Pinch Harmonics

If you listen carefully to some songs, you'll notice every now and then, a really loud screeching, squealing sort of sound. If you've ever wondered how to pull that off, then pinch harmonics is your answer.

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Ultimate Guitar
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I finally got around to writing a lesson, and I figured it make it on something a lot of people ask me about. If you listen carefully to some songs, you'll notice every now and then, a really loud screeching, squealing sort of sound. If you've ever wondered how to pull that off, then pinch harmonics is your answer. Note that I haven't completely mastered the technique yet, and I'm still working on different ways of producing pinch harmonics, but I'll share some things that I've learned, that have made the process easier for me. Also note, that I'm left handed, and some of the techniques I find easy, may be hard for you, and vice versa. Before we start off, it'll be essential for you to have some knowledge of harmonics, and you should defintely be able to produce natural harmonics, since that's pretty much a beginner's skill. Pinching falls more under the amateur level of playing. If you have no idea what a natural harmonic is, you can PM or I'm me and I can help you. Moving on, here's what you'll need. - A Guitar. Humbucks will make things a lot easier, but SC pups will do too. - An Amplifier . - Distortion (you can also use amplifier distortion, but make sure you have plenty of gain, so as to make it easier). - A Pick . First step is to find a strong natural harmonic somewhere between the fretboard and the bridge. You can start by fretting the 2nd string at the 12th fret (b on standard tuning), picking it, and lightly touching the string at various points with your right-hand index. Once you hear a loud resonating sound, you've found a good point. There are several ways that I've discovered to pull of pinch harmonics. But first we're gonna have to start off slowly, so that you get the basic idea. Holding your pick directly above the point you found the harmonic, pick the string, and then lightly bring the side of your thumb down onto the string. If you hear a shrill sound, pat yourself on the back. You've just produced a harmonic. Now, you want to do this faster, and in one motion. So these are the different ways (that I know of) of producing pinch harmonics. Remember, there is no 'right' way. You can do it in whatever way you find easiest, as long as you get the sound you want. If you know of any way that I haven't mentioned, please post about it. - Hold your pick with the thumb protruding slightly from the side, and pick the string, so the pick hits it, and your thumb then hits it immediately afterwards. - Hold your pick with the index and thumb, and have your middle-finger stick out right behind. Picking the string with an upstroke should produce a pinch harmonic. (I mostly use this method, since I have an unusual way of holding the pick, and I find this convenient). - Place the side of your palm lightly over the point of harmonic resonance, and then pick the string. Or pick the string, and then lightly bring your palm down. You should work on those for a while, stick to one that suits you best, or experiment with all of them, and after a bit of practice, you'll get it. For every note that you play, you'll get stronger harmonics in different areas, so its best to memorise where you want to produce a pinch-harmonic in your solos, and use the pickups as a guide-line. For example, you might want to pick right between the two coild on the neck pickup, or right above the first coil of the bridge pickup, whatever. In the end, it all comes down to practice.

446 comments sorted by best / new / date

    xHAMSANDWICHx
    i use the first method. idk why. good example of a song with pinches is Hammer Smashed Face -Cannibal Corpse. youll know when u hear em ,lol
    noel181193
    Whew finnaly im at the bottom of this hellish comment page.... Really good lesson though... And some ppl are right just shaddup and play yer guitar!!!
    mohawkkidJohn
    i play a strat with 3 single coils and it sounds really awesome if you do the harmonic at the neck pickup(thumb method) while set at the middle pickup.
    Thomo15
    hey man chers 4 t lessn wos usefull helped out alot i find now tht using a "J" motion wit t pick n ur thumb works well picking downwards n makin t light flick of t J wit ur thumb to make t brushing t note works well u mite wnna try it c if t works 4 u next im on 2 sweep picking. cheers m8 take care thomo
    guitarmania93
    i like bending while simultaneously doing an upstroke and clipping it wit my index. g string works de best 4 me
    guitarmania93
    johnnywinter wrote: megadeth69 is a bit of an arse. He does not realise that the harmonics do not all sound at the same point - ie you have to move your right hand around. And since the distance between each note decreases as the note pitch increases - it will be very difficult to do a pinch harmonic on, say, the first string whilst fretting the 21st - you would have to pick very near the bridge. Not exactly the usual position. Silly moron. Also it's "you're" not "your". You're so retarded!!
