I recently went to a performance where the harpist changed the pitch of a note by touching the string with some sort of utensil. Does anyone know how this is done? It created a sliding sound like a sitar.
Also, some south American harpists play accidentals using a ring with a little protrusion on it that the keep on one finger of the left hand. When they need to play a sharp they take their left hand and press the ring into the string above the bridge pin. With practice they get very good at getting just enough pressure to hit the half step very accurately.
It is similar to the concept used in some modern music and jazz for harp where you bend notes or add vibrato by pressing the string with your finger between the bridge and tuning pin.
I’ve seen his harp close up. The way it is built the strings actually run up through the center of the peg arm, and not off to one side like on most harps (some Central and South American harps are built this way too).
Also he plays with his left hand playing the treble and right hand playing the bass, so the mechanism he uses for bending notes is actually on the right side of the harp so that he can use his right hand to work it while playing the melody with his left hand. They are basically little levers under the bridge pins that he slides and that pushes some kind of a fret pin inside the neck into the string causing the pitch to bend up.
Rüdiger Opperman will be playing a concert with Park Stickney and bassist Ricardo Medeiros at the WHC in Vancouver. He builds these harps himself. Mariano Gonzalez also builds pitch-bend harps. He and Brenda Dor-Groot will be playing on pitch-bend harps at the WHC as well. It should be fascinating to hear all the different styles of playing using this kind of system: world music, Paraguayan, and blues. The Chinese konghou players who are coming also are able to bend the pitch, but I believe they do it with their fingers.
The system Conzales uses with the Paraguyan harp is similar to the way the chinese Konghou.
The way my friend Rüdiger is doing the pitch bend is a different technique.
The describtion of Tony is not correct.
The mechanism is at the left side of the harp neck (left side = where usually the
Well, my description is slightly incorrect. It has been a long time since I saw him. I just reviewed a video of him playing. You are right, he does manipulate them from the left. What confused me is that they go all the way through and so they are visible on the right side.
His harp actually doesn’t appear to actually have bridge pins, and the bending mechanism is only on certain strings. Otherwise it is still basically correct. The string runs up the middle of the top piece and the bending mechanism is basically a bar that runs through that he moves to press into the string.
Here is a good video that shows not only the way he uses the mechanism, but also the use of a “utensil” to alter notes.
I think it is worth noting, also, that the plays on wire strings, which I am sure has an impact on how well his techniques work.
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