Portrait of Tracy technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Psycho, Jul 3, 2013.

  1. Psycho

    Psycho Guest

    Jun 24, 2008
    The title says it all. I've been trying to learn this masterpiece of a song, but my main issue is getting the harmonics to sound clearly and evenly. I can play the 4th, 5th, 7th and such easily, but the ones between frets like between the 3rd and 4th are not only difficult to find, but very difficult to produce clearly and loud enough.

    Any tips or techniques you'd advise? I'm playing a Spector Rebop 5 with some fairly worn in strings, though trying it out on my old 4 string Thunderbird didn't see much difference.
  2. Slough Feg Bass

    Slough Feg Bass Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    San Francisco
    newer strings, use more fingernail and pluck kinda hard to get those artificial harmonics.
    great tune, I used to do it as an intro to one of my original tunes back in the day.
  3. tmntfan


    Oct 6, 2011
    Victoria Canada
    Plucking really close to the bridge helps the harmonics ring out.

    start using the very tip of your fingers to find the ones in between (3.2, 3.8) then I used the side of my finger to play them.

    learning this song taught me so much about finger pressure in both hands. getting the chords to sound evenly was a huge challenge but the intimate knowledge you will have of that your hands are doing is very beneficial. especially the middle part with the moving bass and alternating chords.
  4. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Learning where to fret is important for the 4th, 3rd, and similar harmonics because it's not as obvious as the 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th (it's not right on top of the fret usually). It also help to play closer to the bridge and to have your mids cranked a bit more than usual to bring them out. Like anything, it just takes practice. Once you get it it's really not that hard.
  5. Psycho

    Psycho Guest

    Jun 24, 2008
    My EQ is a bit of a frown, so the mids are already taken care of. Thanks for the tips, I usually play between the pickups, I've never been a bridge kind of guy just because the tension is too high for the sound I usually want to come through.

    But, seeing as this is something totally different, I'll give it a shot.

    Thanks guys!
  6. Invisible_Kid

    Invisible_Kid Guest

    Jun 1, 2010
    When I learned this song, I had trouble making the harmonics louder than the regular notes when playing the three-note chords. To combat this, I used my pinky to play the notes that were the loudest. The weakness of that finger ended up evening out the sound. Try using weaker fingers if some notes are too loud, then work from there to get ALL the notes louder.
  7. I usually play this with my bass on my left knee - like a classical guitarist. This position helps with some of the stretches that are required, like the artificial harmonic on the A string 6th fret. There are other ways to play it, but this is the way I learned to do it.
  8. Ibby

    Ibby Guest

    Jun 24, 2013
    obviously if you havent done this already, solo the bridge pickup and play close to the bridge
  9. Timgebutler

    Timgebutler Guest

    Aug 4, 2012
    St Andrews, Scotland
    A compressor/sustain pedal can help even out the unwanted dynamics too
  10. jblmusic1994

    jblmusic1994 Guest

    May 15, 2013
    Jackson, Ohio
    How I play Portrait of Tracy:
    Use my thumb closer to the fretboard for the bass notes and stretch my other fingers far down by the bridge and pluck every harmonic.
    Practice playing those tricky harmonics independently from the song to get a better realization of them on your fretboard.

    Also, it may not be a technical error. You may need to turn off your neck pickup and turn on your bridge pickup.
    Then boost the midrange.

    Jaco said that he has his neck pickup off almost always and compensates with his amp.
  11. jblmusic1994

    jblmusic1994 Guest

    May 15, 2013
    Jackson, Ohio
    That's exactly what I do!
    Definitely needed for the last chord. It's hard to get all three harmonics to ring just right without it being huge and abrasive
  12. Damn straight! I usually practice this first before I attempt the piece, just to make sure I don't fluff the big finale!!