    heh
    ilovemySG
    it suprises me how ppl on this site ( some not all) cant do pinch harmonics but on other posts are talking all this shit and that one guy who said im learning lamb of god thats the easiest song =)
    Decentts
    wow this lesson helped me a lot. i could never really do pinch harmonics that well. after i read this ive been doing pinch harmonics for hours. this lesson helps alot if ur learning to play welcome home by coheed and cambria because there are alot of pinch harmonics in it.
    matt brewster
    i finally figured this out! Ive been playing for years and couldnt quite get it. For me, I turn the gain up, i hold the pick between my middle finger and thumb and i strike any ****in note i want, right after the string hits try an lightly touch the string with your pointer finger if your holding the pick between your middle and thumb, and youll hear the harmonic, after it sounds do a bend or vibrato and youll get a wicked squeal, the harder u push down on the bend or vibraeto the more it sounds, also i noticed that it sounds like a different pitch depending on wheere u mute the string with your strummin finger, right between humbuckers sounds most wicked on my les paul.
    ldnovelo
    Maggot66 : zakk_wylde_fan wrote: . slipknotrox09 has got to be the dumbest person dimebag sucks? hes a guitar god. slipknot has no talent what so ever. You probably couldnt learn one of dimebags songs. You are all so cool, because the guys name is Slipknotrox, and you don't like him, and your ALL SO SMART. Slipknotrox+don't like him= Hate Slipknot. I'm sorry you get an F. You probaby have never even listen to Slipknot. "You probably couldnt learn one of dimebags songs" If you really respected him, you would of spelled his with a capital and used proper grammer. Your just a poser like all you other people freaking out about Slipknotrox and are following mainstream. I don't care if Dimebag was good, I have no intrested listening to his music, I'd rather listen to Jimi Hendrix or anybody else. Besides, Jimi and tons of other people are way better.
    Jimi sux, dime is his father, you better listen to him in solos like cemetary gates or walk or any song and stop listening to voodoo shit and shity lady and that
    Michael056
    you know how you mentioned finding the spot on the string that produced the best soud or w/e i forgot ive been reading through the comments like a moron lol well my advise is that its always 12 half steps away from the fretted note (example: if your finger was on the 3rd fret youd produce the harmonic on the 15th fret) so i guess that explains the whole 1 octave up thing cause 12 frets is one octave
    jon bon 12
    megadeth69 wrote: there's like 2 whole pages of crap, all you needed to say was "Hold your pick with the thumb protruding slightly from the side, and pick the string, so the pick hits it, and your thumb then hits it immediately afterwards." and no more your so retarded!!
    listen mate ive been tryin to learn these for months and finally after reading this article im getting a hold of them if he had just said that i wouldnt be able to do them so shut it!!!
    streetballa0322
    a really good band to practice riffs with pinches would be Bullet for my Valentine. Listen and play that it made me a lot better at pinching
    JumpKickDance
    fender_satin wrote: basically all you got to do is put your thumb very close to the tip of your plectrum leaving 1/2 cm sticking out. You put your index at the tip of the bottom of your plectrum also leaving 1/2 cm sticking out. And then all you do is pick upwards.
    Great lesson, but this makes a lot more sense to me Thank you!
    tlfdfirefighter
    when i pick upward it really doesn't seem that hard even from the start, i kinda figured it out by accident lol.
    tlfdfirefighter
    I pick up instead of down on the single notes which is wierd but it did help me learn alternate picking a lot faster and since I downstoke when I hit more then 1 sting at the same time...I found that it was a lot easier for me. But when i do pinch harmonics, I pick upward and use the pick and my index finger to do it and almost every time I get the perfect ring. May not work 4 you but it does for me. lol
    sam36
    Weyyy cheers! The "harmonic resonance" bit was what finally helped me get pinches. You got to find the right spot to pick the string . I'll be squealing for hours..
    metalhead2061
    I just found something out. If you get your fingers right for the firts technique, your index finger sets off the harmonic on an upstroke.
