July 22, 2015

Brain work – Enharmonics

No one likes to learn theory.  No one even really likes to think about theory.  But one of the important things about theory is that it helps you build a vocabulary that you can use to talk with other musicians…and actually understand what they’re talking about.

And the words shouldn’t be the way we differentiate ourselves from one another, but often that is what happens – someone uses a word that sounds like you should know what it means but you have no idea what they are talking about!  So, here’s the first of these – just so you can stay in the conversation!

So what are Enharmonics?  Enharmonic is the word used to describe two notes of the same pitch that have different names.  This is easier if you look at a piano – 

For example – if you look at the right black key in the set of two – you can call this D# (if you are in the key of EMaj) but might also call it Eb (if you are in the key of B Maj).  They are the same sound (this is not entirely true – if you’re interested we can address that later – but for our purposes, they are the same sound) but have two different names.

If you have your harp tuned to Eb Maj, you can either leave the A lever down (to have an Ab) or you can lift the G lever (to have a G#).  You’ll get the same note (assuming you have tuned correctly!).  The challenge is to remember what string to play when!

Enharmonics allow you to have both notes (either G or G# and or Ab and A#).  Note that, unlike the piano, you can’t have both without flipping levers. And that’s ok – as long as you plan ahead!
You’ll get better at using enharmonics to get more out of your harp if you practice reading the music and “translating” the notes in your head as you play. 

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