Expanded Harmonics: More on Locations and Patterns

Last time we talked about how to find out where harmonics occur on a string by dividing the string into equal parts. Below you will find a more straightforward representation of the specific harmonics that can be found at the end of the fingerboard on each string.

We will be placing the thumb on the second octave harmonic for each string. If your bass had frets the thumb would be on the 24th fret.

For example, on the G string we will place our thumb here:
Expanded Harmonics - figure 1

We will be placing the first finger a major third away from the thumb, the second finger a minor third from the first finger, and the third finger a minor third from the second finger. If we do this one note after the other, and play harmonics at the specified points, we will produce the following notes as harmonics:
Expanded Harmonics - figure 2

You will have noticed, no doubt, that the harmonics spell out a Dominant 7th chord with G (the note of the open string) as the root. This pattern will remain for each string. It should be noted that the third and seventh (B and D on the G string) will be slightly out of tune. You can press the string down closer to the fingerboard, or pull it to the side, to raise the pitch.

As all strings follow the same principles, we can use the same finger pattern on other strings to spell out other dominant arpeggios. Of course, the relevant open string notes will determine the roots. Like so:

D string spells a D dominant arpeggio:
Expanded Harmonics - figure 3

A string spells an A dominant arpeggio:
Expanded Harmonics - figure 4

E string spells an E dominant arpeggio:
Expanded Harmonics - figure 5

Most of these harmonics are introduced in classical study when we play the Dittersdorf and Dragonetti concerti and understanding where the harmonics lie on our strings can help us perform these works well. The rest of us are left to our own devices as to when and where we will use these harmonics. I look forward to hearing how you use them.

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 www.donovanstokes.com and check out the Bass Coalition at www.basscoalition.com.

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  1. Good for all guitars.