Telemann Canonic Sonata tutorial revisited: EWI with delay pedal

A few years back, I explained how to play a “round” using only the Akai EWI’s onboard synthesizer by editing a sound to include an echo. I mentioned some limitations of this technique, and hinted that an external device would be needed for better flexibility.

The problems with my original technique are that you have to determine your precise tempo ahead of time, and you don’t have any flexibility to change it on the fly. You also can’t easily change your mind about the sound that you want—if you decide you really wanted something flutey instead of something brassy, you have to edit another sound. If you want to play several pieces or movements at different tempi, you need to dedicate a separate voice to each one. You also get a maximum of 1.27 seconds of echo. For my recent recital, I wanted the flexibility of playing multiple movements and changing my mind about sounds, and I needed a longer delay time for a slow movement.

At the time of my original tutorial, I assumed that the external device needed would be some kind of looper, but upon further exploration I have actually found a digital delay pedal to be the best way of accomplishing the effect. I am using the ubiquitous Boss DD-7, used by many electric guitarists, but presumably these instructions can be adapted to other similar gadgets (you are on your own to work out the details). I also used an auxiliary pedal, the Boss FS-5U. This simplifies things slightly on stage if you want to be able to turn the echo on and off quickly, but it’s totally optional. I’ll tell you how to make this work with or without it.

Here are the important settings:

  • Plug the EWI into the “A” input, and the amplifier into the “B” output. This configuration puts the DD-7 in “Long” delay mode, which provides up to 6.4 seconds of delay.cables
  • Set “E. Level” all the way to “Max.” This means that the echo will be as loud as the original sound, so the two parts will be equal to each other.
  • Set “F. Back” all the way to “Min.” This means there will only be one echo.
  • The “D. Time” setting doesn’t matter, since that will be set on the fly using the pedal.
  • Set “Mode” to “3200ms.” This makes the foot-tapping straightforward: the time between two taps will be the delay time.

dd7-settings

Scope out the sonata to determine where the echo should start. For this example I am using the G-major duo sonata, first movement. (I used a version freely available on the IMSLP.) Telemann uses a symbol to show where the second part enters.

telemann-symbol

Here is the basic sequence of events for performance, without the auxiliary pedal:

  1. Hold down the DD-7 pedal for at least two seconds, until the “check” light turns green (if it’s already green, you’re good to go).
  2. Start playing from the beginning, and tap the pedal at the same time. (In the musical example above, the movement starts with a rest—in this case, you would tap as you “play” the rest, not the D.)
  3. When you reach the symbol (beginning of measure 2 in the above example), tap the pedal again.
  4. Continue playing to the end, and the “echo” will follow behind you.

Here is the sequence with the auxiliary pedal:

  1. Look at the “check” light on the DD-7. If it is green (possibly with red flashes) then you are ready. If it is off (possibly with red flashes), tap the DD-7 pedal so the light turns green. You can use this to quickly get in and out of “echo” mode if you want to play something echo-free. Green = echo is on.
  2. Start playing from the beginning, and tap the auxiliary pedal at the same time. (In the musical example above, the movement starts with a rest—in this case, you would tap as you “play” the rest, not the D.)
  3. When you reach the symbol (beginning of measure 2 in the above example), tap the auxiliary pedal again.
  4. Continue playing to the end, and the “echo” will follow behind you.

Some additional considerations:

  • You can adjust the tempo as you go, by tapping the pedal (auxiliary, if you are using it) in the same interval as when you started. For the musical example above, you tapped twice to get started, a tap on the first beat of two consecutive measures. If you want to speed up in the middle of the piece, you can simply play faster and tap the first beats of two consecutive measures again. You can slow down as well, but it’s a little messy: the echo will start before your second tap, but will then correct itself on the second tap. For a somewhat fluid tempo, you can just keep tapping.
  • If you are playing multiple movements, and one movement has relatively short tap interval, and the next has a relatively long interval, you will get the same problem, where the echo starts too soon and then corrects itself. You can avoid this by setting the tempo early: for the example above, you would tap once to start a full “pickup” measure of silence, then again on the downbeat of the movement. (If your tap interval is two measures, you would insert two measures of silence, and so forth.) When you move from a slower interval to a faster interval, there’s no problem; you can just use the sequence given above.
  • Telemann uses a fermata near the end of each movement to show where the second player should stop, so that the duo ends together. The DD-7 has a “feature” that causes it to finish playing the current echo even if you turn it off (tap the DD-7 if you are using the auxiliary pedal; otherwise hold the DD-7 pedal for two seconds). I decided I was okay with the echo continuing after the first part finished.

Here is my performance.

Have fun!

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