This is a really specific question, but I was fooling around on bass guitar and made a really cool (imo) noise which I couldn't replicate afterwards. I happened to record it. If someone could tell me what I did I would be immensely grateful. I'm referring to a buzzing/beeping/sliding sound after the eleventh note.

Link here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8hQAZ8FmWcfZ3I1UU9TSmFZT0k

BTW bass is not my primary instrument.

2 Answers 2


Sounds to me like you inadvertently produced a natural harmonic, albeit for a fraction of a second. It seems that you pluck near to the bridge, which will always produce harmonics best, and the trebly tone helps too.

Harmonics are made when a string is touched gently on a node point. At the bottom end of the string, they're more difficult to produce accurately, so well done!

Try touching the string over the 12th fret, and plucking near to the bridge. You'll hear a ringing sound an octave higher than the open string. There are two other easy ones, above 7th and 5th frets.

As you touch getting closer to the nut, there are more, getting higher each time you move the finger to the left. One of those is your 'culprit'. Because you moved your finger along the string just after, it got killed, but to make it last, take your finger tip away. Or not - as at that point, the string is not moving anyway, so it really doesn't matter. Prove this at 12th fret. Touch, play, then touch again. The harmonic will still ring out!

EDIT: It bugged me a little, so on replay, I guess it might even be a pinched harmonic, produced by simultaneously touching the A string at a point about 2 frets away from the bridge. Sounds weird - but count the first 2 and a bit frets, and measure that distance from the bridge. Touch with a finger/thumb, and pluck with a thumb/finger. Whilst pressing down fret 3! You won't be so lucky now - it'll take a bit of fiddling, especially to find the exact spot for that node. Move along the string slowly.

  • +1 for the harmonic. I guess the OP accidentally put their right hand over the 5th fret, because the harmonic seems to be 2 octaves above the base tone. I imagine (never played bass guitar though) that they were playing empty, occasionally fingering it on 2nd-4th fret. And by the way, the harmonics on the 5th fret are not easy to do, so I second the "Well Done"!
    – Ramillies
    Oct 12, 2017 at 9:56
  • Pretty sure it's both fret noise and a harmonic, as in the fret noise happened to activate the harmonic. Happens to me all the time. Oct 12, 2017 at 10:55

It's just your finger sliding across the bass string really fast. It's called string noise and is actually an undesirable sound for both guitar and bass players.

There is a practical use that doesn't sound completely the same, but still within the harmonic spectrum (sounds similar). It's called Artificial Harmonics.

  • Do you know how exactly I made it though? I tried sliding my fingers along the strings and I couldn't make that exact sound. Undesirable or not, I would like to be able to replicate it. Oct 12, 2017 at 0:11
  • 1
    What you did is hard to replicate on command. You actually released the string too slow and the string vibrated on your finger as it was leaving.
    – John
    Oct 12, 2017 at 0:23
  • To clarify: in the recording, the sound definitely has a discernible pitch, but when I tried to replicate it by sliding my finger on the string, I could not recognize any pitch associated with the string noise. Oct 12, 2017 at 0:24
  • "Undesirable"? Umm Tom Morello begs to differ. Oct 12, 2017 at 0:28
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    @PhillipBrandel again it is hard to replicate the pitch of string finger noise. Since you'd need the exact same frequency of vibration to hit your finger at the exactly the same time in the exactly the same location on the fretboard. I did re-edit my answer to contain a bass player who has mastered this harmonical technique that shows a practical use to harmonics.
    – John
    Oct 12, 2017 at 0:29

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