Vibrato and Bending
Last week I spouted off on the subject of vibrato and bending, and
now I think I was wrong. I spoke about controlling vibrato between
any of the intervals available on a given reed. Going home and
trying this, it seemed to me misleading. Certainly one can do a
vibrato "on" any given pitch of a reed, and I guess one can
probably vary the pitch-variation too. But it doesn't seem to me now
like wide variations of pitch are good for much, contrary to what I
said earlier. However, I must now admit I don't really know.
I recall reading a book some years ago on the voice, and it said
that while good singers sometimes claim not to have a vibrato,
scientific studies show they do in fact use a fine vibrato, but
that the ear perceives it not as variation in pitch, but as
increased "warmth" to the tone: a truly monotonic tone is
perceived as cold, unpleasant. This seemed to me at the time of
possible relevance to harp vibrato too. A very subtle vibrato
might be what makes certain tones warm, even though one does not
perceive the fine variation of pitch that are giving rise to that
I have also noticed that warmth of tone, as perceived by me
playing, seems affected by the distance of my cupping hand from
the harmonica, and that this distance seems to vary with the note
being played. I have wondered if this is just because it is
bouncing back the sound to me in a certain way, or whether it is
because the size of the "cavity" is creating a certain resonance
that is also perceivable to someone listening from a different
position. Being lazy, I have never tested this out with a tape
recorder or listener: if it is due solely to "bounce back", one
would not expect to hear the difference on tape, whereas if it is a
resonance thing, one would. Wouldn't one?
Sometimes it seems to me like my throat vibrato is tending to
actually stop the air flow for a miniscule time, as well as
staggering the amount of air going through the harp. This also
produces some little extraneous throat noises through my JT-30.
Can the glottis do the latter without any total momentary "shut off"?
Is the guy who observed his glottis by sticking a TV camera down
his nose out there to address this?
Steve, at Calvin College
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