned on and off in the same way.
.. tune a drone? Either
  • click on the drone and use the arrow keys on the keyboard
  • use the mouse, click and hold the slider, then move the mouse
The drones act like real drones and sometimes the drone can produce 'other' notes. They can be pushed into a different octave (overblow) or occasionally push up (or down) a whole tone. In this case a 'G' drone will sometimes be made to produce an 'A'. You can tell whether it's the right note by playing the G and the A on the chanter; only one will sound 'right'.
.. play/stop a note on the chanter? Either:
  • simply click the note on the chanter that you want to play or stop. (you can use the up and down arrow keys or the numbers (1-8) to play other notes)
  • click on the manuscript in the notation panel
  • right click on the chanter and use the menu
.. know I'm in tune? Either:
  • Listen to the sound and the beating of the drones
  • Press the colour button to see the tuning meter. All green means the drones are in tune with each other and the chanter.
.. turn everything off? Press the silencer button!
.. reset the drones Either:
  • Select the Option menu and "Reset". This resets all of the drone sliders.
  • Do it manually
The drones can also all be set to be 'in tune' from the Options menu.

Why doesn't 'X' work?

It's version 1.1 and I haven't got round to that bit yet! If you want to submit comments, I'm always open to suggestions.