IN THE WOOD­SHED

This month Char­lie Grif­fiths fo­cuses his at­ten­tion on pinched har­mon­ics and ex­plains how to pro­duce spe­cific, not ran­dom, pitches.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Char­lie Grif­fiths turns the spotlight on pinched har­mon­ics and re­veals how to achieve spe­cific, not ran­dom, pitches.

Har­mon­ics are cre­ated by di­vid­ing the string at par­tic­u­lar points in or­der to iso­late the many over­tones that make up reg­u­lar notes. Har­mon­ics can be pro­duced with a few dif­fer­ent tech­niques, but the mech­a­nism be­hind all of them is the same. The sim­ple way to pro­duce a har­monic is to lightly touch one of the strings di­rectly over the fret-wire with your fret­ting fin­ger and then lift off the fin­ger while si­mul­ta­ne­ously pick­ing it. As you will see in Ex­am­ple 1, the 12th fret is the ex­act half­way point be­tween the nut and the bridge, which cre­ates an oc­tave above the open string. Di­vide the string in two again and you will hear a har­monic two oc­taves higher than the open string. Halve the string length a third time and you will hear a third oc­tave. By this point your fin­ger would be higher than the high­est fret on your fret­board at what would be the 36th fret. If you have a 24-fret gui­tar then this ‘vir­tual’ 36th fret is ex­actly half­way be­tween the 24th fret and the bridge. It’s a good idea to use your pick­ups as a vis­ual ref­er­ence point; this will of course vary de­pend­ing on your pickup con­fig­u­ra­tion, but it’s an easy trick to learn.

When pulling out har­mon­ics in the pickup zone, it is no longer prac­ti­cal to touch the string with your fret­ting fin­ger while pick­ing, so in­stead the ‘string touch­ing’ part can be per­formed with the side of the pick­ing thumb, thus con­dens­ing the two-handed tech­nique down to es­sen­tially one digit; this in essence is the pinched har­monic. As you down-pick the string, mo­men­tar­ily brush the side of your thumb against the string be­fore re­leas­ing the string and al­low­ing the har­monic to sus­tain. A sat­u­rated high-gain sound will give you the best re­sults in the vein of play­ers like Zakk Wylde, Steve Vai or Ed­die Van Halen. Or think about Joe Walsh’s beau­ti­ful pinched har­mon­ics in The Ea­gles’ Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nia. Now your fret­ting fin­gers are free from the ac­tual job of cre­at­ing the har­mon­ics, you can use it to hold fret­ted notes. Ex­am­ple 2 shows that you can play reg­u­lar fret­ted notes and use pinched har­mon­ics to pro­duce pitch ac­cu­rate har­mon­ics. A good place to start is to find the sec­ond oc­tave har­mon­ics, which are al­ways found 24 frets higher than the fret­ted note. With prac­tice you can quite quickly get used to ‘adding’ 24 frets to the note you are fret­ting, al­though this will al­most al­ways be in the ‘vir­tual fret’ area above the fret­board.

Once you are fa­mil­iar with pinch­ing har­mon­ics two-oc­taves higher, then move on to Ex­am­ples 3 and 4, which demon­strate other avail­able in­ter­vals. Keep your fret­ting fin­ger still and grad­u­ally move your pick nearer to the bridge and you will find a 3rd, b7 5th and interval har­mon­ics. The po­si­tions of all these in­ter­vals change on di­rect re­la­tion­ship to the note you are fret­ting, which makes it al­most im­pos­si­ble to ‘learn’ where they re­side. Ex­am­ple 5 shows the fret­ting hand mov­ing down the fret­board and there­fore the pick­ing hand fol­lows suit. Prac­tise each ex­am­ple slowly and care­ful at first to get a sense of where all the har­mon­ics are, then as you get more con­fi­dent, try prac­tis­ing over the back­ing tracks pro­vided.

Steve Vai is a killer pinched har­monic player

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