Pruney Fingers Performance

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A few final lessons from the last few days attempts at something akin to music:

  • It’s really tough to tune these little suckers but it helps to have all the same shape and size of glass for each octave or progression of notes.
  • Fingers will get pruney with prolonged practice.
  • The sounds produced by an amateur aren’t so much music as a cross between a 1st year violin recital and whale’s calls.

I had a little fun with the audio file… Feel free to laugh–we did!

This performance was brought to you (unofficially) by Lay’s Honey Barbecue Chips and Doves Promises (the last one of which read “It’s okay to NOT do everything”… it’s like it KNEW I’d be the one to get it).

Now to finish my glass of ChocoVine.

(and if the player doesn’t want to work, click here for waterglasses)

Changing Tune?

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So I finally broke out the tuner tonight with the idea of tuning the glasses for a total of 8 notes.

Yeah. About that…

The strangest thing happened tonight: I’d get about 3 glasses tuned, label them with a nearby sticky note and then play them in progression to make sure they sounded right.

Suddenly the notes weren’t the notes anymore! The hell?!

I’m beginning to see how this torture device instrument fell out of fashion–it’s maddening!

Still, I will soldier on because, hey, this is this week’s focus so what else am I gonna do?!

AND! For those who might have a use for an occasional tuner but don’t want to spend the $20 on a digital one, I was fiddling around with my phone (a Samsung Reality through Verizon) and it turns out there’s a Guitar Tuner application right there on the phone! It even had a one-day price for that try-it-out, perfect-your-pitch moment.

This isn’t over yet! Stay tuned…

Pick a Note, Any Note

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Thanks for your patience while I caught up on everything last week! Guess those 12-hour travel days really did a number on the thought processes.

At any rate, it’s back to our water glasses and nearing the end of this (somewhat drawn-out) excursion.

The thing about the water glasses is that you can only tune each glass one way. So for each tune you want to play you have to have enough glasses to hit each note (accidentals are extra!) and each octave, too. Since I’ve got only 8 or 10 glasses that will work for this process, whatever I try to play has to work within that framework.

Add to that, I’m not all that fast with the note changes so it can’t be something too fast, either. I kinda like my stemware intact and able to hold lots and lots of wine, you know?

So I started flipping through some of my basic harp and baritone books for a simple tune or two to work on and I think I’ve found some possibilities. Now to get out the tuner and obsess about pitch!

Crystal Adventures

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Water Glasses

My practice set-up on the bar.

It’s been kinda fun having a bunch of my glasses pulled out where I can make them make sound at a moment’s notice. I haven’t broken out the tuner, yet, but the sounds aren’t horrible–though they are more akin to misty mood music and not any sort of recognizable tune.

A few things I’ve learned so far:

  • The thicker the wall of the bowl, the harder it is to get sound. The case of 12 wine glasses I thought would be great is just too thick to work for this, but my pinot noir glasses work great!
  • The heavier the stem and base of the glass, the better it stays put. My champagne glasses make a great, high-pitched sound but they are prone to topple over unless I hold or weight the base.
  • Much as I’d love them too, martini glasses have not worked–I think it has something to do with the shape of the glass (angle and not a bowl).
  • Even though my reading instructed me to use my entire finger tip for the best sound, I had better luck concentrating pressure on the base of my first knuckle. Todd, on the other hand, hand no problem just by using the tip of his finger, so experiment to see where the strongest, most even pressure can be applied.
  • Dipping your fingers into the playing glasses can be awkward mid-note–have a small bowl or ramekin off to side so you can re-moisten your fingertips as needed. Playing with 2 hands? One on each side wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Now some inspiration:

I love his set-up! Looks like there are small anchors at the base of each glass and some are elevated to keep them all at the same level.

His are tied down–very smart.

Now, this is another variation of the glass harp–instead of filling each glass a certain amount to achieve pitch, the edges of the glasses are ground down to a permanent pitch. Playing them with a violin bow is a pretty novel concept, though.


My plan was to do the final installment of this art this weekend but we’ve run into a bit of a scheduling issue–Todd’s uncle passed away and we’ll be travelling this weekend for the funeral. My attempts at playing a recognizable tune on the water glasses will have to wait until next week.

the 11th Art: Water Glasses

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Musical instrument made of bowls filled with water

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks of this scene from Miss Congeniality at the words “water glasses”

Hoo Boy! What have I gotten myself into with this one?

Water what?

Also known as the Glass Harp, and related to the Water Harp and the Glass Harmonica, playing the water glasses seems to have been a fad in the 1700s with scatterings of performers since then. Benjamin Franklin invented the Armonica (a series of bowls on a steel rod that spins through a trough of water) that works on a similar principle but we’ll stick to the wine glasses version.

Basic Supplies

  • Wine glasses of various capacities and styles. The easiest way to change a pitch is to add or remove water and it’s similar to the body of a guitar in that the larger the glass the lower the pitch seems to be.
  • Water. Though it would probably work with other liquids of the same type (wine? maybe milk? maybe not, maybe too dense?) water is the easiest.
  • Fingers. No way around this one although I’m betting someone out there has tried to play them with their toes…
  • Chromatic Tuner. This is, I suppose, optional but if you’re goal is to play an actual tune, you’ll want to know your notes are correct. I happen to have one to tune my lap harp that was about $15.

First Attempts

It seemed simple enough: you see folks doing it idly at dinner in the movies, right? Something tells me the foley guys and gals have it down, the rest of us? Not so much.

Early attempts this evening yielding little more than a sound akin to feedback. Not exactly the haunting sound I’d been hoping for.

Then I figured out that sitting the glass on my tile countertop might not be the best surface and whaddya know? When the tile wasn’t adding to the vibrations there was the faintest sound! It took a little bit of effort but I finally got a nice, solid sound from a half-full champagne flute!

For my final trick of the evening I pulled out one of the pinot noir glasses I’d tried on earlier and it suddenly worked, too… go figure!

I haven’t the foggiest if it’s just a matter of warming them up or what, but it’s suddently working and I couldn’t be happier. I still have to work on some squeakiness issues I’m having but I’ll looking forward to getting a set of glasses tuned tomorrow night!

Have you ever tried this? I’m open to any tips you’ve got!