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Technical Truths For False Harmonics by Kilian Duarte

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Meet Kilian Duarte

There is something quite magical and unique about the overtone series. As musicians, when we look at it from a mathematical and theoretical perspective, it gives us idea of how much more infinitely complex and beautiful musical tones really are. Even with something as common as a four string bass guitar, each individual partial adds a layer of color much deeper than what is heard on the surface. For those readers who are not readily familiar with what I am talking about, harmonics are the sounds with which we experience this wonderful phenomenon.

There is nothing quite like the beautiful chimes we use for both tuning and adding beauty/range to our chords and melodies. When you first learn how to play, you start by learning the basic and easiest to find harmonics, in many times just as a quest to get in tune.

In this edition of BMM, I wanted not only to discuss some techniques to achieve what is commonly called “false harmonics”, but also to show some musical applications for the exercises ahead.

Let me start off by saying that the term “false” when referring to these tones does not make much sense. They occur naturally in the overtone series, but the difference is that they require fretting and specific location playing to have them come to life. For the novice bassists who have yet to hear these wondrous tones, I suggest hearing Jaco Pastorius’ famous intro to Teen Town. The Bass Extremes duo of Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey are notorious for including them in their repertoire and the Metal/Hard Rock world has had false harmonics as a staple sound for decades among guitarists. The high pitch bent squeal, implemented by countless shredders, is just one of many ways these notes have come to life. Subjectively, as an opinion of the author based on my adolescence, I have a soft spot in my heart for the art of heavy sound and energy. But having bass guitar as my true voice, lush and less aggressive tones suite these techniques best.

As a former bass instructor, when the topic of false harmonics came up, students with the well-known technique of Pinching frequently approached me. This was usually the direct result of seeing guitarists, as well as the great Jaco Pastorius perform his awesome feats. And while Master Jaco had it down cold and made it work for him, in my experience I have come across some techniques that allow for the false harmonic to not only to be played easier, but more accurately with more sustain, and range.

Which leads us to our first example.

This is the technique I like to call the STEVE BAILEY TECHNIQUE. Mr. Bailey is the famous counterpart to Victor Wooten in the Bass Extremes duo from the 90’s and early 2000’s. He is also a successful sideman and solo artist with a signature 6-string made by Fender.

The technique for the most part is pretty simple, and consists of you first fretting a note with your right index finger placed a perfect octave above the intended note. For example, if you are playing a D on the G string (7th fret), you place your right index finger gently above the 19th fret perpendicular to the strings. This should then be followed by your ring finger plucking the string quickly while simultaneously sliding your index finger off it in order to allow the note to ring out with sustain and fullness.

I always mention this technique first because it gives some major advantages over the pinching technique. To elaborate, it allows the players hand to stay in position to pluck again almost instantly after playing the harmonic, with no need to re adjust. Secondly, It allows a much greater rate of accuracy when playing the note. Many times pinching cuts the sustain of the note and makes the striking surface smaller. Nails can also sound quite un-desirable and reduce the purity of the tone in recordings. Thirdly, this technique allows you to play chords made up of false harmonics, just as quickly as if you would they had strummed a natural chord.

The Second technique I want to discuss is one that I can’t really cite any other bass players as currently using to my knowledge, (If anyone can find someone who does please let me know, I love seeing what people are doing out there). It is what I like to call HARP MOTION harmonics. Guitarists in the jazz idiom have been known to use it, as well as some rock and acoustic musicians. The best example of a true master of the technique is a man by the name of Tommy Emmanuel. For those of you who do not know this man, I highly suggest you get familiarized.

This technique takes more practice but is both lush and beautiful sounding, making it really worth the time and effort.

It starts off the same as the Steve Bailey technique but instead of having the index finger perpendicular to the strings you will position your index finger parallel.

Once you have accurately placed your index, you must pluck with the thumb. Then an alternation of your thumb and ring finger (being used to pluck the non harmonic notes) should be practiced to increase ease of the flow.

I hope the video helps everyone and I wish everyone the best of luck in their endeavors. These exercises take some time, so be patient, and I know you guys can pull it off!

