The traditional Celtic harp is an ancient instrument native to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and parts of Northern France. For this library I recorded a modern harp with a warm tone and a built in pick-up. This allowed me to create a direct input (DI) recording in addition to two stereo microphone positions.
Michaela’s Harp is a beautifully sampled Celtic harp virtual instrument. It features three microphone positions, multiple velocity layers, damped and stopped samples, and playable triplets.
The library was recorded in a studio rather than a large hall so the samples aren’t particularly wet which will help you to blend and layer them with your other instruments.
To create this wonderful library I spent a day in the studio with the talented Michaela Dorrity. Michaela studied with Brenda O’Somochain in Derry, receiving her Senior 4 (grade 8) certificate in 2012.
Since that time she’s been taught by Máire Ní Chathasiagh, Rachel Newton and Fiana Ní Chonaill and competed in the Fleadh Irish music competition, qualifying for the All Ireland Fleadh and reaching first place in the Donegal, and Northern Region of Britain Fleadhs.
If you’d like to hear the real instrument in action or have Michaela perform at an event you can contact her through her Facebook page.
Please see the detailed installation guide for instructions on how to setup Michaela’s Harp on your system.
The “Normal” sample set includes four velocity layers, chromatically sampled across the entire range of the instrument. These are recordings of the plucked strings and their sustain (longer for the lower notes, shorter for the higher notes) with the natural resonance of the other strings. This sample set is accessed by selecting one of the presets in the Normal category.
The “Damped” sample set is a single velocity layer, chromatically sampled across the whole range of the instrument. For this sample set all of the strings surrounding the one being recorded were damped. This resulted in a less resonant sample set with a crisper attack on each sample and a more defined sustain. This sample set is accessed by selecting one of the presets in the Damped category.
Playing quick groups of three notes is a common occurrence in Celtic harp music and is not easy to simulate with individual plucked samples.
The triplet samples were recorded over the mid-range of the instrument (C3-A4) where this technique is most often used, with the remaining key range covered through pitch stretching of the lowest and highest samples.
In order to be able to perform the triplet in real time the samples have been sliced up and are controlled in a round robin fashion. For example to play a triplet on middle C you just need to hit the note three times in a row and each sample of the triplet will play in order.
You can create variety in the speed of the triplet by how fast you play the notes. Each key has its own internal counter which is reset if the key hasn’t been played for two seconds or more.
Another common technique is for the musician to cut short the resonance of the lower strings during a performance. This creates a percussive staccato feel and has a unique sound as the strings are quickly stopped.
Michaela’s Harp includes a set of stopped samples that covers the lower range of the instrument (C1-C3). These samples are activated by engaging the sustain pedal (CC64) before releasing the keys.
The interface of Michaela’s Harp is simple to use while providing a lot of options for customising the sound and playability of the instrument.
If you hold the shift key on your keyboard while clicking on a knob or slider you’ll be able to type in a specific value.
You can move the knobs and sliders on the interface more precisely by holding down the control key on your keyboard at the same time.
Double clicking a knob or slider will reset it to its default value.
Clicking the Libre Wave logo will display some information about the library as well as a clickable link to the librewave.com website. You can click the Instrument button to leave this screen.
Most of the sliders and knobs on the interface can be controlled with a continuous controller. You can assign a hardware controller to a control using MIDI learn: just right-click a control, select MIDI learn, and move a hardware knob, wheel, or fader to assign its MIDI controller number to that control. You can right-click the control again to remove the assignment.
Many of the on-screen controls will respond to automation within your DAW without needing to assign a CC to them first. Check your DAW’s user guide for details on how to access automatable parameters.
Keyboard & Articulations
The illuminated keys of the on-screen keyboard show the playable range of the instrument. Keys outside of this range will not trigger any samples.
The three red keys at the lower end of the keyboard are used to change articulation
- C0: Enables either the normal or damped sample set based on the currently loaded preset.
