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Diamond-shaped whole notes

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by tornadobass, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    I'm reading a piece that includes diamond-shaped whole notes at times. This signifies harmonics, if I understand correctly.

    What would I do, for example, if the music shows "Sul G" and then a diamond-shaped C above the staff?

    Do I play a harmonic at the C position (which I think produces a G) or do I hunt around for where the actual C pitch occurs as a harmonic on the G string?

    How about a diamond-shaped A on the top line that says Sul D? An E in staff that says Sul A? What pitches are they after?

  2. a. meyer

    a. meyer

    Dec 10, 2004
    portland, oregon
    You are to play the harmonics located above those notes on the strings indicated. The top-line A on the D string produces an A two octaves above the closed note. Likewise with the E on the A string and the C on the G string. You've got it figured out correctly.
  3. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    So, for example, when I see a C one line above the staff as a diamond whole note and it's marked Sul G, I would play a harmonic at the place a C would normally be fingered as a closed note?

    Maybe that's why the closed C didn't sound right, huh?
  4. That's correct. The harmonic there will sound as a G - 2 octaves above the open string.

    Often these harmonics sound a little clearer when fingering at the other end of the string. If you look at where that C is, it is 1/4 of the vibrating length of the string. Go to the other end of your G string and play the same harmonic 1/4 the way from the other end (near the end of your fingerboard). You might find the tone a little less finicky. By the way, that harmonic, at that end, will sound exactly the same pitch if you press down the string way up there. You can keep that in mind if your trying to find the note in the practice studio. Just hunt and peck your way around up there until you find the high G, then release the string from the fingerboard to play it as a harmonic.

    Now if you need help finding that harmonic later, there's no shame in using a soft pencil to mark the spot on your fingerboard. Edgar Myer has permanent dot position markers and nobody cares. It beats playing the wrong note or being out of tune.

    Anyway, depending on the passage, you might not have time to play that harmonic in the high position and you'll be forced to play it down low over that C. There is nothing wrong with that - all I'm saying is that on many basses, the harmonics tend to sound a little stronger when fingered closer to the bow.

    What piece are you playing by the way? Maybe some of us may know the particlular passage and can help more specifically.
  5. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Thanks for the clear explanations.

    I'm kind of a rookie transplanted from the blues world to the pit for The Secret Garden.

    The passage I mentioned is a transition piece that has, oh, 8 bars or more of whole notes with the C Sul G (which I just learned about, too). I guess it wasn't really a C after all.

    Now I know why the notes looked funny and sounded funnier. In the script font of the bass book, it's probably more subtle in appearance than in regular music fonts and it took awhile to catch it.

    Anyhow, I'll give this all a try tonight

    BTW, why aren't the little circles used to indicate a harmonic instead? Is that only for the octave position?
  6. A circle over a note indicates that exact note played either harmonic or as an open string. The diamond note head indicates to play a harmonic at that point of the string (that's why it almost always indicates what string to play on - otherwise the harmonic over that note on another string will very likely something completely different, if anything at all).

    The resulting sound with the diamond head note is in many cases not the same note name at all. For example, play a harmonic on the E on the G string and you'll get a high B. Incidentally, that same harmonic occurs on four different places on the string - divide the string into 5 equal parts to find them all (the other three are actually over B's - one at the low B, the next one octave higher and the last is one octave higher still)