Vocal synthesis and graphical representation of the phonetic gestures underlying guitar timbre description

Caroline Traube; Nicolas D'Alessandro
DAFx-2005 - Madrid
The guitar is an instrument that gives the player great control over timbre. Different plucking techniques involve varying the finger position along the string, the inclination between the finger and the string, the inclination between the hand and the string and the degree of relaxation of the plucking finger. Guitarists perceive subtle variations of these parameters and they have developed a very rich vocabulary to describe the brightness, the colour, the shape and the texture of the sounds they produce on their instrument. Dark, bright, chocolatey, transparent, muddy, wooly, glassy, buttery, and metallic are just a few of those adjectives. The aim of this research is to conceive a computer tool producing the synthesis of the vocal imitation as well as the graphical representation of phonetic gestures underlying the description of the timbre of the classical guitar, as a function of the instrumental gesture parameters (mainly the plucking angle and distance from the bridge) and based on perceptual analogies between guitar and speech sounds. Similarly to the traditional teaching of tabla which uses onomatopeia to designate the different strokes, vocal imitation of guitar timbres could provide a common language to guitar performers, complementary to the mental imagery they commonly use to communicate about timbre, in a pedagogical context for example.