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Author Topic:  Harmonics Santo Style
Thomas Bohlen


From:
New York, NY
Post Posted 26 Apr 2018 8:24 pm     Reply with quote

I'm having a persisting issue making my harmonics sounds good, mainly due to volume. When I listen to Santo and Johnny songs like Sleepwalk and Tear Drop, Santo's harmonic slides sound so full and loud, but when I make this attempt it's much too soft and about half the volume of normal notes.

It's not so much if I just play a harmonic, but rather when the harmonic is plucked and I slide to another note. It's just too weak. Any suggestions?

Also noticing that when I play up the neck (on a stringmaster) a lot of the high register notes sound weak too. No sustain, no bite. But then I listen to records and it sounds amazing. What am I missing here?

Thanks all, always appreciate the knowledge bestowed by the forum.
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 7:25 am     Reply with quote

That's one of the uses for a foot volume control.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 8:16 am     Reply with quote

First, I suggest practicing harmonics on your acoustic steel. If you can't hit them, the amplified steel cannot amplify them!

After you are very secure on your palm, knuckle, finger, etc. harmonics, then you can find the sweet spot on your steel to get a good tone.

On my little old Magnatone lap steel, the harmonics almost pop out of the instrument.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 9:01 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
...then you can find the sweet spot


Yes, and that sweet spot is 12 frets above the bar. That's where the edge of the right hand should touch the string. Of course, that 12-fret distance is shorter as you go up the neck because the upper frets are closer together. So you have to adjust the spacing as you go up the neck.

Try this (for palm harmonics)... put your bar on fret 3 and find the sweet spot for the chime. When you find it, notice which fret your thumbpick is on (or near) when you pick the string. For me, to play a perfect harmonic with the bar on fret 3, my thumb picks just below fret 10. When I pick the string at that spot, the edge of my hand is touching the string at fret 15 (12 frets above the bar), producing the harmonic. So I don't look at the edge of my hand, I look at the thumbpick and I pick just below fret 10. That approach gives me a strong harmonic every time (or most of the time!) Cool

The volume pedal is also important. As always with a volume pedal, you set the amp volume louder than needed and play with the pedal about halfway down. When you nail a harmonic, press the pedal down to draw out the harmonic. Bring it back to the middle position before picking again.
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Last edited by Doug Beaumier on 27 Apr 2018 9:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 9:03 am     Reply with quote

Doug,
Yes, and the foot volume is also handy for when you hit a clam and want to cover it up--you just ease up on the foot volume! Rolling Eyes
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 9:09 am     Reply with quote

Cool I've heard a lot of beginners pump the volume pedal unnecessarily or stomp all the way down on it and leave it down, which defeats the purpose of a volume pedal.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 9:28 am     Reply with quote

Doug Beaumier wrote:
Quote:
...then you can find the sweet spot


Yes, and that sweet spot is 12 frets above the bar. That's where the edge of the right hand should touch the string. Of course, that 12-fret distance is shorter as you go up the neck because the upper frets are closer together. So you have to adjust the spacing as you go up the neck.
.


great advice...of course the only place to hit the actual harmonic is half the distance from bar to bridge, but the way you hit them, I guess, was what I meant.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 9:33 am     Reply with quote

Doug Beaumier wrote:
Cool I've heard a lot of beginners pump the volume pedal unnecessarily or stomp all the way down on it and leave it down, which defeats the purpose of a volume pedal.