Bass Videos

New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

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New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

Spector Launches Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II…

Spector Musical Instruments expands their celebrated Woodstock Custom Collection with the Volume II series – a breathtaking series of 12 handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bass guitars, each one masterfully designed by members of the Spector team. Crafted in the Spector USA Custom Shop in Woodstock, New York, these works of art go beyond musical instruments and expand the boundaries of Spector Bass design.

Spector’s iconic design lays the foundation for the Volume II collection. Each bass showcases a unique vision, including the selection of tonewoods, electronics, captivating finishes, and intricate design details. The collection highlights Spector’s commitment to craftsmanship and artistry and the individual people and stories that make up the team.

“The Woodstock Custom Collection was such a huge success, and we had so much fun with it that we couldn’t wait to do it again,” said John Stippell, Director – Korg Bass Division. “With Volume II, we’re expanding on everything we learned from the first collection, as well as pushing our design and Custom Shop team even further. These basses are a testament to the inspiring talent, creativity, and skill of every person on the Spector team. I’m excited for all of these basses and love how they tell the unique stories of all involved.”

Visit online at spectorbass.com/

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Bass Videos

New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model

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New Gear: The Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model

Dingwall John Taylor Signature Model…

After playing a limited edition Dingwall live with Duran Duran, John Taylor has launched his
Dingwall Guitars production model, loaded with a Rupert Neve Designs preamp and
Rio-inspired graphics.

Dingwall’s major launch for 2023 was the limited edition Rio Dream Bass, featuring an
innovative Rupert Neve Designs onboard preamp. A year later, the range has been bolstered
with the Canadian company now offering unlimited access to its continued collaboration with
John Taylor of Duran Duran.

Dingwall CEO Sheldon Dingwall says the basses are a response to Taylor’s upfront bass style.
“John’s bass playing with Duran Duran really imprinted on me how a bass should fit into a band mix. The combination of tastefully busy syncopation, his punchy tone, and tight performance immediately drew my ear. His basslines have always had a special combination of energy and elegance.”

The John Taylor Signature model follows the formula of the limited edition Rio Dream Bass,
combining a lightweight Nyatoh body with three neodymium pickups to produce what Dingwall deems “wonderful playability and tones that display a rare clarity and refinement.” The JT Signature model also updates the Rio Dream Bass with a range of new colors; Metallic Black, Primrose, Cranberry and Seafoam Green, as well as a new 5-string variant.

Other specs include a bolt-on Maple neck, a Pau Ferro multi-scale fingerboard with the ‘Rio Eye’ inlaid at the 12th fret, and Dingwall’s new ‘Minimalist’ bridge. The headstock sports lightweight tuners and a Rio-inspired graphic that complements the body stripes, designed by longtime Duran Duran collaborator, Patty Palazzo.

Finally, an onboard preamp designed and configured in collaboration with Rupert Neve Designs, whose studio consoles have long represented the pinnacle of high-end audio engineering, promises a clear voice that balances punch and sustain. “Duran’s breakthrough single, the title track from 1982’s Rio, was originally recorded on a Neve console, so the history was already there,” says Sheldon. “But the team at Rupert Neve Designs absolutely nailed the tone.”

Like the Rio Dream Bass, the JT Signature has also been configured to Taylor’s own personal
specifications. “It all started when I was in Toronto about six years ago,” says Taylor. “A friend
showed me a Dingwall bass on his phone. I loved how it looked and immediately said to my
tech, ‘You’ve got to reach out to these guys!’”

For further information on the range options, head to dingwallguitars.com

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Bass CDs

New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

Killing Bees Racing Towards Ruin out May 10th via Tonequake Records.

There are some records where the first note grabs you and doesn’t let go. Before the first lyric is sung, Killing Bees pull you into Racing Towards Ruins via the sheer power of TONES, MAN, TONES. Brown-note bass reverberations and gut-punch kickdrum snap the listener out of daily reverie instantaneously. Together, bassist/vocalist Nic Nifoussi and drummer Ray Mehlbaum (both of Automatic 7) and producer Andrew Scheps (Mars Volta, Audioslave, Adele) have crafted a piece of art that fuses low-rock minimalism, post-hardcore aggression, and SoCal throttle rock urgency into, well, a real ass-kicker. 

