Harmonics...Where are they???

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by kynoch, Mar 31, 2009.

1. kynoch

Jun 28, 2006
I have never paid much attention to them but I have started to come across them in my study...and I was wondering where the natural harmonics are on the neck and what notes they are...is there a diagram or a rule that I need to understand....to be able to start to incorporate them into my playing??....any help would be greatly appreciated...thank you.

2. jgroh

Sep 14, 2007
Pennsylvania
I naturally discovered harmonics on my own when I first started playing (23 years ago) and it was a huge part of my playing. I played melodies with harmonics while fretting the base note and it sounded great. Now, the clearest harmonics are in your fifth fret range and the 12th fret range. Those are generally the same note as they are if you fretted them, so 5th fret on G string would be a D. There are other ones all over the neck, but to me, that is where the bread and butter lie...5th, 12th, and sometimes 3rd frets.

3. ThorGold Supporting MemberIn Memoriam

Harmonics are a function of the physics of string vibration.

When you pluck a string, it vibrates in different modes. The
string moves back and forth as a whole. It also moves as a
sine wave with a node in the middle. It can vibrate as a double
sine wave with three nodes. Each node is the area where the
harmonic can be produced.

An open bass note, say open E, vibrating in this different
modes all at once is said to have 'harmonic content'. The
extent of the higher order content with relationship to the
primary note produces tonality.

By plucking at the node, it is possible to emphasize certain
higher order harmonics by forcing the string to vibrate primarily
in one mode.

If you pluck the E while running your first finger down the string
from the 14th fret towards the nut slowly you will very noticeable
harmonics appear at the 12th, 7th, 5th and 4th frets right at
the fret line.

Plucking the string right at the fret line in these positions and
then immediately releasing the finger from your left hand off
the string will give you a strong harmonic sound. This position
is the same for all open notes.

More advanced players force harmonics on fretted notes
by similarly dividing the string length into the appropriate lengths
and plucking the resultant nodes. Any primary tone and its
overtones are similarly mathematically related.

Hope that helps.

4. TOOL460002Supporting Member

Nov 4, 2004
Santa Cruz CA
theres also a really cool/clear one on the 19th- but- ya- its physics. i vaguely recall getting a ruler out years ago to work out the fractions- but i dont think anything became of it- otherwise id probably remember. im sure someone has done that though.

Mar 24, 2009
London, UK
6. iamthebassplayrGold Supporting Member

Jun 24, 2008
Sacramento, CA
That is a really great site, thank you.