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Harmonics Question

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Worshiper, Aug 15, 2004.

  1. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    Hey everybody,
    Been searching this sight now for quite some time now and I finally decided to become a member. This may be a noob question but what can anybody tell me about harmonics? I want to learn how to correctly play them but I feel that I should better understand them before jumping into them. Any information on it will be greatly appretiated. Thanx :help: :cool:
  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    To play a harmonic, place your hand on the string over a harmonic node and then simply pluck.

    Harmonics nodes are all over the fretboard, with many being contained between the 2-5 frets. Other locations are the 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, etc. Complete lists of harmonics and there pitches are available on the internet, just search if you want to get more in depth.

    Some examples of harmonics (some of these might be above your skill level, but they will allow you to understand how harmonics can be used.

    Jaco Pastorius - Portrait of Tracy
    Les Claypool - The Awakening
    Victor Wooten - Amazing Grace
    Steve Bailey - anything he has ever recorded :D
    and many others

    Hope that might of helped, if not you can search around TB and find clarification,

    Adam Barkley
  3. AmplifyYourBass


    Dec 7, 2003
    To help clarify, place your fingers over the actual fret bar/line of the harmonic note you want to play, but do NOT press down on it. Just gently touch the string, again with ur finger over the actual fret, and pluck the string.
  4. another cool thing to do as in producing "natural" harmonics is lying your right hand down somewhere on the strings, and plucking while you have a note fretted. usually good for shrill harmonics and is funny. works on frets 0-4 pretty well
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Those are called aritificial harmonics.
  6. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I wouldn't mind learning some proper definitions, but all I can say is that I play harmonics pretty often, and it's usually done by fretting a note where I usually would, and then tapping the same string at a point that is over the fret that would be one octave up from there.

    You can adjust the blend of harmonic and natural note by how long you keep your tapping finger on the string; if you 'hot-potato' off of the tap right away you'll get mostly the 'root' or normal note, but if you stop your finger on the spot that you tapped for just a very short instant, you'll get mostly an octave harmonic (if you leave the tap-finger there for longer than just a fraction of a second, it'll start to mute the note out if you didn't tap exactly-exactly at the right spot).

    I'm trying to get proficient at following whole lines and licks with the tap, so I can play whole phrases in all-harmonics. Man, that's tough!

    You can tap at other spots too for different harmonically-related tones.

  7. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Those are called tapped harmonics.

    Just to clarify

    Natural - the kind I described
    Artificial - the kind Pacman was talking about
    Tapped - Made by tapping at various point on a string while a note is fretted.
  8. You sound like you want to know what, exacty, they are. Basically, a vibrating sting has many overtones, as you may know already. It vibrates at the fundamental pitch, and a bunch of pitches above that one, which are related to it. Each one has one or more nodes and antinodes. If a string were vibrating at only one pitch, rather than many, a node would be a point at which the string did not move at all, and antinodes would points at which it moved the most.

    A string vibrating only at its fundamental has a node at each end, and an antinode right in the middle. Touching it right at the end would have no effect, and touching it right in the middle would mute it completely.

    A string vibrating at its first harmonic, which is pitched an octave above the fundamental, has nodes at each and, and one in the middle. A quarter of the way from each end of the string is an antinode, one over the 24th fret, and one over the 5th.

    A real string vibrates at both of these at once (and many higher pitches as well). When you touch the string in the middle to mute the fundamental, your finger is on a node of the first harmonic, and so it can still ring out, as it wasn't moving there anyway. When you place your finger on a node of one of the harmonics it can still sound. The nearer you get to a node, the less you will mute the harmonic. Just like palm muting, in which you mute the fundamental near its node so it can still move a bit.
  9. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    Another twist on this concept is that artificial harmonics can create unwanted sound.

    Recently I've begun stopping the sound of the plucked string with one of my plucking fingers (a la Rocco Prestia).

    For instance, when playing consecutive 8ths of a single note, I keep the string fretted continually through multiple plucks.

    I use a plucking finger to stop the sound (after each pluck) if I want a little space between each note.

    I've been practicing this technique to Long Neck Bottle (Garth Brooks) and the 80s hit Walking On Sunshine.

    I do this to eliminate the minor, but annoying, clacking noise that occurs when I fret, then release (just enough to kill the sound), then fret, then release, - over and over.

    Unfortunately, my plucking finger sometimes creates an artificial harmonic - rather than deadening all the sound - when I bring it to the string.

    Any suggestions?
  10. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    CJK84 said:
    "...my plucking finger sometimes creates an artificial harmonic -
    rather than deadening all the sound - when I bring it to the string.

    Any suggestions?"

    Yup. You have to pluck that note in a slightly different spot. Just slightly should do it, so you shouldn't have to really move your whole hand.

    Also, I've found that using one pickup, and plucking directly over the middle of it sort of 'automatically' cancels-out most of them.