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Subharmonics

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by bridgecables, Sep 19, 2016.


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  1. bridgecables

    bridgecables

    Jan 11, 2016
    Greetings, upright bassists. I've just seen an interesting video from Adam Neely about bowing that produces apparent (actual?) notes below the nominal fundamental of the string, and contains examples of the technique on violin. I would like to see/hear examples of this technique utilized on a bass. It seems to rely on the bow. Any further information or reactions to this video would be greatly appreciated. I find it very curious and I would love to figure out more of what is going on, but i'm a stranger to classical instruments and bows.

    Mods, if this is better suited to a different subforum, please move it. I'd have gone for EB miscellaneous or off-topic if I just wanted to share this video, but I want to learn more, and I suspect a shortage of people there who would know more about this... never heard of it before myself.

     
    Zane DeBord likes this.
  2. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Cool! I have absolute no idea how to play such undertones on the double bass. Would like to know this as well.
     
  3. Dbass926

    Dbass926

    Jun 20, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    I'm aware of some pieces that call for this technique (though I'm not equipped to enumerate them at the moment), but as the video says these are sounds we're accustomed to getting accidentally when we use too much weight and not enough speed on the G string, for example. I would hazard a guess that the nature of a subharmonic is suppressing the natural vibration of the fundamental with an excess of force to make it vibrate against the bow like it did against the paper in the video - half as fast, or a third as fast, etc. I'm sure Paul Cannon has some examples from recent concerts he could share with us!
     
    bridgecables likes this.
  4. tha believer

    tha believer

    Apr 26, 2004
    Sub harmonics are best produced bowing at an harmonic node (as in: place where you would finger a natural harmonic high on the fingerboard) with more bow pressure than normal, slower speed and some pretty nasty to accomplish bow control!!! ;)
    You could try pressing a C on the A string and draw the bow sul tasto at a node that would produce an octave harmonic of this C ( 2 octaves higher).
    At least that's how I got them when I was meddling with some sound explorations on the DBass!!

    I've read about them in J.P. Robert - Les Modes De Jeux De La Contrebasse

    There he explains that a 7th under the tone would result, but in another source (don't remember which!!!) they spoke of the octave or other possibilities, maybe a variation achievable with different bow pressures.

    Have fun growling!!!! :)
     
    bridgecables likes this.
  5. tha believer

    tha believer

    Apr 26, 2004
    That's the guy to ask about such stuff!!! Greetings Paul!!
     
  6. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Tried yesterday to play these subharmonics on my bass by bowing slower and putting more weight in the bow. Sometimes I managed to get the lower tones but not the octave. Most of the times is was the 7th below. The sound is not very pleasing though and very scratchy. Not very useful unless you play avant garde stuff. They don't sound like harmonics to me. Also it is hard to control when it's happening and the low tones can not be held for a long time. But that was just after trying for a short time.
     
    bridgecables likes this.
  7. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Mark Dresser is the one who has done the most work on this. A node isn't exactly where to bow, but at the stopped pitch. C can get you a C with the right pressure, etc. In my experience subtones from higher pitches are easier to produce consistently.
    You finger the note you want and press it almost to the fingerboard but not quite, then you draw the bow with a lot of pressure and as slow as possible.
    I've heard it explained that they do not mirror the overtone series but reverse it: Octave, fourth, octave, minor sixth, etc.
    Dresser explains it in his guts video.
    The best use I have found is to use them to add a lower pitch to string multi-phonics which makes them more stable.
    The series aspect is fun to ponder but mostly you can just get an octave.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2016
    bridgecables likes this.
  8. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I suppose I'd add that the young man in the video is fine bassist and a very smart young man. I would still look to him more for current bass guitar technique and current music trends than heavier subjects like this which is honestly just presenting some basic googling.
    I'd look to the older players like Mark Dresser and Kimura herself for this sort of research.
    I actually played a nice improv gig with her in the '90s, she is a fine player and great improvisor!
     
    bridgecables likes this.
  9. I sort of know how to do it, but it would take a lot of work to control.

    The result is sort of a major 7th below, plus a lot of gagging noises. Since the technique requires so much pressure so far from the bridge, I'd guess the string is pulled enough to bend the pitch up.

    I haven't seen any notated pieces using this technique, but I'm sure they exist.

    Anyway, practice makes perfect!
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
  10. I made an example here.

    Mark Dresser (and many others) do it better, but I don't have links for those.
     
    bridgecables, Remyd and damonsmith like this.
  11. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    That sounds scary! :)
     
    Remyd likes this.
  12. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Paul, sounds amazing as always. I will out this 7th thing with a tuner tomorrow - this may be what happens at nodes - the crushing the string nearly to the finger board way I learned from Mark, I seemed to understand that all my fingers could remain on the string unlike a harmonic.
    I use it in improvised music in an intuitive way, but I have spent years practicing it - it does wonders for your bow control!
     
  13. Well, it's not a harmonic as we normally think about them. Physically, this is a way of tricking the string into vibrating at half its natural speed. Since the node is activated with the bow, the left hand can do what it wants.

    The technique is more closely related to bowed harmonics -- when you "overblow" the bow directly on the nodes to pick out higher partials.

     
    gnypp45 likes this.
  14. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    That is a great way to think about it!
     
  15. Ashley Long

    Ashley Long

    Jan 3, 2004
    I've found that having less hair in contact with the string provides a more consistent result, for me at least! I've found that using a cello or violin bow with excessive weight produces a cleaner sub-harmonic and in terms of bow material, I've found carbon fiber and snakewood sticks have produced better results than pernambuco or brazilwood.
     
  16. HaVIC5

    HaVIC5

    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Hey!

    Thanks for the kind comments! Yes, I am just a bass guitarist, but I like to think that the info from this was a little bit more than just a google search!

    The main point I was making is that Kimura's subharmonics are not undertones, because they don't reflect the undertone series in any way whatsoever. That totally awesome clip from Paul Canon (holy smokes that's cool!), and all of the clips of Kimura I included are notes which would not fit fit within the theoretical framework of the undertone series. There are a couple pages dedicated to this phenomenon, which is known as ALF, in this is a fantastic thesis by Eric Daino (starting on page 44).

    http://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/h...d=928C2877A8BDAB5C11AE4D61E245E4C1?sequence=1

    As he mentions, there is no scientific framework (yet) for these notes, which makes it quite tantalizing as a field of inquiry. The closest I was able to find on something that gives a rough estimate to why it works is this paper, which suggests that it has something to do with torsional vibration (vibration caused by the string twisting under the extreme bow force) interfering with the hemholtz motion.

    http://knutsacoustics.com/files/alf-casj.pdf

    Also, I've heard about the tuning fork trick a bunch of times, but for the life of me I couldn't find a video of it on the internet, and it took a bunch of trial and error to get it to work right. I hoped at the very least I'd give an accurate demonstration of something that most people genuinely would never have seen before.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2016
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