May 19, 2024

Over this weekend, I got into this heated argument on a Yahoo group about Wind Controllers. I was interested in perhaps getting a new EWI 4000 to supplement my practicing. I said in one post that I thought a lot of the people using the controller as a sax made it sound cheesy. And, honestly, the sounds do sound cheesy. And I stated that you should try to be a sax, or a flute at all because it just doesn’t sound right. Wow. The little people on that list blew up, calling my statements “stupid”, calling me “bipolar” when I said that the Garritan Jazz Band sounds sound good (but not good enough) and slandering me about everything under the moon. The moderator, Matt at Patchman Music decided to just remove me from the list without any explanation. Nice moderating there guy.

I thought it was really interesting that these guys have deluded themselves into thinking that playing a flute patch, or sax patch sounds as good as the real thing. One gem, was posted by this german guy “We emulators must have come very close to the “real thing” otherwise they wouldn’t feel to threatened and be so passionate about preventing emulation”. I totally don’t agree. You are doing a disservice to the music community. Whatever happened to tone? Isn’t tone the most important part of someone’s playing? If you are proficient on wind controller, why not just play the real instrument then? There is not much of a leap from EWI to clarinet. Why not just play it as it’s own instrument with it’s own unique sound?

Group Think

Ah, anyhow, the little group there seems to think not. Thus I got bounced, though people who slandered me seem to have been allowed to continue to post. I think the wind controller players are limiting themselves if they do emulation, or even think it sounds a “believable” substitute for a real instrument. Steps Ahead would not be on my iPod if Brecker was using a flute patch to play all those songs.

But what do you all think? EWI as a substitute for a real instrument? As it’s own entity (ala Brecker)? I am totally for the latter, and opposed to the former.

13 thoughts on “Windcontroller Group (Group Think)

  1. There was a problem with the article this morning. Not sure what was up. Anyhow, someone emailed me this. Well said.

    "Hello -
    Just couldn't pass this one up.
    I firmly believe that an EWI is not a substitute for the real instrument. I live in Las Vegas, and perform daily on sax, flute and clarinet in various shows and settings. I also have many orignal projects in the works, one of which includes a lot of flute. So I have been shedding flute, and getting my sound together etc.... (not to mention this is great for your sax sound) - but don't let people tell you sharpening ewi skill to the point of mastery just so you can have a good flute double (what?!) is a good thing.
    Don't get me wrong - if you play EWI, then you like I , have a lot of respect for guys like Brecker and Mintzer, and others who have put in the time and done the work to fully realize the potential of EWI technology. But at the same time, if I was playing in a situation where all the reed players were competent doublers and some guy walks in toting an EWI expecting for that to pass as his doubles, he wouldn't even get his horn out of the case......
    do the work - get the good sound - and stop irritating the guys that do the work and get the good sound.
    Just in case, yes, I own an EWI and love to use it on occasion in settings that I believe merit it, but I also spent time on the real doubles getting it together and found it very rewarding.

    Las Vegas

    Yep. Totally agree. However, you say anything like that on the “windcontroller” list, and you’ll get banned. Believe me, I’ve been there 😉

    In fact, there was one guy who seemed so proud that he was an “emulator” as he called it. I think the whole idea is slightly better than having a keyboard player play woodwind parts. Slightly.

    And I have a lot of respect for people who play EWI as it’s own thing. Brecker, Tom Scott, Mintzer, and the like. Hell, there was even a guy on the list who plays flute and does EWI and his stuff was great! He didn’t try to be like a flute at all when playing it.

  2. "I'm a member of the windcontroller mailing list and happily stayed out of the
    religious debate... for no other reason than the fact that it's horribly boring.

    It's been done and done and done. I did it a couple of years ago and argued
    your side. I have since decided that emulation is rather good and important,
    depending on its use. When it is used in film scores (for example) it's
    phenomenal. However, a lot of the time it is rather cheesy 🙂 But people will
    do what they do... i strive for the brecker side of things. I'll never get
    there but the journey is worthwhile."

