All You Need To Know About Harmonics

Harmonics can range from easy to hard. You will learn about three types of Harmonics: Natural Harmonics, Pinch/Artificial Harmonics, and Tapped Harmonics.

Ultimate Guitar
Well, lets start off with a lesson on what a Harmonic is. Have you ever heard some really high pitched sound, and was like "What was that? Like a 35th fret?" Or have you ever been playing and you heard this high pitched screech sound, and was like "Wait! How did I do that?". Well you will learn. A Harmonic is basically an Over-toned note. It is actually very easy to make harmonics, but then again, when you hear how they are made, you will now realize how they are commonly made by mistake.

Natural Harmonics

There are certain places on a guitar where you can play Natural Harmonics:
[These are more "Forceful", and don't sound very good]

[These can be heard much better, and are easier]
[The 12th fret is probable the easiest harmonic to pull off]
Alright, so you can use that graph during our lesson to practice. Now we will get into actually playing the Harmonic. What will make it much easier:
  • Amplified Guitar With a lot of distortion/gain.
  • Pick.
  • Guitar Volume (not amp) all the way up. Alright. You see those bars in between the spaces on the guitar, those are basically where you play harmonics on the frets on the graph. But how? Alright... Place your finger very gently on the bar above the 12th space on the "High E String". So lightly that the string is not being pushed at all. Now I want you to pick the high E string like perfectly normal. If you heard a high pitched noise, you just made a Harmonic. Now you can even let go of the string and it will still go. Practice this on all the strings and the different frets that are on the graph above (Stay away from the 1st graph notes, use the second). And remember, if it says for example 7th fret harmonic, go to the seventh fret and place it on the bar ABOVE the fret, not the one below. Practice these a lot before going on to the next lessons.

    Artificial/Pinch Harmonics

    Alright, you must know what a natural harmonic is before you read on! So you do know what a Natural Harmonic is? Good! Alright, a lot of people can't quite pull of the Artificial Harmonic, or don't quite understand what they are. An Artificial Harmonic is exactly what you hear,if you cant make a Harmonic at a spot, you "Artificially" make it. And the best part about these Artificial Harmonics is that you can make one at any fret, in any pitch, with any string. Want to make one on the 1st fret in a D flat tone? You Can. How about 1st fret C double sharp tone? Go right ahead. How? Well here is where it gets tricky. What you should have:
  • Amplified Guitar (Sharp sound 'Tone all the way up')
  • Very Distorted/Gain
  • Pick
  • Guitar Volume all the way up
  • The most heard / sharpest tone you can get Alright. Here is what I want you to do. Place your finger on the 3rd fret on the G string. Place it regularly on it, not like the harmonic. I want you to hold your pick like normal, with the Thumb and First finger squeezing it, but not in a tight fist grip, but a loose grip, with all fingers loose. I want you a couple times to take you Middle Finger, and touch your Thumb with it like you are pinching something, keeping the pick held though. That is the way you must pick the string to obtain a Artificial Harmonic. So what I need you to do:
  • With 3rd fret on G string down, put your pick to the middle of the area where you normally pick.
  • Place the pick on the side of the string, as if you are about to pluck the string.
  • Place the Middle Finger on top of the string, not as gently as a Natural Harmonic, but not too much to press the string down.
  • In a quick motion, pluck the string and release everything except the hand holding the string. Mistakes:
  • If you did that, and you heard a "Dead" muted sound, you did not released the finger at the same time as the pick.
  • If you heard the regular A# (3rd fret on G string), note, you released the finger before the pick, allowing the pick to pluck it regularly. Answers:
  • Just practice doing it at the same time. Other Methods:
  • Either pluck the string and hit the string with the Thumb right after. (Sometimes can lead to playing the regular note. Pretty fast, but not too accurate)
  • Completely switch pick handling, holding the pick with the other fingers, and doing the same as the described method, but using your First Finger to place on the string. (Slow) If you start to get it, then try it at different spots on the guitar. You can pluck them almost anywhere, even on the neck of the guitar! Just keep practicing, and if you need to, find a video on the web. People with Dial-Up, it's worth the wait.

    Bending The Artificial Harmonic

    To bend the artificial harmonic, simply bend the note that your are pressing down. You can use vibrate the note the same way also.

    Tapped Harmonics

    These in a way are hard, but easy. All it is is pressing a note, going an octave (Naturally 12 notes higher than the note being pressed), placing the First Finger of the Picking Hand on the note 12 frets up, and plucking the string. This is a controlled, not as customizable was of making an Artificial Harmonic. What I want you to do is:
  • Press the First Fret on the High E String.
  • Count up 12 frets (13th fret), and place your First Finger of your picking hand on the bar above the 13th fret, and the same gentleness as the Natural Harmonic.
  • Pluck the string. (You can pluck it anywhere, so just pluck it right there next to the 13th fret. If you heard the high noise, you did it. If not, just practice. To practice, go up 1 more fret (2nd), and do the same but on the 14th fret, and then the 3rd fret, 15th fret, The 4th fret, 16th fret, and so on, with all the strings.

    The End

    So just practice, and soon you will be able to use these in good ways, and master the Harmonic.
  • 9 comments sorted by best / new / date

      there's wayyy more to tap harmonics than just an octave up. EVH does tapped harmonics in more ways than that. for example, if you play 5th fret of the low E and LIGHTLY tap right over the 10th fret (NOT THE NECK PART!!, THE FRET PART) than you can do it that way too. just add on 5 frets to whatever your playing.
      i found that quite useful, tapped and pinch harmonics not explain too well, but i preety much understand them anyway.i prefer to have my thumb just over the edge of the pick and pluck the string for pinched harmonics - you need to find the right spotbetween the bridge and the fretboard for each note.
      idk, i have read some harmonics lessons and this is the first one that presented pinch harmonics in an understandable fashion for me