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When the string vibrates at a harmonic, the whole string length vibrates from nut to bridge.

Therefore, exciting the string on either side of the touching finger produces the same pitch.

At first glance, point of contact seems more flexible for harmonics than for the stopped string; the whole string length is available when choosing contact points and, since the string is not pressed to the fingerboard, it is less awkward (particularly while bowing) to play in the region of the fingerboard. However, changing point of contact for harmonics has less influence upon timbre than is the case for the stopped string207 for several reasons.208 As described above, fewer overtones become available to the cellist as harmonics ascend and this reduction in overtone content is more extreme than the reduction associated with equivalent pitch increases by shifting up the stopped string.209

The pattern of including and excluding overtones from vibration is not as easily summarised for harmonics as for the stopped string,210 i.e. is not, broadly, minimising overtones at the mid point of the vibrating string and maximising overtones at the bridge and nut/stopping finger. In fact, because there are several nodes for each harmonics fundamental, the pattern of sul ponticellosul tasto-sul ponticello observed in the case of the stopped string might repeat itself several times along the string length for each harmonic; three times for the third harmonic, four for the fourth etc.211 This makes the contact point a fairly unreliable quantity, particularly in higher harmonics (for example finding excitation points exactly at the antinodes of the fundamental of harmonic six is already fairly difficult). The changing effect of contact point, particularly for high harmonics, becomes too erratic to judge meaningfully. A broad summary of the

207 208

The exception to this is the first harmonic, the open string. This is discussed more deeply in Explicatio B3 below. 209 The extent of this could be more fully researched, for example comparing the difference in overtone content between a harmonic on the A string with a high stopped position for the equivalent pitch on the C string with a high harmonic on the C string and the equivalent stopped pitch on the A string. The difference in overtone content in the latter case is larger than the former but the spread of the distribution in examples between these two extremes is not clear. 210 See A1 Point of contact. 211 I came to this conclusion when trying to find an explanation for harmonics erratic response to changes in contact point. The theory requires more detailed research but, for initial experiments with my cello, seems to hold.