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Jaco's Birdland

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Dkerwood, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    Ok, so I'm doing a special concert and we're doing Birdland - and Jaco's Weather Report version floated across my desk. Good stuff.

    What I can't figure out is this - how does Jaco play the head at the beginning of the tune? I know he's using harmonics of some sort, but I can't seem to duplicate it.

    I've tried tap harmonics, tried holding the octave harmonic with my thumb while plucking with my finger, tried holding the harmonic with my finger and plucking with my thumb, tried picking while hitting the harmonic with my palm... I can consistently get the first harmonic, but not with the same tone that Jaco was able to get (he was also getting both the fundamental and the harmonic), and I really can't get the second octave harmonic to work consistently at all.

    What am I missing here? I figured with all you bass heads around here, somebody must know this tune inside and out. :D
  2. RobertUI

    RobertUI Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    For the first 5 years of playing bass, all I did was try and get that Jaco thing going. You're right about using the thumb and finger, but what you have to do is fret the note for traditional playing (like it starts out), and place your thumb at the false harmonic point (1/2 way between the "fretted" note and the bridge saddle) and pluck behind the thumb with your index or middle finger. It's a pretty cool technique, but VERY tough to perfect (I haven't).

    As for the 5 years I spent on Jaco solos... it certainly helped me learn, but I NEVER got close to his tone, it's all in his hands.

  3. darkblack99

    darkblack99 Supporting Member

    Lots of different ways to get artificial 'pinched' harmonics...You're using the Jaco technique ('holding the octave harmonic with my thumb while plucking with my finger') by resting the thumb lightly on the string and plucking, with the first harmonic 'zone' located about an inch in front of the neck pickup on a J-bass and the second, higher harmonic 'zone' about a half inch behind it.

    You can't stay in a static position to get all of the harmonics...You move the plucking hand to position the thumb, or whatever digit you're using to intercept the harmonic.

    Hope that helps
  4. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    Ok, so artificial harmonics... where does he go for the repeat when the harmonics jump an octave?
  5. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    Also, how was he getting the low note and the high harmonic? Practice? lol
  6. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Steve Bailey uses them a lot as well. If you pick up the Bass Extreme's DVD, there are a lot of examples of him playing with those false haronics. Allthough he uses his index finger, and plucks with his middle or ring finger, rather than use his thumb for the node.
  7. He plays the same thing with his fretting hand, but moves the right hand.
    When you do the first line of harmonics, your right hand is muting the string 12 frets higher then the note your fretting with your left. For the higher part, just cut that distance in half. So if you were fretting the 12th fret and muting the 24th for the first part, now you have to fret the 12th and mute the 36th (where it would be) OR you can mute it at the 17th fret and get the same harmonic, but that's hard to do since it's on the fretboard.
  8. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Thats just a plucking hand shift. If you fret the 12th fret, and move your plucking hand around a bit, you will locate a bunch of the harmonic points. Its all about muscle memory and repetition.
  9. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    Ok. I found it. I found it first at the 17th, but you're right, that is sort of hard. The other end of it is actually right next to my neck pickup, which provides a nice landmark.

    I've worked on it now for about an hour, and it's coming along nicely. I'm finding the subtle ways to mix between the harmonic and the fretted note. I suspect if I put in another hour or two, I should have it down to a point where I'm happy with it.

    FWIW, violin/viola players do this all the time. They actually finger the note AND the harmonic with their left hands, though. I tried it, and (surprise) my hand doesn't like to stretch that far... lol...

    Thanks for all the help.

    Hey, btw, how does Jaco get that twangy tone? It led me at first to believe he was using a pick, but a pick has more attack than what he's doing...
  10. skewh


    Sep 5, 2005
    Ithaca, NY
    Though mostly in his hands, much of Jaco's "twangyness" has to do with soloing the bridge pickup on his Jazz bass. He also tended to play over the bridge pickup for playing faster/funkier lines, since the strings are more taut the closer to the bridge you play, wich makes quick plucking easier.