Part of why I suggested using an acoustic for learning. Of course while learning on an electric, you could ignore the volume pedal at first, too.
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John McClung


From:
Olympia WA, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 12:38 pm     Reply with quote

I could be wrong about this, but I believe that the loud harmonic Santo plays on Sleepwalk is played on string 1, which is easier to get a super strong hit to make a killer harmonic. Also, lift the heel of the bar, leave just the nose on the string you're picking, if you're going to hit a harmonic and slide it up. That'll keep noise on the lower strings absent or minimized.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 1:21 pm     Reply with quote

I think you’re right, John. It looks like Santo’s playing that on string 1, which is the best string for getting a clear, loud harmonic, as you said. Since string 1 is the outer string, you can nail it hard and your hand can follow though because there are no strings beyond string 1. That makes a difference. On pedal steel E9 I played that chime on fret 3, string 4 for many years. But was hit or miss (no pun). Then I smartened up and started playing it on string 1, fret 1 and it sounds so much stronger. On C6 non-pedal with high E it’s string 1, fret 3.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 5:55 pm     Reply with quote

From my experience, the instrument itself makes all the difference in the world. On some of my lap steels, it is extremely difficult to coax out a strong harmonic. On others, it's much easier. There's one in particular on which the harmonics just seem to fly off the strings with a minimum of effort. (It's the one I prefer when playing Sleepwalk, of course.)
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 9:04 pm     Reply with quote

Doug Beaumier wrote:
Quote:
...then you can find the sweet spot


When you find it, notice which fret your thumbpick is on (or near) when you pick the string.

I never thought of that. It’s probably the best advice I have ever got for playing harmonics. Thanks, Doug.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2018 9:31 pm     Reply with quote

Cool Cool
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 4:50 am     Reply with quote

John McClung wrote:
I could be wrong about this, but I believe that the loud harmonic Santo plays on Sleepwalk is played on string 1, which is easier to get a super strong hit to make a killer harmonic. Also, lift the heel of the bar, leave just the nose on the string you're picking, if you're going to hit a harmonic and slide it up. That'll keep noise on the lower strings absent or minimized.


I've always played that harmonic bit on string one. I've been using a palm harmonic - what do you guys use?
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 5:13 am     Reply with quote

Palm harmonic here.
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 7:36 am     Reply with quote

Same here. Very Happy
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 7:45 am     Reply with quote

Same here.
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Francisco Castillo


From:
Easter Island, Chile
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 10:40 am     harmonic Reply with quote

i'm new to lap steel, but been playing finger harmonics for quite some time in other instruments, so i'm using the same technique. i'm having trouble finding the sweet spot with the palm of my hand.
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Steven Paris


From:
Los Angeles
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 12:31 pm     Reply with quote

Jack Hanson wrote:
From my experience, the instrument itself makes all the difference in the world. On some of my lap steels, it is extremely difficult to coax out a strong harmonic. On others, it's much easier. There's one in particular on which the harmonics just seem to fly off the strings with a minimum of effort. (It's the one I prefer when playing Sleepwalk, of course.)

And just which particular instrument is that, Jack?
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 12:34 pm     Reply with quote

Anyone use knuckle harmonics (with their picking hand pinky knuckle)?
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 1:19 pm     Reply with quote

Steven Paris wrote:
And just which particular instrument is that, Jack?
It's this one, Steve:
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Mike A Holland


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 3:13 pm     Reply with quote

Andy, I use my little finger knuckle about 70% of the time and palm harmonics the other 30%. I find I can see more accurately were my finger is placed over the required fret with this method!
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 7:18 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
Anyone use knuckle harmonics (with their picking hand pinky knuckle)?


No, but Buddy Emmons used that a lot. It sounds good, but it's hard to nail it perfectly every time. The knuckle of the little finger is a small area compared to the edge of the hand.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 28 Apr 2018 8:22 pm     Reply with quote

Andy Volk wrote:
Anyone use knuckle harmonics (with their picking hand pinky knuckle)?


Yes, but not on that particular part. Somehow it always seemed to call for a palm harmonic to me.

but -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FtMCJ63pLs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJObmQdz6lg

looks like Santo used a knuckle harmonic in the videos - 3rd finger?
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Drew Howard


From:
Mason, MI, U.S.A.
Post Posted 29 Apr 2018 1:12 pm     Reply with quote

I use my right ring finger knuckle for chimes.
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