How to Do Harmonics on Guitar: 4 Crucial Secrets You Must Not Overlook

by Alex Winnerman  - October 14, 2023

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One aspect of the legendary James Brown's rock and roll song that stands out was the way the guitarists charmed us with how to do harmonics on guitar. 

It's essentially a wonderful piece of art, similar to what many accomplished guitarists have demonstrated.

I came upon a captivating sound when I was first learning to play the guitar that felt nearly mystical. 

It was the fascinating realm of harmonics, a musical technique that gave the song an ethereal quality. 

I was mesmerized by the harmonic tones created by accomplished guitarists, and I was motivated to master this elusive skill.

The journey to mastering guitar harmonics was not easy. 

It took practice, experimentation, and a fair share of trial and error.

There were moments when I felt puzzled and overwhelmed, much like you might be feeling right now. 

But with diligence and guidance, I eventually grasped the art of harmonics on the guitar.

In this comprehensive guide, I'm excited to share my knowledge and experience with you. 

We'll demystify the technique behind harmonics, exploring everything from natural harmonics to artificial harmonics and the various fretting techniques used to create these mesmerizing sounds. 

So, are you ready to embark on your own harmonic journey? Let's strum right into it!

How To Do Harmonics On Guitar - Key Takeaways

  •  Explore natural harmonics by lightly touching specific points on the guitar strings to create bell-like tones.
  • Experiment with artificial harmonics using pinch harmonics, tapping, and whammy bar manipulation for unique high-pitched sounds.
  • Incorporate harmonics into your playing style by adding them to solos, creating harmonic melodies, and using them for embellishments.
  • Improve harmonic technique by practicing with a metronome and experimenting with different pick angles.
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Understanding Harmonics on the Guitar

Two types of harmonics exist on the guitar: natural harmonics and artificial harmonics.

Natural harmonics are produced by lightly touching a string at specific points to create overtones.

In contrast, artificial harmonics involve techniques like pinch harmonics and tapping to produce unique sounds.

Natural harmonics

Natural harmonics are fascinating sounds that occur at certain spots along a guitar string.

Each string holds multiple harmonic points, but they're frequently played on the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets.

When you lightly touch a string directly over these frets without pressing it down and then pull away after plucking, you'll create a bell-like tone known as a natural harmonic.

This is due to the way the string's vibration divides into two halves or three parts depending on whether it's played at the 12th or 7th fret, respectively.

Although they may seem magical in their creation, these harmonics have practical uses too!

From tuning your guitar to adding richness to your solos or riffs, mastering natural harmonics can open new horizons in your playing style.

Artificial harmonics

Artificial harmonics are an advanced technique that allows guitarists to create unique and high-pitched sounds.

To play artificial harmonics, you need to fret a note with your index finger on the desired string and then lightly touch the same string with your picking hand's index finger or thumb.

As you pluck the string, simultaneously release your touching finger in a flicking motion.

This creates a harmonic overtone different from natural harmonics played at open strings or fretted notes.

Mastering artificial harmonics takes time and practice, but it can add a new dimension to your guitar playing.

Not only do they sound impressive, but they also allow for greater control over pitch and tone variation.

Experiment with different placements of your picking hand's touching finger along the length of the string to discover new harmonic intervals and create captivating melodies.

Remember that practicing slowly and gradually increasing speed is key when learning artificial harmonics.

Start by focusing on accuracy rather than speed, ensuring each harmonic rings out clearly before progressing to faster tempos.

How To Do Harmonics On Guitar - Mastering the Techniques

Mastering harmonics on the guitar requires learning and practicing different techniques, such as pinch harmonics, tapping harmonics, and whammy bar harmonics.

