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How to Make a Glass Armonica

Benjamin Franklin was inspired by a performance he witnessed in England where a man performed on tuned wineglasses, creating a "sweet tone." Franklin, being Franklin, was inspired to go a step further and create a new musical instrument, the glass armonica ("Harmony" in Italian), from 37 graduated bowels revolving on a spindle. The sound the instrument created was so sweet that Franklin's wife claimed that when she awoke hearing it, she thought "she had died and was hearing the music of angels." While it may not be possible for you to work with a glass blower as Franklin did to create the instrument, it is still possible to create your own glass armonica.

Things You'll Need:

  • Glass Or Crystal Wineglass (Franklin Used 37—The Number Is Up To You)
  • Electronic Tuner
  • Pitcher Of Water
  • Silver Knife

Line up your wineglasses on a table in a straight line, which allows you to see the various levels of water in the glasses. The bowls Franklin used were crystal, which contained some lead. Wineglasses made of crystal would be a good choice because they make a purer, more ring-like sound.

Decide what pitch you wish your glass armonica to create. Do you wish to have an octave beginning with middle C that includes whole and half notes, or do you wish to have just whole notes, or a simple scale?

Place your electronic tuner by one of the glasses. Fill the glass partway with water and lightly rap it on the side with the silver knife. The tuner will tell you its pitch. Adjust the level of the water in the glass until you achieve the pitch you desire.

Continue filling and adjusting the level of water in the rest of the glasses until you have created the notes you wish. After you have filled the glasses to the appropriate levels, you may wish to mark these levels on the glasses with a pen.

Pick out a piece to play on your glass armonica. Be sure that the notes contained in it are in your armonica's range. Transpose the piece if necessary.

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