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Fingered Harmonics Technique

Tom Towle (434) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Advanced · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2

Many of you know that you can play harmonics by placing a finger of your playing hand so that it lightly rests against a string and by using your picking hand you can pluck the string and get a higher pitched tone.

What you are actually doing is masking or hiding/preventing the fundamental tone or frequency of the open string from sounding. Depending on the position of your masking finger on the string, you can further mask various overtones on that same string.

Let's choose the A string. The fundamental frequency of that tonal A is 440 cycles per second. "Concert A". If you find the exact middle of that string and pluck the string while laying your playing hand finger lightly on that point, you will mask the 440 cps, or Hertz, from sounding. Since that string sound is not a pure sinusoidal wave or sine wave, it contains many multiple frequency components in that envelope. The most prominent and dominant comprise the overtone series.

These frequencies have a mathematic relationship called superparticular.

440 - A -

Open 880 - A - Octave - 1st harmonic - halfway on the A string, dividing the string in half.

1320 - E - Fifth - 2nd harmonic - 1/3 the way up the A string (from either direction!) dividing the string in thirds as in over the 7th fret

1760 - A - Octave - 3rd harmonic - 1/4 the way up the A string (from either direction!) as in over the 5th fret

2200 - C# - Major 3rd - 4th harmonic - 1/5 the way up the A string, 2/5 the way up as in over the 4th fret

The superparticular ratios of freqencies are as such:

2:1 Octave (2*440=880 to 440) - the most consonant internal


3:2 Fifth (3 * 440=1320 to 2* 440=880) - the perfect fifth


4:3 Fourth (4 * 440=1760 to 3 * 440=1320) - the perfect fourth


5:4 Major Third (4 * 440=1760 to 5 * 440=2200)


6:5 Minor Third (5 * 440=2200 to 6 * 440=2640)


7:6 Major Second


These intervallic relationships define consonance and physical harmony.