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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay so I'm really struggling with how to do pick harmonics. Some how my pick and thumb are supposed to touch the string but I just don't get it.

Are there videos or tips that you guys can please recommend?

For a novice guitar player this Bon Jovi song is a great considilation of a number of skills..... pick harmonic in the opening riff, single note riff, power chords, octave chords, bends, hammer on pull off/natural harmonic/whammy bar solo.

I'm not a big fan of the song per se but that's a lot of skills packed in one song. Plus learning a song you know well helps because you know when it sounds off.
 

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I think even video of the technique would fail to really convey how it's done. It's a bit of a tacit thing, rather than something that can be described. You're right that the thumb should touch the string. If you were to watch an extreme slow mo video of it, the thumb would touch the string just as the pick leaves it. But, like I said, I don't think it can be described in a meaningful way to someone who can't already do it. But it's not very difficult. You just need to experiment. Just keep at it, experimenting away, and honing in on it. As you go, you should notice you're getting the sound, or closer to the sound, and just try to replicate and refine what it is that's going on when you're getting the harmonic.

Once you're cracking it, try picking at different points along the string. The harmonic you'll produce will be dependent on where you pick and which fret you're holding. Don't worry about what notes they are or anything, just be aware that some pop out easier than others, so trying out different places to pick might help speed things up. Nothing wild. Just try picking a cm or two further along the string.

Also, don't have too much of the pick sticking out from between your thumb and forefinger. If there's too much pick sticking out, it'll be difficult to get your thumb into contact with the string.
 

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i actually do it with my ring finger which I have been told is ultra weird but its how I learned to do it. You could try my way where I actually pick the string while pinching it between my ring fingertip and the pick.

It works for me, it might work for you.
 

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watch Ben Eller's this is why your pinch harmonics suck video on youtube. I think it will help the most. It's really a practice and feel thing though. As a bass player, I just learned to them last year, I'm bad at them, but I can pull off really good ones from time to time, it just takes a LOT of wanking.

 

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But, like I said, I don't think it can be described in a meaningful way to someone who can't already do it. But it's not very difficult. You just need to experiment. Just keep at it, experimenting away, and honing in on it.
agreed. its one of those things i chased for a while and didnt get... then you suddenly have an 'a-ha' moment, and you can do them, lol.
 

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Sir Groove-A-Lot
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I think even video of the technique would fail to really convey how it's done. It's a bit of a tacit thing, rather than something that can be described. You're right that the thumb should touch the string. If you were to watch an extreme slow mo video of it, the thumb would touch the string just as the pick leaves it. But, like I said, I don't think it can be described in a meaningful way to someone who can't already do it. But it's not very difficult. You just need to experiment. Just keep at it, experimenting away, and honing in on it. As you go, you should notice you're getting the sound, or closer to the sound, and just try to replicate and refine what it is that's going on when you're getting the harmonic.

Once you're cracking it, try picking at different points along the string. The harmonic you'll produce will be dependent on where you pick and which fret you're holding. Don't worry about what notes they are or anything, just be aware that some pop out easier than others, so trying out different places to pick might help speed things up. Nothing wild. Just try picking a cm or two further along the string.

Also, don't have too much of the pick sticking out from between your thumb and forefinger. If there's too much pick sticking out, it'll be difficult to get your thumb into contact with the string.
Couldn't agree more with this. It's really not something that can be taught. It's a feel thing for sure.
I find the most 'responsive' place to be right between the bridge and neck pickups, but closer to the bridge pickup (around the place where you'd pick naturally anyway, really).

I'm pretty sure I popped my pinch cherry on the G string. Practice there, around the 7th and 9th frets (D and E) as they tend to fly out very clearly (perhaps beause they're quite a 'central' note, i don't know)
 

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It's scientifically simple. Two things need to happen in a quick succession:
1. Picking
2. Hitting a harmonic node without choking the string

With an open string, you have harmonic nodes at the 24th, 36th, 48th and so on imaginary fret locations. When you fret on the first fret, it's the 25th, 37th, 49th and so on.

