Guitar Harmonics: Play Harmonics Like A Pro With These Easy Tips

Guitar Harmonics - Artificial Harmonics

Learn The Difference Between Natural & Artificial Harmonics and How To Play Them

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Guitar Harmonics: Artificial Harmonics

Even though Artificial Harmonics sound similar to Natural Guitar Harmonics, the differences are quite remarkable, especially in the manner in which they are played.

Natural Harmonics are only playable on a few of all the frets that we have available on the guitar.

Artificial Harmonics on the other hand, are available on all strings and all frets, because of the way we play them.

How the Play Artificial Harmonics:

The left hand fingering and the manner in which we play the notes are unchanged from playing notes normally on the guitar when we pick the strings. The difference in entirely with our right hand or our picking hand.

There are two ways to play Guitar Harmonics Method One: Fingerstyle Guitar Harmonics

Fingerstyle Artificial Harmonics are quite a bit easier to play than those with a flat pick. If you happen to play with a thumb pick on your right hand or picking hand, it will be the easiest of all.

Let's start with open strings, which are the simplest to implement:

Artificial Harmonic Touch The String Above the 12th Fret For An "E" On the 6th String

What we have to accomplish to get this guitar harmonic is to touch the string with our index finger exactly 12 frets above the open or fingered note, on the same string.

As with Natural Harmonics, the secret is in the timing and release of the finger on the touched string.

Extend your index finger of your picking hand and stretch it completely forward. At the same time, touch your thumb under knuckle of your index finger, with either your thumb or thumb pick pointing slightly downward.

It Takes A Light Touch

Lightly touch the string directly above the 12th fret with the tip of your out-stretched index finger. Let's try this on the first string...

Pick the string with your thumb and a split second later, lift your index finger off the string completely. The harmonic will sound.

Typically an Artificial Guitar Harmonic does not have the volume that you can attain with Natural Harmonics. The note you just played in also an "E", similar to the open "E" string, but one octave higher.

Now try to finger an "F" note on the first fret of the first string. With your right or picking hand in the same fashion as above , shift the position of the right hand up by one fret, or directly over the 13th fret with the tip of the index finger and string the string with your thumb and immediately release the index finger.


Play Artificial Harmonics With A Flat Pick

When an Artificial Harmonic is played with a flat pick of your picking hand, we just have to make a few adjustments over the fingerstyle type of Artificial Harmonics.


Artificial Guitar Harmonic Touch The String Above the 12th Fret For An "E" On the 6th String

The major difference is that with a flat pick, your thumb and index finger are already assigned the job of holding the flat pick itself. So we have to make an adjustment.

We have to use the next available finger to touch the string 12 frets above the fingered notes, and that would be the middle finger.

So extend the 2nd or middle finger out to touch the string 12 frets above the fretted note and just touch the string with the tip of the finger.

Now pick the string with the flat pick that is held between the thumb and index finger. This will seam awkward at first, buy as you gain skill it will become much easier.

Don't Get This Confused With Pinch Harmonics

The artificial guitar harmonics we are demonstrating here covers methods that can be used on all guitars, but especially acoustic and steel string guitars.

With electric guitars, the more common technique is called a pinch harmonic or a squeelie. The technique is quite a bit different and will be handled in a separate section of this site. Look for that article later if you are interested is pinch harmonics.

Artificial Harmonic Exercise:

I would like you now to play the entire natural scale on the guitar with artificial harmonics. So you would play the following notes, starting with the open 6th string. Refer to the diagram below:

If you can read music or tab, you can play basically any note with Artificial Harmonics that you would play naturally. Your only limitation is that you would run out of frets with your right hand due to your right hand playing 12 frets above the fingered notes consistently. With a 22 fret guitar that means you would be able to play up to the 10th fret accurately. After that you are in uncharted (or unfretted) territory.

Well that's about if for Artificial Guitar Harmonics. Now all that you have to do is practice to perfect your style, just like everything with music. You have just added another thing to your bag of playing tricks.

If you would like a more in-depth look at harmonics, I would recommend the 2 selections that I use, listed below.

Harmonics for Guitar

Harmonics for Guitar

The Complete Guide. By Los Lonely Boys. Guitar Technique & Instruction. Softcover with CD. Guitar tablature. 48 pages. Published by Hal Leonard.



(Guitar In The Style Of Lenny Breau, Ted Greene, And Ralph Towner) Written by Jamie Findlay. Instructional book and examples CD for guitar. 16 pages. Published by Musicians Institute Press.