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Technique Question -- Pinched Harmonics


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OK, I've got the basic principal down -- let your thumb briefly touch the string immediately after you picked it. But my success ratio is probably in the 20% range.


Any of you guitar heroes who feel like your competent at this technique, was this something that just sort of clicked for you or did you have to work at it. In other words is there some trick I'm missing or do I need to just crawl back to the woodshed?


I'm really starting to envy the guys who have a complete mastery of this. (Seemed like such a simple thing http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif).




- Layne
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If it's the technique I'm thinking of, you can try choking way up on the pick and hitting the string with various portions of your index finger's nail (or middle finger if you hold the pick like I do). Try it up and down the string.


Maybe I'm thinking of something else. I'm not a guitar hero, either. I'm closer to a hero sandwich.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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This is a cool technique to learn, but the gear you use helps a great deal.


If you try to "squeal" with old, dull strings it just doesn't work !!! The other thing is I get a hit rate of probably 99% with a really heavy plectrum (I use 2mm plastic or stainless steel) - if I try with a light flexi pleactrum my hit rate goes completely to shit. Naturally, you need enough gain on your amp as well.

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I have been doing this for years, the trick is to hold the pick so that just the very tip of the pick is exposed. When you pick the string the fleshy part of the side of your thumb should touch the string as you pick. Keep the fleshy side of your thumb low on the pick very close to the tip of the pick.


Also where you pick is as important as how you pick. For best results use your bridge pickup and pick somewhere between the neck and middle pickups (for a strat style guitar). As you change the position you are picking the harmonic tone will change. If you are doing a blues lick in E form A you will get some really nice tones.


Gain and distortion help. For really good examples of the style listen to "La Grange" by ZZ Top.


It takes a while to get down, but once you get it you've got it.



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try dividing your fretboard and pick in the middle of the distance from the note your playing and the bridge, or a 1/4, for example with a strat.. 1/4 off the open string is on top of the neck pickup, that is were I would pluck the string to get that harmonic, if you are playing on the 12freet I would pluck the string there or in the middle in between there and the bridge, try having visual clues as were your "harmonic points" are in. I have a sticker in my pickguard that tells me were the harmonic spot is for the 5 fret is and I just move a little from there.


After a wile your going to get the sweet spot and you'll be able to do it in every note you'll play without any effort.




[This message has been edited by caiv (edited 12-12-2000).]

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I would like to add that when you move your right hand up and down the string you get different harmonics... No matter what pickups I used (hum or single) or effects I always get pinch harmonics. The only problem are so called sweet spots. Those are spots on strings that produce the right pitch of your pinch harmonics... Try listening to Steve Vai!!! He is master of pinch harmonics. He always get the right pitch... I guess that years of practice help...
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Originally posted by dinopop:

OK, I've got the basic principal down -- let your thumb briefly touch the string immediately after you picked it. But my success ratio is probably in the 20% range.


It's a feel thing.


Make sure you have a ton of gain at first.

Try to make it happen on the G string first; that's the easiest, and fret a note lower than about the 7th fret - but not the open string.


Then, start off letting the thumb come to a complete stop against the G string. At this point the pick should probably be touching the B string.


*Where* you do it is all important; you can try to measure where it is best to do it, but that's more difficult than neccessary when you're trying to learn the technique. Instead, start letting your thumb smack into the G string repeatedly... this is one technique that will actually happen sooner if you rush it, actually... Kind of frantically do this, BUT -


as you're doing it change the placement of your thumb on the G string up and down the length of it, from the bridge towards the neck. Certain areas are going to bring out overtones better than others; you should be able to get an instinctual feel for this after awhile, but it's something you have to make yourself do. The *trick* is trying it rapidly up and down the string, moving in very small increments. Once you find a location that works, you'll get a better feel for lightening the touch of the thumb against the string, so don't worry that at first your thumb makes the string go dead. inadvertant harmonics happen easily enough when someone is trying to play too fast, so just keep at it...


Then, once you've mastered it... don't do it anymore, unless you're Billy Gibbons, Van Halen, Beck or Vai - it's passe.

Guitar Lessons in Augusta Georgia: www.chipmcdonald.com

Eccentric blog: https://chipmcdonaldblog.blogspot.com/


/ "big ass windbag" - Bruce Swedien

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  • 7 years later...

Pretty much what everyone else has said. Growing up and learning guitar during my death metal era, pinch harmonics was one of the first things I learned LOL. It's all about technique and feel. Once you learn how to get that part of your thumb to hit consistently (technique), you just have to move your picking hand forward/backward till you hit the node(s) you are looking for. Then it's memorizing it so you can do it w/o looking and from your normal picking/strumming position (feel).


It might just be me, but the way I do it (I had to pick up my guitar to 'see' how I do it hehe), is I tend to flat pick unless I'm picking fast, then I sorta angle the pick at a slight angle. I notice I use that same angle, and slightly rotate my thumb towards the body of the guitar so I get the fleshy part just before the knuckle to touch the string to produce the harmonic. Don't be ashamed if you have to practice and watch your hand to get it consistent. It's not an easy technique, and even harder to tell someone how with only words.

[Carvin] XB76WF - All Walnut 6-string fretless

[schecter] Stiletto Studio 5 Fretless | Stiletto Elite 5

[Ampeg] SVT3-Pro | SVT-410HLF


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It's okay to dredge up an old post once and a while. I had been wondering what the heck Pinch Harmonics were lately as I'd heard and seen them mentioned here and other places recently.


Now I know. Thanks guys!

Gotta' geetar... got the amp. There must be SOMEthing else I... "need".
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I even manage 'em fingerstyle, without a pick!


Sometimes I sort of 'snick' the string with the edge of a fingernail with the fleshy pad of the fingertip doing a close follow-through; other times I pluck the string(s) with my index, middle, and ring fingers or nails, and use the edge of my thumb near the side of its nail to touch the string(s)... With this last method, I can ring-out harmonic triads and squeally triple-stops, or even sort of fake an Octavia effect with some distortion!

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?


~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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