How To Make Your Guitar Scream

In this article I'll explain how to make your guitar squeal with Pinch Harmonics. A lot of guitarists have trouble learning how to do these.

Ultimate Guitar

I'm going to touch on all types of harmonics in an effort to explain how Pinch Harmonics work when your playing the guitar.

If your like me you like to add a little expression when playing your guitar, by adding some harmonics and pinch harmonics.

To get this started we're going to go into a little detail about how the guitar strings actually work. Now I'm not going to be all technical, Basically the guitar string vibrates between the nut and the bridge. If you look closely you can see the string vibrating like a sine wave.

Natural harmonics happen at the spaces along the string where the "wave" stops and starts a new one. (Not technically correct but makes sense to me this way). This normally happens just above the 5th fret, the 7th fret, and the 12th fret wires. If you take a minute in a well lit room you can see the spots where the vibration along the string actually seems to be stopped. When you lightly touch a ringing string on these points you will get a natural harmonic chime.

Tap harmonics are simply fretting a string and moving the natural harmonic spot up accordingly. For example: If you fret the Low E String at the 3rd fret and pluck the string, your "natural harmonics" would no longer be at the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets. You would Tap the string above the 8th, 10th, and 15th fret wire to sound the harmonic. Hence the name....Tap Harmonic. the meat of this...the all powerful Pinch Harmonic!! I say all powerful just because I love the extra expression and sound you can get from them.

To do a Pinch Harmonic you basically "Pinch" the string between your Pick and the side of your thumb that's holding the pick.

This is the way I do them and have had excellent luck with this technique.

When you strike the string you let your thumb sound the harmonic you want. It takes a bit of trial and error to find the right areas above the pickups that sound the harmonics you want, but only a little.

The best way to learn the placement is to crank up your distortion (easier to sound them), and on put your fret hand on the Low E or A String on the 5th or 7th fret as if you were playing A note or D note.

Start with your pick in about the middle of the Neck and Bridge pickups and "Pinch" the string so that when your pick sounds it your thumb immediately touches the string. This should sound a Pinch Harmonic. The motion is similar to turning the ignition in a car, just not as's a slight "Turn" or "Pinch" on the string.

You may have to move your hand slightly higher or lower on the string to find the "sweet spots". Keep trying different areas until you get it just right.

Once you've found the spots that give the sounds you want, make a mental note of where they are. When you move your fret hand higher or lower on the neck...the places you can hit the harmonics will move slightly. This falls in line with the way a Tap Harmonic works, so keep that in mind.

Keep practicing finding the "Sweet Spot" until you can do it each time you try. This part does take a little time and practice.

Just as a note: When you change to a different guitar, be prepared to relearn where the Pinch Harmonics sound. Every guitar I've played on has them in slightly different places. Differences in neck length, bridge placement, manufacturing tolerances all come into play.

So, that's all there is to it...Keep practicing till you get the feel for it, try adding bends and sound another one, you'll make that guitar scream like a wounded banshee in no time.

If you want to really increase your skill with Pinch harmonics after you get the feel for them, try practicing them with a clean sound. They can still be sounded and your accuracy will increase exponentially!