The above nodes are just the octave nodes. To give you even more choice, you can get a ruler, and measure starting at the bridge. There's one on 1/2 of the string, 1/3rd of the string, 1/4th of the string, 1/5th of the string, 1/6th of the string and so on.
 

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Guiterrorizer
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I stumbled across them. I thought it sounded cool, and I kept trying to "recreate the mistake" until I could do it on command. I turn my pick perpendicular to the strings (I believe Ben mentions that in his video) and dig in.

It's really a "keep trying it until it happens on command" type of thing, I think. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks everyone!

My guitar teacher jokingly said that once I get it I will need to be careful to not do it for every note. He then went on to play a riff with nothing but harmonics to show how awful it sounds.
 

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Guiterrorizer
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bust through the major scale once you get it. I still find it funny, to the chagrin of my singer.
 

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i actually do it with my ring finger which I have been told is ultra weird but its how I learned to do it. You could try my way where I actually pick the string while pinching it between my ring fingertip and the pick.

It works for me, it might work for you.
Hmmm....I also use my ring finger, but not the tip, I use the knuckle closest to the tip.

I used to palm my whammy bar while playing (trying to rip off Gilmour, I had a shorted bar on my Strat, makes it easy to cup in your hand so you can still play and won't have to reach for it at the end of a phrase) and with my knuckles curved in, towards the strings, eventually my ring finger knuckle hit one and made a pinch harmonic. I was quite delighted because I could NEVER figure out how to get that sound before that.

I ended up working it into my playing style and now switch between using my thumb and using the ring finger knuckle. I can nail a pinch 85% of the time with my thumb, but with my knuckle I can get them about 98% of the time, so if I realize that I might not be in the best position to use my thumb or if my pick is slipping, then I'll go to the knuckle because it's pretty much a sure bet. A few times in my life I got something cool working by nailing on the same note and going between the two techniques to get different pitches.

If you hold your pick like you're going to play, curl your fingers inward. I dunno if it works out for you the same way it does for me, but my ring finger knuckle is almost perfectly aligned with the tip of my pick. I should probably add that I UP-pick nearly every note I play. I almost ALWAYS start on an upstroke....my uncle told me for years that it would screw me over but because of that, I've gotten around a lot of issues I see other players have regarding alternate picking and moving from string to string...but also because with this pinch harmonic technique, I find it easier to snag the string on my knuckle on an upstroke....probably because the actual spot the string hits is closer to the edge of my knuckle rather than the middle.

I'd take some time and dig on Eric Johnson's Total Electric Guitar. He goes over a few harmonic techniques that might help along because the touch to get them is pretty much the same, there's just different ways of getting there. There's a whole section on right hand technique that entirely shaped the way I play now and back when I first watched it 20 years ago, it really changed things quickly for me. I had only been playing 2 years and had no dynamics in my playing and was just starting to understand what "sloppy" meant, that video fixed those issues quick.
 

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I grew up learning Lynyrd Skynyrd, so these are second nature to me :lol:
 

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Couldn't agree more with this. It's really not something that can be taught. It's a feel thing for sure.
I find the most 'responsive' place to be right between the bridge and neck pickups, but closer to the bridge pickup (around the place where you'd pick naturally anyway, really).

I'm pretty sure I popped my pinch cherry on the G string. Practice there, around the 7th and 9th frets (D and E) as they tend to fly out very clearly (perhaps beause they're quite a 'central' note, i don't know)
Isn't the point to pick at a harmonic node, though, and use the edge of your thumb to mute the fundamental?

I actually have a related problem - I'm not exceptionally good at "pure" pinch harmonics, but tend to absolutely abuse what I've seen notated as "semi-harmonics," which fall somewhere between a regular picked note and a pinch harmonic - it's subtle, but basically a note with a bit of an extra harmonic overtone to it. I do it almost completely without thinking, and I guess on some level that makes it part of my style, but it'd be nice to make it more of a conscious choice, you know? :lol:
 

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Isn't the point to pick at a harmonic node, though, and use the edge of your thumb to mute the fundamental?
That would be a bit of magic if you could somehow do that!

