what are pinched harmonics

What are Pinched Harmonics? COMPLETE Guide!

Pinched Harmonics add energy & flavor to your playing. Making you sound more interesting as a guitarist.

By being able to leverage pinched harmonics can be the difference in making you go from a mediocre guitar player to a more advanced player.

What are pinched harmonics? Pinched harmonics is a technique on guitar that activates harmonics by purposely catching the string with your thumb after hitting the string creating a high pitch squeal sound.

Now, let’s move into the main topic, what are pinched harmonics? In this article, we discuss this in more detail…

1. What are Pinched Harmonics?

Harmonics played with the pick are known as “pinch”, or “pinched” harmonics.

More specifically it works by activating the harmonic by pushing the pick through the string as you hit a note. You do this in such a way that the surface of your thumb grazes across the string, slightly touching it.

At that moment the mid tones are cancelled, whereby the overtones are isolated creating a high pitch in sound.

This method can be performed on an acoustic or electric guitar, although it is most known for creating screams, screeches, and wails on a distorted electric guitar when combined with an aggressive vibrato.

2. What do Pinched Harmonics Sound Like?

The pinched harmonics is more aggressive when it is combined with the rock vibrato effect to bring more power into all the rock solos.

The pinched harmonics will result in a higher-pitched tone sounding like a squeal, scream, screech, and wail depending on your tone and technique.

For example, if you use a pinch harmonic on the low e string you get a low wail sound. Whereby, if you attempt these harmonics on the high strings around fret 12 it can sound screechy.

There are certain locations on the fretboard that sound better than others you will need to experiment and find what sounds you like.

3. How Do Harmonics Work?

The idea behind pinched harmonics is to pick a string a let to note vibrate. Immediately after the string being hit you then want to catch the string with your thumb.

By doing so cancels the fundamental pitch of the note, whereby the overtones still ring on. Your thumb cancels the body of the tone which changes the sound, letting the harmonics dominate which are naturally higher in pitch.

You always use a down stroke, and aim to push the pick through the string. This will immediately interrupt the vibration pattern from the very first moment of picking the string.

The word ‘immediately’ is repeated many times as the fact that there should literally only be a microsecond between the time when you pick the string and then catch it with your thumb.

4. Pinched Harmonic Technique

After hitting a note, if you lightly catch the guitar string either with your finger or thumb you amplify the vibration level of that certain string. this causes it to vibrate at a higher frequency than the usual tone, leading to higher-pitched overtones being emphasized. This is the whole idea behind any form of harmonics played on guitar. The technique we use to perform pinched harmonic is also based on this principle.

Below we discuss the areas of consideration when trying to perform pinched harmonics for the best results…

  • How to grip the pick – The guitar pick should be held in the most comfortable position, making sure you have a good grip. It can also help if the flesh from your thumb slightly hangs over the pick, making the flesh of your thumb easier to touch the string as you pick the string.
  • Pick Motion – The most important aspect is actually the motion you use to pick. This is because its the motion you use that helps the flesh of your thumb brush the string. You may find yourself twisting your wrist slightly to get the desired result.
  • Where to pick – Another basic thing about pinched harmonics that you should know is that the area of the string where you strike your pick when a harmonic is played. This will affect the sound of the harmonic that is heard. It requires a bit of experimentation to find the sweet spot but it is usually located somewhere in the middle between the neck pickup and the bridge pickup.
  • Where to fret – We all know that when playing a pinched harmonic, there are certain sweet spots on the fret board, such as the 12th fret. Again, this required a bit of experimentation.
  • Nuancing the pick attack – At the end of the day, the main purpose of generating the pinched harmonics is to create a screaming sound. By nuancing the pick attack, or hitting the note harder will produce harsher overtones than usual. This will help create the sound.

Knowing how to hold your pick, the motion of the wrist, and where to pick can come a lot in handy to perform good pinched harmonics.

5. Adding Distortion

With the nature of pinch harmonics, the harmonic is subtle without any effects. This is one reason why they don’t work well on acoustics.

However, by adding effects like distortion will add more treble artifacts to your tone. This will amplify the overtones and whereby the harmonics will appear intentionally louder. As a result will make your electric guitar scream when performed correctly.

However, too much distortion can cause add too many artifacts that can make your tone sound muddy and buzz, so be sure not to add too much and keep it clean as possible even when playing metal.

6. Using the Bridge Pickup for More Squeal

The bridge is the area of the guitar where you would palm mute, it is the furthest point away from the neck. The bridge pickup is the pickup located on the body of the guitar and it is positioned closest to the bridge.

Because of the location, the bridge pickup amplitude is lower. With the amplitude being lower means that there is less bass and mid tones making the treble frequencies more prominently standout. For example, with higher positions closer to the bridge, when you pick the string, the overtones will greater than the neck pickup.

This is important because harmonics and overtones are heard in the treble frequency range. So when pinched harmonics are performed they sound better as a result.

With the bridge pickup, you can generate the best possible output.

7. FOUR Types of Harmonics on Guitar?

  • Pinched Harmonics – To activate pinched harmonics, gently capture the string with your thumb (in a pinching motion) after it has been picked.
  • Natural Harmonics – Natural harmonics are activated by lightly touching the string (in stead of grasping the pick) as you pick a fret. Natural harmonics are completely generated and applied using only the picking hand.
  • Artificial Harmonics — This is a tricky technique that requires only one hand (your plucking hand). The harmonics are struck with your index finger while the note is struck with your thumb.
  • Tapped Harmonics – Fret the note and use the picking hand to tap the harmonics further down the fretboard.


Spend some time figuring out where on your guitar you can easily make the harmonic. To do so, try playing the harmonic in a variety of locations along the string (sliding the pick up or down) to see where it responds best.

Leave a Reply