    Indeed. The journey is worthwhile. And I use “emulation”, or rather “realistic midi” for all kinds of projects. And it can sound damn good with the proper patches and mixing. But my point was that playing a flute patch on your EWI and saying it is a flute just isn’t right. It doesn’t sound right. You aren’t going to get anything like what a real flute can do. The ambiance, the tone variations, etc. That seemed to be something none of these guys “got”. You can play it however you want, but wouldn’t it be more rewarding to play it as something that is not trying to be a clarinet? or a flute? Hell, if you have good skills on an EWI, why not just get a real flute? It could help out your overall skills ten fold learning flute.

    I agree with the other Eric. “do the work – get the good sound – and stop irritating the guys that do the work and get the good sound.” But it seems easier for their “list” just to boot out the heathens 😉 People who think cheezy belongs in the refrigerator.

  3. I’ve been playing a Yamaha WX5/VL70m set up for about 6 years. The last two or so have been with a group that does some “different” folk/new age type songs. In that group, I use it to emulate flute, trumpet, cello, peruvian flute, weird synth sounds etc. I really enjoy it, and have also enjoyed experimenting with it for home multi-track recording of my own electronic music pieces. However, I consider myself to be a sax player (Tenor, and recently Soprano)first and foremost and jazz will always be “my home” and where virtually any of my musical ideas originate. So does my WX5 replace the real thing ? No way. I have enjoyed many things Brecker, Tom Scott and others have done with EWI’s, and I really enjoy working with it, but I can’t see it ever being a replacement for the real thing.

  4. Exactly. See, that was my whole point. Do something NEW/Different with it, but don’t try to “emulate” something that exists. Tom Scott and Brecker have done great things with the EWI and the Lyricon.

    But, it’s not going to replace the real instrument. I don’t see the point in even trying to fool anyone with emulated sounds. Just make a patch that you like and go for it.

    However, the Wind Controller “Group” seems to think the current state of sounds allows for flawless emulation of the real thing, and that the sounds are good enough to pass one’s self off as being a flute player even though they are just using a flute sound. That is insane. Sounds and stuff are getting way better, but hardly good enough to shelve one’s flute because the EWI can play just as well.

  5. Another thought (maybe a bit late at this point). Some of the patches in the Yamaha gear are amazingly realistic – even including breath sounds and so on. I think it might, maybe(???) be possible to work with a certain EWI patch, practice a player’s technique and mess with the sound system to get nearly true emulation for certain tunes/songs. But that’s a lot of effort to fully emulate the “real thing” with an EWI. Time probably better spent using a flute, sax or whatever. As I’ve said, I love my yamaha and the group I’m in has shaped what it does largely because what it can do. But case in point: last night at rehearsal we worked on a new tune, and I used a straight ahead sax patch. We all liked it and decided next rehearsal I would bring in my Tenor to really make the sound and feel of the song work.

  6. Exactly. Why bother trying to be the real thing? But if you did something DIFFERENT, like maybe a flute patch with a piano attack or whatever, that is cool. Something different. I’m all for that. Using it to be a clarinet or a flute is just lame.

    I don’t agree that the Yamaha gear sounds realistic. The most realistic sounds I’ve heard are those found in computer based samplers. Key word there is SAMPLER.

  7. That’s the same place that I sit. Only reason I would use an EWI for anything is to supliment a recording or performance with a new effect/effects. Way I see it, it’s the wind player’s answer to the huge multitude of effects that have made it to the mainstream for the electric guitar. No matter what you run through your guitar, it’ll never be a mandolin, or an acoustic guitar, or a banjo, or whathaveyou.

  8. What a subject, I play a WX11 with a Roland Sound Canvas I use it for odd stuff. It’s another tool to use with the sax. It can add value too you for giggs and that means more $$$. However, I will take my Tenor with a nice #3 V16 reed any day over the EWI.

    To The Phat Sound.

    By the way you can’t play overtones on the EWI

  9. I can applaud that. Using it for things other than EMULATION. The boneheads on that Yahoo group seem to think that their emulated sounds can sound better than the real thing. HA!

