In this article I want to explain :
- What are pinch harmonics
- What do you need in order to make pinch harmonics
- How to do pinch harmonics properly
- How to practice pinch harmonics in a musical context
Table of Contents
What are pinch Harmonics?
A pinch harmonic (also referred to as pick harmonics, artificial harmonics or false harmonic) is a guitar technique in which you use your thumb to slightly touch the string after you play it so that you obtain that squealing sound.
By bending the string, using a whammy bar, a wah-wah pedal or different effects you can change the sound of the pinch harmonic.
The most used pinched harmonic is definitely the high pitched squeal that you listen especially in metal music, which is achieved by playing a pinch harmonic and then bending and vibrating the string.
What do you need in order to execute pinch harmonics?
In order to be able to practice and learn pinch harmonics the best way you need:
- An electric guitar.
- An amplifier (it doesn’t matter what amplifier as long as it has gained on it).
- Distortion. When first learning this it is preferably that you use plenty of it.
- A pick.
- Last but not least lot’s of patience and willingness to learn if you never tried to do a pinch harmonic before.
I would also add that if your amplifier doesn’t have distortion on it you can also use a guitar pedal or a guitar processor in order to induce the distortion.
If you don’t have an electric guitar you can also practice pinch harmonics on your acoustic guitar, the problem is that it won’t have the same impact as it would have if you would practice it on an electric guitar with distortion.
How to execute Pinch harmonics?
1. The first and most important thing in order for you to make a pinch harmonic is to know how to hold your pick.
The best way is to hold your pick between your index finger and your thumb so that you let only a small part of the picks tip outside (think of a distance of maximum 3 – 5 mm). To have an idea about what is the best way to hold the pick just take a look at the picture below.
This helps you use your thumb to touch the string immediately after you play the string with your pick.
2. The pinch harmonic is executed by slightly touching the string with your thumb after you play the note.
In order to execute it the pinch harmonic effortlessly, give the pick a little forward twist, so that the flesh of your finger touches the string after you play it with your pick.
Here are 3 pictures to show you exactly what I mean:
- A. Positioning for playing pinch harmonics
- B. Lightly touch the string with the tip of your thumb
- C. Raise your picking hand again after you play the note and touch it with your thumb. It is basically a cyclic motion
Also, note that it is recommended to hold the pick to a 45-degree angle when attempting to play harmonics.
3. If you never attempted to play artificial harmonics I recommend that you start with the 5th fret on the D or G string, as it is probably the best way to start with them.
So in order to practice artificial harmonics follow these 4 easy steps:
- Make sure you have an amp with the distortion on it. This makes your mission a lot easier.
- Hold your pick correctly (remember to let just a little portion of the pick’s tip outside).
- When playing the note remember to give your hand a little forward twist so that a small part of your thumbs flesh hits the strings immediately as you play it. Consider holding the pick to a 45 degree related to the string,
- Be patient. Just as playing a chromatic scale or learning to play a basic open string chord, pinch harmonics also become second nature after you practice them appropriately.
First, practice artificial harmonics on the 5th fret on the D or G strings until you can do them effortlessly. After you get the basic technique down you can try them anywhere on the fretboard.
How master the pinch harmonics in a musical context
In order for you to achieve that, I thought of showing you one of my favorite riffs by probably my favorite band: Pantera – Cemetery Gates.
This way I will also pay a tribute to Darell Dimebag and you will also learn a cool riff that has lots of cool pinch harmonics.
Here is the tab bellow.
Let’s analyze the above tab so I can make the job easier for you to learn it:
1. Pay attention to the note values.
This riff contains 4th and 8th notes.
4th notes = 1 note per click
8th notes = 2 notes per click
If you want to learn more about note values see chapter 4 in The Guitar Blueprint to Success
2. Follow the picking patterns.
This riff is mostly played using downstrokes, the only upstrokes are in the 1st and 3rd on the 4th beat.
3. Pay attention to the legato’s (You can also read about legato’s and tab reading in The Guitar Blueprint to Success)
4. Pay attention to the palm mute technique. The notes that require muting have a P.M. above them. Listen to the original song for indications.
5. Don’t forget to vibrate the pinched notes.
I recommend that you start practicing the above riff after you get comfortable with doing pinch harmonics.
Start slow and first learn the riff, then you can use the metronome so that you practice it the right way.
I hope that you enjoyed this article and that by reading it you made your pinch harmonics problems history.
If you have any additional questions feel free to leave a comment, and if you liked it feel free to press the Facebook “like” button.