Playing false harmonics

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by RumbleBot, Oct 25, 2003.

  1. Hmmm... Any tips/info on playing false harminics? Never done it. Sounds interesting.
  2. neptoon


    Jul 25, 2000
    Palm Bay, FL
    i think they sound better on a distorted electric guitar, but check out some of steve bailey's stuff....that guy is like the god of harmonics. michael manring does some interesting things with harmonics, too...
  3. Razor


    Sep 22, 2002
    I'm totally clueless when it comes to playing harmonics....I can get a few but when I listen to some players do nothing but play them, and play them well I am just in awe. I watch Stu Hamm do it, among others, and I just wish I could. How much is it a technique thing as opposed to an equipment issue??
  4. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    and how!

    At wootcamp before his rotation(class) he'd sometimes do a little bit of warm up noodling, rich 5 note chords with harmonics, and natural tones, he'd slide harmonics all over his bass, playing false and natural harmonics, it was obscene.

    he has an interesting method of playing false harmonics.

    rather than using his thumb in the way jaco did, he uses his index finger to make the node, and plucks with his middle or ring, that allows him to use his thumb, and also free up his hand for more harmonics at once and all that.

    he has a story about that, where jaco showed up to one of his gigs and was talking to him afterward like "what was that you were doing with your finger?" and steve was like "well, this method of false harmonics allows me to free up my hand, and also provides more accurate harmonics, and this and this and this" and jaco grabbed the bass and said "yeah, well it doesn't have THAT SOUND" and he played "birdland" then steve was like "but look, you can also use your thumb and make chords"

    Jaco takes the bass again "But it doesn't have THAT SOUND"

    steve says "but you can also do yadda yadda yadda"

    jaco just shrugs it off "it doesn't have the sound"

    now the funny thing about this story, is that jaco was stubborn, he wouldn't give up his method in favor of steve's more dynamic and adaptable method, however, at camp I got to hear both techniques right next to each other, and I'm with jaco on this, steve's technique for all it's benefits and usefulness DOES lack THAT SOUND* but if you are going to use both techniques, that;s all good. I wouldn't rely on one or the other solely.

    *THAT SOUND being the punchy defined and pinchy sound that is so tantalizing, Steve's technique creates a more rounded and even sound, that lacks character in my opinion.

    But, I digress, Steve is a truly amazing player, very very underrated, he can do some absolutely amazing things, it's ridiculous.
  5. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    I learned how to do False Harmonics by watching a video with Steve on it... So I just sat down and figured it out. I use the "Jaco" technique however... Mainly because I find that it works best for me.
  6. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    At my lesson a few weeks ago, my teacher taught me how to do artificial (false) harmonics. I originally did them with my thumb because it just felt more comfortable, but he taught me the pros and cons of doing it with the index finger and it's much better with it than the thumb IMHO. I'm going to try out the thumb again for a few minutes so see the "sound" I'm missing, but I find the index method is more conducive to lines with more notes (faster or with chords).
  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    yeah, the way I see it, use both! why not?

    they both sound different, so why not incorporate both techniques in your vocabulary, so that you can make more interesting noises and all that.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think using your thumb fits in better with bass guitar technique - so, I use my thumb for muting the lower strings when playing or maybe plucking notes on the lower strings in double-stops etc.

    So - it is thenm easy to use your thumb for playing artificial harmonics - it is in roughly the right position and it is easy to fit some into an improvised solo, for example.

    Whereas, using the index finger 'inteferes' with normal right hand plucking technique and requires an adjustment. So for me it is much more awkward to fit in with an improvised line. Of course - if you are playing a pre-written piece where you have worked out all the fingerings and don't improvise - then fine, I can see it might work better.

    But that's not what I'd want to do - I rarely (if ever) play "worked-out" solo bass pieces and I am much more likely to be playing an improvised solo and slipping in a few artificial harmonics to add interest, variety and cut through.

    But I'm also with Jaco that I really like the sound you get with your thumb and I can imagine that for a Jazz improviser like Jaco - it was better to integrate the technique with your other playing styles.
  9. if you want a perfect example of steve's jaw dropping technique, then check out the video 'bass extremes live', and especially the song, 'Thumb Start my Harley', whwere he is using distortion and his artificial harmonics!!!
    It does sound like a Harley!!
    (I've just about got this technique sorted!);)
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I've got the Bass Extremes thing which has this track and I don't really like it - I much prefer Jaco's method of artifical harmonics and the way it sounds.

    So to my ears, on this track, Steve Bailey just sounds like any lead or slide guitarist you might have heard over the last few decades - whereas Jaco gets a unique sound that is particular to bass and completely unlike any guitarist.
  11. I use my fingernail kind of like a pick and sort of thump the string. It gives both harmonics and artificial harmonics a very crisp, clear sound. It takes some practice to be able to do this fast and in conjunction with other things, but once you get it down, you've got it down.
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