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Effect of Drone Reed Material on Great Highland Bagpipe Sound

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Great highland bagpipe drones are equipped with single beating reeds. These reeds were traditionally made of cane but more and more musicians nowadays use synthetic reeds. The advantage of synthetic reed is its reduced dependance on air moisture and temperature as well as its increased stability with aging. Despite this advantage, many musicians consider that equipping their instrument with synthetic reeds would degrade its timbre and remain faithful to cane reeds. In the present study, the sound of drones equipped with cane or plastic reeds was first recorded. Expert listeners were then asked to assess these recordings with respect to the following attributes : global quality of sound, clarity, aggressiveness, warmth, volume and immersion. The reed material appeared to be without significant effect on the global quality of drone sound (and also on other perceptual attributes), when one tenor or bass drone was played alon e, and when the two tenor drones and the bass drone were played with the chanter (full set). However, independently of the material, some reeds obtained higher ratings than some other ones. Global Quality was correlated with warmth, immersion and clarity (to a lesser extent with aggressiveness)in full set condition. Correlations between perceptual results and signal analyses showed, about tenor drones, that listeners appreciated sounds having a fundamental frequency with a large magnitude, and less energy for higher harmonics. The analysis of the material influence on these signal properties indicated that synthetic tenor reeds should obtained higher quality ratings (even if this effect was not significant according to the statistical analysis).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2016

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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