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Thread: Water Crystal

  1. #1
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    Sep 2014
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    Default Water Crystal

    Anyone have any ideas for a Water Crystal? I'm playing The Divine Comedy (all 4 movements) with wind ensemble. It calls for a sustained note in a few places in the note of C.

    I thought about your standard crystal goblet or crystal or standard glass bowl. Amplified too.

    What have others used or done in the past when having to play tuned Water Crystal glasses?

    Thank you,

  2. #2
    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Feb 2012
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    You'll need a glass crystal vessel. Wineglasses work well (you do not want a highball glass with their usual very thick bottom, but something of more uniform thickness, ergo, wineglass.)

    Depending upon what octave you want that c in, the larger the vessel, the lower the pitch. The lower the C you want -- it could be a crystal punchbowl. ADD: I recommend a vessel with a fairly wide diameter lip over the ca. 2.xx of many an average wineglass; the larger diameter makes it easier for the player to keep a sustained tone going.

    CRYSTAL wares: are glass with a high Lead content. In the range of what is available, the higher the lead content the stronger and clearer the tone produced. (Inexpensive glass 'works' but like any other good instrument, it pays to not be cheap ;-)

    You want the crystal glassware plain, not cast with a design or cut.

    The tone is produced by rubbing a wet fingertip along the rim.

    The walls of the body of the glasses do not have to be as fine and ultra-thin as some can get (those can break too readily while in use), i.e. they should be 'average,' and may be a bit thick.

    BASE / MOUNT: I would recommend a wooden plank, maybe cut square, which then should stand on some table, or an all wood small table: the base of the wineglass gets secured to the plank with duct tape. The player may still want to place a few fingers of their free hand on the base while playing, but being secured and on a board are functional.

    AMP: I've heard and seen used in a band piece, met and talked with the player. A set of these, tuned, and just such a set up, were effectively used without amplification. The board may have acted as a resonator, but I would of course check that. In a performance piece, I used a larger crystal bowl, sitting on the floor on a donut cushion, similar to the set-up for a Tibetan Singing Bowl. The business around it was very quiet / silent, and that needed no amplification. It sounds near certain you will want to amplify, but check first if the non-amplified instrument works for you. You may want either a microphone near it, or if the board is a good resonator, a pickup attached to the underside (more greatly avoiding any accidental water drops on it) might also do the trick.

    The player should have handy access to a second vessel to wet their finger while not taking any water from the tuned vessel. These are 'slow talkers' and if scored to come in exactly on cue within the music, the player will need to start rubbing the edge a bit prior the directive of where it is written in the score.

    TUNING: Wet the fingertip, play, and check the pitch. Water poured into the glass will raise the pitch. Tuning them is then adding water bit by bit until you find the level. Marking that level on outside of the glass with a bit of permanent marker or a slight scratch then is very helpful for repeated use from performance to performance :-)

    P.s. It is performance, and a theater. Sh__ happens. Buy two, one for a backup if needed. (end of the run, someone at least gets a pair if both remain intact.)
    Last edited by PetrB; Jan-17-2015 at 09:54.

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