How to Use Natural Harmonics

Harmonics will be a word that will crop up time and time again for guitar players. Everything we hear in music is made up of harmonics. They make up the notes we hear and the tones we create, but you may also hear of harmonics as an intentional guitar technique. In this lesson we’re going to take a look at a type of harmonics known as natural harmonics, or open string harmonics.

Keep reading to perfect your natural harmonic technique..

What is a Guitar Harmonic?

When you play an open string, the pitch you hear is made up of multiple harmonics, but one harmonic is louder than the other, this is known as the fundamental harmonic. This is the overriding version of that note we hear when we play a note. Using our fingers, a gentle touch and a small knowledge of different lengths of string, we can isolate specific harmonics while removing the fundamental, to give us different harmonics.

This might sound complicated but check out the linked video for a full overview of this. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds.

The first octave, and the easiest to find is at the exact halfway point of the string. We measure the length of a string from the nut to the bridge. If the open string rings across this entire length, then we should find a harmonic at the halfway point which sounds one octave higher than the open string.

The exact halfway point from every open string is the 12th fret. You play this by gently resting your fretting finger above the 12th frets fret wire.

There is another harmonic located at the 9th fret. If you measure the distance from the nut to the 9th fret and then replicate this distance from the bridge you arrive at the 16th fret. This means you get the exact same harmonic at both the 9th and 16th fret.

The same is true at the 7th fret, which shares a harmonic with the 19th.

Also the 5th fret and 24th fret share a harmonic. As you’ll see in the video, you can still find the 24th fret harmonic even on guitars without 24 frets. It would be located somewhere over the neck pickup.

When you feel like you've mastered Natural Harmonics, hit Next to get started with another type of harmonic - the Pinched Harmonic. If you're still practicing your solos and not quite yet ready to move on, go Back for our Guitar Solo Tips.

This PMT College lesson was brought to you in partnership with, and written by experienced guitar teacher Leigh Fuge. Leigh works as part of a community of guitar teachers based across the UK. Click here to find a teacher near you.