Pinch harmonics

I love the sound of pinch harmonics on the guitar. They add an edgy and unique quality to your playing. Here are some tips to help you master pinch harmonics:

  1. Position your picking hand: Place your thumb over the top of the pick and lightly rest it on the string you want to play the harmonic on.
  2. Find the sweet spot: Experiment with different pick angles until you find the spot where your thumb and pick create a flicking motion on the string.
  3. Combine picking and fretting: As you strike the string, use your index finger on your fretting hand to lightly touch the string right after it is picked, muting any unwanted noise.
  4. Practice with a metronome: Start slowly and gradually increase speed as you get comfortable producing clean pinch harmonics.
  5. Use harmonic notations in tabs: Look for symbols like "P.H." or "^" above notes in guitar tabs to indicate when to use a pinch harmonic.
  6. Add pinch harmonics to your solos: Add pinch harmonics to your lead guitar playing for extra flair and expression.

Tapping harmonics

  • Use the edge of your picking hand to tap the strings at specific frets.
  • Apply light pressure and lift your hand off the strings to produce the harmonic.
  • Experiment with different frets and string combinations for different harmonics.
  • Combine tapping harmonics with other techniques, like hammer-ons and pull-offs, for more complex and melodic sounds.
  • Practice slowly and gradually increase your speed to improve accuracy.

Whammy bar harmonics

Using the whammy bar on your guitar opens up a new world of harmonic possibilities.

Here are some techniques to do harmonics on guitar using the whammy bar:

  1. Dive bombs: By depressing the whammy bar and quickly releasing it, you can produce a dramatic downward pitch shift that adds intensity to your solos.
  2. Squeals: Apply pressure to the whammy bar while picking a note or chord to create high-pitched squeals known as "screaming" or "pinch" harmonics. Experiment with different pressure amounts for varying effects.
  3. Harmonic flutters: Gently fluttering the whammy bar up and down while playing a harmonic note produces a rapid vibrato effect, giving your playing a unique texture.
  4. Pitch bends: Using the whammy bar combined with the bending technique allows you to bend notes upwards and downwards, giving your playing an expressive touch.

Adding Harmonics to Your Guitar Techniques

Adding harmonics to your playing gives it an extra layer of expression and creativity to your guitar solos, melodies, and embellishments.

Applying harmonics in solos

Harmonics can add a unique touch and make your playing stand out if you want to take your guitar solos to the next level.

Here are some techniques on how to do harmonics on guitar in solos:

  1. Use natural harmonics on the 12th fret or other specific frets to create ethereal and bell-like tones.
  2. Experiment with pinch harmonics by lightly touching the string with your picking hand thumb after picking the note. This technique adds a squealing effect to your solos.
  3. Include tapped harmonics by tapping the string with your index finger of the picking hand while simultaneously fretting a note with your other fingers. This technique allows you to play high-pitched harmonics along with regular notes.
  4. Explore whammy bar harmonics using the tremolo arm on your guitar to manipulate pitch while playing harmonics. This technique adds dynamic and expressive elements to your solos.

Creating harmonic melodies

Creating harmonic melodies on the guitar is a great way to add depth and beauty to your playing.

Below are some techniques to help you master this skill:

  1. Experiment with different harmonics: Try using natural and artificial harmonics to create unique melodies. Natural harmonics are produced by lightly touching the string at specific points. In contrast, artificial harmonics involve fretting a note and touching the string with your index finger.
  2. Combine harmonics with regular notes: Mix harmonic melodies with regular notes to create interesting contrasts in your music. This can be done by blending open-string harmonics with fretted notes or incorporating pinch harmonics into your melodies.
  3. Explore different intervals: Experiment with playing harmonic melodies using different intervals, such as thirds, fifths, or octaves. This will give your melodies a rich and varied sound.
  4. Use techniques like trills and slides: Incorporate techniques like trills (rapidly alternating between two notes) or slides (gliding from one note to another) into your harmonic melodies. These techniques can enhance the expressiveness of your playing.
  5. Pay attention to timing and dynamics: Practice playing harmonic melodies with precise timing and varying dynamics. This will help you bring out the nuances of the melody and make it more captivating for the listener.

