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The use of harmonics

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Verbannter, Dec 17, 2005.


  1. As I was browsing through music archives I decided to check out some of my fav music artists. I stumbeled upon a piece from Dream Theater's bassist; John Myung, for a piece called "Solar Groove". Which near the end incorporates an abundance of harmonics used to create chords. As I am not very experienced with this technique I was hoping I could get some feed back on how one may properly implement them and where they can be found. (For I feel there is more too it then just lightly applying pressure to the strings with your fretting hand.)

    I have a feeling I may need to get new strings to play this piece efficiently as they're starting to lose their tone.

    By the way, it's a great piece and I reccomend everyone take a good look at it. :smug:

    Rock on! :bassist:
     
  2. Well, there's some plucking involved too. :p Really, there's not much more too it than that. With some of them it helps to get your finger off the string and let it ring out. It's usually helpful to solo your bridge pickup, since some harmonics won't get picked up by the neck pickup, and combining them seems to cancel some out. Mids are helpful. Plucking near the bridge helps too.
     
  3. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Hey David, what's up!

    The basic technique for playing harmonics consists of resting your fingertips on a single spot of the string and then plucking it near the bridge (well, it doesn't mean that they won't ring if you pluck the string in a different area, but plucking near the bridge yields the best results). Some people seem to think that the finger should be taken off the string just after playing it. That's not true. For an explanation about harmonics' layout on a string, check this thread. For tips on how you should set your bass tone for this, read here. Let me know if you need further explanations. :)
     
  4. Helpful as always Alvaro :). Thanks for the tips Lemur, they did wonders! Thanks guys! On a bit of a budget when it comes to replacing pickups or getting some SFX but the technique helps alot. Still saving for a decent compressor + Suppressor combo.
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Ya, if you're going to get into harmonics, a compressor is a must.
     
  6. quallabone

    quallabone

    Aug 2, 2003
    Gear has very little to do with playing harmonics or any other technique IMO.
     
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Try getting those Michael Manring oddball harmonics without one. If all you're doing is octave, 7th and 5th fret harmonics, that's one thing, but try doing a 3rd fret harmonic without a compressor.
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Very good chart, Dave! Easy to read, right on the money for locations...thanks for the link!
     
  9. quallabone

    quallabone

    Aug 2, 2003
    just did.

    5th fret - loud/clear
    4th fret - loud/clear
    3rd fret (high D) - loud/clear
    2.75 fret (high f) - loud/clear
    2.4 fret (high G) - not quite as loud/clear
    2nd fret (high A) - loud/clear
    1.75 (high B) - getting a bit quieter/still clear
    1.5 fret (higher D) - less loud/quite clear
    1st fret (I don't know) - absolutely nothing

    If you want to play 1st fret harmonics and have them ring out I suggest a compressor.

    Test was done on a Fury Tornado (bridge pickup/phased humbucker) through an aguilar 359 set completely flat.

    Rebuttal?
     
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    My rebuttal:

    Now try them on the E string in a band setting.
     
  11. Another neat way to play the harmonics near the nut is to play them by the bridge instead. It's harder to get in the right place, but you can get a very clear sound from even the high ones. Just lay your thumb on the node and pluck on the bridge side. Some might call it a pinch harmonic, but I wouldn't. I'm not sure it's something I'd try to pull off live, but it's a nice thing to play with.
     
  12. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    And why might you be doing this? The argument still stands, that yes, it may not be heard as well. I just don't think that's much of a point to be making. Plus a compressor won't help you much there either.

    Either way, a compressor never hurts, but this is mostly technique. Good answers from all who posted - just keep practicing and they'll be a natural part of your playing in no time.
     
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Sure a compressor will help. That's what a compressor does. I will agree that technique has a lot to do with it, but the compressor definitely brings out harmonics a lot better than naturally. Go to Manring's forum and ask him if he uses one.
     
  14. quallabone

    quallabone

    Aug 2, 2003
    uses what? A comb?

    kidding of course.
     
  15. quallabone

    quallabone

    Aug 2, 2003
    I will definately try that if you can tell me a way to do it without losing my job. Full band? What is the application other than getting fired or giggled at?
     
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well, you could be one of the lucky 1/100th of 1% of bass players who has a career doing solo material.
     
  17. quallabone

    quallabone

    Aug 2, 2003
    I'm one of the lucky 1/50th of 1% of bassists who doesn't need a dayjob. I might have to give Burger King a call if I decide to pursue E string harmonics though.
     
  18. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Harmonics are a great thing, I tend to throw in a bunch of artificial harmonics while playing stuff on fretless, or exposed passages. Band mates love it, but most of the time, regular playing does the trick.

    Don't play harmonics for the sake of harmonics, do them for the song.

    BTW, I spend WAY too much time over in effects. I keep trying to spell harmonics with an X.