A harmonic is a "bell like" tone that
is produced by lightly touching a string of the bass over some
specific fret bars. What we are going to be talking about in this
lesson are natural harmonics. These harmonics are
produced from the open strings of the bass only. There are other
techniques for playing harmonics (artificial harmonics, touch
harmonics, tap harmonics) but they will be the subjects of other
First we are going to take a look at how to play harmonics, and
then look a little more in depth look at what they are. For the
moment just think of harmonics as notes on the electric bass that
have a little different tone that normal notes.
Playing a natural harmonic
Go to the 4th string, and place the tip of any finger above the
12th fret bar. Normally when you play a note at the 12th fret,
you are pressing down just to the left of the 12th fret bar. When
playing a harmonic, you are going to be very lightly touching
the string (not pressing down) over the fret bar, and not to the
left. While lightly touching pluck the 4th string.
Right after you play the string, lift your left hand finger off.
This will let the harmonic note ring louder, and more clearly.
If you were to leave your finger on the string, the harmonic would
sound, but would be more muffled. If you lift up your left hand
finger too soon, then you will hear the open string. This takes
a little practice to get the right timing.
Watch this video on how to play a natural harmonic on the 12th
fret of the bass guitar.