Nat­u­ral har­mon­ics

Make your gui­tar ring like a bell by adding some nat­u­ral har­mon­ics to your pal­ette

Total Guitar - - HOW TO -

“I’ve heard peo­ple talk about nat­u­ral and pinched har­mon­ics, but I don’t know what they are...”

There are two main kinds of har­mon­ics: pinched and nat­u­ral. Pinched har­mon­ics pro­duce a high squeal­ing sound and are quite tricky to play since you pinch the string be­tween your thumb and the pick. Nat­u­ral har­mon­ics are what we’ll be look­ing at here, though. They are played by touch­ing the strings lightly at cer­tain ‘node’ points. Th­ese pro­duce a clear, bell-like tone that are higher in pitch than the reg­u­lar fret­ted notes in the same po­si­tion. There’s a sci­ence-y ex­pla­na­tion for this, but frankly it’s more fun to play than talk, so let’s get stuck in...

“Gotcha. Where can I hear them in ac­tion?”

You can hear the ring­ing sound of nat­u­ral har­mon­ics on Steve Vai’s Sis­ters and they are used to cre­ate a riff in Pud­dle Of Mudd’s Blurry. When played us­ing dis­tor­tion their high pitches can con­trast low, heavy riffs, just lis­ten to Ma­chine Head’s metal clas­sic Da­vid­ian.

“So they sound great. How do I play them?”

Nat­u­ral har­mon­ics are played by lightly touch­ing the strings directly over cer­tain frets. The best place to start is the 12th fret. Place your first fin­ger across the first three strings (the thinnest ones) so it hides the fret. Make con­tact with the string, but don’t push too hard. Your fin­ger shouldn’t be any­where near the fret. Strum firmly through the strings then re­lease your fret­ting hand from the strings. No­tice how the notes con­tinue to ring.

“That was pretty easy. Can I play them any­where else?”

As a mat­ter of fact you can. There are loads of places, but some are easier to play than oth­ers. The next lo­ca­tions you should try are the 5th and 7th frets. Stick to the first three strings, but be care­ful with your fin­ger place­ment. There is less mar­gin for er­ror at th­ese frets, so if you aren’t directly over the fret you might find the notes don’t ring out cor­rectly. Once you can play each lo­ca­tion cleanly, try mov­ing be­tween them.

“That’s a good sound, but it’s get­ting repet­i­tive What else can I do with them?”

Well, you don’t al­ways have to strum har­mon­ics. You can play them in­di­vid­u­ally to cre­ate beau­ti­ful melodies. You’ll be chang­ing notes quite quickly, so make sure you place your fingers ac­cu­rately. Re­mem­ber, if you want the notes to ring into each other you have to make sure you don’t ac­ci­den­tally mute the other strings as you fret a new note.

wh aty­ouwi ll­learn What nat­u­ral ha­mon­ics are How to per­form them Har­monic chords

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