Why do false harmonics vary from bass to bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nukes_da_bass, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Inactive

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    Title says it all. Why do some of my basses have scintillating false harmonics and others do not?
    Im guessing strings play a big part, but my experience tells me each bass has not only its own voice when playing fundamentals, but also when playing false harmonics.
    What im really looking for is, what do luthiers do or not do to create a bass which lets false harmonics ring out more succinctly on some basses than other basses?
  2. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    wood, set up, strings, pickups, frets, fingers
    all come into play.
  3. Also scale length. Iv'e noticed my 35" basses have more harmonics than my 34".
  4. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Inactive

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    What about the neck pocket? Urban legend has it that Leos' pre CBS neck pockets were somehow magic...
    I tend to feel i get better harmonics from a bolt-on than a neck-through also.
  5. edpal

    edpal Inactive

    Oct 3, 2007
    Same here.

    Different body woods are a big factor - e.g. mahogany and alder are close in weight but have a very different grain structure. Mahogony is fine grained with persistent fiberness to the wood that makes it a little tough to split/crack cleanly. Alder is much larger grained and splits cleanly, ditto for maple.
  6. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    Probably the biggest contributing factor is pickup location and aperture. If the pickup has a narrow aperture and is placed directly under a node (a place on the string that isn't vibrating), it will be very weak and nearly inaudible.

    This is why the bridge pickup is generally preferred for harmonics. Its location positions it away from nodes of the first few harmonics (four or five).
    elBandito likes this.
  7. ColonelZulu

    ColonelZulu Not Impressed By Those Who Flaunt “Authority” Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Pick up location.
    elBandito likes this.
  8. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Inactive

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    Thanks for the responses!
    So i have a "jazz-esque" 5 string bass with MM at the neck and single coil J at the bridge.
    Its flat out the MOST responsive bass to false harmonics i have ever owned!!

    I have never had this pickup config and its pretty dynamite!! The fancy woods probably dont hurt either, ambrosia maple, mahogany neck, etc...
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    The biggest factor by far. Jaco chose the J-bass for good reason: a vanilla P-bass barely transmits those upper harmonics.
  10. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    If the bass is voiced with a lot of hi mids harmonics (false or not) will be heard better.
    I don't think there is anything else to it.
  11. Jaco had no trouble getting them from his 34" jazz basses.... so maybe what you say is true (I agree with you) but it's not a strongly limiting factor at 34" with the right bass either.

    Anyhow, imho the biggest limiting factor is electronics/pickup design/location/setting/eq.

    I get way less artificial harmonic output level on my america musicman basses... the stingray pickup and electronics fail miserably to output strong harmonics compared to the bridge pickup of a jazz bass or to my BTB with bartolini soapbars in the bridge position.

    I can even get stronger output of harmonics on a good precision than I can on a stingray. and yet unplugged the stingray shines at them. so it's in the eq, the pickup location, etc etc.
  12. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    A bass overly reliant on it's truss rod for neck curvature is less prone to full harmonic presentation (think of what happens when a vibraslap is gripped tightly). The more rigid the instrument, the more prevalent the harmonics will be. The more mass the instrument has the more prevalent the harmonics as well.
  13. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010

    It's why basses with graphite, metal or really dense and stiff wood necks sound different in this way.
  14. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Inactive

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    Interesting ideas here and all pretty much new knowledge for me.
    As i progress as a musician i feel use of harmonics can be nice for coloration and such.
    Ive only been playing 33 years- and i could have put so much more effort into learning- there is so much to learn!
  15. flameworker


    Jun 15, 2014
    Landenberg, Pennsylvania
    one day....
    I've been playing for 25 years and I feel like I am only just learning this stuff too. Thank you inter webs!
  16. PotsdamBass8

    PotsdamBass8 Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    The tone of a bass is also made up of the presence or lack of overtones, which are harmonics within the note. You hear the fundamental primarily, but the overtones are there to a certain extent. Brighter sounds generally have more overtones. So if you think about what makes a bass sound brighter acoustically, the same factors would make the harmonics more present or easier to produce.
  17. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Get some saddle pickups and you'll have all the pinch harmonics you could want.

    ROOTSnFIFTHS Low-end Lover since '78!

    Oct 25, 2012
    NJ to Sin City
    I have 10 basses yet two of them, a Precision and a Jazz, stand out with amazing 'false harmonics'. VERY loud, strong and focused. On those two I have never adjusted the truss rod...mmm. They are also both resonant and very loud when not plugged in.