Pinched Harmonics and Palm Harmonics


Pinched Harmonics and Palm Harmonics

Most of you will know the natural harmonics. These can be found if you pick string while holding a left hand finger exactly over the 5th, 7th or 12th fret of that string. While these are cool, they only work on open strings. Let's look at two techniques that enable you to play harmonics on any fretted note... This is a popular rock and heavy metal trick, making a nice squeeling sound.


Pinched harmonics

A pinch harmonic involves picking a fretted note in such a way that instead of the fretted note, you get one of its overtones or harmonics to ring. This is done as follows.


Hold the pick as you normally would when picking a string, but turn your hand so that when you pick, you'll hit the string with the pick AND with the skin on the side of the thumb. This is called pinching. Attack the string with a bit more force than when picking a normal fretted note.


This produces the overtone (harmonic) on that specific part of the string to sound when you pick the string. It only will produce a harmonic if the particular spot where you pick has a harmonic. These harmonics can be found anywhere from the bridge pickup to beyond the neck pickup. Try to find the ones that are clear and loud by moving your right hand slowly over the string in this area while all the time pinching the string as described above.

guitarhow lesson - palm harmonic... and Palm harmonic: pick the string while the pinky touches the string lightly, and than lift the pinky!


Use overdrive or distortion when playing pinched harmonics, because the compression of these effects make the harmonic sound much louder than with a clean guitar sound.


When you find a good loud harmonic, let it ring, and use some left hand vibrato for a nice effect.


Palm harmonics

A palm harmonic also produces a overtone from a fretted note, but using the palm or pinky of the picking hand instead of the thumb skin. This is my personal favorite technique for harmonics as it is very precise.


Fret a note on the G string. Stretch the little finger and ring finger of your picking hand. Now, place the skin on the bottom of your hand, the little spot between the hand itself and the pinky, lightly on the string, between bridge pickup and neck pickup. Make sure you're only touching the string lightly. Then, pick the string holding the pick as you normally do. Directly after picking, lift your pinky from the string to avoid muting the harmonic. You should hear a high note now instead of the one you fretted on the G-string.


Practise this by moving the base skin of the pinky lighty over the string between the pickups, while all the time picking the string. The good spots are easily found, because they sound loud and clear. These can also be manipulated while ringing, by vibrato, bending or whammy divebombs, for instance.


Good luck!



- use distortion to get louder harmonics and more sustain.


- the best strings to get harmonics are the G, D, and low E string. Somehow the harmonics on these strings have more sustain and are easier to achieve and control.


- experiment with your picking hand what the best spots on the string are for picking pinched or palm harmonics. After a while, you'll be able to succesfully get pinch or palm harmonics on every note that you play, because your hand seems to 'remember' what the sweet spots are.


guitarhow lesson - pinched harmonicPinched harmonics: hit the string hard with pick and thumb together...