The thumb touching the string is what makes the harmonic. You can confirm this by doing one the regular way, then pick the same note without the pinch, then lightly touch the string at the same spot your thumb would have, and you'll hear exactlythe same harmonic.
 

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That would be a bit of magic if you could somehow do that!

The thumb touching the string is what makes the harmonic. You can confirm this by doing one the regular way, then pick the same note without the pinch, then lightly touch the string at the same spot your thumb would have, and you'll hear exactlythe same harmonic.
But, I mean, there's a major change in the pitch sounded by a pinch harmonic as you move up and down the string. Isn't this the same principal as a touch harmonic, where by touching the string at the harmonic node (where that overtone is essentially not vibrating), you're muting the fundamental and any harmonics that don't happen to have a node at that exact point?
 

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Okay so I'm really struggling with how to do pick harmonics. Some how my pick and thumb are supposed to touch the string but I just don't get it.

Are there videos or tips that you guys can please recommend?

For a novice guitar player this Bon Jovi song is a great considilation of a number of skills..... pick harmonic in the opening riff, single note riff, power chords, octave chords, bends, hammer on pull off/natural harmonic/whammy bar solo.

I'm not a big fan of the song per se but that's a lot of skills packed in one song. Plus learning a song you know well helps because you know when it sounds off.
Every night for two weeks, put a Black Label Society CD under your pillow while you sleep
 

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But, I mean, there's a major change in the pitch sounded by a pinch harmonic as you move up and down the string. Isn't this the same principal as a touch harmonic, where by touching the string at the harmonic node (where that overtone is essentially not vibrating), you're muting the fundamental and any harmonics that don't happen to have a node at that exact point?
If that were the case, and it wasn't the thumb touching the string that generated the harmonic, you'd be able to play an open string at the harmonic node, then mute the string anywhere and hear the harmonic. That doesn't work, though. But the opposite does. You can pluck the string anywhere (right above the first fret if it's an open string, if you like), then touch it at one of the harmonic nodes to hear the harmonic pop out.

Now, whether we're getting our terms a bit mixed up about how the harmonic actually works, I don't know (I don't know much about the physics of guitar strings or harmonics), but you said that it's the picking that generates the harmonic, and the thumb that mutes, and that's not really right, and could be misleading to Frank.

Pinch harmonics aren't any different to playing an open string and then touching, say, the 12th fret. It's just that all the work is occurring with the picking hand in one go.
 

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If that were the case, and it wasn't the thumb touching the string that generated the harmonic, you'd be able to play an open string at the harmonic node, then mute the string anywhere and hear the harmonic. That doesn't work, though. But the opposite does. You can pluck the string anywhere (right above the first fret if it's an open string, if you like), then touch it at one of the harmonic nodes to hear the harmonic pop out.
I think we must be getting our language crossed somewhere then. My understanding of how a pinch harmonic work is basically doing what you consider the "opposite," but in a single motion. Pick the string, but with your hand positioned such that as you pick it you simultaneously mute it right at the harmonic node. What this does is allowing the harmonic to ring out, but muting the fundamental (since the node is kind of a null point for the harmonic vibration but not the fundamental).

If this helps to explain things any better, you should be able to "pinch" harmonics on open strings at points that you could also play natural harmonics by picking with a finger rested at that point. So, by that example, if you executed a pinch harmonic at the 12th fret, picking over the 12th fret such that your thumb was barely resting on the string on the 12th fret node, you should be able to get the same pitch as the natural harmonic there to ring out.

Are we talking about the same thing?
 

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Use a stubby little Jazz III pick and choke up pretty far on it so your thumb very, very lightly brushes the string with each downpick. Pluck at different places along the string and you'll get different flavors and eventually hit pinch harmonic locations.
 

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I think the guys touched on most of it but I would point out that any way you do it, do it with strength and you will get there. I always told people to play through the string when they asked me how I did it.....make that string your bitch. Also, if you are consciously thinking about each part of where to touch and how hard to do it, it makes it harder to do.
 
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