Learning how to play artificial harmonics on guitar can add color to your lead guitar playing style. Artificial harmonics have been heard in guitar solos in music ranging from blues to country to rock. The proper technique needed to produce artificial harmonics on guitar takes practice, but once you've mastered the technique, using artificial harmonics can make even the simplest guitar solo sound like a masterpiece.
Things you'll need:
- Guitar pick
- Place your index finger lightly over the fifth fret of the lowest string on your guitar (sixth string). Do not press down on the fret. Pick the note. As you pick the string, lift your index finger away from the fifth fret. You will hear a clean, high-pitched tone. This is a fifth-fret harmonic. The note is A, two octaves higher than if you actually played the A by fretting the guitar. It may take some time to do this accurately. If the string sounds deadened when you pull your finger away, try again. Your finger should only lightly rest against the string over the fifth fret. In order to get the harmonic, you must lift your finger away at the exact moment you pick the string.
- Play the fifth-fret harmonic on the sixth string at the fifth fret, then play a seventh fret harmonic on the fifth string in the same way. These two harmonics should sound the same. Many guitar players tune by harmonics because harmonics are easier to hear. To continue tuning by harmonics, play the fifth-fret harmonic on the fifth string and follow it with a seventh-fret harmonic on the fourth string. This is the same pattern you will use to tune your guitar by harmonics, with the exception of tuning the third string to the second. Tune these two strings normally or play the over the fourth fret of the third string and the fifth fret of the second string. Tune the second and first strings with the original fifth-fret/seventh fret harmonic pattern.
Place your index finger across the entire neck of your guitar over the twelfth frets. Strum all of the strings from lowest to highest and lift your finger away from the strings as you strum. The twelfth-fret harmonics will ring out. These harmonics are the same notes as the open strings. If you have trouble playing them all at once, play them individually. Playing the twelfth-fret harmonics is a good way to check the tuning of your guitar.
- Experiment with pinched artificial harmonics when you play your solos. Pinched harmonics can be found in several locations on your guitar. They are easier to play on a highly amplified electric. To pinch a harmonic, fret the strings of your guitar and pick the strings normally, but quickly dampen the notes you play with your thumb. This stops the string vibration and produces a harmonic. You can hear pinched harmonics as a regular feature in solos played by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
- Play a note normally with your fret hand, then touch the string with the index finger of your picking hand. Touch the string lightly to stop it from ringing to produce an artificial harmonic. To produce the harmonic correctly, try tapping the string just enough to stop the vibration. Do not allow your finger to rest on the string.