Natural harmonics are produced when strings are lightly touched at certain points along their length whilst being plucked. The touch is released immediately after the harmonic is sounded to allow the string to vibrate freely. The harmonic produced is of purer tone and higher pitch.
Some guitars are better than others at producing harmonics but steel string acoustics are definitely the best. For a clear sounding harmonic use the bridge pickup. Raising the gain settings can also help. For every guitar there is a perfect spot to pluck the strings, which is usually around ¾" down from the bridge. Finding the right spot may take some trial and error but listening out for that louder and clearer harmonic will guide you to the right place.
- Lightly touch the 6th string above the 12th fret bar, but don't press down.
- Pluck the 6th string.
- Remove the fretting finger immediately after the pluck.
Harmonics can be produced on many different spots along the length of the string. The most pronounced areas are above the fret bar of frets 12, 7, 5, 19 and 24. The pitches of 5th and 24th fret harmonics are the same.
Harmonics don't always occur directly above fret bars. One way of showing this is a minus sign before the fret number, which means you place you finger just to the left of the fret bar. E.g. -2 means just to the left of fret two. The following set of harmonics are weaker than the previous set: -2, -3, -4, -6, -10, -15 and -16. The harmonics on frets -3, -6, -10 and -15 frets are equal in pitch.
Placing the finger to the right of the fret bar can produce a harmonic. A plus sign is used to illustrate this in tab. E.g. 2+ means just to the right of fret two. The following set of harmonics are weaker than the first set: 2+, 3+ and 8+. The harmonics on frets 2+ and 8+ are equal in pitch.
The final set of harmonics are weak. These are harder to play and higher in pitch: 17, 21 and 22.