Help with harmonics on Arensky

November 6, 2015 at 04:48 AM · I have a student playing the peace by or Arensky of a theme by Tchaikovsky. I cannot figure out how to do the regular harmonics for the F that is not the artificial harmonic. A viola student of mine has similar harmonics that just do not seem possible. Am I looking at it incorrectly?


November 6, 2015 at 05:14 AM · Though that harmonic would not usually be possible, I would like to point out that you can turn any note into a harmonic with the right bow stroke (easier on some notes than others, though)!


November 6, 2015 at 09:04 AM · Why wouldn't these be the standard artificial harmonics where you press a note with the first finger and lightly touch with the fourth finger in the natural place, a fourth up? The places in that fragment where you merely have to touch the C can be seen as a special case since C is again a fourth up from the open string G.

November 6, 2015 at 10:24 AM · Finger a B on the G string with the 1st finger and lightly touch an F# (a perfect 5th above) on the g string with the 4th finger. This will give you the F# harmonic.

November 6, 2015 at 10:42 AM · F# is one of the natural harmonics of D: play as written on the D-string, but it will sound an octave higher, and a bit flat compared to a tempered F#. (I have just tried it.)

November 6, 2015 at 01:02 PM · I was thinking it is possible with first finger on a B and fourth in an F# on the G-string but it wouldn't make sense to write it different than the other artificial harmonics. I told the student my best guess was playing the F# harmonic that is 2 octaves up but I didn't think it was correct.

November 6, 2015 at 01:04 PM · Jean, I'm talking about the note that is after the artificial harmonics.

November 6, 2015 at 03:53 PM · Double Post. Sorry!


November 6, 2015 at 03:54 PM · Those two notes are indicated as natural harmonics. If the finger is placed at F-natural, the harmonic will sound on either the D or A string. Any natural harmonic that sounds above the middle of the string will also sound in the first octave of that string and equal distance from the octave or middle of the vibrating string. The open circle above the note typically indicates such a harmonic. One exception is indicated by using a diamond shape for the note; although this typically indicates an artificial harmonic, for the fourth above the open string (such as the G-string C shown in the subject example) it is typically indicated without indicating the open string pitch (as in the final note of Massenet's Meditation from Thais).

Knowing where such harmonics are and what they sound like becomes increasingly useful as we age. They were used a lot in "salon music" of the late 19th Century.


November 6, 2015 at 03:58 PM · Andy,

I understand how harmonics work, and the difference between artificial and natural ones. The D harmonic is easy to figure out, but the F is not possible as a natural harmonic and playing it as an artificial harmonic on the G-string just doesn't seem to make sense with the way it was written since other artificial harmonics were already written out.

November 6, 2015 at 05:23 PM · Follow Adrian's advice, and play it on the D string as a natural harmonic. :)

November 6, 2015 at 06:07 PM · That was another idea I had, but thatF# is an octave above the one that is printed. Ok, so it's good to know that I'm not the only one that can't figure this out.

November 6, 2015 at 06:33 PM · Indeed, in my scheme, the F# and D should be diamond shaped. Careless?

November 6, 2015 at 07:16 PM · Ok, I just did a little analyzing of the score and the chords in the first measure of the false harmonics are G B7, second measure e, then third measure G D7, and ends with G.

The violin part looks like an F# and D should be played. The viola has the same issue with natural harmonics written on a C and B just above the staff.

So I do not think the violin notes are meant to be diamonds because that would most likely mean they are natural harmonics played on the A string and putting the finger on those two spots will sound the notes C# and A which make no sense in the chords.

So it seems the notes are correct, just no way of playing the F# in the violin line without a big stretch of artificial harmonics, Same thing for the B in the viola line. So if you do just play the F# as a regular harmonic just an octave higher than printed should you also play that D an octave higher as well?

November 6, 2015 at 10:30 PM · I'd like to apologize for my stupid earlier reply.

November 6, 2015 at 11:00 PM · The answer is obvious. The composer didn't know how to write the harmonic correctly, so he put the ° over the pitch he wanted. By doing what I said in my earlier post you will get the effect the composer wanted. Trust me.

November 7, 2015 at 02:31 PM · Just saying, I can get the F# as a natural harmonic on the D string....

It ends up kinda flat though... :)

November 7, 2015 at 02:57 PM · ..but as I said, one octave too high; and a "pure" third above D.

November 7, 2015 at 03:31 PM · The second violin part should not be higher than the first violin part here. Therefore do the 'perfect 5th' harmonic with the first finger on B on the G string.

November 7, 2015 at 04:05 PM · Actually, if you do play the open string harmonics (the ones without the diamonds in mm. 3-4), the 2nd violin's first harmonic (sounding an octave above what is written), even though it sounds ABOVE the first violin, is actually correct, as IT IS the melody note (the leading tone) which will resolve to the first violin's G (think "hocket").

November 7, 2015 at 08:17 PM · It is NOT an an octave higher than written, and it certainly is NOT a hocket. It is supposed to be a harmonic on the pitch that is written, which is only able to be produced the way I said.

Listen to this at 13:35

November 7, 2015 at 10:50 PM · Folks better listen to Marty! What he says is right, also about composers often just indicating the pitch they want with an o on top to indicate they want it produced using a harmonic. It is left to the player to figure out how to do that.

Artificial harmonics using an interval of a fifth are indeed a bona fide and accepted way of producing harmonics, and indeed the only reasonable way (see below for a difficult way!) to produce a harmonic F# of the indicated pitch.

A pretty complete overview of all the ways of producing harmonics can be found in David's Violinschule. Number 137 (in Volume II) covers artificial harmonics using the fourth, the fifth, the major third, the minor third (which is said to "speak not easily") and even the octave ("in the lower positions impracticable for small hands", David hastens to add :-) Not accidentally, these are exactly the intervals you can use for natural harmonics (which are really a special case of artificial harmonics, with the nut playing the role of the lower finger).

So now we get to the difficult way of producing such an F#: press the first finger on F# on the D-string, and somehow touch F# on the same string an octave higher!

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