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Guitar technique: Subharmonics?


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Alright, there's this concert violinist that can play subharmonics. Yeah, yeah, everybody can zakking play harmonics, but these are pitches lower than the open string. No, I don't know how she does it.

 

Anyone heard of this for guitar?

 

Here's some web sites I've been able to dig up on this violinist.

 

On archive.org

 

some blog

 

I'm going to find some contact information for her, and shoot her an email.

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Beat frequencies?

 

That's what I'm thinking. Just getting the beats so fast that they sound like a tone.

 

here's the email I sent to her:

 

I have just stumbled upon your wikipedia page, and am curious; could your subharmonic technique be applied to guitar, specifically electric guitar?


Yes, I know, it's probably the least respected instrument (yet most outrageously popular, ironically) there is, but aside from piano - and not going all john cage on my baby grand - it's the only one I can play.


Is your technique dependent on the position of the bow relative to the string? I would assume it would be, as it seems you're creating very fast 'beats' - so fast they would be perceived as musical notes, if that makes any sense. You say that the subharmonics like 'twisted strings;' I assume that this means wound strings, correct? Have you ever tried this pizzicato, or is that not possible? Have musicians of any other instruments besides violin asked you about this?


If this is not possible with a plectrum, I will probably try this with an E-Bow, But the attack on that is very slow. Is a hard attack absolutely necessary?


I think I have somewhat of a grasp on how this is done, although I will have to dig out my copy of On the Sensation of Tone to re-read and get my head around this.

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I've got an article on this somewhere at home. I'll try to dig it up. But from what I remember, I think it involves doing harmonics on the harmonics, with lots of math involved.

 

I don't think its possible without a bow at all, as it needs constant stimulation.

 

And I don't think its related to beats, as the beats will never be louder than the original tone(s).

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if you play the e and b strings both at the twelth fret (for example) and bend the b string up slowly a whole step, with the right sort of gain sound, you'll hear a note descending in pitch really low. It's more noticable with that zvex machine thingy. Maybe you can try that.

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BTW if she's doing what I think she's doing this will never work on guitar. When you bow a string sometimes if it doesn't catch just right it will actually produce tones much higher or much lower than the note you intended.

 

Go to a beginning cello class and you'll hear it all the time. Getting control over it and being able to play notes is pretty amazing though

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The technique is equal to distortion. She is applying too much pressure at just the right point to have a pitch sound that can be named. Players do it by accident all the time. The analog with the guitar is like the technique LaneFair mentions. The Plexi type amp or high gain variants do this easily and controllably to create extra textures over and under the pitches you fret. She is snowing people with this being her own special technique, she is just collecting the specific places that react in certain ways with that exact violin and that exact bow and those exact strings. And she earlier in the interview refers to the challenges with electronic music not being able to mature before the technology moves on and can leave composers writing for antiquated equipment. Well every violin and bow combination is going to yield different results with these techniques, not something that can fully mature if she wants to teach it to others.

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I dunno, sometimes when I play 2 notes on higher strings, I can hear a very low note being played.

 

With amp overdrive and fairly loud, in Drop D tuning

 

 

G string, 7th fret

B string, 8th fret

 

After about 1 second you can hear a very low G note that is 2 octaves below the one played on the B string (1 octave below the open G string).

 

Essentially it sounds like you're also playing the low D string on the 5th fret. Makes for a HUGE bassy powerchord sound.

 

I figured it was just sympathetic vibration but I played the same thing while muting all other strings and you can still hear that lower G note.

 

I call it the brown note ;)

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