SoME 2010 Sep: Harmonica obsession

Sound Of the Month Edition

She’s low-budget. She’s mobile. She’s a perfect companion!

Harmonica

My Harmonica

Yes, that’s my recent fascination. Makes a clear and gentle sound. Can get rough when needed.
Of course I couldn’t resist to record myself and analyze it with my geeky tools. Let’s get the show started.

Plain tune

Harmonica - wave shape

Harmonica sound - wave shape

Try counting the peaks per cycle – that’s the number of the dominant harmonic.

Harmonica - plain tune spectrogram

Harmonica - plain tune spectrogram

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9th harmonic is strongest indeed. You might also notice the overall volume is not ideally constant (even though I tried). I’m not perfect after all :/ One cool thing to learn is that Harmonica plays together with your breath – which is very much like natural human voice. So the best is just to ‘sing’ through it.

Tremolo effect

If you haven’t played harmonica before – tremolo is as easy as you could imagine. Just shake it!

Harmonica - tremolo effect spectrogram

Harmonica - tremolo effect spectrogram

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Note bending

This technique allows slight changes of pitch by adjusting the shape of inside of your mouth. Although it’s fairly intuitive to pick on the idea, mastering the trick requires some practice. Here is one of my attempts:

Harmonica - note bending spectrogram

Harmonica - note bending spectrogram (zoomed on Y axis)

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On lower notes you can actually feel all the vibes on your tongue and throat. Unforgettable! (and that’s how I fell in love ;)

The spirit

Sometimes when finished playing, for a blink of an eye you can still hear Harmonica’s voice. That is her spirit singing.
I managed to record it during my research. It’s really subtle, so in order to hear it clearly I applied a tube-compressor filter:

Harmonica - spirit spectrogram

Harmonica spirit captured at the final stage

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Reader's Comments »

  1. By girl in green on September 29, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Good job!

    By koshik on September 29th, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Thanks :)

  2. By Alex on March 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

    This is really cool. Actually was searching just for someone else experimenting with timbre.

    thanks for the software

    By koshik on March 9th, 2011 at 12:16 am

    You are welcome fellow soul!
    Good to know there are other folks out there trying to explore the uncharted lands on the edge of physics and the human mind :)

    Feel free to ping me anytime here or via koshik@falasol.net
    (also if you’d like to exchange links with your site, or use this one for posting any stories)