Using Harmonics in Chords, Part I

wheat's picture

Abstract:
This is the first in a two-part series on using harmonics along with fretted notes to form chords.

Body:

Using harmonics extends the harmonic range of the bass. They can be very
useful for creating chords, especially when harmonics are used for the upper
notes of the chord and are mixed with a fretted root. This combination of
fretted notes and harmonics has the advantage of providing a strong foundation,
via the fretted note, and also increases the distance between the notes of the
chord, reducing muddyness.

Key to the diagrams: note names and intervals are above each note. Notes that
should be played as natural harmonics are in brackets (representing the location
of the node where the finger should rest). Suggested fingerings are below the
tab. What to name the chords is, in some cases, a judgement call, as most of
them are partial chords and some are quite ambiguous and could have more than
one function.

Practice playing these as many different ways as possible. You can play all
notes at once (i.e. as a chord). You can play the notes in sequence, as an
arpeggio. I find it particularly effective to play the harmonics together on
an up beat and then hit the root on the following downbeat.

Example #1 (C9)


 5  9  R
 G  D  C
-[5]-------
----[5]----
--------3--
-----------
 4  4  1

Example #2 (G5)


 R  5  R
 G  D  G
-[5]-------
----[5]----
-----------
--------3--
 4  4  1

Example #3 (D5)


 R  5  R
 D  A  D
-[7]-------
----[7]----
--------5--
-----------
 4  4  1

Example #4 (A sus4)


 4  R  R
 D  A  A
-[7]-------
----[7]----
-----------
--------5--
 4  4  1

Examples #1 through #4 are the same basic shape. Example #1 and #3 similar to
the R-5-8 power chord shape with which you're likely already familiar.
Examples #2 and #4 take the same shape but shift the octave down a fifth,
opening up new possibilities. You can see that it's possible to get a lot of
mileage out of a fairly simple left-hand shape.

Example #5 (E9)


 R  9  R
 E  F#  E
-[9]---------
-----[9]-----
----------7--
-------------
 4  4  1

Example #6 (B5)


 4  5  R
 E  F#  B
-[9]---------
-----[9]-----
-------------
----------7--
 4  4  1

Examples #5 and #6 just move the same basic pattern up the neck a few more
fretts, but the different harmonics at the 9th fret lead to different voicings.

Example #7 (C 6/9)


 9  6  R
 D  A  C
-[7]---------
-----[7]-----
-------------
----------8--
 1  1  2

Example #8 (Bb6)


 3  6  R
 G  D  Bb
-[5]---------
-----[5]-----
-------------
----------6--
 1  1  2

Examples #7 and #8 use a different shape. In this one, the harmonics are both
played with the first finger, while the second finger is used to fret E-string
root.

Example #9 (Bm7)


 b3  b7  R
 D  A  B
-[7]---------
-----[7]-----
-------------
----------7--
 3  2  1

Example #10 (Am7 [sus4])


 b7  4  R
 G  D  A
-[5]---------
-----[5]-----
-------------
----------5--
 3  2  1

Enjoy these. Feel free to add your own voicings and point out any mistakes or
alternate interpretations of these voicings. I'll have another ten in the
next installment.

Comments

Paul Warren's picture

Nice lesson Wheat. I tried a

Nice lesson Wheat. I tried a few of these chords last night without much success. I'm not used to doing chords. My hands don't want to assume the right shape. That's one reason I chose bass over 6 string in the first place. Still, I'll keep trying.

wheat's picture

Not that I have time for it,

Not that I have time for it, but I've been thinking of shooting a quick video of these examples and putting it up on YouTube. That might help you out.

Wheat

bassplaying.com

Paul Warren's picture

A video would be great. I

A video would be great. I suspect that I need a lot more help than that though. It seems to be a coordination problem that needs a lot of work to overcome. I've never ever used chord shapes while playing. I can't even really do the 1 finger 1 fret thing properly as my hands are too small and stubby. I actually move my hand slightly to reach the 4th finger position. I'm so used to this now that I suspect I couldn't play any other way.

wheat's picture

I'm really glad Dorko

I'm really glad Dorko brought this whole thing up. For years, I've just used a few really simple ones and having expanded my pallet much. Putting that lesson together forced me to dive in and learn more. And I find I'm using them a lot and it's adding something new and exciting to my playing.

Part of the reason I really like them, BTW, is they don't require a lot of dexterity to pull off. And I don't really like them much on guitar. But on the bass, I think they're really cool, especially for the solo bass stuff, where you need some way to fake other instruments.

I only do one finger per fret when I really need it for something. In the lower registers, I often fret with 1 2 and 4 (letting 4 cover the space that 3 would). It's easier on my wrist. If I'm doing a root-octave pattern, I often play the root with 1 and the octave with 4. No harm, no foul.

Wheat

bassplaying.com

Merebass_X's picture

Using Harmonics in Chords, Part I

Great Lesson for those who are learning and for those who want to reinforce or refresh their skills.
6 strings or 4,very challenging in mastering harmonics and getting a good tone quality.

wheat's picture

Thanks, Herm. I have a Part

Thanks, Herm. I have a Part II in the works that covers some more shapes and some scale runs. I just haven't had time to type it up and create all the diagrams.

Wheat

bassplaying.com