Glass Harmonica

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Structure of Harmonica

One full octive (48 notes, two octaves above and below middle C) of finely tuned glass cups were turned on their side and fit within each other almost to the point of touching. They were all mounted on a driveshaft controlled by a motor powered by the users foot and were seperated and secured to the driveshaft by corks inserted into the bottom of the bowls. Sometimes a moisturizer was used spraying the cups lightly at the bottom of the instrument to keep them constantly moisturized. However, most of the time, the moisture came from the players fingertips. This became an improvement on the traditional musical glass arrangement because, "The instrument could be played much more like a piano; chords and faster musical passages would be easier to achieve, since one would not awkwardly have to coordinate turning one's finger around the rim of each glass." (Finkenbeiner 139)


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A Glass Harmonica being played

Creating porperly tuned glass bowls was extremely difficult. Each bowl was hand blown making every set different from the others. In fact, only one bowl out of every 100 blown was the proper size and tune. Thus, the completion of an entire four-octave Glass Harmonica was a strenuous and inconsistant task. The glass used also is believed to be one of the reasons for its downfall and disapperance into obscurity. There was a high amount of lead in the glass and many years later it was theorized that people went mad when they played it. The lead would, "Leach through the fingertips into the bloodstream.. causing nerve damage." (Finkenbeiner 140)

Foot Pedals and Framing




Inspired by a performer playing musical glasses, Franklin invented the glass harmonica. Similarly, various composers were inspired to create music based on the sound produced by these instruments. Some of the most notable music composers of the glass armonica are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Mozart's Adagio Media:adagio.mp3; Mozart's Rondo Media:rondo.mp3

Other Uses

Modern Harmonica