Harmonics

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Participant
    carl-swanson on #159445

    One of the hardest pieces I have ever played, and the hardest for the harmonics, is the Serenade by Parish-Alvars. The entire first page is chords of harmonics, with the left hand playing either 2 or 3 harmonic chords on every beat, while the right hand plays the melody entirely in harmonics. It nearly killed me to learn that page, and I could only practice it for a minute or two initially before my hands would start to tense up from the awkward position. When that happened, I’d just skip down to the bottom of the page and practice the rest of the piece(which is not harmonics). I figured that by the time I had learned the rest of the piece, I would have learned the first page and built up enough stamina to get through it, which is what happened.

    At first it was very frustrating trying to nail the harmonics, particularly the 2 and 3 note chords, all harmonics, in the left hand. I had to hold my hand in a very particular position and place the heel and side of my hand just so against the strings to get all 3 harmonics to sound. But I eventually got it, without ever marking the strings. I think it just takes practice, but eventually you learn the position for the harmonics in any given piece. Also, some harps produce better harmonics than others. Oddly enough, i think that nylon strings, even in the 4th and 5th octaves, produce better harmonics than gut strings.

    Participant
    frances-duffy on #159446

    Mr. Grandjany also said that you should try to play the harmonics as softly as possible. They will actually sound louder and fuller than if you try to play them loudly. It does work, probably because when you try to play them loudly, you get tense. You are more relaxed when you try for the softest volume.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #159447

    They’re really not that hard to find. They are in the exact half-way point of the string. Unless you have trouble with spatial relations, this is not so hard to find. It is probably just above where you normally play. If you glance at the bottom of the string and glance at the top, not where the discs are but the stationary nut, then divide it in half visually, your hand will go to the half-way point. Just practice it. Remember that it’s higher on a flat string and lower on a sharp string. Don’t mark your strings, please. They are horribly expensive now.

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