I've been playing a Jay Buckey arrangement for "Bear Creek Hop" and having a lot of fun with it (thanks for providing it Jay!) One problem that I seem to struggle with is gettting volume out of the Harmonic's. I find that I play softly through the entire song so that the Harmoics don't sound so soft. Is this just the way it is, or should I be getting good volume? Even when I just sit there and try to hit a single string as loud as I can just barely touching it, I would say it's half volume at best. When I play the song at speed it's even tougher. To do this in a Jam I think everyone would have to stop playing to hear it! I've made sure my postion is good over the fret and even moved it up and down just to make sure I'm in that "sweet spot". You can hear the song on Jay Buckey's website if you curious.
Harmonics will always be softer than 'non-harmonic' notes; its just the physics of the thing. The advice above is spot on, though. You need to minimize the damping effect your finger has on the string. Higher order harmonics (5th fret, 4th and others) will be even less loud, as you can hear in Jay's mp3.
RH position also affects the volume of the harmonic, experiment with moving your RH position to optimize the sound. I find that harmonics in the 5th and 4th position tend to need a RH position closer to the bridge in order to get them to really ring out.
"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have built 'em that way."
On my banjers................. the harmonics ring a little brighter and louder as I move closer to the "Y" position away from the bridge. When I play the harmonics I try to pick them farther away from the bridge. Try that
"Obsession is a great subsitute for talent" Steve Martin