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Thread: 9th and higher harmonics

  1. #1
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    Oct 2018
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    Default 9th and higher harmonics

    I personally am not a brass player but from what I read about brass instruments the notes they play in a certain fingering are dependent on the harmonic series.
    However out of all the recordings of such harmonic series being played on brass instruments I have yet to hear one play past the 8th harmonic—so thus I have a few questions to ask those of you that do play brass instruments.

    (A) Is it possible for Brass Instruments to play 9th and higher harmonics?
    (B) If so, is it actually useful or does after the 8th harmonic the quality of the tone become worse?
    (C) Does it require special technique to play 9th and higher harmonics?

  2. #2
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    Apr 2019
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    Hi I am a brass player and im quite familiar with this. The 9th harmonic does exist, however after the 8th harmonic things start to get funky. A french horns harm on ics are high than a trumpets so we can easily play the 9th and up however, we can play 5 open notes in a row because the harmonics are so close together (that's why horns have triggers). Also at this point you get weird out of tune harmonics e.i. the 7th, and that only gets worse the higher you go.

    Hopefully that helped!

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  4. #3
    Senior Member
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    Jul 2013
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    Aren't much higher partials played with natural trumpet in baroque works? I think J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 uses about 4th to 16th harmonics or so of natural trumpet in F.

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  6. #4
    Senior Member dgee's Avatar
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    Sep 2013
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    A) Yes. I just picked up my instrument and tooted my way up to a 20th harmonic. I'm not going to tell you it sounded great but it was there. If you're hearing high horn playing that will routinely get above the 8th harmonic - baroque trumpet and natural horn will be up there all the time. Also big band/commercial lead trumpet playing.
    Check this out - at about 2:40 (and throughout) is a clear demo of a common warm-up/flexibility exercise on horn. Count the partials!
    B) nothing innate about tone quality on partials
    C) nope, just range development. Obviously more commonplace on horn due to the quirk of the instrument meaning its generally operating higher up the harmonic series

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  8. #5
    Senior Member Minor Sixthist's Avatar
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    Apr 2017
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    If my understanding of the harmonics hasn’t grown rusty since the last time I’ve visited the topic, the tuba reaches more or less comfortably to around the sixth harmonic, so G4, but starts straining past the eighth harmonic, which in fundamental frequency would be a C5. Personally, my ceiling hangs a bit below that, probably around that G4, which for visualization is the note in the third ledger line above the bass clef! That may not seem like much in the eyes of the high brass and winds, but it’s super high as we go, especially when you consider that our comfortable range reaches all the way down to C1, which is the space of 5 ledger lines below the bass staff. Quite the range if I must brag on behalf of my own instrument!

    The higher note I’ve seen in normal repertoire has probably been around the G4, and that’s not even totally fair to say in strict tuba terms - it was in Symphonie Fantastique, whose tuba part was written for an ophicleide, an instrument which though tuba-like in sound was capable of comfortably reaching around an octave above the typical basstuba range. Basically the whole thing is more suited to the typical tenor trombone range. You could imagine my woes having to play that piece on a big BBb basstuba. Lots of, um, octave adjustments done on my part in that particular performance.
    Last edited by Minor Sixthist; Jun-12-2019 at 03:20.

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