Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by CrazyCara, Jan 17, 2002.

  1. CrazyCara


    Jul 1, 2001
    I was over to jam at a friends house and we were listening to some song where the bass player was doing some harmonics. My friend asked me if I knew how to do that and I said I didn't, so he said he'd show me sometime, but he never did.
    So, I've tried to read as much as I could and asked other guitarist friends, but I still don't get it... Can someone please tell me how this is done?
    Thanks in advanced!
  2. RJ

    RJ Supporting Member

    Aug 17, 2000
    San Francisco
    Lay your finger over the fifth fret of any of your strings. Don't fret it, just let it rest on the string. Play the note with your right hand and that should do it. The loudest most common harmonics are at the 5th,7th, and 12th fret on any of your strings. I hope this helps a little. I'm sure someone else here will be more of a help.
  3. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    You can play harmonics by placing a finger very lightly on the string and plucking the string. To get them to sound brighter, try playing close to the bridge.
    You can learn more about harmonics by checking out a physics book, but here is a little info: When you pluck the string, it vibrates, and harmonics occur naturally at what are called "nodes" of the string. If you touch the string lightly at a node, you can emphasize that harmonic. The easiest ones to produce is at the 12th fret (the halfway point between bridge and nut) and so on, as the previous post said.
    Tuning with harmonics: Using the E string as an example, you would play the 5th fret harmonic on the E, and the 7th fret harmonic on the A. it should be the same note. I have read, however, that this method is NOT as accurate as equal-tempered tuning (ie, fifth-fret/open string or octave tuning).
    Tapping harmonics: Similar to fingerboard tapping, except you have to hit the harmonic dead-on and then remove your finger quickly. You can do some neat-sounding stuff with this!
    Ever wish you could play that 12th fret harmonic with any note, and not just the note that the string is tuned to? For example, if you wanted to do a G fundamental harmonic on the E string, fret the G (3rd fret) with your left hand and tap the harmonic at the G on the 15th fret. This works because when you finger the 3rd fret, the 15th fret is suddenly the halfway point between nut and bridge. Now you can learn all your old songs in harmonic form.
  4. Hey! My 500th post!
    Big Whoop :D

    There are harmonics all over the fretboard.

    You can find them using the techniques described above. Use a tuner when experimenting to discover the harmonic pitch.

    Make sure your instrument perfectly/properly intonated and tuned.

    Intonation is key to great harmonics.
  5. CrazyCara


    Jul 1, 2001
    Thanks you guys, I knew you guys would help me a whole lot more than just saying 'uh...just play it...'.

    thrash_jazz- Would I have to check out a specific physics book? or just any?

    Muchisimas Gracias!
    Now off to practice!...
  6. I think you'll be able to find all sorts of stuff on the net related to the physics. Try starting with the words archimedes, string, vibration, and pitch.

    I find that if you do things that usually emphasize the attack / treble of a note when you're playing harmonics, (eg play close to bridge, use tips of fingers) it'll come through more easily.

    They easiest way to get them loud and clear is probably to play with a pick but the "click" you'll get may overpower the harmonic too much for your tastes.

    Also when you hear about the harmonic at the 7th fret, 12th fret, etc, it means (on a perfectly intonated instrument) that when sounding it, you put your finger right *over the fret itself*, *not* where you would put a finger to fret a note using that fret (ie dont stick your finger between the frets).

    You will also notice that the harmonics are basically symmetrical around the E string - ie you'll get the "9th fret harmonic" on the other (bridge) side of the string as well, about the same distance from the 12th fret.
  7. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I would think that pretty much any first-year university physics book would cover the basics of acoustics and string vibration. As mentioned above, though, you'd probably be able to find it on the Net fairly easily.
  8. CrazyCara


    Jul 1, 2001

    Ok, I was wondering whether I was doing it wrong because that's the only way I could get the sound.
    Thanks a lot you guys!!!!:D
  9. eric atkinson

    eric atkinson "Is our children learning "Is our teachers teachin

    Feb 4, 2001
    A great way to learn the correct pressure to use is to learn how to tune your bass with them!
  10. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    now for the intervals:

    harmonic at 12th fret: one octave from open string

    harmonic at 7th fret: an octave plus a fifth from open string

    harmonic at 5th fret: two octaves from open string

    harmonic at 4th and 9th frets: an octave plus a major third from open string

    read general instruction threads to learn about the intervals if this is just nonsensical jargon to you.

    also, i suggest to tinker with altered tunings when playing with harmonics-it is easy to expand the range of notes and therefore increase the palette for creativity this way. (at least it is for me)

    or not
  11. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    It also helps when after you pluck the string, if you leave your fretting (or finger that's held lightly above the string) off of the string.

    It should allow it to sustain longer, make it clearer and louder. :)
  12. Theres another harmonic technique which sounds absolutly stunning when used properly, if you fret a note with your left hand around frets 12+ then play the note with the thumb of your right hand with your index finger of that hand resting on the string in front you get a 'false hamonic' (I think thats what there called).

    You need to have your right index finger halfway between the bridge and the fretted note, so in effect you are utilitising the natural node that occurs in all notes.

    It can take some practice to keep the pressure on the string from your index finger constant, and to get used to moving your right hand around loads so you can hit the node.

    this technique is really fuin once you get the hang of it because after you learn the technique its really easy to manipulate, ie make the harmonic an octave higher by dampening the string more.

    if you want to hear this style played flawlessly check out Birdland By Weather Report.
  13. The harmonic tuning method seems like it is more accurate to me than the 5th fret method. Either method is close enough for me I suppose.
  14. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Charling, I believe a false harmonic is when you actually fret the note, but push it up, to create more tension. I could be wrong, but I think that's what a "fake harmonic" is considered. :)
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    This is almost correct - they are either called "false" or "artificial" harmonics - you can see Jaco demonstrating this technique on his instructional video. The idea is to use your (right hand)thumb to rest on the string and then play the string with your first two fingers as normal. (not the way described)

    What you are actually doing is subdividing the "speaking" string length with your thumb - once you get this idea, it's fairly easy to apply and I use it on solos a lot. Easier to show, than talk about!

    Buy the Jaco video for all about harmonics!
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Actually C-E, what he said was pretty much correct. I think what you're referring to is bending (fretted) or sliding (fretless bass) the harmonic up to a higher pitch.

    One thing I've found lots of bassists don't seem to know is that in addition to being able slide harmonics up on a fretless, you can also slide them down. Sounds cool.

    Another fun technique.: you can "choke" harmonics (making them sound forcefully but at greatly diminished volume) by muting the harmonic with your plucking hand while you fret it.

    Bass is fun.
  17. Hey Crazycara...

    I just wanted to add that it is posible to do harmonics at 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th and 11th frets, but some of them sound too quiet or their notes are so high, they are a little bit difficult to listen ..

    The only fret I can get no harmonics from, is the first one..
  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Or, you can go to Dave Grossman's site and use the harmonic reference to see all of the possible harmonics(if there is any limit).
  19. nice resource, embellisher :) have to ctrl-D that one ..

    re: harmonics which might ordinarily be too hard to hear - do these become more musically useable when a compressor (with the right settings) is brought into the signal chain? I don't have one yet, else i'd experiment. If so, which harmonics do you think fall into the "useable" (ie more melodic than "ghost notes") category? can EQ help to pull out the percussive quality & emphasise the harmonic note, and if so what do you recommend?

    thanks smart guys
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    You can get false or artificial harmonics at every/any place on the fingerboard - in 2 or more octaves! This is why they are more useful in improvised solos - natural harmonics require more "planning" to fit in, so are more likely to be in fully-composed pieces.
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