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Playing harmonics on the fiddle?

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Marion 05 Mar 01 - 09:06 AM
katlaughing 05 Mar 01 - 09:24 AM
Jon Freeman 05 Mar 01 - 09:34 AM
Sorcha 05 Mar 01 - 10:42 AM
Kim C 05 Mar 01 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Bruce O. 05 Mar 01 - 11:27 AM
Sorcha 05 Mar 01 - 11:40 AM
GUEST,Matt_R 05 Mar 01 - 11:44 AM
Marion 05 Mar 01 - 10:44 PM
Jon Freeman 05 Mar 01 - 11:12 PM
Jon Freeman 05 Mar 01 - 11:14 PM
Sorcha 05 Mar 01 - 11:20 PM
Jon Freeman 05 Mar 01 - 11:30 PM
Sorcha 05 Mar 01 - 11:34 PM
Marion 05 Mar 01 - 11:37 PM
Kim C 06 Mar 01 - 09:51 AM
Marion 06 Mar 01 - 02:02 PM
Sorcha 06 Mar 01 - 02:16 PM
Jon Freeman 06 Mar 01 - 02:30 PM
Matt Woodbury/Mimosa 06 Mar 01 - 05:04 PM
Marion 08 Mar 01 - 08:29 AM
Jon Freeman 08 Mar 01 - 10:10 AM
Marion 08 Mar 01 - 10:21 AM
Sorcha 08 Mar 01 - 10:22 AM
Jon Freeman 08 Mar 01 - 10:32 AM
Sorcha 08 Mar 01 - 10:36 AM
Jon Freeman 08 Mar 01 - 10:46 AM
katlaughing 08 Mar 01 - 10:56 AM
Lin in Kansas 09 Mar 01 - 05:40 AM
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Subject: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Marion
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 09:06 AM

Hello all. I have an ambitious new project on the fiddle - Massanet's Meditation from Thais - that I want to learn for my mom's wedding. There are two notes at the end that have little circles written above them, and somebody told me that these are harmonics. I didn't know you could play harmonics on the fiddle.

So how do you? I'm guessing that you just touch the string like harmonics on a guitar; do you bow normally? Also, where approximately should I be touching the strings, and what is the pitch I'm aiming for?

The notes in question are A (the one a sixth above middle C) and D (a ninth above middle C).

Thank you!

Marion


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: katlaughing
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 09:24 AM

Way up high, almost to the bridge end of the neck, barely touching the string, according to what note you are going for, at least that's how I was taught.


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 09:34 AM

I've just had a play with my tenor banjo. I can get the harmonics you are looking for (although an octave lower) on the 3rd (D) string. The A comes by playing what would be a fingured A on that string and the D comes by playing what would be the G if fingured normally. Try those positions on the fiddle.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 10:42 AM

Marion, you do it by very lightly touching the string (do not press down) at exactly the center of the vibrating string--half way between the nut and the bridge. If you are in the right place,you will get a clear, ringing bell tone an ocatave above the open string. You need to be able to shift smoothly, and reach with your middle finger. If you can't manage it, the open string will substitute.


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Kim C
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:21 AM

I am just learning this myself - teacher said to make pinky flat and barely touch the string. I guess you can do them with other fingers too but I just started this so I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:27 AM

You can get harmonics of several notes. Are you sure that's what the symbol means. Simple physics of vibrating strings shows that you get greater harmonic content in your sound the further you are from the center of a string. Sorcha's method loses almost all of the fundamental, and doubles the frequency.


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:40 AM

Yes, that is what the symbol means. "Meditations" is not an easy piece........


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: GUEST,Matt_R
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:44 AM

And don't forget, Jules would have wanted us to say it "Medi-tas-i-own".


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Marion
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 10:44 PM

Thanks to those who have responded so far, especially Sorcha.

Kim, when you say you're learning this too, do you mean harmonics or Meditation?

Sorcha, the A that I'm supposed to do this trick with is the open-string A so I guess for it I'm supposed to do the harmonic touch in the middle of the A string. But what about the D, which is an octave higher than the open string D? Let me guess.. I have to stop the A string at the D note with one finger, then apply the harmonic touch with another finger halfway between the D-stop and the bridge?

And as for it not being easy - "It's amazing when you can do when you don't know that you can't." I'm sure it's very difficult to play this piece well, but I'm hoping that it's within reach to play it badly. Do you play it? I sort of have a history with this piece, so it was inevitable that I try to learn it someday though I am definitely not a violinist.