- C#0: Like C0 this enables the sustain sample set. However when you release the key the note will be retriggered. This is useful for performing fast repeated notes.
- D0: Enables the triplets sample set.
You can also change articulation using CC32 or MIDI program change. With either of these methods a value of 40 will enable the sustain articulation and a value of 41 will enable the triplets articulation.
At the left side of the interface are the microphone controls.
Each microphone position has a channel strip that controls its volume, pan, stereo width, and delay. The DI channel is mono only so its width control has no effect on the sound.
Below each volume fader is a button that can be used to purge or load the samples for that microphone position. These buttons also indicate the name of the channel: Close (C), Direct Input (DI), Room (R).
On the right hand side of the interface you’ll find the envelope controls. These allow you to adjust the attack and release time of the sustain samples.
Below the envelope controls is the round robin button which is used to toggle the round robin repetition feature on or off. This solves the problem of the same sample being triggered when a note is played multiple times, also known as “the machine gun effect”.
The round robin scripting will automatically switch samples when a note is played more than once. Each note is individually tracked and their internal counters are reset if they haven’t been played for two seconds or more. The round robin is completely random so it may occasionally trigger the same sample twice in a row.
Velocity Curve Editor
This control can be used to change how the instrument responds to MIDI velocity.
You can move nodes around by clicking, holding, and dragging them. New nodes can be added to the table by clicking anywhere that doesn’t already have a node, and you can delete nodes by right-clicking on them. Hover your cursor over a node and move the scroll wheel on your mouse to adjust the curve between that node and the one to the right of it.
The settings page gives you control over the sampler engine, hardware configuration, and MIDI options. The settings that are available will vary slightly depending on if you are using the standalone instrument or the VSTi plugin.
- Standalone application only
- Driver: This is used to set the audio playback system that the instrument will use. The choice of drivers will vary depending on your operating system.
- Audio Device: You can select which hardware audio output device (sound-card/audio interface) you want the instrument to use.
- Output: If your chosen device has multiple outputs you can use this menu to select which will be used by the instrument.
- Buffer Size: This is the buffer used by your chosen audio device. Lowering the buffer size reduces latency but if it’s too low it can cause pops and clicks to be heard.
- Sample Rate: This is the sample rate of your chosen audio device. The available options will vary based on your hardware.
- Standalone application and plugin
- UI Zoom Factor: You can increase or decrease the size of the instrument’s interface using the options in this menu. All of the instrument’s graphics and text are designed to scale perfectly without blurring or fuzziness.
- Streaming Mode: Select the option that suits the type of drive you are using to store the instrument’s samples.
- Max Voices: The amount of polyphony the instrument can handle. If the value is too low you may notice some dropouts when playing a lot of notes.
- Clear MIDI CC: Use this button to reset all MIDI continuous controller assignments you have made using the MIDI learn feature.
- Change sample folder location: If you move the samples to a new location you can use this button to point the instrument to them.
MIDI input tab: Displays the hardware MIDI devices that the instrument can see. You can check the boxes alongside the device names to enable those devices for MIDI input. This tab is only visible in the standalone application.
MIDI channel tab: From here you can select the incoming MIDI channels that the instrument will respond to.
MIDI automation tab: Displays information about any MIDI continuous controller numbers you have assigned using the MIDI learn feature. It also allows you to adjust the range of values that the continuous controllers will use and provides you with a quick way to invert the values if desired.
The preset browser is accessed by clicking the Presets button. Michaela’s Harp includes a selection of default presets and you can also create your own.
New presets can be added by first selecting a category in the left column and then clicking the Add button below the right column. The other controls below the right column allow you to edit or delete existing presets.
The two categories on the left – Damped and Normal – indicate which of the two sustaining sample sets is used by the preset. Any new categories you add will use the sample set of the last loaded preset.
Clicking the More button will open a drop down menu offering you a number of options for importing and exporting your presets.
The name of the currently loaded preset is always displayed on the interface. The arrows on either side of the preset name can be clicked to load either the previous or the next preset.