Flynn Amps and the value of enthusiasmK is for Knopfler, MarkM is for Modes

H is for Harmonics
August 26, 2013

Harmonics are musical notes created by making certain overtones louder or quieter on a guitar string. Most commonly this is done by lightly placing a finger on a string at a nodal point of one of the overtones at the moment when the string is driven. If you haven’t got the time to read an depth article on physics then basically a node can be thought of as the ends of the string. When we change the location of the ends by fretting the string and artificially shortening it for a time, the node moves and the pitch we hear changes.

Damping the string at a given point kills off all the overtones that have a node near the damped point. Leaving the remaining overtone with the lowest pitch to dominate the sound. Other harmonic techniques include pinching the string with the picking hand, tapping with the same hand and the use of feedback and tools such as an Ebow to vibrate certain portions of the string and their attendant overtones.

Learning to play harmonics can be difficult. Those with smaller fingers (young kids) can struggle to get the hang of pressing down to fret notes. Then when you tell them to touch the string more lightly, getting the hang of this new feeling can be a struggle. There can be many uses of pinched harmonics in rock music so there reaches a time where this can be more of a focus. The angle of the thumb has to change significantly for this technique and it is a difficult one to master. Not least because for each fret and each string the best position to pinch with the picking hand changes.

No substitute for practice!