Accidentals on Pico

Hi folks,

I’m sorry if this is already a well trodden subject. I’m researching the Pico for purchase. The only major issue I can find is the difficulty in playing accidentals. I’ve seen posts from 2010 and 2013 which seemed inconclusive.

Has there been a reasonable solution found for the problem or is it just an accepted limitation of the instrument?


It’s programmable, so it’s possible to implement any fingering system you like. It can be quite challenging though, so you’ll need a certain amount of patience and technical know-how. This is a helpful forum though, and there are people around who can help you get it set up if you’re determined. (The Warbl ls simpler if you’re looking for a programmable MIDI wind controller. Not trying to put you off, just pointing out that Eigenharps aren’t the easiest thing to configure. I like them both.)


Thanks a lot for the tip, I hadn’t run into the Warbl before. I’ve started digging into it and it looks impressive and may well solve my problem.

I understood that the Eigenharps are extremely configurable. I’m a pretty experienced programmer so I’m not too worried about complexity of configuration. I was hoping to find if after a decade of experimentation there was a solution that the community had settled on as the obvious one that felt reasonably natural when playing.


…no, everyone does their own thing. Personally I configure every wind controller I get my hands on to play like an EVI because it’s the system I know best. The world’s your oyster though…!

…what you end up with, either with the Pico or the Warbl, is a table indicating what note gets played for any particular combination of keys. Here’s a fragment of the fingering I use as represented for the Pico…

finger 1 = 2,1 * +0.0
finger 2 = 2,1 2,2 1,5 1,6 1,7 * +1.0
finger 3 = 2,1 2,2 1,5 1,7 * +2.0
finger 4 = 2,1 2,2 1,6 1,7 * +3.0
finger 5 = 2,1 2,2 1,5 1,6 * +4.0
finger 6 = 2,1 2,2 1,5 * +5.0
finger 7 = 2,1 2,2 1,6 * +6.0

Here “2,2” refers to “second button, second row”, and eg “+5.0” means “five semitones up from the base note”.

…and here’s a fragment for the Warbl.

{57}, //1110100 A
{57}, //1110101 A
{54}, //1110110 Gb
{54}, //1110111 Gb
{56}, //1111000 Ab
{56}, //1111001 Ab
{53}, //1111010 F
{53}, //1111011 F
{55}, //1111100 G
{55}, //1111101 G
{52}, //1111110 E
{52}, //1111111 E

Here the initial number represents the MIDI note value, and the binary numbers represent patterns for the seven holes. (The binary number and note name are actually just a comment…that’s because it uses an exhaustive list of every binary number in order.)

It looks like both systems give you a remarkable degree of flexibility. From what I’ve seen here the Pico feels almost more like a music instrument platform than an instrument. I’ve thought of half a dozen ways to experiment with combination fingerings since I read your earlier message.

Because you can’t really get a ‘feel’ without having one in your hands. I’m curious. Do you feel that you could do a chord fingering at the top 4 rows, similarly to what you’d do with a guitar, then ‘strum’ the bottom buttons downward?

I’m wondering about borrowing some ideas from the Airharp

You could select a chord using combinations of three or four buttons on one row of the Pico, then use the other row to strum or tap a sequence of notes generated from the chord in the same way as things like the Omnichord / Oberheim Strummer / Le Strum.

In terms of implementing it, Eigenharps are configured using modules called “agents”. I use the “Fingerer” agent which lets you select a note from a combination of buttons and trigger it monophonically via breath pressure. To create your guitar version, I’d start by looking at the Strummer agent; I don’t know how it works, though there are others on the forum who use it. I don’t know if this would enable you to set things up as I’ve described, but the code is all open-source.

I was just looking at this Pico video which you might have come across, though I don’t know how that was done. Here the strumming action is produced from the VST or the agent rather than by directly strumming the keys.

(If you wanted to build your own strum MIDI controller, midierror has developed breakout boards for Le Strum. You might also be interested in a current Kickstarter called Chordmonger.)

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well, its kind of both… i mean you can build a setup, that in turn creates your instrument. but, for sure, EigenD (the software) does lend itself to creating a setup that suits your needs.

just be aware, with all the talk of customisation - the eigenharps play nicely ‘out of the box’… you dont have to customise, and its a good idea to play for a while as-is, to let the Eigenharp suggest a ‘good’ direction. (imho, form and function are always related and interconnected)

as for fingerer and layouts
@NothanUmber has a huge amount of experience of trying different layouts with and without fingerer - including some really wierd and wonderful ideas.
(he made lots of posts about this on the old google+ pages iirc)

my experience with the pico is, given the number of keys, you have to be focused on what you are trying to achieve… be that polyphony in scale, or monophonic with accidentals (using fingerer).

also remember one really nice things about the eigenharps, is they can ‘morph’ …
so could have one layout of poly, then press one of the round buttons and switch to a monophonic layout (say on a different midi channel) - i think this kind of ‘mode’ operation works quite well on a pico.

