Having a basic understanding of how sound is transferred to technology also helped me make better informed decisions about the equipment I was buying and how it would interact with my harp.
So since this science is at the basis of what we do when we combine technology with our instrument, let's look into how it works! (In simple terms, because why make it more complicated than it needs to be??)
It all starts with sound waves, which are graphical representations of the changes in pressure as sound travels from your harp through the air.
But our electronic devices, (like recording softwares, amps, fx pedals and audio interfaces), aren’t designed to process physical soundwaves…they are built to process sound in it’s electrical form, meaning there's a conversion that needs to take place!
This conversion is carried out by a handy device called a transducer, which is just a fancy name for any device that converts one form of energy into another. In our case, transducers convert the sounds from our instruments into electrical signals. Some transducers you are likely familiar with are microphones and pick-ups. When we play the harp, these devices pick-up the sound waves from either the air or the surface of the soundboard and convert them into electrical versions of sound that we call audio signals... the electrical form of sound that our devices can recognize!
There's actually one more important step in order for our harp sounds to be able to be processed by electronics:
Most devices like amps and recording softwares require a certain signal level that they need in order to properly process and output sound. The audio signals coming directly from our instruments or mics are typically too small and weak to be picked up by powerful devices like amps. That’s why we have what’s called a preamplifier. This is a device that boosts a weak signal into a stronger signal that’s able to be further processed and amplified. Without it, the final signal would sound noisy and distorted. Luckily, our lives are made easier because most amplifiers and audio interfaces have built in preamps that adjust and prepare the incoming signal to be used by those devices, although it is possible to buy stand-alone preamps!
To summarize all of this:
Since the devices we use to record, amplify and modify the sounds of our harps are built to process only electrical versions of sound, we need a transducer to convert our sound waves into these electrical audio signals. Once this takes place, a preamp boosts the weaker signal up to a signal that's powerful enough to be interpreted and processed by these devices.
So in my opinion, that's the overarching concept you want to be familiar with when it comes to using tech with your harp. There are of course many smaller processes within all of this that would take much more than a blog post to cover, so be on the lookout down the road for my in-depth, easy to understand guides on how this works.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you may have. Feel free to comment or send me a message through email or my social media!