Author Archive

Medusa and Yidaki. Toma at Natibongo

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

A few photos of me playing one of the latest versions of the medusa, and one of a big Djalu yidaki,
during the concert of my band Toma, at the Natibongo festival.

Medusa with Toma

Electric Medusa and Toma!

Toma at Natibongo



Categories: Uncategorized

Mouthpiece noise..

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I have had a long standing problem with the electric medusa and also electric didge due to the
extreme sensitivity of the piezo pickup to sounds other than the musica ones. The worst of
these is the noise of the players mouth on the mouthpiece. This may of course seem like the
most irrelevant of sounds, but when the pickup is two or three centimetres from the mouthpiece
every little scratch is pickedup and amplified. Mouthpiece noise creates a scratchy annoying
static like sound.

I have thought of many unsuccesful or too expensive and impracticable solutions but yesterday
the most simple idea popped into my head. Wax mouthpiece! Now of course lots of didges have
wax on the mouthpiece, but since I play mostly traditional yidaki for which it is not terribly
common to find large gobs of wax on the mouthpiece (most do not have any), I had sort of
forgotten about it (although fortunately I still have a good supply of wax at home from my old
non-trad days).

Yesterday evening I stuck a ring of wax on the medusa mouthpiece and plugged it into my
multieffect unit and had a good listen with the headphones…….
the noise has been reduced to an irrelevant level!! :)))

Categories: Uncategorized

Electric Didgeridoo

February 12, 2010 2 comments

I finally managed to record a little bit of didge with piezo-mouthpiece pickup attached. Actually the instrument is a yidaki from North-East Arnhem Land and the pickup is a simple doorbell buzzer that you can find in electronics stores for about 1 euro.

Fishing through the questions that Dubravko had sent me and that I had promised to reply I realised that the next two questions were actually waiting for me to make this video and write this piece. The moment is auspicious and thus;

Question 5. Why do you use an amp, and don’t straightly go to the mixer?
Actually, I now go through a mixer. One can plug the pickup directly into an amplifier however it does not necessarily give a great sound due to the high (greater than 1MegaOhm) impedance. I have found that if you plug it into the high pickup of an electric guitar amp the results are not bad. I guess I should make a video of that too..

The actual setup in this video is – cheap pickup into Soundcraft mixer with gain at half maximum – zoom b2.1u at insert point of mixer – mixer output to SR Jam 150 amp. The mixer and amp have equalizers in neutral positions while in the zoom the high and low frequencies had 0dB gain whilst mid frequencies were boosted. All gains in the pedal were also at mid positions. The only effect used is chorus.

Unfortunately the sound quality of the video is not fantastic as I was in a bit of a rush when recording. The actualy sound is quite decent with this setup though with some more tweaking I am sure that it can be considerably improved.

Question 6. What kind of changes did you get with varying pickups? Is there a point of putting a high quality pickup?

The photo below is of a pickup on a mouthpiece extension similar to that used in the above video. This pickup is a K&K pickup and has a somewhat smoother sound than the cheap pickup. It requires more gain due to the smaller size of the disk, 22mm compared to the cheap one that comes in at 28mm. This pickup is used in the recording of the piece Metamorfosis that you can listen to on my myspace/martinoloughlin
I am sure that there is a point in using high quality pickups. The immediate problem that I have with this solution is that I also believe that the 28mm pickups are more adapted to the didge than the 22mm ones but I do not know of any manufaturer who produces professional (musical) quality pickups of that diameter.

Piezo-pickup mouthpiece extension

Categories: Instrumentation, Yidaki

Tuning and Timb(e[r)e]

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I have been pretty busy lately working on some new models of the Electric Medusa and continuing work on the realisation of a musically interesting Harmonic Opendidge (the basic ideas of which I have already discussed in an earlier blog entry). More news about both of these soon once I have resolved a few technical issues. Also coming up is a gathering of didgeridoo players on the 5th of December here in North-East Italy and close to the beautiful and spectacular ex-fortress (designed by Leonardo da Vinci) of Palmanova. During the afternoon I will also give a workshop on the opendidge, from the acoustics to construction and tuning, and the evening during the concert will play a few pieces that I have composed specifically for the Electric Medusa.

I will now turn to the next few questions of Dubravko Lapaine, that are once again addressing some of the first questions that I had faced in developing this instrument and which are part of the surprising things that I found after discovering the basic idea.

The questions are the following:
2. Can you tune it to any scale? At least theoretically..
3. How much can you change timber, and in what spectrum is change the strongest? Can you “emulate” different materials of classical didge by changing timbre?
4. How much does material of EM affect the sound – and in reference to “normal” didge?

Three questions about tuning, timbre and effect of materials on the sound.

