MMA Professor Designs and Plays Keyboards

First, there was the drum. Now, there’s the sound chip.

For Kaveh Haghkerdar, the next musical frontier is an instrument that can be all instruments — or at least sound like it.

The engineering professor and faculty president at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine helps design keyboards in his spare time. He also plays them.

“We now can produce the entire sound of an orchestra,” he said earlier this month.

Three keyboards and an organ line a wall in the living room of his home in the Bar Harbor village of Hulls Cove.

The keyboard can play a concert grand, jazz trumpet, clarinet, harp and harmonica among many instrument choices.

The sound quality on the latest model, the Yamaha Tyros3 workstation, is so accurate that when someone plays an orchestral piece, listeners can close their eyes and point out where each instrumental group would be sitting. That is, if there was an orchestra in the room and not one man and a keyboard.

Haghkerdar’s interest in music began as a child in Iran. The son of a composer/conductor, he began playing piano at age 4 and later took up the accordion.

“In my mind, I used to hear the orchestra, but I’d only be playing the piano.” He said.

“Now, I can hear the orchestra and play orchestra at the same time.”

Researchers started by examining instrument sound waves and reproducing them with oscillators. They then tried frequency modulation synthesis, which produces a more complex sound wave.

The latest technique, advanced wave memory, gets keyboards closer to the goal of tricking a trained musical ear. Advanced wave memory captures the overall harmonic range of an instrument.

The keyboard is advanced enough to add the “human touch,” like the breath a saxophone player takes before blowing.

The control panel on the Tyros3 rivals the dashboard of a small space shuttle in the number of buttons and switches.

Despite all the gadgets, the instrument is easy to use.

“You don’t have to be a computer geek to play this anymore,” Haghkerdar said.

He has worked as a Yamaha keyboard evaluator for 23 years. He tests sound authenticity and contributes to overall keyboard design.

A true music lover, he enjoys attending local performances and counts several musicians among his friends.

“To be able to please musicians — that’s the true test,” he said.

Contact Haghkerdar at [email protected].

For more details pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]