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Re: Artificial string harmonics question

From: David Raleigh Arnold
Subject: Re: Artificial string harmonics question
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 15:58:10 +0000
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Amelie Zapf wrote:

Am Freitag 22 Februar 2002 00:18 schrieb Graham Percival:

It looks as though "artificial harmonics" means something different for
guitars.  I don't know if the cello-artificial harmonics are possible
to do on a guitar; if not, that would explain the difference.  :)

True indeed. On the guitar, the artificial harmonic is created by touching the string in the middle (an octave higher than stopped) with the right hand and plucking simultaneously.

No. If the string is open, it is a natural harmonic, not an artificial one. The original sender had that backwards too. There is agreement that the diamond shaped note is for indications other than the true pitch.

One more time:

Open string = natural harmonic.
Stopped or fretted string = artificial harmonic.

And of course it was natural harmonics that Carcassi was refering to in 1826. Pardon the lack of marks, I hope you can make it out:

"On produit les sons harmoniques en posant su doigt se la main gauche sur toutes les cordes de la Guitare a de certaines divisions seulement. Il faut que le doigt pose legerement mais avec assez de force pour empecher a corde de resonner a vide, et on leve ce doigt aussitot apres avoir pince la corde un peu fort pres du Chevalet. "Les sons harmoniques rendent une octave au dessus de ce qu'ils sont marques. Ils se font a la 12me, 7me, 4me, et 3me touch comme le demontre le tableau suivant."

It is easier to use diamond shaped notes than to use his system, which was to give fret, string, and true pitch at the octave. Later in the book he marked them as flags, or flagolets. :-)

On the next page artificial harmonics are described thus:

"On peut aussi executer en sons harmoniques toutes les notes du Diapason de la Guitare. "Pour y parvenir, on doigte avec la main gauche la note qu'on veut rendre harmonique, comme sil'on devait executer une note ordinaire, puis l'on pose le bout d l'index de la main droite a la 12me touche correspondante de la note doigtee par la main gauche, en ecartant le pouce de l'index qui pose legerement sur la corde, on pincera cette corde qui resonnera harmoniquement."

Of course those who say that a diamond shaped note is appropriate for *other than octave* overtones in all cases, not just the natural harmonics, are quite right.

The probability that a person who numbers the fingers of his right hand is going to want to indicate an artificial harmonic at some interval other than the octave on a guitar is extremely low. Carcassi refers to the index finger of the right hand, and the first finger of the left hand, as we do now. The fingers of the right hand are not numbered by guitar players.

Touching a fourth higher makes no sense on the
guitar, because the resulting sound would be too soft and quaint, as it's a plucked and not a bowed instrument.

It's done with natural harmonics very often. It's hard to see any reason why it would be done with an artificial harmonic.

Now here's a mean one that throws me off completely: How do you notate the sound often heard by a jazz guitarist that sounds like the basic fretted note and the artificial harmonic together? It is created by striking the note very hard with a pick held between thumb and 1st finger of the right hand and at the same time, touching the string extremely lightly at 1/4 of its way from the bridge with the 3rd finger (takes a lot of balance).

The only way that is not hopelessly confusing is to resort to writing the true pitches and indicate that both notes are played on the same string. After all, the whole idea of music notation is to write what the music sounds like. The technique is not at all difficult. I don't know of any classical guitar pieces that exploit it, which is strange.

That's easy, because all you have to do is write the sound you want. Here's a tough one: How do you indicate a slur when the slurred note has the same pitch as the originating note? It can be done by touching the string at the end when sounding it, giving an imitation of a violin pizzicato, and then removing the hand from the string so that the sound seems to become stronger. If you don't want to call that a slur, what would you call it? It sure isn't a tie.

It should work pretty well on a cello open string, too.

Regards, Amy

Information is not knowledge.           Belief is not truth.
Indoctrination is not teaching.   Tradition is not evidence.
         David Raleigh Arnold   address@hidden

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