Harmonic Tuning

author: BHD date: 07/15/2004 category: for beginners
rating: 7.6
votes: 31
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Ok, motivated by all the positive feedback I got from my Reading Guitar Tablature II article, I decided I should write more. Hopefully help some more people out there. Today I'm going to teach you what I have only just learnt, Harmonic Tuning. It is so cool. Ok, there are a few things you must have though, a good electric guitar, an amp and some form of distortion. A quick view on harmonics: Ok, harmonics are kinda hard to explain but I'll try anyway. Harmonics are a different kind of sounds, which I believe are unique to guitars, the strongest harmonics are found on the twelve frets. You know what a fret is right? *considers writing an article on what frets are* I'm going to make you play your first ever harmonic sound! Ok, on the bottom string, put your finger very lightly above the twelth fret's metal bar. It has to be directly above the metal bar and it has to be barely touching the string. Now, pluck the bottom string. You should hear a ringing sound, if you take your finger away from the fret the sound should still be there until the string stops vibrating. Try it. If I've explained it right and your guitar is decent and you're doing it right then you've just made a harmonic. I believe, harmonics are shown on a tab like a normal note but in brackets. Say you were playing Welcome Home (Sanitarium) by Metallica, then this is what the first three notes are like this:
B|------------------------(12) ----------------------
it really helps if you know the song though. Lol. Yeah, well anyway, that's how harmonics are shown and yeah. The first few times you play them you'll probably mess up and just hear a pluck. You just have to brush the string ontop of the fret slightly. It's hard to explain. If you've got it right, you can take away your hand from the string and the note will still be sounding. Ok, so I'm trusting the top note is in tune? Tune it to another guitar, a keyboard, piano, or a song or something. Now, turn distortion on and perform a harmonic on the fifth fret of the top string and then, as it's ringing play a harmonic on the second string, seventh fret. Both harmonics should be ringing and sound the excact same! This is the clever bit! If the second string isn't tuned to the top string then you'll hear a ripple! The faster the ripple, the worse the note is tuned! The slower the ripples, determines how good the notes are tuned. So in otherwords, you're going to get two high pitched noises, if they ripple they are out so adjust the second string's knob so the ripples are less often until they are finally gone. Did you ever play that game where someone hides something and you're looking for it and they'll say Hot if you're closer or Cold if you're not? Lol. Just me then! But yeah, it reminds me of that. If you're close you don't get many ripples. If you're not close you get loads of ripples. So now, the A string is in tune with the Low E string! Ok, so now, you want to tune the D string, in other words, the third string down! You do this in the same way! Do a harmonic on the fifth fret of the second string and a harmonic on the seventh fret of the string below it, the ripple thing is the same, if it's making weird sounds then it's out of tune so adjust it so it's in tune. Yup? It's very precise and easy! Do the excact same with the third and forth string to tune the forth string (G)-Fifth harmonic on D, seventh on G, compare and change according to ripples. To tune B (the fifth string down) is a bit different and harder. You want to do a harmonic on the forth fret of the forth string, and a harmonic on the fifth fret of the fifth string. Compare and make any adjustments needed and then do the fifth fret harmonic on the fifth string and seventh fret harmonic on the sixth string and compare and adjust. Your guitar should now be in tune.
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