Pinch Harmonics on an Electric Guitar




Introduction: Pinch Harmonics on an Electric Guitar

What is a (natural) harmonic?

A natural harmonic is a musical note played by preventing or amplifying vibration of certain overtones of a guitar string.  They are usually played by lightly placing a finger on a string at a nodal point (where the string is divided in ½, ¼, etc.).  When picked,  the string vibrates at a higher frequency than the fundamental tone causing a higher pitched overtone.

What is a pinch harmonic?

A pinch harmonic is a guitar technique in which the player's thumb or index finger on the picking hand slightly catches the string at a nodal point near the pickups after it is picked which cancels the fundamental tone of the string, and lets one of the overtones dominate. The result is a high pitch squeal.

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Step 1: Amp or Pedal Settings

Turn up the gain on your amplifier or use a distortion pedal.  

(Note: The more distortion, the easier it is to play a pinch harmonic.)

Step 2: Holding the Pick

Hold your pick so only a small piece of it can be seen between your thumb and index finger.

Step 3: Pick a Note

Fret the 3rd string (g in standard tuning) at the 12th fret. 

Note: Pinch harmonics can be played with any note on any string, but I find they are easiest to play on the g string.

Step 4: Find the Harmonic Points Near the Pick Ups

Pick the string and lightly touch it with your index finger at various points to find the natural harmonic points over the pick-ups.  Make mental note of the location of these points.

Step 5: Pick Hand Technique

Pick the string and follow through with a slight roll with your pick hand so that your thumb lightly touches the string at a point we found in the previous step.

Pay Attention!
Make sure to lift your thumb after making contact so the string is not completely muted.

Step 6: Add Some Style

Add string bends or use a whammy bar after picking to make the pinch harmonic really ring out.

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    6 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Looks like one of my old Epiphone E-Series guitars. *Sniff* Miss that baby.


    5 years ago

    Tricky technique to explain, but you did a great job and sweet guitar!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    It's an Epiphone Explorer with EMG pickups


    6 years ago

    It looks like a dean ml xm


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Cool Instructable. A video or sound recording would be really helpful to people who might not know what this is supposed to sound like.