Dr. Catherine Guastavino of the School of Information Studies awarded NSERC Engage Grant for virtual acoustics research

Published: 13 January 2016

Congratulations to McGill School of Information Studies faculty member Dr. Catherine Guastavino on receiving an NSERC Engage Grant from the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, in partnership with Montreal-based industry partner and market leader Applied Acoustics Systems. Doctoral student David Romblom (Music Technology and Multimodal Interaction Lab) will take a leading role in this project on the development of virtual acoustics models to enhance user experience with software musical instruments.


Physically-modeled software musical instruments reproduce the way acoustic instruments function and produce sound, responding to the performer's input very much like acoustic instruments. As well, these instruments are parametrizable, meaning that a user can change physical properties of the instrument for convenience or musical expression.

Users of software instruments have familiarity with acoustic instruments heard in acoustic environments, which play a significant role in the auditory system’s perception of space. For a modeled instrument, this acoustic environment is not present and must be modeled to provide a natural experience for the performer. The absence of acoustic space in physical models of guitars, bowed strings, percussions, and woodwinds is perceived by users as a lack of realism and has been identified as a major limitation of Applied Acoustic Systems’ software instruments, especially when used in conjunction with sample-based instruments.

In the same way that Applied Acoustics Systems makes physical models of instruments, the proposed research will develop physical models of the acoustic environments in which the instruments are played, heard, and recorded. The objective of the proposed control algorithm is to provide an intuitive interface to musicians that requires no acoustic expertise, and to translate the controls of this interface to physically-consistent parameters such as timing, filtering, and gain for the standard components. This project involves modeling of the effects of the room, relative position of the source and recording locations, the source directivity, and the virtual microphone configuration.


The sense of space provided by the physical models developed through this research is expected to increase the quality of interaction with software instruments and the naturalness of the synthesized sounds. These innovations will benefit Applied Acoustics Systems, and extend the field of virtual acoustics to software instrument design.


Visit the Multimodal Interaction Laboratory website, or contact Dr. Catherine Guastavino.

NSERC Engage Grants are designed to give companies that operate from a Canadian base access to the unique knowledge and expertise available at Canadian universities. These grants foster the development of new research partnerships between an academic researcher and an industrial partner by addressing a company-specific problem through the generation of new knowledge or the application of existing knowledge in an innovative manner.

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