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Question about harmonics

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  • #60192
    Carlin
    Member

    I’m just curious…do harmonics depend on the structure of the harp or the string? It seems much easier to produce nice and clear harmonics on some harps (or some strings on the same harp) compared to others.

    on my teacher’s harp, i can play reasonably decent harmonics, while on my own harp it always sounds crappy…which is weird as i should in theory be more familiar with my harp? And on 1 particular string (4th octave b), i couldn’t for the life of me, produce a decent acceptable harmonic.

    #60193
    Tacye
    Participant

    Harmonics do vary. If a string is worn or uneven it will really mess them up but changing the string does not always help – I have a 4th A that has always been a bit on the reluctant side. Different harps need to be played in different ways and harmonics really show this, some harps will only give harmonics once you have found the right way to coax them out and then you will wonder what the problem was. Some less resonant harps I have never managed to find decent harmonics on.

    #60194
    Sylvia
    Participant

    I do the left hand harmonics the same way as right hand ones. You might try that. (I broke my wrist skating back some years ago, and it doesn’t have as much bend as before.)

    #60195
    Gretchen Cover
    Participant

    Carlin,

    I saw in your other post that you own a Salvi Daphne and Iris. I cannot imagine not getting good harmonics out of either harp. When did you last change your strings? Are you using gut or nylon on the strings that don’t produce good harmonics? Maybe Carl Swason or others who work on harps could answer whether having a harp regulation makes a difference.

    You may want to experiment with your touch. On my Salvi, I find I need to press harder in the upper registers and much more lightly – barely touching – when I do a harmonic with my left hand. I would suggest going slowly string by string and figure out how to produce a clear harmonic. Once you have the sound, practice it over and over until the harmonic becomes automatic.

    #60196
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    It’s true that some harps produce better harmonics than others. I’m not talking brands, just individual instruments. I think that nylon strings generally produce better harmonics than gut. Maybe others can comment on that. In any event, the trick is to find the middle of the string to place the heal of your hand or knuckle, and then, when you pluck the string, get off it as quickly as possible. You wanna see a harmonics nightmare? Look at the first (full) page of the Parish-Alvars Serenade! The left hand is playing two and sometimes three harmonics simultaneously! I nearly got tendonitis practicing that.

    #60197
    tony-morosco
    Member

    I agree with Carl. Nylon makes for easier harmonics, and they do vary from harp to harp. I have played other harps of the same exact model as mine and producing harmonics varies.

    And I’m like Sylvia. Although I never injured my left hand or wrist I never was able to get the left hand harmonics down the normal way so I just do them the same as the right hand way and it works much better for me.

    #60198
    Carlin
    Member

    Thanks for the tips everyone. I guess the problem is that I always seem to miss the ‘right’ spot (middle of the string) on my harp. Strange as when I have my lessons, I seem to be able to hit the right spot on my teacher’s harp. Either way, the harmonics on her harp (Diana) still sound so much better than the best ones on mine.

    And on that 4th octave B, I’ve been going up and down the string and still the best harmonic sounds doubtful. I wonder if I should try changing the string. It is a gut string and is the original string that comes with the harp (not that old, my harp isn’t 1 year old yet).

    As for regulation, I’m sure all of you will be horrified, but we (my harpist friends and I) have never had our harps regulated. Organizing someone to come all the way out here (I live in Indonesia) to do a regulation is just a bit complicated.

    Edited to add: Rama Widi did kindly organize a regulation in Indonesia last year. Sorry i failed to mention this on my first post, Rama..

    #60199
    Loonatik
    Member

    Re: Regulation
    You might like to contact some harpists in Singapore/Malaysia to coordinate a service guy coming to regulate Salvi harps.
    Or simply fly Carl in… 🙂

    #60200
    Tacye
    Participant

    When I was learning my harp strings had pen dots to mark the sweet spot for harmonics (in flat, natural and sharp at one stage). It saved much frustration! I do still put more discreet marks on at need.

    #60201
    rama-widi
    Participant

    Well I’m sorry Carlin, but I did organized the regulation in Indonesia and Alessandro from Salvi Italy was in Indonesia on September 13 2012. I asked you personally if you want to regulate your harp but you said u didnt want to regulate ur harp and i kindly asked you to tell all your harpist friends about the harp regulating but none signed up. I even post on my fanpage and u did reply it.

    #60202
    Carlin
    Member

    Hi Rama, yes you did kindly offer me but i decided not to participate as my Daphne’s soundboard has ripped open and there’s no point in regulating it at the time. I’m not sure why the others didn’t sign up though…

    So sorry that i fail to mention that you’ve organized a regulation last year. No offense intended.

    #60203
    Alison
    Participant

    why hasn’t anyone mentioned that the height of the mid-point varies with the pedal (or indeed lever) setting, so it can be a hit and miss affair from one piece to another and accuracy has to be learnt. The notable example is from the Firebird playing something like DCDE in different flat and sharp settings, (I’ll have to check what the notes were) but the hand has to move up and down between adjacent strings for a clear sound. There’s a similar example in The Planets,

    #60204

    Good point Alison! That string length also varies from harp to harp as well so it takes some work to adjust to where the harmonics are on different instruments.

    #60205
    Gretchen Cover
    Participant

    Carlin,

    If you have one string that doesn’t produce harmonics and the others are all right, it is safe to assume you should change that string. My harp is less than a year old and I had one “bad” string which I changed.

    I would presume you can play good harmonics on your teacher’s harp because you have learned to do so during your lessons. I think if you slow down and work on your harmonics on your harp that in time you will play them well. As you practice and your harp breaks in, I think you will notice a big change for the better. When I practice a piece with harmonics, I play all the harmonics separately (including any pedal changes). It will make learning the rest of the piece easier in the long run.

    #60206
    melissa-gallant
    Participant

    You might think about whether you are sitting at the same height relative to the size of the harps when you compare the experiences of playing harmonics on your harp and your teacher’s harp. Also, is your posture the same or different? These variables might affect where you might perceive the midpoint of the strings to be.

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