Bassists…. Lets use more Harmonics!!

Posted on by MatthewGriffiths

Everybody loves the low-end power of the bass, whether it’s in a club, at a metal concert or watching any live music. Its that punch, that thud that you feel in your gut when you’re at the front of the stage. But what about bass harmonics? Do we hear enough of these? No! So let’s have a look at what harmonics are, and how they relate to the bass.

What are harmonics?

Harmonics are notes performed in a way that amplifies the vibration of certain overtones. They’re common on guitar, but when you perform harmonics on a bass you can play the ‘low’ and ‘high’ ends together. For example, on a four string bass you can use the D and G strings for harmonics while using the E and A strings as two-note intervals: that way you’ve got half a bass chord being played using harmonics and the other half played as ‘regular’ low notes.

Here are five basic tips that can improve the sound of your harmonics…

  1. New strings
  2. Thumpicks
  3. Boost the treble on your guitar and amplifier, set your middle slightly higher that the bass but lower than the treble, eg. Bass 4, Middle 7 , Treble 8
  4. Choosing the right compressor is important if you want to get your harmonics to stand out. A fast attack time and high compression ratio are crutial.
  5. Harmonic-friendly pickups! I use the Seymour Duncan STK 1 and find these ideal for this type of playing. They have a phonomenal sound, great for harmonics with a fantastic low end growl and attack.

When can you use harmonics?

Some people have told me they never use harmonics when playing in bands. Perhaps they dont fit in or work with the songs or style of playing? I mean that does make sense! I know I do use them more than i probably should. But I’m hooked! I love them! There are two videos I’ve done here:


Try adding a few harmonics when you next jam. Or maybe even drop some sneaky ones into your next gig! How often do you use harmonics? Would they work with your style of playing?

Written on March 15, 2013, by MatthewGriffiths

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