Birdland Harmonics

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Classical_Thump, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. Classical_Thump


    Jan 26, 2005
    My band has decided to play Weather Report's "Birdland" and I am left with the task of mastering Jaco's artificial harmonic passage in the beginning. So far I have just been using my fingernail like a pick to attain the artificial harmonic sound, but it's inconsistent and tiresome. Is there any easier way to get these harmonics (I can't do the harp harmonic type stuff because its all up around the 12-15th frets). thx
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Jaco's technique - which works very well - is to use your thumb and first finger.

    So - first finger plucks the string, while thumb rests on the string, between first finger and neck.

    The big thing is to be accurate in positioning your thumb - it has to move along with the fretting hand, so it is the equivalent of 12 frets above where you are fretting for the first part!

    Then Jaco played the same thing, an octave further up, by shifting your thumb position so it further subdivides the distance between where you are fretting the note with your left hand and the bridge.

    The thing to bear in mind is that you are using your thumb as a node to subdivide string length - so frets are helpful visual reminders, but not always entirely accurate - and higher up, you will run out of frets!! ;)

    Anyway - it's easier than it sounds and becomes "second nature" - intuitive, after you've done it a few times!! :)

    The more accurate you are with positioning your thumb - the more the notes will ring out - so you will know if you're doing it right...or not!! ;)
  3. Classical_Thump


    Jan 26, 2005
    That helped loads. Thanks a lot
  4. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Great description Bruce. An old buddy taught me about these by simply playing a few of them. I figured out what he was doing on my own and use the same method you describe above. Good to know its not just me hehe.
  5. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    You can also do it by using the tip of the extended index finger instead of the side of the thumb, then plucking the note with another finger (e.g., the ring). This is the way classical guitarists do it, so it's the way I learned. It may be a tad more accurate than using the side of the thumb, but it may also be a bit more tiring. YMMV.
  6. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Bruce nailed it. I played that tune with my band for a while ... and believe me ... once you get it down that is the easiest part ;) Wait till you get to the run in the first chorus :eek:
  7. how do you get the harmonics to be loud, like mine are increidbly soft
  8. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Dayton, Ohio, USA
    When I first heard this song way back when, I had no idea how he did it. I developed my own technique which worked pretty well. I used a little flesh of the palm of my hand resting on the string, then picked the string with my index fingernail. I moved my hand slightly up and back ro keep the harmonic in the right place. I think Jaco's techniqe makes a lot more sense, but I still use my techniqe when needed (which is hardly ever....).
  9. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    If your catching the sweet spots with your right thumb and your harmonics are still soft it's probably your EQ. You've got to crank the bridge pick-up and boost some MAJOR mids. Dialing in that perfect Jaco tone takes almost as much practice as playing Birdland(not as much as TeenTown, that will take more practice)
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - as I mentioned, the more accurate you are , the more the notes ring out - you have to remember you're subdividing string lengths and frets may not alway be the best guide, although they are a handy visual reference!

    So - what you are looking for to get octaves, is halving the effective string length - between your fretting hand and the bridge. So your thumb has to be working at exactly this point on the string to get the notes to sing out.

    If you do it right, you can hear the notes acoustically, without any amplification - if your thumb isn't following your left hand accurately, then the notes will choke...
  11. billbern


    Sep 11, 2004
    Daytona Beach, Fl
    Endorsing: Inearz In-ear Monitors
    Great replies guys.
    I find an alternate style easier for me.
    I stop the note with my extended index finger and pluck the string with my thumb, for some reason the pointing action is just easier. Also agree, rear pickup, lots o'mids.

  12. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I've never seen that technique used with any success on a bass before, you're and animal!!!
  13. Don't feel bad... First time I heard it (way back when), I wasn't sure it was a bass :eyebrow:
  14. I was going to suggest the same thing. This is how Michael Hedges did most of his artificial harmonics. It also leaves your right hand in good position for slapping (not that Birdland has slapping, but for other tunes).