Can Harmonics Break a Wine Glass? #MusicMonday

Maybe you’ve seen a movie where an opera singer hits some impossibly high note and shatters a wine glass. That’s an example of harmonics made, possibly, silly. Harmonics are what make chords work, what made Crosby, Stills, and Nash totally groovey, and what makes a capella groups so very much fun all the time, for sure, yes, really fun! But how do harmonics work from a music theory perspective? Here’s more from The Ethan Hein Blog:

The easiest way to understand harmonics is to use a guitar. Sit in a quiet place and play the low E string. Don’t twang it so hard that it snaps against the fingerboard, just do a solid pluck and let it ring. Listen closely to the sound as it fades to silence. Assuming that the guitar is in standard tuning, you are hearing the note E2, the pitch produced by the guitar vibrating at 82.41 Hertz. This means that the string is completing 82.41 cycles of vibration per second. Simple, right?

Well, no. The string’s movement is much more complicated than just wobbling back and forth along its entire length, and its vibration produces more pitches than just E2. If you listen carefully, you can hear these other pitches. You have been hearing them in many musical sounds for your entire life, whether or not you were conscious of it. Let’s focus in deeper on the sound of the guitar string and see if we can understand it better.

See and hear more!

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