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I've always struggled with this, tried watching Youtube tutorials, but can't get it to work.

Should you hold the pick in any particular way? I've always held my picks with three fingers, for stability, but have a feeling that won't work here.

Does it work for all notes? As I understood it you have to hit the string at some particular points, but can I use it for all notes?

Thanks! Final question: How did you learn it?

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I always hated the term "pinch" because you are really dampening it slightly, not actually pinching it with your fingers. –  horatio Sep 6 '11 at 16:20
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9 Answers 9

You need to change your finger position on the pick so that your index finger or thumb is slightly over hanging the side of the pick. Strike the note with the pick and then brush with the flesh of your finger or thumb (depending on whether it's an up or down stroke). Notes / strings will get different harmonics at slightly different places. Use your pick ups as a visual indicator of where your pick should be. Experiment with lots of different picking positions.

This is a hard technique to master. Good luck.

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Harmonics occur on the string at points that divide the string into equal parts. Lightly touch a string right above the 12th fret bar and while doing so strum the string -- you'll notice that the string sounds an octave higher, though different from just fretting the 12th. What you're doing is dampening the fundamental frequency and "odd" harmonics (3x, 5x, etc.) of open string, leaving the "even" harmonics (the predominant one being 2x the frequency of the fundamental, which is an octave higher). Notice that the 12th fret is exactly halfway the length of the string. You can do the same as the 7th fret (1/3 of the string) and the 5th fret (1/4 of the string), for example.

Now pick a note, say the 12th fret on the D string. Fret that note, and pick the string exactly halfway between that fret and the end of the string (the end on the body of the guitar of course, not the neck). You might have to experiment a little to find the exact halfway point to pick, since it's not over a handy fret marker. You'll notice a similar effect to the above harmonics. You can do this for any note. Pick another fret, find the halfway point between that fret and the end of the string, and pick the string. Same effect.

To intensify the effect, you need to lightly touch the string at this point as quickly as possible after picking (see yossarian's answer). This will bring out the harmonic more instead and keep the fundamental frequency dampened.

Just like with regular harmonics, you can also pick a point 1/3 or 1/4 of the way along the string instead of 1/2 of the way, although this is more difficult.

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Another interesting harmonic is whilst playing a note, lightly touch the same string a full octave up (same note); this works for any note –  DRL Jan 14 '11 at 5:48
@DRL That's actually the same as the halfway-point harmonic :) –  Matthew Read Jan 14 '11 at 19:20
I know, its just better to think of it in terms of an octave, instead of a halfway point :) –  DRL Jan 14 '11 at 19:21
@DRL I agree, but I'm assuming (possibly incorrectly) that Znarkus does not have much music theory behind him. Thanks for your comment though -- having it explained both ways will make it easy for everyone to understand this answer. –  Matthew Read Jan 14 '11 at 19:23
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There are 'sweet spots' along the length of each string. When a string is played and is vibrating, a light tap on the sweet spot can cause a harmoinic sound. This happens because the tap slightly alters the way the string vibrates.

A usual sweet spot is just above the first pickup. To hit a pinch harmonic, pick the note and almost immediately afterwards, touch the string lightly with the edge of your thumb on your picking hand.

Think of it as picking and 'brushing' the stri in one motion.

It will take a lot of practise but over time you'll get better.

To add some attitude, you can give the note a lot of vibrato just after hitting the harmonic.

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Pretty easily; play the note on a downstroke, make sure you catch it well, on the way out (after sounding the note) catch the string slightly with the skin of your thumb, not too much or you will kill the note, note too little or the harmonic will not sound.

Practice this; and you'll have it in no time; try playing a minor pentatonic all in pinched harmonics.

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I followed this tutorial... at first it was hard... very hard indeed... it sounded awful... but with lots-o-opractice it started to sound good


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Pinch harmonics are harmonics, and harmonics come with less volume than the fundamental. You need some sort of compression or boost to offset that. If you aren't compressing or turning up or stomping a distortion pedal, you won't get the result you want. The rest of what everyone says (not a lot of pick sticking out from the thumb, knowing the right spots to pick) are important, but some gain or compression is crucial.

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Also a hot pickup helps a lot. Even the best harmonics merchants will struggle with a quiet passive pickup. –  slim Jan 17 at 15:51
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See: Dance the Night Away - Van Halen - another way, apart from putting the fleshy part of your index finger lightly over the note ( as explained above) and then plucking with your third finger: Point and Pluck, is to tap the note you want to play as a False Harmonic. Again watch Eddie Play the solo to Dance the Night Away....

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For me the pick with sharpend end (sometimes this is called jazz shape) helped in mastering this technique.

It was instantly change: Standard pick = i can't do this and then sharpend pick = i can:)

Maybe You could try to change Your pick/it's shape?

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I usually hold my pick like this (with slight variations depending on what needs to be played: (That's not me btw :P )


I find that the bulge on your thumb at the knuckle can be used to easily pull of a pinch, without having to move your hand clumsily.

I learnt by watching a couple of videos on YouTube. Doesn't matter which ones, they'll all basically tell you the same thing.

Theoretically, you can pull it off at any note, any string. Practically, however, it depends on many things like the thickness of the string, how a high a note you're holding, and well, how good you are.

Yes, you have to hit the string at particular points. You can find out where exactly by, as yossarian already said, by using your pickups as a reference point.

On a side note, I advise against holding your pick with three fingers. It makes it more difficult to switch between the lower (6th, 5th) strings and the higher ones (1st, 2nd). You would have to displace your hand. If you use only two fingers, as seen in the above link, it's much easier. I think you should start migrating to two fingers.

The only way to get good at squealies is to understand how exactly to do it, and keep trying. I know it's frustrating in the beginning, you don't know what exactly people are talking about, how to move your finger, you're hurting the side of your thumb, and you just wanna snap your strings but trust me, once you pull it off and get the hang of it and realize you CAN sound like Dimebag... It's gonna be totally worth :)

Keep it metal \m/

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