How To Play Pinched Harmonics

If you’re going into rock and metal playing you’ll no doubt have seen or heard someone using pinched harmonics at some stage. Keep reading to learn pinched harmonics and get to grips with this awesome technique!

What are Pinched Harmonics?

Pinched harmonics are a type of harmonic that are done with the picking hand.

When doing pinched harmonics, you should aim to hold the pick a little closer to the tip because after you pick the string you will need to quickly brush it with the side of the thumb. Check out the linked video for all the tips on the pinched harmonics technique.

Once you have your pick held correctly, you need to start finding your harmonic points. This will be different on each string and will also be impacted by your tone, pickup choices, amp settings and more.

For best results, set your amp to overdrive, you want a good amount of gain but you don’t need it to be heavily distorted. A brighter sound also helps to engage your bridge pickup, and humbuckers also work better for this than single coils.

Once you’re set up, pick a note, then with your pick, pick the note over and over starting and the bridge moving towards the neck, brushing it with your thumb each time. You’ll notice certain points will generate harmonics and other points won’t. These points are now your target points for harmonics. It will differ on each string and will feel easier to do on thinner strings. When trying to do pinched harmonics on thicker strings you may need to dig in with the pick a little harder to get better results.

It also helps to apply a little string vibrato once you hear the harmonic so that it sings a little more.

The technique can be used for everything from heavy Zakk Wylde style metal riffs to some cool, Texas blues licks in the style of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons.

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.