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how do you do harmonics?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bass_player_cd, Feb 5, 2002.

  1. bass_player_cd

    bass_player_cd terminated.

    Aug 21, 2000
    can someone help me out with harmonics on bass? first explain to me what it is and how to properly tap or whatever to the strings. does it only work on certain frets? I can get a high pitch tone on the "g" string on the 7th fret. but i dont know if thats harmonics or what. And lastly whats the difference of natural harmonics and artificial harmonics? thanks
  2. Kraken


    Jun 19, 2001
    Aylesbury, England
    Natural Harmonics are where you fret the string ABOVE the fret and don't press the string down this then creates a node point on the string when it is plucked that creates a high pitched note this may be what you are getting at the 7th fret you can also do this at the 12th fret for good results (although it should work on all frets with a different degree of success)

    Artificial Harmonics and Pinch Harmonics are things I think Someone else should explain as no written explanation I've ever seen has ever made it clear and I've not been shown how to do it.

    Over to the rest of you;)
  3. Try using the "Search" function (above). The topic has been covered fairly extensively within these forums. I'm pretty sure you'll find what you're looking for.
  4. bass_player_cd

    bass_player_cd terminated.

    Aug 21, 2000
    yeah i dont understand half the stuff i read about harmonics from pros. it must be artificial harmonics on the 7th fret because i'm holding it down and you first hear the 7 note then it fades into the higher tone. i'll try the search engine too. thanks guys
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    There is definitely a "natural" harmonic at the 7th fret - presuming that your bass is correctly intonated and in tune! Bright, new, round wound strings will bring these out - dull, old strings will make this harder to hear. Some basses are also better at producing harmonics than others.

    You could also produce any number of artifical or false harmonics at the 7th fret - but bear in mind that it's really a case of subdividing string length, rather than anything to do with fret positions.

    All of this is much easier to show/demonstrate than tell - five minutes interaction with a good teacher would be worth a thousand words here!! ;)
  6. Kraken


    Jun 19, 2001
    Aylesbury, England
    However, if you are fretting the 7th fret note I think what you are getting is more Feedback than Harmonic, I'm not certain about this but it sounds like that is what is happening - does it only happen with the bass plugged into your amp? Does it happen on the 7th fret of any other string?

  7. JaggedB


    Jan 26, 2002
    Columbus, OH
    From my limited understanding of harmonics: Natural harmonics occur when you touch but not fret the string at any mid-point (the first mid-point being half way between the nut and the bridge, or the twelfth fret) or subdivision of a mid-point on a particular string (i.e. 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc.). That being said, you can subdivide a string an infinite number of times, but the number of useful harmonics is limited.

    Artificial harmonics are produced when you fret a string at a particular point, in effect capoing or creating a new nut, and then finding the mid-points, or subdivisions, from there.

    Although Jaco did this alot, the only example I can personally give is the Descendents song "Clean Sheets." At the very end of the song, if you don't have a 24 fret bass you need to do false harmonics to get the very end. The notes are G, F#, and A at what would be the 24th fret.

    How I play it is I fret the G at the 12th fret and then find the new midpoint of the string (or the phantom space where the 24th fret should be - I have a 21 fret board). I lay my thumb on the string at that point and then pluck the string with my index finger. The thumb is taking the place of the left hand on an open string or natural harmonic. I then repeat this for each note that I have to play moving slightly towards the nut for the F#.

    I hope this made sense. I agree that it only takes about five minutes to show and way to many words to try and explain.
  8. bass_player_cd

    bass_player_cd terminated.

    Aug 21, 2000
    i figured out how to do natural harmonics and i know the difference from the both. I'm pretty sure now that it was feedback i got from the 7th fret. Thanks to everyone who helped explain it to me. I'll try to get some more info and practice to get the harmonics down. thanks again.
  9. JP Bassman

    JP Bassman

    Jun 18, 2001
    Tool's Disposition uses some cool harmonics.

    Harmonics all in all are pretty fun.

  10. Wow I actually understood that, it must be wrong haha.

    But if it isn’t that’s one of the few explanations I have understood in this forum, thanks.
  11. hujo


    Apr 18, 2001
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Yeah, that's correct. I really have nothing to add, except that one of the most famous songs with artificial harmonics in it, must be "Birdland" by Jaco, with Weather Report. He also places his thumb one fourth (5 frets) from the fretted note, which results in an harmonic 2 octaves up.

    Edit: And look, there's a thread about just that song right in this forum!

  12. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    there was a thread once about the same topic. It had a website that showed where to place your fingers to produce all the harmonics on the bass. do a search.. you might just find it
  13. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I've been fooling with these, lately.
    You kind of have to act like you're popping the string, so you don't bump other strings. :)
    (Just a side note.)

    I agree, harmonics are difficult to explain.
  14. bass_player_cd

    bass_player_cd terminated.

    Aug 21, 2000
    I got down harmonics pretty good, just need some practice with them. I learned how to do pinch harmonics also. Its where you use a pick of somesort(a penny works great), then you hold the pick with your thumb and index finger to pluck the string barely and let your thumb touch the string directly after the pick. It makes a real high pitch sound if you do it right. also works better if you have a distortion and chorus effect.
  15. PICK


    Jan 27, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Natural harmonics occur all over the length of the bass strings.
    The Start of Jaco's Portrait of Tracy has harmonics that all occur between the 3rd and 5th frets! Run your finger along the string( dont fret the string) while continually playing the string and you will hear various harmonics, some loud and some softer.

    They do not occur everywhere but there are alot of them.

    Artificial harmonics are harder to do especially if you are a finger player. Its more of a guitarists trick because the distortion helps. Find a guitarist and get him to show you how. Its very hard to explain. Artificial harmonics are not as "useable" as natural harmonics.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I find the exact opposite!! I find false or artificial harmonics very easy to use - even in improvised solos in Jazz!

    So I would never use a pick and anyway that method is the guitarist's ( :rolleyes: ) way of doing it; but it is fairly straightforward to do it like Jaco with your thumb resting on the string in front of your plucking finger(s).

    So you can move your thumb to creat a harmonic an octave or higher by getting closer or further away from the bridge as you fret the notes. As the harmonics are basically the same notes as you would get when fretting - just a different octave - it is very easy to fit them into improvised solos - just play what you were going to anyway - adds colour, tonal variation and extends your range .

    But natural harmonics are not always the same notes and you have to know what note is being produced and plan much more to fit these into solos or you might get a clash or a plain wrong note. So I almost never include natural harmonics in improvised solos and can only imagine using them in pieces where you have everything worked out beforehand - like "Portrait".

    I also find that the natural harmonics sound very "hackneyed" - it just sounds like an "effect" thrown in to be flashy or to show off, rather than any musical worth. Whereas with false harmonics you can just play freely and know that you will be in the same key/scale/chord so can integrate this into your solos more organically - rather than having them feel "stuck on" as an effect to impress people.
  17. I'll second that!
  18. Mark me as number 3

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