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Harmonics?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by skewh, Sep 29, 2005.


  1. Only to tune my bass.

    9 vote(s)
    17.6%
  2. Yes, but only single notes.

    12 vote(s)
    23.5%
  3. Yes; chords, artificial harmonics; I do it all!

    28 vote(s)
    54.9%
  4. No.

    2 vote(s)
    3.9%
  1. skewh

    skewh

    Sep 5, 2005
    Ithaca, NY
    Yesterday at Sam Ash I was getting complimented constantly on my use of harmonics. This got me thinking, are harmonics really that uncommon? Thus, I created this poll.

    Personally I use harmonics whenever I like the way they sound in a song. I never use single note harmonics but for artificial harmonics or to tune; I always use the various, all-harmonic chords I've learned or figured out myself.

    But what about you?
     
  2. Frugle

    Frugle

    Sep 4, 2005
    Atlanta GA
    i've never really thought about using harmonics during a song unless I as showing off... I usually will leave that octave to the guitars...
     
  3. Is it possible to get an explanation of what it is, and how do you play it?
     
  4. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    I chose option 3 although saying "I do it all" may sound pretentious since I didn't reach Billy Sheehan level playing harmonics, but yes, I like to use them. In fact, harmonics were the reason I stopped using the "contour" control in my amp. Scooping the mids may sound pleasant to most ears, but that's harmonics' #1 enemy. I can play "Portrait Of Tracy" and the "Birdland" melody and try to use harmonic-based chords every time I can (specially in slow songs). When a piece is in the key of Bb, I can tell almost for sure that at some point I will play the low F on the B string followed by the A (harmonic) found in the D string, 7th fret, letting them ring the longest I can. Same if the piece is in F minor and there's an F7 as a secondary dominant (add a tapped Eb on the G string, 20th fret here). Similar habit with the Cadd9 (actually part of a C9) chord played with the harmonics of the 5th fret on the G, D and E strings plus the C note on the A string, 3rd fret (I ALWAYS play this chord in my soundchecks, BTW).
     
  5. I was heavily influenced by the way Doug Wimbish would play harmonics on top of moving basslines for a textural effect. Of course, he got it from Jaco.
     
  6. p.o.d.

    p.o.d.

    Jul 19, 2005
    hey guys can you tell me one thing
    are pinch harmonics popular on bass?
     
  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I know how to do just about everything conceivably possible with harmonics, but I don't use them all that much. I used to get really excited about them and try and use them all over the place, ultimately, I realized that they are typically more gimmicky than actually useful. My advice: Use Sparingly or very creatively.
     
  8. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    Science: For every tone you hit there is a fundamental, the note you hear, then 'overtones' which are typically octaves and other intervals that play simultaneously with the fundamental, the 'overtones' are what give the note you hear 'color' or 'character', in other words, the fundamental tells you that it's a C you just played, the Overtones tell you that a Bass guitar played it.

    "harmonics" are what we call notes grabbed from the overtone series, they are bell like tones that can be achieved at specific subdivisions of a string.

    The easiest harmonic to find is the 12th fret of any string. It's the halfway point of the string, likewise, if you half the halfway(of the string, not the fretboard) you will find another harmonic(5th fret)

    To GET harmonics, you LIGHTLY place your finger directly on top of the fret, don't actually push the string down, just rest your finger there, then pluck.

    Try this on the 12th fret, the 5th fret, the 4th fret, the 7th fret, the 9th fret... try it on every fret actually, and you will see that some areas have clear, mostly in tune harmonics, while other ares have difficult to hear harmonics that are more out of tune and not typically advised to use.

    Frets are just guides though, and a neat thing about harmonics is that all the same harmonics that you can create over the 1st position of the bass can also be created up OFF the fretboard over hte pickups.

    If you play around with it you will get an idea of what sort of pitches the harmonics sound. I don't know them all off hand.

    Further still, there are 'artificial' harmonics. These are harmonics that have been created by fretting a note then treating that as a new nut and subdividing string lengths from that mark. So, 3,4,5,7,10..etc. frets away from any note you fret there will be a harmonic.

    Make any sense? It can be difficult to wrap your head around, so just play around with it and see what you can't figure out.
     
  9. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
  10. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    Not in the same sense that a guitarist usually does it. Guitarists typically play a note(with lots of overdrive to get the harmonic to really stand out) and then lightly place their finger on a harmonic node directly after playing the note. This is typically what THEY think of when they say pinched harmonics. Bass players don't typically do that as much, but you still CAN do it on a bass(you can do it on ANY string instrument)

    Bass players often will do their own version of a 'pinched' harmonic where they place a thumb or finger IN FRONT of their playing finger on a harmonic node that is relative to the note they are fretting on the neck.

    Even still, bass players don't typically do it all that much because, it's not a bass players job to play high up melody type things. I've seen some players use pinched harmonic chords for percussive effect(getting the bass to sound kinda like a kalimba) Jaco used this method for the melody of 'birdland' Steve bailey took the concept to another level using his whole hand to create hybrid fundamental/harmonic chords over 6 strings.
     
