View Full Version : Harmonics

06-22-2016, 06:14 AM
I can only make harmonics on my ukes at the 12th (octave) fret, or above that, if I fret with my left hand.
How come a guitarist can make harmonics all over the neck?

06-22-2016, 07:26 AM
How come a guitarist can make harmonics all over the neck?

Mostly because with the longer string length on a guitar the exact point of the harmonic on a string is a little less critical. Also it would seem steel strings are more prone to generating harmonics than nylon strings ... just compared two acoustic guitars ;)

It's also important as to exactly where you pluck the string ... if you're unlucky enough to find a "null point" you'll get no harmonic!

YMMV - depending on the size of your ukulele ;)

06-22-2016, 08:58 AM
Longer strings harmonic easier.
Heavy/thicker strings harmonic easier.
Wounds are easier than unwound.
Half string harmonics are easier than the others.
Instruments with long sustain seem to be easier as well.

Otherwise... practice?
Jake's fields of gold is kinda fun.

06-22-2016, 09:11 AM
I can only make harmonics on my ukes at the 12th (octave) fret, or above that, if I fret with my left hand.
How come a guitarist can make harmonics all over the neck?

You can! Put your finger on 1st fret and ring on the 13th. Try it.

06-22-2016, 11:50 AM
You can do some of this stuff with your ukuleles, too. It's less effective as you shorten the vibrating length of the string, (which is why ukuleles don't do it as well as guitars). You will find accessable ones at or near frets 5,7,19, and 21 of your open strings. If you get good at playing them, you'll discover harmonics all over the place. Many of them are hardly usable, but they exist. Experiment. But, you will find using them requires a great deal of hard practice.

Kayak Jim
06-22-2016, 12:12 PM
I was able to get them to ring on the 5th and 7th of my Koaloha concert (Southcoast mediums) for the first time yesterday. Not super loud but I was still stoked. At any harmonic I seem to get the best results touching the string with my right index finger and plucking with my right thumb.

06-22-2016, 12:36 PM
You should be able to get natural harmonics on frets 5,7 and 12. (5 will be the most difficult on a ukulele).

You can create artificial harmonics using both hands, by fretting with the left hand and plucking with the right 12 frets above. It's a difficult technique to describe in words, so I suggest finding an explanation on YouTube.

06-22-2016, 02:05 PM
You can! Put your finger on 1st fret and ring on the 13th. Try it.

I did. I can play Reveille with all harmonics, but so far nothing below fret 12......

06-22-2016, 09:12 PM
Pull a tensioned string, and it will start making wave movements. Funny thing is, there are big waves and smaller ones at the same time. Big waves make fundamental notes, small ones overtones. Pinching harmonics, or playing flageolets (flute tones) if you're into fancy musical words, is deadening larger size waves (usually only one or two) and leaving the others to continue. The result is you only hear the overtones.

Why doesn't it work well on a ukulele? Well, because if you only let the smaller waves continue, then the sound will become very thin indeed on a short scale: there's simply very little string movement anymore. 12th fret harmonics and 5th fret ones are okay, 7th or 3rd are hard/impossible to get right. Same with fretted harmonics, which require precise dampening and a challenge on a ukulele.

Longer strings make those smaller waves still audible, and steel strings more so then nylons, although good classical guitarists can play impressive flageleots.

One way around is to use larger scale ukuleles, and use electrical amplification. Oh, and practice!

07-21-2018, 05:47 AM
Here’s a great video explaining artificial harmonics and playing below the 12th fret. You can even play where there are no frets by estimating the distance of the invisible frets. https://youtu.be/hJ68nPS__YI

Jim Yates
07-21-2018, 07:48 AM
Harmonics at the 12th fret are made when the string is vibrating in two equal waves with a node at the 12th fret, producing a note an octave above the open string (the same note as fretting the string at the 12th fret). This is relatively easy to do.
At the seventh fret, the string is vibrating in three equal waves with two nodes, one at the seventh and one at the 17th fret. This produces a note an octave above the note fretted at the seventh fret or the same as that fretted at the 17th fret. This harmonic is a little harder to produce.
At the fifth fret, the string vibrates in four equal waves with three nodes at the 5th, 12th and somewhere up there beyond where most instruments are fretted. This is even harder to produce and will not be as loud and clear as the first two.
Theoretically there are harmonics anywhere on the neck with more and more nodes and becoming harder and harder to produce as you increase the nodes.
With natural harmonics (no fretting involved) I stick to 12, 7 and 5 on guitar and on the ukulele, I stick to 12.

Artificial harmonics have been mentioned above, but I'll leave their explanation to someone else.