94 comments sorted by best / new / date

    great article.. that is exactly how i do harmonics and pinch harmonics 10
    distortion, plus bridge pup, plus treble are very very helpful wehn pinching fairly decent review
    the article didin't even begin to explain nodal points. It just basically said. Here, use your pick and your thumb at the same time.
    Also, without getting too technical, depending on which harmonic you create with your picking hand, the string could be made to vibrate in extremely high order harmonics, which will be conversely, extremely low amplitude, meaning quiet . Experiment with where you pick the pinch harmonics on the lower strings and just practice them to death!
    Helmann, the difficulty in getting a good A.H. on the lower strings is for two basic reasons. First, the low 3 strings are usually wound and thicker (obviously) therefore it can be more difficult to accurately hit the exact spot where the harmonic is loudest. Second, the higher strings will ring out harmonics louder in general, for the simple fact that if you do miss the correct spot slightly, the "fundamental" frequencies of the higher strings will blend better with the harmonic ones that you are trying to play. This is especially true with high gain, trebley metal tones.
    ^ EH?! Anyways yeh this is pretty well exlained, good job! I learned ages ago through trial and error, but its totally sweet cos this is exactly how I do it.
    lol ive been playing video games since i was 4 so my thumb is messed up so i hit the string with like the knuckle of my thumb for pinchharmonics
    once u get the pinch down pat try to do alternating picking with pinches it sounds so cool.
    i like how they discribe the pinch harmonics because i could never do them like that. i strike the note and lightly touch it with the side of my pick and it works all the same. it just took some time to get it to work.
    maddd0g wrote: I usually just knock it around a bit, after some foreplay, it's screaming in to time.
    y wud u foreplay with a guitar? zakk wylde the king of harmonics never duz that on stage....hmm
    fieryfenderz wrote: maddd0g wrote: I usually just knock it around a bit, after some foreplay, it's screaming in to time. sounds like my ex girlfriend haha
    Thanks for posting the link to the youtube video simonzwaan. That led me to the actual video on pinch harmonics by the same dude, which was also quite educational. And good article too. Pretty good description on something that is somewhat difficult to describe.
    Blind Messiah
    The string motion and natural harmonic stuff was interesting. I mean, I knew about half of it, but the information was very well put together and explained.
    maddd0g wrote: I usually just knock it around a bit, after some foreplay, it's screaming in to time.
    sounds like my ex girlfriend haha
    Ash on fires
    Lin wrote: people were trying to teach me this for ages and i could never get it. eventually i got it myself and realised why i'd had problems before; i tend to use more upstrokes then downstrokes, and find pinch harmonics much easier when i catch the string with my middle finger which is under the pick. so if you still can't get it, maybe you'd do better approaching it this way.
    Thats how I learned to do it too, but it kind of limits your playing when you can only do them on upstrokes. I say this is the best punch harmonic lesson on UG congrats.
    even before i tried it i knew this wouldnt work, how are you supposed to get any sound out of it if you're HOLDING THE STRING?
    Seriously, I can't believe it. You talked about not knowing the tech. terms but I have been trying to get this technique from those who knew the terms and I learned nothing. I still have practice to do but I finally did one. You are awesome and if you get a 'technical' person to laydown the vocab, I suggest either at least posting a youtube, or actually making a lesson to sell. I'd buy it.
    joshuaww wrote: Is it just me or does anyone else find this article frighteningly similar to the one at fretopia...? credit where credit is due? Unless it's yours on fretopia, too, then I sincerely apologize.
    Yeah this article is definitely plagiarised. Word. For. Word.
    nice explanations and all but it'd be nice if there were a video showing exactly how these harmonics are preformed.
    hot damn i did it!! thanks for the lesson, pinch harmonics have been kicking my ass for ages.
    Sky Candy
    Great explanation, took me like 5 minutes to find the harmonics on my guitar. An idea? Take a permanent marker and mark the areas that you can pinch, that way you can reference it until you get accurate enough. Just an idea.
    hmm i tried this ive been trying to do this since i first found out how to i still cnt xD but i can do dimebag squeals so its all gd lol
    I first heard of this reading an article by Phil Collen of Def Leppard. He does this a lot. And like another user mentioned, Phil called these ARTIFICIAL harmonics. But a rose by any other name... It's a cool trick. And I actually thought it was quite easy to pick up. The trick for me was to use just the very tip of the pick, keeping the thumb right there close to the string. Then when you want that sound, just kind of turn the thumb slightly inward toward the body of the guitar or string.
    Good job, kept it simple instead of going into the science of the harmonic like nodes and such. Good for those who just want to learn how to do it. Another trick I use with Pinch some times I just my index finger, off the nail and then the skin.
    Like the intro to Stillborn~~~
    rocker20 wrote: once u get the pinch down pat try to do alternating picking with pinches it sounds so cool.
    Kris K had a small lesson on here about this a while ago...You may be able to archive it. It's a very simple technique and lot's O fun! Just don't OVER USE IT!!!
    I remember when I first started *trying* to do pinch harmonics, I was listening to KSE and loved their 'sqeals'. It took me a while to do it all properly. But if anyone reads this comment, use this information, and just muck around trying to do them, it all takes time and practice, just like anything to do with guitar. Using vibrato with pinch harmonics is what most bands do, and doesnt it just sound bloody wicked? P.H. For Life!
    ya i learned pinch harmonics a while ago , at first trying to learn them i thought it was impossible , then once you learn it , you wonder why it was so easy , and why you had such a pain in the ass trying to do it
    I just can't get those pinch harmonics right! I don't have trouble with the higher strings, but my lowest one is a bitch. Can anyone help, I've played around by pinching between the humbuckers, I've found the sweet spot, but that damn low string. What I use and do: Revenger FR (active humbuckers), gt-8, spider III, skinny top heavy bottom strings, drop D. Some people say you gotta have a lot of mids in your EQ and even without the gt8 in the loop I just can't get it! Stay metal!
    10 out of 10 brilliant techniques, its really helped me with my pinches ive always wanted to be able to do harmonics like dime and wylde i'll never be as good as them but nice one man
    E V H 5150
    I found it really hard to learn pinch harmonics, but now I'm pretty good with them. I never understand the "pinching" action... I kinda hold the pick sideways or something. I don't know, but it just works. As for the tap harmonics... I never understood how to predict the pitches at all until I read this, and that's basicly all I got from this- I knew everything else already. But I'm sure others will get more from it.