Finger a low C and find your best, beautiful sound. Now blow a little faster, see how a higher, smoky sounding note pops out? Now experiment a little bit. More air, less air, direct it higher up toward the ceiling, then down toward the floor. See all the different notes you can play with just one fingering? You can do this with almost all of your fingerings. These are harmonics.
Harmonics for flute are mystical, fun to play, and enchanting to the listener. [headline style=”18″ font_size=”16″ align=”center” headline_tag=”h2″] It’s almost like a second dimension of music, a dream of a note if you will.[/headline]
Flute harmonics are basically layers of notes or frequencies that are contained in each note. As we blow at different speeds, we will wake up different notes that are hiding within the original note we played.
Another way of understanding what a harmonic note is would be to relate them to colors. Think of the color white. In the Additive Color Theory*, it explains that all color is light that has been refracted. So white or light is the combination of ALL the colors, but if you bend it the right way, you get specific colors. To our eyes, all of those colors are contained in the color white. Just like colors, “hidden” notes are contained in an audible note. Playing a harmonic note is simply bringing out what was there the whole time, but was hidden.
Perhaps you have heard flute harmonics being played by a beginner playing the wrong fingering of a note. Especially when learning low notes, blowing the air at a wrong angle can cause harmonics to slip out. Or perhaps you yourself have slipped into harmonics!
Playing Harmonics on flute (on purpose), and making them sound good can take practice, mostly while controlling the angle of the air as blows across the flute. It is a feel, more than a technical fingering. Take time to play with your flute, and learn to control them. Even if you don’t use harmonic notes in any songs that you play, the extra practice gives you greater control over your airstream. When you properly incorporate it into a song, it adds a great and unique sound to your playing style!
What have you learned about harmonics? Leave a comment below.