False Harmonics

April 21, 2006 at 04:03 AM · Okay, I'm sure this is a common problem, but my false harmonics are rather scratchy and resonate poorly. In the past I've heard that you should keep the bottom finger very firm and the top very light, and I'm trying to do this, but its not quite helping. Also I think my bow is part of the problem - it kind of slides back and forth toward the bridge sometimes. I'm especially having trouble articulating the beginnings of the harmonics. Any tips?

If it helps any, the piece in question is the second movement of Saint-Saens.

Thanks in advance.

Replies (18)

April 21, 2006 at 04:45 AM · Keep both light... tension does nothing. Even bow pressure after the initial attack, which should have a little extra sizzle to get things going.

April 21, 2006 at 04:47 AM · keep as close to the bridge as possible


April 21, 2006 at 06:13 AM · keep your bowing as straight as possible so your sounding point is consistent. also you may be playing with too much bow pressure.

April 21, 2006 at 07:42 AM · bow closer to the bridge and faster

April 21, 2006 at 12:52 PM · keep the bow on the string.

April 21, 2006 at 06:04 PM · In my experience the main factor in how easily artificial harmonics speak is the accuracy of spacing between the two fingers. If the spacing is slightly off one might get the harmonic to sound, but it doesn't speak easily. Also, gut strings seem to sound harmonics more easily and fully than do synthetic strings.

April 21, 2006 at 07:59 PM · right on Oliver, gut strings really help.


April 21, 2006 at 09:22 PM · I am having trouble speeding up the harmonics in Zapateado by Sarasate.

any suggestions for this?

April 21, 2006 at 10:39 PM · Don't speed them up. TADA!

April 21, 2006 at 10:49 PM · My harmonics were OK when I used to practise - but they didn't work at all when I started learning the Waxman recently (it's the sort of thing that goes, like unsplit chords) - until I got a new set of strings, then the improvement was instant.

I also got the music for The Last Rose of Summer off the internet, and the harmonics in that make you sincerely wish you HAD bothered with all the Flesch double harmonics and stuff. So take heed, all you college folk.

April 22, 2006 at 12:58 AM · you can always whistle the notes you missed. nobody'll be the wiser.

April 22, 2006 at 03:53 AM · A good way to practice them is to do it in octaves...Instead of putting the fourth finger on the same string as the first, put it on the string to the right.

April 22, 2006 at 11:39 PM · harmonics really show up any discrepancies in bowing technique...work on sounding point and consistency in weight and speed. Thats interesting about gut strings producing harmonics easier. Clean strings are a must for nice, resonant harmonics. Which reminds me I have run out of string cleaner :-(

April 23, 2006 at 09:45 AM · You can always borrow some perfume off the missus!

Or might that give people the wrong impression ...

April 23, 2006 at 04:55 PM · Try practicing the passage in octaves (same fingerings/spacings) to make sure your left hand knows exactly where it is and where it's going. For the quality of the sound, first make sure your bow stays near the bridge - otherwise you'll lose the harmonic. Practice the attacks on their own - short colle strokes should sound clearly. If it crunches, you're probably using too much pressure/weight. Play with that and with contact point. Does it work both on down bow and up bow? At the tip, in the middle, at the frog? Once you've got the attack, you can play with bow speed - often harmonics sound better when you use a somewhat faster bow than usual.

Hope this helps!

April 24, 2006 at 03:17 AM · I would suggest for this passage:

1. relatively fast bow speed played in the lower part of the bow.

2. a bow direction that on the down bow is more "out" than normal and is more" in" than normal for the up bow. This will drive you towards the bridge.

April 24, 2006 at 03:32 AM · For Zapateado harmonics practice at half tempo with a metronome, but moving the hand at twice the speed between notes, thus preparing each harmonic.

April 26, 2006 at 05:36 PM · Does anyone have suggestions for harmonics at the top of Mahler 1? My concertmaster seems to prefer a false harmonic on the e string, but my section is not producing a great sound despite my suggestions for bow speed and placement. Are there other fingerings that produce a better sound?

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