Yepp, as @BJG145 wrote, the Fingerer is there for creating monophonic notes by pressing combinations of keys, like e.g. with some breath instruments where you have to open and close several holes to get a certain pitch. Additionally it offers one key intervals (so you could have a key to add a fifth or a second to the currently playing ones.
I was using this to create layouts that allow to play over several octaves.
Some material can be found further down this thread: Eigenharp Pico first steps, DAW connection, etc
If you want to recreate this and have questions I can try to help.

But you could e.g. also just have a semi-tone modifier key that allows to add accidentals to play some out of scale notes on a diatonic scale.

I haven’t experimented with the Strummer yet, but what you describe sounds like a task for it.
Here a great video from @gbevin where he uses the Strummer on Alpha to play it like a guitar:

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Cool, I’ll have to experiment with this on my Pico. I need to sort out a neck strap for it and get to grips with Strummer. Too many gadgets, too little time…

(The Alpha is a lovely thing. I recently saw one on eBay for £4K but sadly the piggy bank’s empty.)

Neat! @flac was looking for one…

…grr, this thread inspired me to dig out the Pico and spend some time trying to get it working with the VL70m. I’d got it sorted better than ever before…and the synth module thing packs up. Will have to send that off for repair.

I was interested to see that Aodyo, the company behind the Sylphyo wind controller, have a current Kickstarter for a similar monophonic physically-modelled module called the Anyma Phi. Could be an intereresting thing to use with Fingerer…I’m starting to wish I’d grabbed one at the lowest tier…

(I’m wondering if the main obstacle to getting going with the Pico nowadays is simply finding one…can’t see any for sale at the moment, and from recent discussions it sounds like the company’s been wound up? I should have grabbed some of those o-ring things. I’d still like to find a Tau sometime, but as has been said, the apparent lack of current maintenance services is a bit of a concern.)

Thanks for all the input.

@BJG145, The Airharp and the LeStrum both have elements of what I’m thinking of. Thank you for pointing me toward the Strummer information, it will definitely help when I’m exploring. As for finding a Pico, the rumors of Eigenharps death have been greatly exaggerated. I spoke with John on the phone last week. The website is having issues due to SSL certs that would be expensive/difficult to fix. You can order via email/over the phone, just drop them a line or send an email to . They aren’t producing the Tau because there’s a part which is hard to get. But you can get on a wait list for the Alpha or buy a Pico without waiting.

@thetechnobear, Thank you for the advice. I agree with you that the smartest thing to do is to play it ‘out of the box’ for a bit and get a feel for what it is, to actually be able to appreciate and use it as a musical instrument and have a base to come back to when the latest crazy idea doesn’t quite work out. Then to play with what it can be.

@NothanUmber Thank you for the direction of research and the video. That video is actually what got me thinking in the idea of using it as something like a super guitar. I’m curious if the main keys can strum as well in terms of reactivity to a thumb/finger across them as the lower percussion keys seem to be able to. In the video he’s using the main keys for ‘picking’ and the percussion keys for strumming. In my ideal universe I’d be able to use the main keys for both.


Great news about Eigenlabs! :slight_smile:

(I wonder what the problem is with the Tau. They used to say they couldn’t make the spike any more, but I’d have thought you could 3D-print a replacement for anything these days. Discontinuing them seems a bit of a shame.)

Pico question: @thetechnobear once explained to me that you have to set the pitchbend range on VST/MIDI instruments to 24 to be able to change notes without retriggering the breath sensor with Fingerer. However, some VSTs (like the SWAM range, excellent physically-modelled instruments) don’t allow this. Eg SWAM violin maxes out at 12, others less. Is there another way round this?

I’m curious if the main keys can strum as well in terms of reactivity to a thumb/finger across them

…all the buttons are quite sensitive and can be triggered by stroking them. Here’s a quick demo of changing the Pico LEDs by brushing them up and down.

Sounds an odd thing for me to say, I think I’d need the full quote and context :wink:

What I probably said was…

MPE ( and midi in general) can only change pitch by either
a) a new note on
b) pitchbend

So the way mpe changes pitches without retriggering notes is to use pitchbend values.

I’d guess the but about fingerer is the breath is triggering notes ?!
( I’d need to check this , I’ve not used fingerer for a while)

Cheers, I went back to find the original information here (not me, but you also explained it on the defunct Google Groups page) and realised that a pitchbend of 24 both ways isn’t a magic number; it’s just a case of setting a suitably wide range in both EigenD and the VST. Or that’s what it sounds like. I must have configured EigenD this way years ago and then forgotten about it.

(After dismantling the VL70m and reseating the cables it’s sprung back to life, so I’m back to practising on that now, but I might revisit SWAM violin later.)

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wow blast from the past :slight_smile:

yeah, 24 semi is not magic, actually these days Id go for 48 as its the MPE default.
but at the end of the day, you can use whatever range you need.
e.g. if you had just a single octave up/down button, it could be set to 12.

as I also mentioned in that post the ‘activation’ (aka note triggering) can possibly also change to use keys rather than breath IF that is what you want.

a hence we end up in the circle, EigenD is pretty flexible, it often comes down to coming up with something that fits the hardware and ‘feels good’ to play - which I think is a bit more challenging than at first appears.

glad to hear you VL70m is working again!