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How Harmonics Work

Justinguitar.com on Technique

When you pluck a guitar string it vibrates around in little arcs. A little understanding makes a big difference to performing them, because you will understand what it is that you are doing! It is strongly advised that you check this info out before you go into playing any of the harmonics techniques.


The Science Behind The Chime

Pluck a string hard and you will see it vibrate like fig.1. Harmonics are created by making the string vibrate in two halves (or thirds, fourths, fifths, etc.). Start by resting your finger very, very lightly over the 12th fret and plucking the string hard, and quite close to the bridge. You should get a sound twice a high as the original open string. You might have to experiment a bit to get this as it can take some practice. You will find that once the harmonic is ringing out you can take your finger off and the note will still continue to ring out

Once you have mastered this, try moving your finger down to the 7th fret and then the 5th fret (Fig.3 and Fig.4). These harmonics are harder to get and sound very high. Remember to press the string very lightly and pluck near the bridge. Getting these harmonics can be quite tricky and will take some practice, but persevere as they can be used in many useful ways.

There are more harmonics dividing the string into many parts, but they are more difficult. They are found at the 4th fret, and at spaces between the frets at the 3.2 fret (ie, just forward of the 3rd fret), the 2.6 fret, at 2.3, 1.8th, 1.2th and some even closer to the nut (these are harder and should only be attempted once the 12th, 7th, 5th and 4th are really easy).

As well as being used for tuning they can also be used melodically. There are other ways to produce “artificial” harmonics which we will deal with later. They are used by many rock guitarists to do the very high squealing notes (often tweaked with the wang-bar or tremolo arm). Play around, experiment and enjoy..

Check out a few of the other harmonics lessons to see them in action!

 

The Science Diagram ;)


Harmonics Science


Lesson ID: TE-501