Author Topic: Natural and Artificial Harmonics on Violin  (Read 1257 times)

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Medievalwarfare

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Natural and Artificial Harmonics on Violin
« on: January 17, 2019, 01:14:04 PM »
Hello, I’ve read about natural and artificial harmonics in “The Technique of Orchestration” by Kent Kennan and would like help understanding how to achieve these on the violin and when this would be useful.

Ron

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Re: Natural and Artificial Harmonics on Violin
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2019, 02:08:57 PM »
The most used ones are the natural harmonic at the octave--usually on the E string. The 2nd most popular would be artificial harmonics at the touch-4, which sounds 2 octaves above the stopped note. Natural harmonics at the p4 and p5 are also easily achieved. I would not use any other harmonics for general orchestral players, as a rule. Artificial at touch-5 are too far a stretch for many players and the touch 3rds are too difficult to achieve reliably.
Ron
Rules? What rules?

Michel.R.E

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Re: Natural and Artificial Harmonics on Violin
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2019, 05:06:26 PM »
just to simplify things:

Violins: can do natural harmonics at the 8ve, and at the 4th (ie: touching the string lightly and playing at those positions)
any other natural harmonics ARE possible, but it always depends on your player. For orchestral writing, natural harmonics should be kept to touch-4th and 8ve.

Natural harmonics are all different, some sound at the 3rd (plus one or two octaves), at the 5th (same thing), at the octave and double octave, and at the 6th. these are NOT all readily available on the violin.

for an example of rather extreme natural harmonics use on the violin, check the opening of the finale of Ravel's piano trio.

artificial harmonics means you press a note and then lightly touch with another finger the 4th up from that note (so finger C, touch F). the sound is two octaves higher than written pitch.
One SOME instruments you can play a touch-5th (notably the cello). However, be aware this requires a complete shift of the left hand position so the thumb can be used to play the fingered note.

Violas: having a slightly thicker string seems to help with harmonics.
natural harmonics are a bit easier, and 4th, 5th and some 3rds are more readily playable on the viola, but don't make a habit of using 3rds (major 3rd sounds the 3rd 2 octaves above, minor 3rd sounds the 5th 2 and a half octaves higher).

Artificial harmonics on the viola should be restricted to touch-4th harmonics. String positions are too distant to reliably play a touch 5th. the inverted hand position that cellists use for touch-5th harmonics is not available to violists.

Cello: Thicker string, more natural harmonics available. touch 3rd (both), 4th, 5th, 6th, are all available as natural harmonics.
Artificial harmonics should be limited to touch-4th, or the rare touch-5th (change in hand position means giving the musicain time to change back and forth)

Contrabass: Thickest string also has the most colourful natural harmonics, and more choice. Intonation is guaranteed because the finger position is very clear. (the smaller the instrument, the less leeway you have to find that sweet spot where the harmonic sounds best)
Artificial harmonics are limited to touch-4th, and only in much higher string positions (ie: starting at the 7th of each string)

For the most brilliant example of a melody in natural harmonics on contrabass, listen to the opening measures of L'Enfant et les sortilèges, by Ravel. it consists of a sort of wandering figure in 2 oboes, and a solo melody all in harmonics for the contrabass. The effect is quite stunning.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Natural and Artificial Harmonics on Violin
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2019, 05:12:05 PM »
videos of the Ravel examples"

piano trio, last movement (with score)
https://youtu.be/3QzLA5se4co?t=1276

"l'Enfant et les sortilèges" opening
https://youtu.be/gpXBOQFbnig
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"