Re: [Harp-L] comb material

----- Original Message ----- From: "Garry Hodgson" <garry@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 10:36 AM
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] comb material

Zombor Kovacs <zrkovacs@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

My metal combed harps do sound significantly different
from the plastic ones.

unless they're identical in all respects but comb material, and you and your audience don't know what you're playing, it doesn't tell us much. there is a well established methodology for discerning differences like this in controlled and repeatable experiments. to my knowledge, this has not been done with harps.

It has been done twice. Once at SPAH 97 and again at Buckeye 98. Complaints arose that the comparisons were "flawed"....AFTER the results disappointed the believers. There should be a lot of discussion in the harp-l archives circa '97 & '98. Comb materials as diverse as lead, foam plastic, wood, titanium, ABS plastic, balsa wood, aluminum and concrete were compared. None of the more than 30 SPAH attendees present did better than random guessing. At Buckeye, the same set of reedplates and covers were used with wood and plastic comb materials.

Neither the above empirical evidence nor musical-acoustical theory supports the notion that comb material perceptibly affects tone. That is because the comb does not participate in the generation or the transmission of the sound. The notion arises in a false analogy with the materials of sound plates in stringed instruments. It is well documented in musical-acoustic books (references on request) that the materials of wind instruments including woodwinds, brass, and organs, do not perceptibly affect tone. There are comparisons of concrete flutes, plastic-tubing one-note clarinets, and putty-covered trumpets to deny the effect.

It would only take one person winning my $1000 challenge to prove that it could be done and elicit from me a public admission that I have been wrong for ten years. The comb materials effect is a cherished myth and refuses to die quietly. It is like killing a snake...just when I think that I have beaten it to death, it starts wiggling again! ;o)


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