What Are Harmonics on Guitar?

What Is A Harmonic?

Depends on where you play it! When we play a harmonic on a guitar string it's called a "string harmonic". Different spots on the guitar string and different techniques will change how a note sounds by highlighting different overtones. This is going to go into very complex territory to explain it further, but the important thing for you to know is that they sound very cool. Check out string harmonics on Wikipedia if you want to get into the details!

The use of harmonics is a great way to add some character and style to your playing. 

Musical Example:

Neil Young’s song Harvest Moon uses natural harmonics prominently throughout the song. The first example is the high notes at 0:20 into the video. 

What are the 4 types of harmonics you can play on guitar?

  • Natural Harmonics
  • Artificial Harmonics
  • Pinched Harmonics
  • Tap/Touch Harmonics

So, how do you play harmonics on the guitar?

Featured Lesson:

Darrell Braun breaks down the basics of how to play each type of harmonic:

Important takeaways from the lesson are:

  • Overview of the 4 types of harmonics with playing examples (0:08)
  • You can do all of these techniques on acoustic or electric (1:00)
  • Use the bridge pickup and some gain on an electric guitar for the easiest setting for learning these techniques (1:12)
  • How to play natural harmonics (1:20)
  • How to play artificial harmonics (3:53)
  • How to play pinched harmonics (6:27)
  • How to play tapped/touch harmonics (9:06)
  • Lesson on how to play a harmonic filled riff (11:11)

Harmonic on Acoustic Guitar

Here is another simple guide on how to play harmonics on an acoustic guitar by Tony Polecastro. 

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