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1407Re: Who uses sister strings (na comhluighe) in tuning their harp and...

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  • Joe Ennis
    Feb 4, 2015
      Greetings wardcimmamon

      I am experimenting with and researching lost techniques on the Harp.  

      Statement: We have Bunting's account (quoting Dennis Hempson) and Robert Armstrong's account (quoting Bunting, Lynch, Pretorius, Beauford and Ledwich) of the Leath Gleas music scale.  Bunting stated that the na comhluighe were tuned to an "authoritarian" pitch of G.  It is also stated that Bunting was selected to be "Recording Secretory" because of his rather good ear for pitch.  But what G, it could not be any G that to which our current musical instruments are tuned.  Also there is the problem as to what is meant by authoritarian?  They could not be using "tuning folks" as they were not invented yet. 

      So to start, what music scale was Bunting using on the Organ in St. Ann;s Church?  It is only a guess that this would be the G that Bunting's ear was attuned to.

      Only a suggestion, but a possible authoritarian source would be: "to sing silently to oneself a song that enforces a pitch",  I know of at least on Harp teacher that uses "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to force a C for Harp tuning.

      Once the na comhluighe  are tuned, then it is fairly easy to construct the rest of the Leath Gleas music scale. ( some musicians want to call the Leath Gleas a Pythagorean music scale and then just dismiss it ... bad, if one checks the intervals between pitches, then one can see a difference). 

      My opinion, the na comhluighe are useful to check to see if the Harp is still in tune.  If they are checked and are still in unison then it is likely that the Harp is in tune.

      So I have built five 30 string Harps to use for experiments, they each have the na comhluighe and are tuned to the Leath Gleas using the method described by Bunting.  I am experimenting.

      So far I know that the  Leath Gleas music scale is a Just music scale.  I have further learned that one can not play chords for harmony in a Just scale, the overtones are too close together and one discovers the "wolf" notes.  In a Just scale one can only play con-cords and Bunting gives the rules that the Belfast Harp Festival Harper used for their con-cords.  So does Harp music played in a Just scale sound better than Harp music played in an Equal scale?

      If one can only play con-cords for harmony, they one quickly sees why there is no low F# string, there is never a con-cord that requires this pitch in the Leath Gleasscale.  So the melody sometimes extends below the na comhluighe  and uses the first F# below the na comhluighe  but not down to where the second F# would be located.   This makes for a different playing technique.
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