Oberthuer and the cittern effect

  • Participant
    barbara-kraichy–2 on #147472

    In his description of unusual harp effects, he explains how to get the twangy sound of the cittern. His etudes were published around 1900, when the cittern was popular with ladies of leisure (so I have been told). You pluck up near the pins with the right hand, and squeeze the harp body with the left, between the thumb (in back) and the fingers, pressing near the string sounded. It is supposed to help the legato, but I cannot hear any difference. Any thoughts?

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #147473

    It bends the pitch slightly. You could substitute Salzedo’s effect by pressing on the string above the nut. You need a very pulled-up sounding board to get the cittern effect.

    Participant
    barbara-kraichy–2 on #147474

    Thanks, Saul. I assume the nut is the guard at the bottom point of the string where it enters the soundboard, and that you mean the soundboard must have a high arch. Oberthuer describes the effect as a portamento, which can mean a shift of pitch toward the next note, as with fingerboard instruments. His example shows stepwise motion, but both up and down, and the pitch shift could only be up, as it tightens the string tension. Seems similar to the effect of a mandolin. For notation he suggests the carot mark, like the accent, but it appears there is no standard notation or abbreviation. I inherited his manual from my mom, a professional harpist in Seattle and my first teacher. She never told me about the manual. Maybe she never used it herself.

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