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Would like to start using a bit of harmonics.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Demon, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. Demon


    Mar 17, 2006
    Sweden, Stockholm
    Hey. To make my playing and technique more varying since id like to incorporate a bit of harmonics. So anyone know any links to the basics, and how to do it etc? All i know is you place your finger lightly above the frets. Also, does it mather if its fretless or not? I use a defretted squier.
  2. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    Shouldnt matter.

    While you are investigating it, you can look into the field of tapped harmonics too, which is a whole other range of tones.
  3. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

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

    Hey man, to me, the most important thing first is understanding how harmonics work. Check this post out. I think it may help.

    Also, your bass' tone is crucial to get your harmonics ringing really loud. The key for that is very simple: Don't scoop your mids. If your amp has a "mid contour" button, turn it off and don't be stingy with your mid frequencies. You should also play near the bridge. Both fretted and fretless basses work perfectly for playing harmonics. The thing is: If you're interested on sliding harmonics, they definitely work MUCH better on a fretless bass, but you should try that only after getting confidence with the basic technique.

    Hope this helps.
  4. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I've been using harmonics more and more lately. I agree that harmonics are a useful and profitable technique.

    I use mostly tapped harmonics (I believe that's the correct term), inwhich you fret the note like usual, and then instead of plucking with the plucking hand, you tap the string right on the octave harmonic point (there are other harmonics you can use, but first-octave is musically the most practical, AND it's the most-forgiving harmonic when it comes to how accurate your 'aim' has to be). What's very cool about this method is that you can, in a surprisingly intuitive-sounding way choose - I mean like 'blend' - between the 'normal' string pitch and the octave harmonic pitch. I say "intuitive sounding" because.. well - what's surprising is that you can actually play pretty sloppy, 'aim-wise', and the variations really are naturally musical (of course - because they're 'harmonically-related')!

    The way this works is that - assuming you're aiming right-on for the harmonic point, now - if you 'hot-potato' off of the string you get almost all fundamental, native note (if you want ALL native, then you can 'intentionally miss' just a little on your aim..); if you hold your finger - well I don't really mean 'hold'.. I mean like 'linger' for just a fraction of a second - on the string as you tap it, you get almost pure harmonic octave! So as you've maybe percieved so-far: yeah - you could control this-all with comlete precision, but if you miss a little, it'll just come-out more fundamental-sounding -- and between all the arbitrary and random variations, people think I'm a freakin' genius; it ends-up sounding more complicated than it really is...

    One thing I might suggest is that a compressor really, really helps - especially at first. Once you get good at it, you can control it all so well that it's not as important - at first, it really makes a difference! I love always using heavy compression whenever I do harmonics - but now that I'm more experienced, I could do pretty-well without; when I first started, I would'a gone nuts without compression. Oh: my compressor is the Boss CS-3 set Level=12:00; Tone=usually around 1:00 or 4:00; Attack=2:00 for tighter-sounding, 5:00 for more 'unleashed' sound; Sustain=usually either like 2:00 or 5:00.

  5. Demon


    Mar 17, 2006
    Sweden, Stockholm
    Sorry for answering so late. I actually forgot about this topic, but i always start so many topics, inever keep track of them. Thanks for the reminder! Thanks for the help everyone. One thing i did not understand is octave harmonic point:/ where is that? im still somewhat of a beginner.
  6. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    It's half-way to the bridge.

    It's easiest to play tapped harmonics for notes that are lower on the neck (toward the NUT; a LONGER length of string) for three reasons that I can think of:
    1) you don't have to aim as carefully for the tap-point on a longer peice of string.
    2) the place to tap for an octave harmonic is right directly over the fret that's one octave above the note you're fretting (twelve steps up), so it's 'easy to find'.
    3) when you tap over a fret like this, then banging the string against the fret not-only helps to sort-of amplify the sharpness of the 'smack' (if your action's low enough, or if you hit it hard enough to throw it into the fret) - but also, even if your finger is a tad off, the fret at least still hits it on the right spot!

    The best way to start practicing - like the get the idea of what's happening - is to leave a string open, and then tap at the octave fret. Notice how that if you hold your finger on the tap point for a very short while (not too long, or you'll damp-out the note), you get all harmonic, but if you bounce off the string really fast, then it kind-of 'doesn't work' - you get the regular lower-octave which you're fretting (see: this is what I was talking about before. You can 'blend' between your choice of two different octaves -- or NOT your choice -- the random 'slop'-variations sound pretty cool, regardless!).

    Once you get that down, it's not a very far jump to just play anywhere, 'following' your fretting pattern with the tapping pattern.

    See what I mean?


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