Tuning: In principle with enough finger holes you can tune to any scale. In practice this is limited by the number of fingers that we have on our hands. With a three tube model and
three finger holes you have eight possible combinations and the lowest note for each finger combination together can form part of a scale. These can be tuned to correspond to major or minor and various other scales. I plan to make available here a simple computer program that helps calculate the various finger hole placements and tube lengths needed to attain a given tuning but I would like to pretty it up and test it a little more first.

Timbre: The timbre of a given note is related to the proportion of the different resonant frequencies present in the sound spectrum when that note is played. The opendidge has
a unique characteristic that distinguishes it from all reed instruments due to the fact that the playing position is never precisely at the point of greatest air pressure variation. The result of this is that different frequencies can be excited in different proportions, depending upon the precise playing position.

A simple example is a tube 2 metres long (for example..). If we place the mouthpiece half way along the tube we can only excite the odd-harmonics of the tube in this
case producing in the spectrum of the fundamental (about an E2) other frequencies at
B3, G#4 etc… If instead we place the mouthpiece one third of the way along the tube at about 66 cm, then we produce the fundamental (E2) the octave E3. After this we miss the
third harmonic at B5 and then produce E4 and G#4. Clearly then by further shifting the mouthpiece one can create other timbres. In addition for an instrument like the Electric Medusa with three or more tubes there are more options for timbre and even the possibility of having a single instrument that produces two or three different timbres.

In principle one could, with some calculation, find combinations of tube lengths that would produce a desired timbre but I prefer to think of these timbric changes as a feature of the opendidge and provide us with a huge extension of the timbres possible with a didgeridoo.

Timber (or materials): It is certainly true that the material from which the Electric Medusa is constructed will have some influence on the sound produced, but this will not be significantly different from the way in which different materials influence the sound of a didgeridoo. Depending on the elasticity and sonic absorption of the material some frequencies may be accentuated or attenuated. I hope to be able to say more about this once I have started making instruments from some different materials. If anyone has already done so and has some comments to make please do so:)

Back soon with some more news and info.

Categories: Opendidge

Some wicked yidaki playing

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

If you want to hear some of the best yidaki players on the planet then the best place to look, apart from taking a trip to Arnhem Land in the Far North of Australia, is to go to the ididjaustralia youtube channel which is run by my mate Guan Lim.
Here is one of the latest videos by a hot young Yolngu yidaki player Adam Marrilaga.

Look up Larry Winiwini, the son of Djalu’ Gurruwiwi for some technically superb playing.

Categories: Playing techniques, Yidaki

Deep notes on the Electric Medusa

October 26, 2009 3 comments

This is the first of the questions sent to me by Dudo (Dubravko Lapaine). There are others but each merits its own blog entry so we will do them one at a time.

Dudo: How deep is the deeepest practical EM and how deep could the deepest impractical one go?

Martin: The deepest Electric Medusa that I have made so far arrives at a low A (la) at around 27.5 Hz. It is not too difficult to play the note, certainly much easier than playing the same note on a very long cylindrical tube a little over three metres in length and with a diameter of 35mm or so.
Making the diameter of the mouthpiece a few millimetres larger than the current Electric Meduse mouthpieces (30mm) one can certainly arrive at a low E (about 20 Hz and the lower limit of human hearing) and probably lower without too much difficulty. I will prepare an mp3 or video as soon as I can and post it here and on youtube.

With the combination of a mouthpiece of the appropriate dimensions and then smaller tubes exiting from the mouthpiece one can achieve deep notes without too much difficulty due to the increased backpressure as compared to a cylindrical tube. Although an instrument of this type will not radiate acoustically as does an instrument with a large bell, the electric medusa has amplification built into the mouthpiece and this responds very well to both low and high frequencies obviating the need for the large bell and thus simplifying the construction of the instrument considerably.

I like to think of the electric medusa as an electric guitar, or maybe more appropriately an electric bass. Without amplification the sound produced is of very low volume while attached to the amplifier it is very powerful.

Of course the question of deep notes is also strongly related to playing technique. A really good exercise for loosening up the embouchure is learning to play notes in the really deep register. A reasonable definition of the really deep register is from a low E and down (below 40 Hz say). I will write a separate blog post on deep notes in the near future.

Categories: Opendidge

Ruminations and a picture

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

For almost a year now, there has not passed a day, (well every now and then some days have passed but there are not too many of them), that I have not thought about, designed, built or played one of my meduse or opendidges. And at least when doing the thinking and designing some strange shapes and designs may spontaneously appear from the fog and I sometimes even manage to get them onto paper. So here is another…. a lot more medusa-like than many of the others.


On a slightly different note,
I often receive questions about the medusa and recently my mate Dubravko Lapaine has kindly asked me a few interesting ones. In the next week or so I will dp the best to answer his questions here thus sharing some hopefully interesting information with all the (other) people reading this blog..

Categories: Opendidge