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Lower Position Harmonics

Last time we found some of the most common harmonics as they are played at the end of the fingerboard. Since the placement of harmonics on the string “mirror” themselves from the mid point (i.e. you find the same notes toward the nut as you do toward the bridge) we can find the harmonics from last installment not only at the end of the fingerboard, but also near the nut, around 1st and 2nd position.

In the exercises below, the lower staff tells us where to put place our fingers and find the harmonic. The upper staff tells us the sounding pitch of that harmonic.

For example, if we play a harmonic where C is located on the G string we get a G two octaves above the open string.
Lower Position Harmonics - figure 1

Now, let’s find last installment’s harmonics near the nut.

On the G string:
Lower Position Harmonics - figure 2

The “Sh.” and “fl.” notations above refer to “sharp” and “flat” respectively. The D and F harmonics shown do not fall precisely over the Bb, but rather slightly above and slightly below where the fingered pitch lies.

We once again have our G Dominant 7th chord in harmonics, only this time closer to the nut and easily under the hand. The third and seventh (B and D on the G string) will still be slightly out of tune. As mentioned previously, you can pull the string to the side to raise the pitch.

As all strings follow the same principles, we can use the same pattern on other strings to spell out their respective dominant arpeggios.

Like so:

D string spells a D dominant arpeggio
Lower Position Harmonics - figure 3

A string spells an A dominant arpeggio
Lower Position Harmonics - figure 4

E string spells an E dominant arpeggio
Lower Position Harmonics - figure 5

Those of us who came to the upright from electric bass will recognize many of these harmonics from the opening to Jaco’s “Portrait of Tracy”. Regardless, these lower position harmonics can add plenty of color to our bass parts.

Be sure to check out all of the installments in this bass harmonics series.

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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