# Harmonics? What and how...

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by r6mile, Mar 23, 2006.

1. ### r6mile

Mar 5, 2006
I've read and heard about harmonics on the bass, but I don't really know what they are nor how to play them. Can someone explain it to me?

2. ### MikeyFingers

Aug 1, 2005
Long Island, NY
Here's a very basic explanation of how to get natural harmonics:
For starters, go to the 12th fret (it's the easiest one to get). Place any finger on your fretting hand directly over the 12th fret. Touch your finger to the string, but don't push the string down to the fretboard. Just apply light pressure. While doing this, pluck the string normally. You'll get the same note as you would if you had depressed the string all the way, but it rings a little clearer. For more harmonics, try the same thing on the 7th, 5th, and 4th frets (4th & 9th frets make the same note).
Keep moving your hand up past the 4th fret, toward the nut. There's a cluster of 4 or 5 more way up there, but they're hard to get clearly.
It's all about the dimensions of the bass. Certain mathematical points in the string make different notes in relation to the open string.
Like I said, that is a very simple explanation of the most basic harmonics.
here's a lot more that I'm leaving out, I'll let some of the more seasoned players take over from here.

3. ### Cristo

Jun 10, 2005
South Carolina, USA
Another tip would be to touch your fretting finger lightly to the string, pluck the string, and rapidly remove your "fretting" finger so that it does not dampen the sound.

I say "fretting" in quotes because, again, you do not actually press the string down to the fretboard - only touch it lightly at the correct spot.

4. ### r6mile

Mar 5, 2006
Can anyone record a harmonic and post it here? Basically, so I can know how it sounds and if I'm doing it right...

5. ### MikeyFingers

Aug 1, 2005
Long Island, NY
^I'd be glad to if I had any recording equipment, but I don't.
Believe me, you'll know if you're doing it right. It produces a very clear, distinct, almost bell-like sound.
Here, for a quick and easy way to get one, just follow these instructions and forget everything else I've said thus far, just so you get the basic technique down:
Place any finger on your fretting hand over the 5th fret. Touch the string lightly, directly over the 5th fret, applying pressure to the string but do not push the string down to the fretboard.
Then, just pluck the string as you would normally.
If done correctly, you'll know you've done it correctly. It will have a bright, high-pitched, clear sound. I'll see if I can find something online that demonstrates it for you. Gimme a minute to look around.

6. ### zazz

Feb 27, 2004
Cebu
pull your finger along the string slowly and lightly from nut to bridge but with pressure that doesnt pull it onto the fret itself. Keep pucking all the time and hear the harmonics come and go as you pass various positions along the string length. They will each sound like a magic spot that vibrates almost by itself and at different frequencies.

ps ...this is the best way to tune a bass but thats another story.

7. ### chaosMK

May 26, 2005
Albuquerque, NM
Hi-fi into an old tube amp
These types of posts come up pretty often. I am sure you can find the info you are looking for if you use the search.

With that said, I'd like to add the idea of tapped harmonics to your quest. These are more ellusive than regular harmonics, and have a lot more potential for exploration IMO.