Secondly, the 15ma and dotted line
above the notes signifies that the
actual pitches are two octaves above
what the notation would indicate.
Also you'll notice that I start at the
second harmonic: this is because
the first harmonic, or fundamental,
is simply the open string.
Note further that the notes spell
out a dominant seven arpeggio.
Specifically, from the second
harmonic, we have root, fifth,
octave; and then, in the next octave,
major third, fifth, minor seventh;
then another octave; and, finally,
the second in the next octave, and
then the major third, this being the
10th harmonic. Although I have
decided to only go as far as the
10th harmonic, it is possible to go
even further, though the notes are
harder to find and play clearly. But,
for the intrepid, the next harmonic,
the 11th, is found just beyond the
tenth, moving toward the nut, and
is the sharp eleven, a C# on the
G string. As you can appreciate,
the notes of the harmonic series
eventually spell out a Lydian seven
chord: that is, a dominant seven
with a raised fourth.
Now, by combining these
natural harmonic positions across
all four strings it is possible to
play quite a long sequence of
natural harmonics that constitute
all the notes of a particular scale,
specifically a G Lydian scale if
we start from the 12th fret on
the G string. In fact, we can play
two octaves plus a major third
of a G Lydian scale with all the
notes in the correct sequence
and octave, as I illustrate in the
next example. Bearing in mind
the modes inherent in this scale,
it can be seen that it is very
useful for finding melodies in
a number of modes. So, in G
Lydian, we can play also in B
Aeolian, A Mixolydian, E Dorian,
F# Phrygian, C# Locrian, and
D major, or Ionian, to give it its
modal name.
With practice you will be able
to find the harmonics between
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the frets fairly reliably. You'll notice also that the higher positions, as we move toward the nut, are harder
to play clearly, and also begin to deviate from equal temperament, our 12-tone chromatic scale representing
something of an approximation of natural harmonics.
The third example is a two-bar G Lydian vamp, making use of these harmonics and also, in the second bar,
adding a fretted tone - a low G - to help establish the harmony and also add some rhythmic impetus. I don't
go higher than the sixth harmonic in this example, so the notes are fairly easy to find, but remember that the
sixth harmonic is not quite over the third fret, rather slightly on the bridge side as indicated. On the second
beat of the first bar I use, in the plucking hand, thumb, first, and then second finger to play the notes, the aim
being to allow them to continue ringing. In a similar fashion, the two notes played as a double stop on beat
three should be left to ring out for the rest of that bar and into the second bar, so careful fretting is necessary
to make sure we don't cut the notes short.
The final example is a four-bar bass-line on a II-V vamp, E minor 7 to A7, in which we play some melody
using harmonics up to the 10th harmonic, a bass-line played normally on the E string, and also a harmonic
chord, the A7 in the third bar, so there's quite a bit going on here. Firstly, find the melody and ensure that is
under the fingers: it's pretty much the same each time, just that on the second time we finish on the A7 chord.
Here we are using some of the upper harmonic positions, so it might take a little trial and error to find exactly
where the notes are. Once you have found them you can see it is all very close together, so it's not too difficult
to play once we're comfortable with the positions for the harmonics. I am plucking the chord with thumb,
first, and second finger, and again we need to ensure we don't damp any of the strings and let the notes ring.
The bass-line is all on the open E string in the second bar, although in the fourth bar there are some more
notes, but it can still all be played on the E string, ideally not damping the upper strings and allowing the A7
chord to continue to ring out.
As you can see, being able to locate all the natural harmonics up to the 10th harmonic on each string
affords us many possibilities in terms of melodies and chords, all of which can add a great deal of colour to
our ideas and enhance our bass-lines.
I i X i r
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