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Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

  • 1.  Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    I know this has nothing to do with pianos. Well, directly anyway. But it is a great demonstration of harmonics and partials.

    For a number of years I have been trying to make an Aeolian wind harp, with no success. Tuning has, I think, always been my main obstacle and no instructions on making one of these instruments has ever covered that important aspect. Until last December, when we were all forced into a second Covid-19 vacation. I found one website that very briefly, (maybe a couple of sentences), actually talked about tuning. With that information I was able to make a wind harp that actually works.

    An Aeolian wind harp does not ever play the fundamental. Always harmonics and/or partials. In this recording I can't tell whether it's one or the other, or perhaps both. In any case, it makes very lovely sounds with even the slightest of breezes.

    My wind harp is mounted on my back yard deck. I made this recording yesterday, Saturday, 3/27.

    Listen to my Aeolian wind harp on YouTube.

    If the above link doesn't work you can copy and paste this link into your browser.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OKJBEVKTRo



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    Geoff Sykes, RPT
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 2.  RE: Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Geoff, thank you, quite interesting and melodious.
    Are these sounds very audible to the ear?

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    Steven Rosenthal
    Honolulu HI
    808-521-7129
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  • 3.  RE: Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Steven --

    Oh, yes. The sounds are quite audible. The instrument would make no sense if I couldn't hear it. I made that recording from about 20' away. Fills the backyard in a very ambient way, and if I'm actually listening for it, I can even hear it, (sometimes), on the sidewalk in front of the house. And on a strong windy day it verily screams. This recording was made with a mild breeze that comes up the hill pretty much every day, during the day. The breeze usually stops when the sun sets. I'm sure my direct neighbors can hear it, but probably at a mild background level. About the level of wind chimes half a block away.

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    Geoff Sykes, RPT
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 4.  RE: Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Posted 22 days ago
    Thanks for posting this.

    I have an Aeolian harp made in the last decade of the 19th century or 1st decade of the 20th. It's very home-made, about a yard long, with tuning pegs at one end, nails as hitch pins over the other, and has a lid so that the wind can blow under the lid, the soundboard being at a transverse angle, and so that the whole could be inserted into the opening of a sash window with the window closed upon it. There are remnants of stringing, some gut some metal. I understand that all strings were tuned to the same pitch and being different different harmonics would be excited by different wind speeds.

    There are some other videos on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buZjtQv-Wng has an angled soundboard like the Victorian model I have, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LEmd0KQSfQ is a version for sash windows although my example has parallel bridges. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUsnR4ifqNs is an American version, much longer than the British although again intended for sash window.

    Here's another window model https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgONrRuygfk but people seem to be exploring inharmonic and discordant sounds by tuning all the strings differently. I'm sure the more interesting sounds came from the different strings all tuned the same so that pure harmonic sounds were produced.

    Best wishes

    David P

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    David Pinnegar, B.Sc., A.R.C.S.
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    +44 1342 850594





  • 5.  RE: Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    David --

    Currently I have the strings on this one at a respectable tension but they are not actually "tuned" yet. I plan on making one more bridge experiment and then tuning it properly.

    The strings I am using are 20 Lb and 25 LB mono filament. I read someplace that metal strings generally don't respond as well.

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    Geoff Sykes, RPT
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 6.  RE: Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Cool. Thanks. What did you use for strings? Harp strings? Fishing line? I was under the impression the tuning was just that of an out-of-tune unison. No?



    Sent from my iPad




  • 7.  RE: Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Kent --

    I used 20 Lb and 25 Lb mono filament fishing line. And yeah, current tuning is a not very close unison.

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    Geoff Sykes, RPT
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 8.  RE: Off topic - Aeolian wind harp

    Posted 12 days ago
    Awesome! I made two, it was years ago.  I was amazed that it would sometimes produce arpeggios when the wind gusted.

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    Jurgen Goering
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