  11. I do in one of our original songs, but I don't overuse them. They obviously have a limited use but it's an interesting option to play in certain situations.
     
  12. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    FYI- Here are the notes that sound from the harmonic series. I'll also comment on where on each string you can achieve each harmonic.

    1 - Low 1 (Fundamental) - Open
    2 - Octave - 12th fret
    3 - 8va + perfect 5th - 7th fret
    4 - 2 8va - 5th fret
    5 - 2 8va + major 3rd - 9th fret (approximately)
    6 - 2 8va + perfect 5th - 3rd fret
    7 - 2 8va + minor 7th - halfway between 9th - 10th fret (approximately) OR halfway between 2nd - 3rd fret (approx.)
    8 - 3 8va - 8th fret (approx)
    9 - 3 8va + major 2nd - 2nd fret OR slightly above 10th fret
    10- 3 8va + major 3rd - slightly above 6th fret
    11- 3 8va + perfect 4th - slightly below 9th fret (is out of tune versus "even tempered" tuning instruments such as piano)
    12- 3 8va + perfect 5th - slightly above 9th fret
    13- 3 8va + major 6th
    14- 3 8va + minor 7th
    15- 3 8va + major 7th
    16- 4 8va
    17+ Microtones higher... the next octave would not be achieved until the 32nd harmonic...

    I just can't seem to hear above the 12th harmonic... Plus, there are at least one other place to play all of these harmonics, these are just the best places for me. I'd also like to point out that several of these harmonics will sound out of tune against the tempered tuning of the piano or guitar (or your tuner). Specifically 7, 11, and 13...

    Sorry. We just learned about all this in Orchestration class... so I felt the need for showcasing my newfound understanding... :-D

    I was just shown a trick by a double bass player... You can create a "pinch" harmonic 2 octaves up by fretting the note you want and then lightly touching a perfect fourth up from there before you pluck. That means five frets. Apparently, string players do this quite often in 20th century music.
     
  13. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    I thought I'd follow up with a chart of how those intervals translate out into bass notes... Please note that your octaves and fifths are going to be the strongest harmonics, and every harmonic set gets weaker the higher in the series you go.

    Have fun!

    0 :: E-A-D-G
    1 ::
    :::: A-D-G-C
    2 :: F#-B-E-A
    3 :: B-E-A-D
    4 :: G#-C#-F#-B
    5 :: E-A-D-G
    6 :: G#-C#-F#-B
    7 :: B-E-A-D
    8 :: E-A-D-G
    :::: A-D-G-C
    9 :: G#-C#-F#-B
    ::::: B-E-A-D
    10:: D-G-C-F
    11:: F#-B-E-A
    12:: E-A-D-G

    Rinse and repeat.

    Edit: As I was mapping these out, I've found tons more of them all over the fretboard... so many, in fact, that it seems useless to note them all on the above chart. Some of the cooler ones... You can make a G9 chord by hitting (on the G string) 5th fret harmonic (G), 4th fret harmonic (B), 3rd fret harmonic (D), 2.5 fret harmonic (F), and 2nd fret harmonic (A). Nifty stuff.
     
  14. I love using harmonics. My former music teacher told me I was really good at it mostly because I have huge hands. I can play Portrait of Tracy almost perfect and it's one of my favorite songs to play (except for that last chord, I can't get that one clean). I think Jaco and Wooten got me into it. Anyone ever hear Wooten's song "The Vision"? That has one of the most beautiful harmonic lines I've heard, and it's not really hard to play.
     
  15. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I'm not really a harmonics guy.
     
  16. S Lewis

    S Lewis

    May 23, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
  17. p.o.d.

    p.o.d.

    Jul 19, 2005
    I usually use harmonics when I play victor's
    things. but I'd like to use pinchs as zak wedley.
    but on bass. I made really nice distortion and I like my guitar
    screaming
     
  18. Thank you for taking the time to explain. It is cool that they can be played also over the pickups.
     
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I use harmonics a fair amount for a guy who plays meatball bass with oldies bands. But I never overuse them, and I only use them when I think they're appropriate. Like when we do Soul Man, the keyboard players hardly ever play the piano after the part in the chorus that goes, "A-C#-E-B" so I use harmonics to fill in that part. I'll also use harmonics in conjunction with the whammy bar on one of my basses as a divebomb effect now and then. But harmonics are like drinking on the job...one or two helps loosen things up, but 9 or 10 just makes a hideous mess.
     
  20. ras1983

    ras1983

    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    skewh; your options aren't fair for those of us that WISH they could do it all, but don't know enough to use harmonics for anything other than tuning. Man, i wish i coud pull off jacoesque harmonics, and maybe someday i will be able to :rolleyes: , but at the moment i simply can't. i certainly don't have the dexterity to pull off harmonic chords yet. :(