The first time I heard it was at a coed baby shower my household threw for a friend - possibly the best party I've ever been to for crazy fun. We had a Mardi-Gras style parade to the streets to pick the girl up, and had a volunteer male stripper, and we all sang a silly song I had written about the girl, and the girl's boyfriend did a dramatic reading of "Are You My Mother?"... and then we called for the fiddler in the gang to play something. Given the mood of the party and the fact that he was concentrating on Irish fiddle music, we were all expecting a fun fiddle tune, or at least I was. I should also mention that we had asked all the guests to come as a pregnant woman, so the fiddler was in his girlfriend's dress and makeup with a balloon on his stomach. Then he came out with Meditation. I was just stunned by its beauty. It's a moment forever burned into my memory.

The following year, I actually performed Meditation - the piano accompaniment, that is. It must be said that at that time I was filled with yearning not for the piece but for the violinist. In the violin-piano arrangement, there's a few bars where the violin plays solo, and it slows at the end so the pianist can't count in when to start playing again... rather we would look into each other's eyes, waiting for him to give me the virtually imperceptible sign to come back in. I just died everytime we did this. Do you know that Tolstoy story, "The Kreutzer Sonata", where a man kills his wife in a jealous rage because she played a duet with another man? It's true that making music together can be very intimate.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:12 PM

Marion, both Sorcha's and my methods will produce an A an octave above your open A. My method will produce the D above that A (which I thought was what you were trying to do, ie move upwards from the A) whereas Sorcha's will produce the D below that A. I can not manage to find an A harmonic to match the open A string at least not on my banjo.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:14 PM

I should have added, I think I would settle for using the 2 Sorcha gave you. The mid points are the easiest ones to get clearly on any string (or they are for me).

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:20 PM

Marion, I am not sure I understand.......but a D harmonic would be on the D string.........I can't figure out how you would finger the D note on the A string, and still reach a harmonic......I have not seen the sheet music, but I'll bet it's the harmonic on open D string that is being asked for. I couldn't say for sure without seeing the music.


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:30 PM

Sorch, it really need someone who understands the phyisics of it all to explain but if I finger a D on an A string, I get a harmonic 2 octaves higher than the open string. I can get a D harmonic on a G string as well as the D string....

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:34 PM

Jon, it's not the physics of the thing, it's the mechanics.....I could not reach to get an harmonic if I were fingering the D, even in 3rd position.


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Marion
Date: 05 Mar 01 - 11:37 PM

Hi Sorcha. In the sheet music, the final note is a D that's on the second line from the top in the treble clef, with the harmonic symbol. The harmonic-signal A (on the second space from bottom) is the second last note.

Speaking from memory of hearing it performed, I'm pretty sure that the last note should sound higher than the second last note. If I did a harmonic in the middle of the D string, that would be a fourth lower than the harmonic in the middle of the A string, wouldn't it? Though as Jon said, it would be a reasonable compromise note.

You're probably right that the D harmonic on A string I described is physically impossible - I don't have a fiddle in front of me to check it out. So maybe what I'm really supposed to do is fret an octave-up D on the D string, then do a harmonic touch halfway between that octave point and the bridge? That would be less of a stretch, and would presumably produce a D pitched two octaves above the open D?

Thanks very much for the discussion - I think I may have it now. In theory, anyway.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Kim C
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 09:51 AM

Oooh! Harmonics. I'm just now learning harmonics. :)


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Marion
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 02:02 PM

I'm sorry, Sorcha, I made a mistake there in describing the sheet music. The second last note, the A, is actually on the first ledger line above the treble clef. My apologies for any inconvenience - I should have waited till I had the sheet music in front of me.

I want to clarify how this notation is used: when you have a note X with a harmonic symbol, are you trying to produce that note literally, or an octave (or more) above it?

If it is meant to be literal, then a harmonic in the middle of the A string then a harmonic in the middle of the D string would do the trick - just like you were saying from the beginning. (Now I really feel silly for wasting your time.) I've been able to produce those harmonics, at the same pitch as I would get if I fretted the note normally, but with a different tone of voice. Is that how it's supposed to work? I was under the impression that a harmonic touch would produce a higher note than a fretted note in the same place.

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 02:16 PM

I was taught that it was literal. Also, I did find complete sheet music on line, and there are no harmonics that I could see. Lots of shifts into 3rd and above, but no harmonics. I could give you the site, if you're willing to download a program that shows the notes......


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 02:30 PM

Marion, depending on the harmonic, it may or may not be of the same pitch as the fretted note and it may not even be the same note name as the fretted note. Here is a guitar table.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Matt Woodbury/Mimosa
Date: 06 Mar 01 - 05:04 PM

It's been years since I did this piece, but it seems to me that the A harmonic is to be played by touching the the A string lightly at the octave (you could do it with a fourth finger extension), and the D is played by touching the A string the same way where you would normally finger the D in first position. (isn't the symbol over the D a diamond, and different from the A harmonic?)

Like I said, it's been years, and I don't think I could still do it from memory, but try that and see if it sounds right.