    One guy even had a clip of him playing EWI in a big band. THE WORST THING I’VE EVER HEARD. Seriously. Hollow, fake sounding through and through….

  10. The EWI is a interesting instrument. I had the opportunity to see the Yellowjackets perform at the Iridium in NYC. It was very intimate, and Bob Mintzer was soooo smok’n on his EWI. I spoke to him after the gig and asked him about his playing/EWI. He laughed and said the only reason he plays the EWI is because when he joined the Yellowjackets, a tune required him to play it. IT TOOK HIM 4 MONTHS JUST TO LEARN ONE TUNE. He told me it was worth it but what a pain in the ass.

    I own the Yamaha and I have to tell you it took some time to get used to. Still I fumble with and and trying to get really fast lines eludes me. When people ask me, “What is that thing?” I tell them, It’s a keyboard but in a saxophone layout. Which is basically what it is. A non-polyphonic keyboard. It serves its purpose and is a different instrument all together. Of course, there is nothing like the sound of a woodwind, or a brasswind, or playing a cello. But it’s funny, in some of the other posts there were comments like, “Do the work!” With all do respect, I would love to learn how to play bass, and violin, and flute and trumpet, OH, and electric guitar!!!

    No, it’s not a replacement for the real thing, but I allows us to be creative and experience so many different opportunities that may not have been there before.


    PS. I bought Patchmans music’s upgrade and it rocks !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  11. I love my EWI. I’m a jazz player first. I prefer acoustic music to electronic music. I prefer live musicians to recorded tracks. I prefer dance bands to dance tracks. I prefer improvisation over drop and drag sounding music. I prefer real jazz and real instrumental r&B to high pitched whiney alto saxophone.

    That said. Computers, electronics and plugs-ins are a great frontier for musicians. Unfortunately, there are many, many people who have access to technology yet dno’t have the genius of Coltrane, Brecker, Hancock or Stevie Wonder.

    I fantasize about taking my EWi on a gig and being a bass player for a song, trigerring hip loops for a while, accompanying my self with some cool bagpipe type ostinato.

    BUT, a EWI is not a sax, it doen’st sound like a sax even with the Vl70m. Most of what I hear when people play the damn MDT and EWi and WX5 sucks. Why? Becuase many of those people are not Brecker or Trane. Usually, when we are hearing those emulaters, we are hearing amateur musicians-not necessarily novices but certainly amateurs. When we here the simulators performing on these instruments, we are not hearing professional musicians backed by professional musicians. We are often hearing band i he box accompaniment or something close. It is unfair to use those recordings as a document of the musicality of the instrument. So let’s admit that Herbie on a Yamaha DX7 is going sound more authentic on the cheesiest patch than your average local high school choir director on the best DX7 patch.

    When we listen to the pros play-the authenticity of tone and musical use changes, go to you tube a check out Steve taglianoe. Now there is some genius and musicality that might be absent form the average emulator. His muted trumpet and flute maintain a player’s phrasing and restraint. A lot of the emulators bend notes unrealistically, play phrases that are designed for sax using a trumpet patch and etc. Those violations might be considered, “doing something different” but certainly do not sound like the real thing, do not function as the real thing and cannot possibly be the same thing because they are not the same thing. if you are an emulator and you feed your family playing simulators, congrats and keep doing it.

    Marcza, gets a sound that I would call unnatural but he is playing a synth and doing synth things. he is musical and appropriate for the style he plays. Perhaps a brother form the Middle East would cry ‘foul play’ Hopefully he doesn’t think this sounds JUST LIKE a shenai or bansuri or any other traditional instrument.

    this young man’s got some feeling and avoids the usual wrongfully placed bends. he is no brecker but plays the instrument well. does it sound like a real tenor sax uh no. Does it have more sax-like qualities than most sax sounds yes. Do I like it ? No. can I appreciate the musician for his hard work ? yes.

    forgive my mispelled words -but you have to admit my misspeled words are JUST LIKE correctly spelled words.

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