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Portrait of Tracy final harmonic

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by GerardoRicc, May 2, 2019.

  1. So, I'm currently in the process of polishing this amazing piece by Jaco, every note is the right one and everything sounds pretty good altho not perfect but one thing is killing me: the last "note"

    Like many of you know, the final chord that Jaco uses is a combination of 3 artificial harmonics that are achieved with the left hand.
    I know the position and all but when I pluck the strings it doesn't come out the same way that Jaco (or other players in general), its pretty muted and dead go be honest and it's not consistent.
    I get that slight variation in the position of the hand change the whole thing but it's too much variation.

    Could it be dead string? Or low action?
    It's driving me crazy! Thanks.

    PS: When I strum the strings it comes out much better but it's not the ideal technique
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think the engineer used a lot of compression on that track, which really helps the harmonics "ring out." And I wouldn't be surprised if they "punched in" that last chord.

    My hands are too small to play those artificial harmonics with my left hand :( so instead, I fret the notes with my left hand, and then tap (hammer-on) the harmonics with my right hand. Or I will play each note of the chord one by one, as an arpeggio. Neither of these options sound great but they are the best I can do.
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
    Shanannigan, ONYX and nilorius like this.
  3. Mhhhh I understand the problem, yeah I don't have a particularly big hand myself.

    Well to be fair, Jaco had giant hands
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    This guy found an interesting solution to the problem! ;)

    kobass and Zack Sewell like this.
    Well I would definitely do it like that if I didn't need to perform it live.
    I guess I just have to give up
  6. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Two possible things to explore/eliminate... First, is it possible that one of the harmonic nodes is directly over, or close to, the pickup? Unlikely as you say the strum works OK.
    Second, are you plucking the string at a harmonic node but strumming at a non-node location?
  7. I pluck the note right over the pickup, trying to stay pretty close the the same spot when playing normally
  8. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    But if a node is over the pickup you will get a volume drop or total loss because the string isn't moving at that point...
  9. Jaco could do “false harmonics” at will for any note he wanted. Using his thumb and plucking finger.
  10. That's a different thing used in Birdland
    gebass6 likes this.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    That's a great technique for single notes, but doesn't really work for the 4-note chord in question.
  12. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    I don't think they are that different. I think that is basically the same technique just with the pinch being applied by the other hand. You are fretting a note to alter the harmonic point.

    The final harmonic at PoT is highly dependent on hand placement. It is also a LOT easier to do on a fretted bass (which is what PoT is recorded on.) I tend to just settle for the top two strings when I play it since I am typically playing fretless.
    Microbass likes this.
  13. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 vaxx! Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2006
    North AMERICA, USA
    Keep in mind Jaco had 1962 Jazz, fretted, with brand new Rotosounds, through his Acoustic amps, and what sounds like some chorus effect on there too (don’t quote me on that one), plus his absolutely magical hands.
    I used to always test the quality of a bass by playing the ending harmonic notes on it- we’d refer to it as the “portrait of tracy” test. Those harmonics always ring clearer on a higher quality instrument.

    edit: "tracy" was played on his fretted '62
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
    stefancaunter likes this.
  14. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    There are two ways to play those notes. fingering at the 9th fret with the harmonics (4th partial major thirds) just over the 13th fret like Jaco, OR fingering at the first fret with the harmonics just past the third fret getting octaves from the 7th partial. The stretch isn't much less and it will sound a little different due to intonation, but they are the same notes.
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
  15. Darth_Linux


    Oct 12, 2002
    Spokane, WA
    the way I've always played that last chord is buy fretting the 9th fret, and then using my pinky over the 13th fret to get the harmonics. Plucking very hard, near the bridge, with chorus and compression will help a great deal. Good luck!!
  16. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    PoT was recorded on a fretted bass though.
    Smooth_bass88 likes this.
  17. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 vaxx! Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2006
    North AMERICA, USA
    oh snap! Yup, you're right. I should have known that. Very good point.
  18. Jaco demonstrated that chord on that old DCI video he did with Jerry Jemmott. That video is bittersweet as Jaco wasn't in great shape when he made it. He seemed to know it would stump other players. As I recall it required quite a stretch. It may be on YouTube somewhere.
    Roxbororob likes this.
  19. part of what made jaco great was his execution of things like this while maintaining a musical sound.

    it's a tricky one. i remember learning it. the good news is with practice you can get those harmonics to sound.... the bad news is, as long as you are doing the correct technique, theres nothing to do other than keep at it.
  20. Roxbororob

    Roxbororob Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2015
    You are certainly right there, so much so because we know what happened soon after. I’ve heard some people criticize Jerrys dialogue as simplistic but thank goodness he had the foresight to put his neck on the line and do that shoot.

    Still, with his nervous ticks and obvious condition Jaco still had that "sound" at moments in the video (even with a fretted precision neck. Sorry for the derail.

    Yes, it was quite a stretch!
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