How To Play Pinch Harmonics On Electric Guitar

23 Feb 2021

How To Play Pinch Harmonics on Electric Guitar [Lesson]

How do you play pinch harmonics?

This tutorial will show you all the secrets about Pinch Harmonics and how to consistently play them every single time! Get those 'screaming' squealers as you hear in the playing of the legends.


During my teenage years, I used to feel ecstasy every single time I heard an electric guitar scream (pun intended), but couldn't tell how that sound was being produced. When you think pinch harmonics you think Zakk Wylde, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai just to name a few. Listening to those guys on repeat made me so eager to learn the pinch harmonics technique. I'm pretty sure you can relate.
The frustrating part is that sometimes I was able to produce the sound unintentionally and it sounded amazing but I was never able to reproduce it on demand.

BUT I'm demystifying it for you in this quick and short lesson, so you won't have to discover it the hard way!

In this guitar lesson, you'll learn the technique for nailing pinch harmonics plus exercises to make them work every single time + tips about how to use them in your guitar solos.

Grab your guitar and let's get pinching!

The Pinch Harmonics Guitar Technique in 3 Easy Steps

A pinch harmonic (also squealy) is a technique to achieve artificial harmonics in which the player's thumb (on the picking hand) slightly catches the string after it is picked.
Most people would stop here, but I would add to the description above that the harmonic is enhanced and sustained with the help of the fretting hand by applying vibrato to the pinched note.
Let me detail the technique for you in 3 simple and easy-to-follow steps:


Step 1

1) Let's consider the strings to be the initial position of 0 degrees.
When picking, you would normally have your pick be parallel or close to parallel with the strings. Therefore, your pick is also adopting the 0-degree position described above.

2) When you want to perform a pinch harmonic, you need to change your pick direction to form a 45 degrees angle (facing the floor) with the string. This is achieved by twisting your picking hand a little bit (just like shown in the video lesson).

3) Pick the string with a downstroke.


Step 2

Just as you pick the string, your picking hand thumb should slightly touch the vibrating string. In other words, this happens directly after picking the string.
Your thumb catching the string will cancel (silence) the fundamental frequency of the string, and only letting one of the overtones dominate.

For better representation, watch the video lesson.


Step 3:

Apply vibrato, using the fretting hand to give the note much more sustain and room for squealing.


Exercises for the Pinch Harmonics Technique on Electric Guitar

Now that you've learned the fundamentals of the technique I have shared with you 3 crucial exercises to work on to improve your pinch harmonic technique and make it consistently work for you every single time. The best thing? Is that you won't need to practice this more than 5 minutes a day!
You'll find the exercises inside the video lesson.

Happy practice!

Author: Jack Haddad
Jack Haddad is an expert Guitar educator and teacher and has been helping guitarists, through his innovative methods, get incredible results on the guitar, whether they want to jam with friends or rock out on the big stage.

You can find out more about Jack Haddad's teaching here: https://www.jhguitarschool.com
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