Using harmonics for embellishments

Harmonics can be used to add embellishments and unique touches to your guitar playing.You can add harmoics in some of these few ways:

  1. Add a subtle harmonic flourish at the end of a phrase or melody.
  2. Use harmonics to create shimmering arpeggios and cascading patterns.
  3. Experiment with using harmonics during chord changes for added texture.
  4. Combine harmonics with slides or bends for expressive and dynamic phrasing.
  5. Play harmonics in combination with regular notes to create interesting rhythms and accents.

Tips for Improving Harmonic Technique

You can learn how to do harmonics on guitar as a beginner or Improve your harmonic technique with these helpful tips.

From practicing with a metronome to experimenting with pick angles, these techniques will take your guitar playing to the next level.

Practicing with a metronome

Using a metronome is an excellent way to improve your harmonic technique on the guitar.

By setting the metronome to a steady beat, you can practice playing harmonics in time and develop a sense of rhythm.

Start by playing simple harmonic patterns, gradually increasing the speed as you become more comfortable.

This will help you build precision and accuracy in your playing.

Additionally, practicing with a metronome can also train your ear to recognize different note durations and subdivisions, making it easier to play harmonics with perfect timing in any musical context.

With regular practice using a metronome, you'll soon notice significant improvements in your harmonic technique and overall guitar-playing skills.

Experimenting with different pick angles

One technique on how to do harmonics on guitar is experimenting with different pick angles.

By adjusting the angle at which you strike the string with your pick, you can create variations in tone and clarity.

A flatter pick angle produces a brighter sound, while a steeper angle produces a softer and more rounded tone.

Try out different angles and listen to how it affects the harmonics you play.

This experimentation can help you find the sweet spot that produces the desired sound for your playing style and musical preferences.

So grab your guitar, vary those pick angles, and discover new sonic possibilities!

Developing finger strength and control

Developing finger strength and control is crucial in learning how to do harmonics on guitar.

By regularly practicing exercises that focus on strengthening your fingers, you will be able to produce clearer and more precise harmonics.

Start by performing simple finger stretching exercises to warm up your hands before each practice session.

Then, gradually increase the difficulty of the exercises, such as playing scales or chords with different finger combinations.

Additionally, try adding trills or string bending into your practice routine to enhance finger strength and control. 

Consistency is key in developing these skills, so dedicate daily time to focused finger training.

Seeking guidance from experienced guitarists

Experienced guitarists can provide valuable guidance on how to do harmonics on guitar.

They have years of practice and knowledge that they are willing to share with aspiring musicians.

By seeking their advice, beginners can learn essential techniques, receive personalized tips, and gain insight into effective practice routines.

Learning from experienced guitarists can accelerate progress and help develop a solid foundation in harmonic playing.


Mastering harmonics on the guitar is a valuable skill for any guitarist.

By understanding and practicing techniques such as pinch harmonics, tapping harmonics, and whammy bar harmonics, you can add them into your playing to create unique sounds and add depth to your music.

Improve your harmonic technique by using a metronome, experimenting with pick angles, developing finger strength and control, and seeking guidance from experienced guitarists.

With time and practice, mastering harmonics will greatly enhance your playing skills and allow you to express yourself creatively on the guitar.


1. What are the harmonics on the guitar?

Harmonics on the guitar are bell-like tones that can be produced by lightly touching specific points along the strings while plucking them.

2. How do I play harmonics on the guitar?

To play harmonics, lightly touch a specific point above the fret wire with your fingertip as you pluck or pick the string.

3. Can beginners learn to play harmonics on the guitar?

Yes, beginners can learn to play harmonics on the guitar. It may require some practice and precision, but it is achievable with time and patience.

4. What techniques can help me master harmonics on the guitar?

Some techniques that can help you master harmonics include practicing accurate finger placement, using light pressure when touching the strings, and experimenting with different positions along the neck to produce different harmonic sounds.

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Alex Winnerman

Meet Alex Winnerman, a seasoned music director and mentor, dedicated to guiding aspiring artists, recommending top-quality instruments, and mastering the intricacies of studio engineering. With a wealth of expertise, his online coaching sessions are readily available for those eager to embark on a musical journey. Married and eternally youthful at heart, Alex's mission is to make music resonate in the lives of others.

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