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How to Play Pinch Harmonics on Heavy Metal Guitar

Let musician Alex Skolnick teach you how to play pinch harmonics in this heavy metal guitar lesson from Howcast.


Pinched harmonics. Whenever I think of pinched harmonics the first person I think of is Billy Gibbons the guitarist for ZZ Top. A lot of other great players have made nice use of pinched harmonics as well. One of the things to keep in mind is that there are harmonics five, seven, and twelve frets away from every note as well as in other positions. For more details, I did do another Howcast lesson on harmonics, so you should check that out.

Let's look at the position of the second fret, F sharp minor. My clearest harmonics here are twelve frets away. That's the fourteenth fret. So, just for demonstration, I'm going to use my first finger and I'm going to pick each harmonic. If I were to tap those it would sound like this.

Okay. So, these aren't good for pinched harmonics because it's very hard to pick up here. What I want to do is go twelve frets higher, right. One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve. Now, here I start to run out of room. So, I have to use the pick-up or the body of the guitar to memorize where I am. Now, using pinching technique I can find the harmonics. So, I'm just picking the note. As I pick the note my thumb is supposed to go over the harmonic. Now, I have to find this. No. There we go. Okay.

So this is easy to remember because on this guitar it's pretty much right in the line of the pick-up. On another guitar it might be above the screw of the pick-up, and it's going to be in a different place for each key. A big part of this is memorizing where the harmonics are on the guitar. But since I know where the main harmonic is for F sharp I can figure out where the rest of the notes are. Alright, it's rough, but basically that's this pentatonic and harmonics.

When playing pinched harmonics it really helps to be on the treble pick-up. It helps to have a lot of distortion, too. I can continue through the scale and play harmonics. Okay.

Having mapped out the harmonics I can now play some licks and just throw in pinched harmonics here and there. Check it out.

So, with pinched harmonics you sort of have to guess where they are. You're not going to nail them every time, but when you do nail them they sound cool.

I hope you've enjoyed this lesson on pinched harmonics.

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