Today I found I really wanted a C harmonic to end a tune nicely.

So we have E, B, G, D, A notes at 12th/5th fret.

Then we get G#, C#, F#, B, D# at 4th/10th fret (I just remember them as the major 3rds of the open strings, plus an octave).

Then somewhere slightly in front of the 3rd fret, we have some nice 5ths of the open strings. But this doesn't seem to give us any new notes that we couldn't already get at the 7th fret.

That just leaves us with C and F natural, is there any way to get a natural harmonic of those notes, even if it's a squealing high octave one, or is it theoretically impossible? I'm interested in the harmonics of open strings in standard tuning, not artificial harmonics.

  • 6
    Why is standard tuning so important if it's getting in the way? – user28 Sep 20 '12 at 14:00
  • @MatthewRead agreed. While I like standard tuning, many of my personal favorite compositions do not use it. That said, check out the book "Fretboard Logic" if you want an intuitive understanding of the versatility of standard tuning. – jdd Sep 20 '12 at 16:14
  • 1
    If standard tuning and natural harmonics are required, I would probably consider finding some other notes in the chord that can be more easily achieved than C for a finish to a song, especially if this is acoustic guitar. – NReilingh Sep 20 '12 at 17:06
  • 2
    It's not "getting in the way", I just want to be aware of all the possibilities available to me on the instrument, and the arrangement of higher pitched natural harmonics are not completely obvious to me so I thought it's possible I may have overlooked a few possibilities. – wim Sep 21 '12 at 0:53

There should be a (slightly flat) C as the 7th harmonic on the D string. You should find it at all six places where you would cut the string if you were to cut it into seven equal lenght pieces: for instance between the second and third fret, about one third from the third fret.
However it might be hard to nail with a decent sound, and you will most likely find it to be too flat.
This is your only option using standard tuning and without using artificial harmonics.

Alternatives are:

  • Use a capo on for instance the first fret, which would leave you with (1) a C on both E ("F") strings at the eighth fret, (2) a C on the G ("Ab") string at about the fifth fret, and (3) Cs on the B ("C") string at the 13th and sixth frets.
  • Use an alternate tuning with some string tuned to either C, F, or Ab.
  • Well, artificial/pinch harmonics...
  • Thanks! I guess it the one described here as an overtone to avoid .. – wim Sep 21 '12 at 1:10
  • I suppose I would also find an F natural at the same position on the G string .. – wim Sep 21 '12 at 1:17
  • @wim: Yes the very "overtone to avoid". Theoretically and generally it will be rather too flat. (Due to the physical properties of your string and the chordal and musical context etc it might be a useful pitch however - you'd have to test it by ear or with a tuner.) And yes you'll find a similar F on the same position(s) on the G string. – Ulf Åkerstedt Sep 21 '12 at 10:25
  • 2
    I have found it can be sharpened with a bit of a bend in the neck or a push on the string behind the bridge, like in the other answer here. – wim Sep 20 '13 at 16:06

Fret the 2nd string at the 1st fret, then hit the harmonic on the 13th fret.

  • 4
    That's an artificial harmonic, no? OP is specifically looking for a natural harmonic. – NReilingh Sep 20 '12 at 17:02
  • 5
    The distiction between artificial harmonics and natural harmonics is artificial. – Dave Jacoby Sep 20 '12 at 17:40
  • 1
    Haha. I agree, but there will likely be added dampening from the finger. – user28 Sep 20 '12 at 17:48
  • 1
    Fine, but the reason we have different words for things is to tell them apart. :P And I concur with Matthew; when the string is unobstructed between the bridge and the nut, it will vibrate more freely. – NReilingh Sep 20 '12 at 18:35
  • You won't have damping in this instance, as you have the 1st fret instead of the nut, then the bridge at the other end. I would play it with my 1st finger lightly touching at the 13th fret and pluck using my 3rd finger (around the 17th fret, I guess) – Doktor Mayhem Sep 20 '12 at 19:01

Play the 12th fret harmonic on the B string and bend the neck or bend that little scrap of string just past the nut. You might have to strike the harmonic with a pinch (it's still "natural" unless you fret the string).

  • Nice idea! I have jazz manouche guitar, so it's even easier to bend the string (I can push behind the bridge) – wim Sep 20 '13 at 16:03

If you play the C or F harmonics with your fingernail on the side of the string instead of your fingertip on top of the string, you can bend them into tune (or bend many other harmonics). There is also a C just above the 11th fret of the E strings and an F on the 11th fret of the A string. They're pretty fuzzy sounding and take a lot of pressure. They must also be available in other places between frets, but these are easy to find.


You can strike a natural harmonic, like a nice G at the octave fret across the D,G,B strings, then play fret 2 on D and 1 on B string to turn it into a C afterwards. If you fret them quickly & decisively, the harmonic of the G still rings and it sounds like harmonics in C - but a chord. I do this sometimes and if I get it right, it can sound really hauntingly fulsome.

This might rely on having a lot of gain (or compression/sustain) though as the brief moment where your finger is in the process of fretting the strings damps them a little. It 'should' work on an acoustic guitar too.

I realise you didn't want an articficial harmonic (er I assume by that you mean fretting a string and then playing a harmonic of that) - this is the other way around.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.