the 11th Art: Water Glasses

64 Arts

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!