IN THE WOODSHED
Charlie Griffiths goes to the woodshed where he channels Van Halen, Steve Morse and Scott Henderson to bring you tapped harmonics.
Charlie Griffiths says get that picking-hand digit ready for some tapped harmonics action.
Tapped harmonics are a way of producing harmonics by quickly tapping the string with your frettinghand finger. Typically the second finger is used so the pick can continue to be held with your first finger and thumb. The advantage of tapped harmonics is that they can be added to fretted notes quickly, and easily incorporated among other techniques. Probably the most famous example of this is Eddie Van Halen’s solo from Michael Jackson’s Beat It in which he seamlessly uses slides, bends, two-handed tapping, divebombs and tapped harmonics.
All harmonics, be they natural, pinched, or tapped follow the same rules of physics, but first we must understand what a harmonic is. When you pluck a note on the guitar you are hearing a fundamental pitch, which is the name of the note you are playing; you are also hearing overtones, which are all the frequencies that combine to make the note sound rich and beautiful. When we play harmonics, we are isolating these overtones and hearing them as new pitches. The harmonics are found at ‘node’ points along the string and there are many.
The node points can be tricky to find, but we can make some sense of it by dividing the string into equal chunks. The first harmonic divides a string in half, the second into three equal parts, the third into four equal parts, the fourth into five equal parts. Those are the first four harmonics found along a string and are relatively easy to find. This string division is demonstrated in Example 1, with some natural harmonics. From low to high the four harmonics are: an octave above the open D, then an octave plus a 5th above, two octaves above and finally two octaves plus a 3rd.
This approach will work for every note on the fretboard. Example 3 shows how you can apply it to clean chords to produce beautiful Steve Morse style chimes. To really make these sing, make sure you tap the string directly on to the fret-wire, not between the frets. You can also add some reverb and delay to complete the effect. You can apply tapped harmonics to scales, too, as shown in Example 4. This technique brings to mind a Scott Henderson style ring modulator effect, perfect for adding a a different texture to your tone. In our final example we look at combining techniques and incorporating tapped harmonics in the context of a solo. To make things easier on yourself, use a generous amount of gain as the the harmonics are more likely to sound clean and have enough sustain to make even Nigel Tufnel jealous!
NEXT MONTH Charlie reveals some of his favourite whammy bar tricks
in van hal en’s solo in beat it he seamlessly uses sli des, bends, tw ohan d ta pping , dive-bombs an d ta pped har moni cs
Eddie Van Halen: a master at playing tapped harmonics