Help - How to work on Harmonics

January 21, 2005 at 08:08 PM · Hi! can anyone give me some tip as to the harmonic section in Monti's Czardas. I have problem playing it clean and making sure each of them "ring"

any tip? Secret? please share them with me. thanks

Replies (11)

January 21, 2005 at 11:32 PM · Harmonics seem to work the best when played with the very tip of the fourth finger, so it helps if the bottom knuckles of your left hand are relatively parallel to the neck of the violin. This means that the fourth finger can just curl over, and is easy to place precisely--as opposed to if the base knuckles slant away from the neck, and the fourth finger has to stretch back towards the string, in which case the whole pad of the finger just ends up flopping onto the string.

Also in the right hand--I find that using fast, light bows quite close to the bridge sustains the tone.

Finally, some vibrato gives harmonics a sort of singing quality.

Hope this helps you, enjoy playing!!


January 22, 2005 at 12:23 AM · I like to play harmonics with a very flat fourth finger, so that you use the bit underneath the knuckle, not the actual fingertip. This works very well, but you cant use it for double harmonics. If they arent sounding properly, then your little finger is either a) not in the right place or b) your bow isnt close enough to the bridge, or has gone off-straight.


January 22, 2005 at 02:36 AM · Greetings,

I agree with John.

The two primary facotrs are aperfectly in tune first finger and bow speed.



January 22, 2005 at 03:07 AM · Greetings,

To quote Maestro Auer:

"The artificial harmonics are more difficult to play than the natural ones, and practice in detail is necessary to play them and produce the true harmonic effect. In order to master them, there is one indispensable rule: they must be practised slowly, and great care must be taken that the fourth finger, which produces the harmonic (the first finger remaining firmly in place) scarcely brushes the string in the perfect fourth, and that it be in exactly the proper place. The slighest deviation as regards to intonation will result in a failure to sound the harmonic.

When this occurs the usual procedure is to blame the weather if it is raining, the humidity if the sun is shining, or - if nothing else presents itself as a suitable excuse - the temperature of the room in which one happens to be playing in. Or the hair, the rosin or the strings are accused of being at fault! Whereas most frequently the failure results from the fourth finger - or both the fourth and first fingers - not being in the right place.

The consequences of this error are even more disastrous when a succession of harmonics in a slower or more rapid movement is involved. To avoid these difficulties, the student will do well first of all to practice the perfect fourths backwards, so that his/her fingers will accustom themselves to a perfect intonation. Practicing the 4ths ascending and descending in scales in various keys. To make doubly sure it is best to drill the 4th finger until it falls into place mechanically on the perfect fourth in any and every key...

As to the bow, the attack must be made in a delicate manner, without forcing, and without throwing the stick on the string. A most important point to remember in this connection is that the fingers should be in position before the bow stroke is made. See that the hand is at liberty to advance by degrees without any hindrance on the part of the bow, and then attack with the bow when the hand is in the desired position..."

Hope that helped - Auer's book is a jem!



January 22, 2005 at 03:32 AM · I'm an Auer pupil twice removed and the word that came down that particular linage was that Auer selected indestructable pupils and spewed nonsense at them while they humored him.

Gonna duck now...

January 22, 2005 at 03:58 AM · Student of a student of and mother of former student of student of ... I haven't gotten that far, doing only open string harmonics and from old classical guitar experience that (easier) harmonic came most naturally. The 2nd hand lesson I absorbed was a bit like the above: fourth finger touching softly, 1st needing to be totally in tune & pressing the note more strongly or it won't ring properly (that fits with the perfect fourth quote), bowing to be strong enough even though you're trying to be soft with the fourth finger. I haven't tried it. I won't - I'm two grades away from it and have enough on my plate. But I think I might have the gist of the Auer quote in easier language from that 2nd hand lesson.

From a physics point of view, why would a perfect fourth be important? (ever curious)

January 22, 2005 at 07:05 AM · Hi Inge, At points on an open string which have the same ratio to it as the frequencies in the harmonic series have to the frequency of the open string, you can create a vibrational node (a non-vibrating point) which effectively changes the vibrating length into multiple shorter vibrating lengths. The resulting sound it known as a harmonic. The possible notes on an open string are the same relatively as the ones on a bugle with its vibrating column of air. If you finger a note with one finger and create the node with another finger you can move the arrangement around and it's like a variable pitch open string. A bit like adding the valves to turn it into a trumpet. You call those sounds artificial harmonics on stringed instruments. Most often they're played using fingers 1 and 4. The open string position that is the same as an artificial harmonic relatively is like touching D on the A string or A on the E, etc.

However, it's shouldn't be fingered in tune - it has to be fingered a bit sharp. Actually a wide range will get it, but the middle of the range is sharp, if memory serves. Check it using the 3rd finger to play a harmonic A on the open A string in 1st position. It's funny to read Auer saying practice the 4ths until they're absolutely in tune. I haven't read him since college but he seems to romanticize things, or maybe something got lost in the translation, and I didn't realize it at the time.

January 22, 2005 at 05:09 AM · I too am an Auer pupil twice removed, although I am rather embarassed because I am possibly his most unaccomplished twice-removed pupil on the face of the Earth.

I am far too rusty to offer much help on the finer points of harmonics though... sorry.

January 22, 2005 at 05:14 AM · I'm proud of my badness too. Hey we bad, cuz.

January 22, 2005 at 05:40 AM · Thanks, Jim. Give me a year or two and I'll let you know how it works for me. I'm hoping that one or two things in this thread might help the asker or anyone currently working on this.

January 22, 2005 at 06:05 AM · You're most graciously welcome, Ms. S.

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