The best string to get some of the more difficult harmonics
is the bottom E — I am therefore using this string as the reference
point in this guide to natural harmonics but obviously what applies to this
string ( apart from the names of notes ) applies to all the open strings
What are Natural Harmonics?
Natural harmonics are notes derived from the open strings - other harmonics are called Artificial, Pinched or Articulated - more on these later.
Natural harmonics are produced by dividing the vibrating length of the string into smaller units ( fractions ) - so for instance if you play the harmonic at the 12th fret you are dividing the string into two parts (½ ).
This produces a note an octave higher than the open string.
If you get a long ruler or tape measure you can verify the position of these harmonics by dividing the length of the string ( from nut to saddle ) into various fractions.
A Quarter of the string length gives the harmonic found over fret 5 - this gives a note 2 octaves above the open string.
An Eighth of the string length gives a note 3 octaves above the open string.
This fraction (⅛ ) does not come immediately over a fret but is about a third of the way between frets 2 and 3 - be careful as there is another harmonic about ½ way between frets 2 and 3 - more on this later . The smaller the fraction the more difficult it is to produce the harmonic - your left hand needs to be touching in just the right place and your right hand may have to hit the string much harder than usual.
To sum up this first lesson.
The open bottom E string = E2
The harmonic found at the 12th fret = E3
The harmonic found at the 5th fret = E4
The harmonic found at the 2nd and a bit fret = E5
These numbers ( E2 E3 etc.) are a standard way of denoting different octaves and can be found on many electronic tuners — E1 would be the lowest note on a four string bass.
Go on to the next lesson for more Natural Harmonics