The bones of Killing Bees began their calcification when Nifoussi started a high school punk band called Automatic 7. They signed to BYO Records upon graduation and soon found themselves in need of a new drummer. Enter Ray Mehlbaum. Tours with Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Face 2 Face, Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines, Unwritten Law, Youth Brigade, DOA, and others followed, as well as a deal with A&M Records. A&M got bought by Universal, the band moved to Vagrant Records, cut a new record, toured, then broke up. 

“Eventually, Ray and I decided to start a two-piece band” explains Nifoussi. “I was trying out a new sound using 2 amps and an A-B switch. Overdrive through one amp and playing a lot of chords to get a guitar-like sound. After years of playing together, we were already tight and used to writing together. The songs came quickly and easily.”

Via Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, the band had come to know Grammy-winning producer and engineer Andrew Scheps. Though originally recommended as a producer for Automatic 7, when the band played him the Killing Bees songs, he loved the concept and the trio got to work on their self-titled debut. Following the record’s release on Guano Loco/Loose Fang Records, “we played a bunch of shows and eventually started writing the new record in our North Hollywood lockout” says Nifoussi.

Recorded once again at Scheps’ studio, drums and bass were recorded live, the only overdubs being vocals and some bass and accordion textures (Nifoussi is an accomplished accordionist). “We tracked the two together over 4 or 5 days and everything you hear was played live by talented humans, not put together after the fact.  I think that live energy is what makes the record so compelling!” says Scheps. “Andrew wanted to challenge us. We came in wired towards traditional songwriting – he wasn’t interested in that” explains Mehlbaum. “He encouraged us to think about instrumental bits that would drive the tune, as opposed to the sing-along chorus of a traditional song. As a drummer, he kicked my ass. I remember him saying “we’re gonna turn the click off. I want you to go completely ‘out of time’ then come back in.” That’s some crazy shit! But I fucking loved it.”

Thematically, the record deals with the dangers of love and politics in equal measure. As Nifoussi puts it, “if there’s a takeaway, it’s to be careful with who you love… and vote into government.” So, Racing Towards Ruin. A concise, compelling listen, arresting at first blush, and deeply moving upon completion. A modern rock record (not a modern-rock record), unrelentingly heavy and sonically immaculate. And loud. Super loud.  

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Gear News

New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin

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New Gear: Nembrini Launches Bass Hammer Plugin

Bass Hammer Plugin…

Nembrini Audio launches the Bass Hammer plugin which is engineered for advanced bass tone sculpting. Modelled on the Aguilar Tone Hammer* which is renowned for its tone shaping flexibility, the Nembrini Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting, comprehensive EQ adjustments and versatile cabinet simulations.

The Nembrini Audio Bass Hammer plugin has been designed to infuse discerning musicians’ digital workspace with the legendary tonal characteristics and dynamic versatility of its hardware counterpart. The new plugin delivers all the distinct organic warmth, detailed midrange control and adaptive tonal shaping the Tone Hammer* is famous for in a flexible digital format.

Bass Hammer features Adaptive Gain Sculpting to transform a signal’s EQ curve and gain structure and alter the behaviour of the MID parameter.  The Graphic EQ has six bands enabling nuanced shaping across the bass frequency range. Plus, the four selected bass guitar cabinets, four carefully selected microphone emulations and a parallel D.I. signal with console compressor offer users plenty of scope to explore ambient reverb blending.

Introductory prices of $29.99 for the Desktop version (regular price $137) and $9.99 for the IOS form (regular price $19.99) are available until 30th April 2024. Bass Hammer is PC and Mac (VST2, VST3, AU, AAX) compatible and requires a FREE iLOK account.

To find out more and download the Bass Hammer plugin please go to nembriniaudio.com/products/bass-hammer-bass-amplifier or
apple.com/us/app/bass-hammer/id6480058361Video

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

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Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore…

I am always impressed by the few members of our bass family who are equally proficient on upright as well as electric bass… Edmond Gilmore is one of those special individuals.

While he compartmentalizes his upright playing for mostly classical music and his electric for all the rest, Edmond has a diverse musical background and life experiences that have given him a unique perspective.

Join me as we hear about Edmond’s musical journey, how he gets his sound and his plans for the future.

Photo, Sandrice Lee

Follow Online

facebook.com/EdmondGilmoreBass
instagram.com/edmond_gilmore/
youtube.com/channel/UCCYoVZBLXL5nnaKS7XXivCQ

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