How to Play Pinch Harmonics

How to Play Pinch Harmonics

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, but it’s really a simple technique.

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, as that’s not who I am :o)
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 drastic…it’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!!

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