    Malleus-Verglas
    Yeah I still can't pull one of these mothers off quite right... I can do like, a real lame, quiet version; but not a real squeal. I've tried the stuff in this lesson, and a few of the things put in individual comments, but no luck. Anyone got any tips?
    redhavok
    they r harder 4 lefties trust me, especially 4 me since im a leftie n play right-handed lol. but i got it. i didnt use da lesson but i got it.
    Shredder Guitar
    i still cant do that pinch harmonic on the first fret of the A string for hammer smashed face.. i can do it everywhere else but it just wont work at all
    Vasser
    i've been through tons of other articles and videos trying to learn harmonics, but this one helped the most. i generally play classic rock but every now and then i like to crank it up to 11 and jam to some lamb of god or megadeth. thanks dude.
    domenic_665
    unusual way of holding the pick? As far as I know there's a proper way of holding the pick so that one could to tremolo picking, so how's that?
    nikh158
    Possibly the uncoolest band to mention on here, but... Listen to the solo from Bon Jovi`s Wanted Dead Or Alive. Short and sweet, but some of the best uses of PH I`ve heard.
    psychotim
    Good lesson. but you did not mention that you produce diffrent PHs depending on where you pick. If you pick 12 frets over the fretted fret, you get a note one octave higher. if you pick 19 frets over you get an octave and a fifte. and if you pick 24 frets over you get a note 2 octaves higher then the original fret. Guese you could also pick 31 frets over to get 2 octaves and a fifte, but this would be pretty hard to pull of. So its not just random spots to pick to get the harmonic. You got to imagine the frets going on up over the pickups as they get smaller and smaller and pick at the right place. Dont know if anyone allready said this, but anyways. felt i had to say something.
    traskman
    what i like to do is pick the string and at the same time use my middle finger's nail to slightly touch the string. you can change the sound of the harmonic by moving your finger to different positions between the pick ups. i have never tried it with a single coil pick up like on a telecaster but it works great with my les paul. the only problem is that sometimes you can put your finger between the wrong strings if going for a PH on 5th, 4th, 3rd, etc string. but once you get the feel of it it works amazingly.
    Brandon_leigh
    FullMetalMayhem wrote: Dime used alot of these ....he and Zakk Wylde were probly the best I've heard at pinch harmonics.
    Agree 100%
    qreepii
    I've been working on Pinch Harmonics for awhile still haven't gotten it, but I think this will help thanks.. Q
    redhavok
    hey man slipknot is kool. dnt go dissing other peoples fave bands or Mr T will pity you fool
    me504
    dude! lots of comments wish i had a life so I didnt have to read them all slipnot 5/10 metallica 10/10 wolfmother 8/10 AC/DC 10/10 megadeth 9.5/10 all ozzy 999/10 eagles 7/10 deep purple 7/10
    68_SG
    - Hold your pick with the index and thumb, and have your middle-finger stick out right behind. Picking the string with an upstroke should produce a pinch harmonic. (I mostly use this method, since I have an unusual way of holding the pick, and I find this convenient). Dude, you'll get way better results from a downstroke lol
    A_7_FOLD
    man...i really appreciate someone finally putting up a lesson about pinch harmonics...now i can finallyplay the solos ive been achin to play :M:
    eeso13
    Thanks very much man, I've been searching google for the last hour looking for guides, and your lessons really did it.. billytalent, just try the technique mentioned above and you will understand it all, simply put your middle finger behind the pick (use a pick first to understand how it works) and stick it out a little, and do an upstroke at a fret producing a natural harmonic; 5th, 7th and 12th frets. It's pretty easy, took me like one minute to understand how it works.
    minichibi
    thanks for the info. 5* coz it also helped. I cant believe people complain about getting *extra* information. If youre that lazy that you can't read a page, you should never have picked up a guitar.
    matt1986
    If you use the thumb technique it massively matters where you place it in relation to the note you fret. Natural harmonics occur over the 5th 7th an 12th frets which is half way, a third of the way and a quarter of the way along the string from either end. The same must be done for artificial harmonics, pinch with the thumb either half way, a third of the way or a quarter of the way between the fretted note ant the bridge.
    jeremytabs
    They are also reffered to as a pig-squeal. Probably the hardest thing possible in my opinion. Only ever pulled off several decent ones myself.