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At about 2:11 of this video, Kotaro Oshio plays three harmonics - the fifth, fourth, and third fret. On the third-fret harmonic, he does, uh... something to make the pitch bend.

How is this possible? What is he doing?

(if you are wondering why it sounds so weird, the tuning is GGDGGD)

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When I play with my acoustic band I use this technique a lot to try and recreate some of the sounds I use on an electric with whammy bar. With my old Eko 12 string the bends can be quite extreme, but give a very full sound as the paired strings detune different amounts. –  Dr Mayhem Feb 22 '11 at 14:44
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Sadly this link is now broken, and there is no other video of a performance where the artist repeats the technique being questioned here. Here is the song, but without the technique, for reference youtube.com/watch?v=vaoq01CA0DI&feature=related –  Ali Maxwell May 30 '11 at 17:28
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5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You can do that by pushing/pulling your neck. It's easy to do on electrics and basically if you push the neck forward you will loosen the tension of the strings which will give you a lower pitch. If you pull the neck towards yourself you will get a higher pitch. Newer seen anybody do that on an acoustic before... On an electric it is quite common, at least i do it pretty often to generate a chorus effect. He's using his left hand to hold against the body to get more power in the push.

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Btw. This technique may damage your neck, so try it at your own risk! –  mrbuxley Feb 18 '11 at 9:58
    
And here's a video on how to do it!youtube.com/watch?v=Pawm37XsuOs –  mrbuxley Feb 18 '11 at 10:01
    
Not see this technique before –  DRL Feb 18 '11 at 10:10
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It's a real neck breaker so that's probably why not so many use it... –  mrbuxley Feb 18 '11 at 10:13
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I've done it on all my guitars, but the trick is to not consider it a replacement for a tremolo bar. Going for a little pitch bend, like a micro-tone or 1/4 tone is plenty safe. Going for a half-tone or more is asking for damage. Guitar necks aren't made for pitch-bending so going crazy is asking for damage. Of course, people like Townsend, Hendrix and others were known for pushing their guitars beyond their limits, eventually destroying the instruments. I like my guitars and want to keep them playable so I don't abuse 'em. –  Anonymous Feb 19 '11 at 2:28
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I think he has found a spot on his guitar which allows him to get that sound; if you notice he pushes down on the body of the guitar which is what produces/alters the sound.

Also I don't think that this is specifically a bend; it is more a change in how the sound is resonating from the guitar.

You can find similar places on most guitars which will get you different sounds.

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This is not true! He pushes the neck, which results in lower tension -> lower pitch! –  mrbuxley Feb 18 '11 at 9:55
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Interesting and yes He is pushing the body of the guitar and the neck in opposite directions. Thanks for pointing that out. –  DRL Feb 18 '11 at 10:10
    
It's definitely a pitch bend. The strings detune, either higher or lower, then return to pitch when the neck is releases. –  Anonymous Feb 19 '11 at 2:31
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on an electric you could do it with a whammy bar. you may also be able to do something to the note by pushing down on the string up at the headstock, or by using the tuning knobs. Adrian leg does things like that...changes the tuning of a string musically in the middle of a song. as long as the harmonic sustains, you could try any number of techniques to make it bend.

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Adjusting the tuner is an old banjo-player's trick. They even have special tuners allowing them to hit their desired "detuned" note without a problem. –  Anonymous Feb 19 '11 at 2:30
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What this guy is doing is letting the harmonic ring, placing his right hand on the upper side of the guitar body, and then placing his left hand underneath the neck without touching the strings (so as the harmonic does not stop ringing). He then pushes downwards with his right hand, pulls up with his left hand.

This bends the neck slightly inwards, lowering the tension on the strings, creating the pitch alteration that you hear. This is a similar principle to how the whammy bar works, except instead of bending the neck to lower string tension, the bridge is moved.

Bending a guitar neck is anyway is not something I would recommend, as it can cause damage to the neck-body join, amongst other things. As long as it is not done too harshly and too regularly, it shouldn't cause massive permanent damage.

Hope this helps.

If you are interested, check out this question for how a type of electric guitar tremolo works.

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I actually separated the fingerboard from the neck on my acoustic doing just this :D. –  Jduv Feb 18 '11 at 14:41
    
Bending the neck lowers or raises the tension of the strings, depending on whether the neck is pushed or pulled. It's an ages-old technique, especially among players without tremolos who want to get a bit of a pitch-bend across all the strings. –  Anonymous Feb 19 '11 at 2:22
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It's not what he's doing here, but you can get a similar effect on open strings (and thus harmonics) by doing the trick from the beginning of Iron Man.

You do the bend by tugging (nylon) or pushing (steel) on that tiny bit of string between the nut and the tuning peg.

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