Mimosa


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Marion
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 08:29 AM

Well I've just had some real world coaching on this piece, and it's something I never would have expected. I'll explain for anyone who is following this hoping to learn something too.

It's as Mimosa said. The A is played by touching the middle of the A string, and the pitch is one octave above the literal.

The D, and this is where it gets really strange to me, is also played on the A string. You leave your pinky touching the middle point, then touch with your index finger where the first position D would be. The resulting pitch is an A, two octaves above the open string. That's really fascinating.. I would have expected that you would have to add the second touch between the first touch and the bridge to do anything.

And you're right Jon, it does turn out that the pitch isn't even the same note name as what's in the sheet music. I had been trying to find a way to play a high D harmonically, and it turns out it's an A I should be looking for. Thanks for the link.

Thanks for your help Mimosa. Re: "isn't the symbol over the D a diamond, and different from the A harmonic?" You may be right, I can't tell. I just have the pianist's music so the violin part is written very small, and it's a photocopy, so it's hard to see the difference between a sharp symbol and a natural symbol and pesky little details like that.

Thanks very much for your help too Sorcha. I think this piece was written to be accompanied by orchestra? If that's the case, maybe my arrangement for piano accompaniment adds some harmonics that weren't in the original. Does the sheet music you found online include some guidance on fingering and/or bowing? If so, I'd be very interested in seeing the website.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:10 AM

I'm glad it's coming together Marion - when's the CD out?

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Marion
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:21 AM

Sorry Jon, what CD?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:22 AM

No, Marion, sorry. One is the complete Orchestra score, flute, horn, etc. and the other is the first page only of the violin/piano arrangement. I'm glad you posted the answer, I now have vague memories of being told that, and physics wise, it makes sense.

When you touch the high harmonic A, you have "stopped" the string--i.e. shortened the vibrating length. You basically now have a new string length. So, to get a different note you must stop the "new" string below the fist stop.......I'll have to go try it in a bit.

Here is the orchestra score, and here is the violin/piano. This one is only the first page, you have to pay to get the whole thing. You will probably get a blank screen. Just click on the screen, and it will download something called "Sibieus" so you can see the score. I did, and my computer seems fine. It's also free.

I couldn't get it to print any way I tried, though.


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:32 AM

I was just asking in hope, Marion. Being serious and side traking a little, I have been amazed at the talent I have heard by Mudcatters on Hearme and PalTalk and have sometimes wondered why some people have not made CDs - dwditty and Margaret V are 2 that instantly spring to my mind.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:36 AM

Jon, the biggest reason my group doesn't make a tape/CD is the $$$$ involved in studio time.......they usually want the money up front (as much as $1,000 per tune). We don't have it, and it would take years for us to re-coup the original outlay.

In order to get a quality recording, it would need to be done in a studio. I have some "open mic" tapes of us, and they are crappy. Audience noise, chairs scraping, band "asides", etc. Besides, I can't keep them "on task" long enough to do it in a private place! Jabberwocks, the bunch of them, LOL!


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:46 AM

Yes sorcha, there are financial considerations - shame though. I don't consider myself to be of recording quality (although I like to think I a am reasonably solid folk club floor singer/ session player type) - I just wish that some of the people I have heard did get a wider audience and the talent out there is amazing - ranging from people like myelf to people who are as good as I have heard on recordings.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Mar 01 - 10:56 AM

This has been really interesting, dredging up old memories of lessons, etc. I'd always been taught that harmonics were close to the bridge and an octave above the open string, now I've learned more, or I'd forgotten and relearned.:-)

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: Playing harmonics on the fiddle?
From: Lin in Kansas
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 05:40 AM

John In Kansas -- bootleg on LIK's link: don't blame her.
I'm not a fiddler, although I have messed with one a little. This thread has been a real winner.
I have had some experience in the area of harmonic sounds - when I had teeth I used to play my saxophone the whole 4 octaves, all but one & a half of which are technically in harmonics of course.

To cut to the point: A fairly available resource that might interest several of us has been available in all of our local bookstores (Kansas -- but they're national chains) fairly consistently for the last couple of years. It's a paperback (US A-size) about 560 pages, and has about 10 pages devoted to harmonics - including a table showing that our fiddles can produce 16 harmonics on the G string. Having not studied thoroughly, I can't be sure but would guess that similar ones can be (theoretically at least) done on the other strings.

"The Art of the Violin" by Pierre Marie Francois de Sales Baillot, edited and translated by Louise Goldberg, Northwestern University Press, Evanston Illinois, about $30.
Sneak in to your local bookseller and read pages 396 to 405?
There may be other as good or better sources, but I happened to have this one handy.
I think I'll go practice. I'll be ready for those pages in a few hundred years at my current rate.


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