Your Guide To Pinch Harmonics

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When it comes to music, there are no limitations to how creative you can get. Many believe playing instruments has its limitations. Some say instruments can never do what the human voice can. But with so many minor techniques and variations, there is hardly anything you can't do to make your music sound better. In music, harmonics are notes that are played in a special manner. Harmonic refers to an overtone that accompanies a basic tone at a fixed time interval. This overtone is produced by vibration of a string. Pinch harmonics is an advanced guitar technique also known as squelch picking or squealy.

In this technique, the instrument player lightly touches a string with the edge of his/her thumb after plucking it. Using a lot of distortion and gain produces a squealing effect. Many popular artists have used the pinch harmonics technique in their music.

What Are Pinch Harmonics?

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Even if you are a beginner in music or don't play the guitar, the basic concept of strings producing sound is quite easy to understand. Each time an artist picks at a string of a guitar, a basic sound is emitted. Pinch harmonics cancel this sound and produces a high-pitched squeal. This technique is commonly used in rock music and heavy metal.

It is believed that Roy Buchanan first used the pinch harmonics technique. Billy Gibbons from the American rock band ZZ Top often used it in his guitar solos.

Guitar Techniques


How Pinch Harmonics Are Produced

Common Mistakes When Attempting Pinch Harmonics

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If you feel frustrated that you are unable to play the pinch harmonics despite practicing regularly, it may be because of certain mistakes you are making. Understanding what you may be doing wrong can help you rectify your mistakes and progress with your advanced guitar techniques. If you continue practicing incorrect techniques, your playing will never seem polished and will not sound pleasing to any listener, including you. Avoid basic mistakes and practice regularly but don't expect miracles in a week. Advanced techniques take time to master.

Mistake 1 - Not Knowing The Right Place To Strike On The String

Mistake 2 - Muting The Harmonic After It Is Played

Mistake 3- Only Looking At The Fretting Hand Rather Than At The Picking Hand

Mistake 4 - Learning And Practicing Pinch Harmonics In Isolation

Mistake 5 - Not Mastering Vibrato

Mistake 6 - Not Muting Unwanted Noise

Basic Tips That Make All The Difference

Here are some tips that can help you to play good music

  1. Hold your pick correctly. Only a small tip of the pick must be visible from between your index finger and thumb.
  2. The movement of your picking hand should be in the form of the letter “J”. 
  3. Distortion makes it easier to play pinch harmonics. So make sure there is a lot of it.
  4. Some frets and strings are harder to produce pinch harmonics so you must find the right string for it.
  5. The fifth fret of the G string is fairly conducive for this technique.
  6. Lift your thumb immediately after making contact with the string so that the sound that your string creates is not completely muted.
  7. Combine pinch harmonics with vibrato or string bends to create a better effect.


The key to playing good music is to first be a good listener and a focused, sincere student. Listen carefully to every sound that comes out of your guitar. Study the intricacies of overtones, scales, and pitches and understand how amplifiers and distortion pedals work. A little knowledge of physics can go a long way in helping you comprehend how harmonics are created and what you must do to produce better sounds and better music.

Finding the right spots that give you the pinch harmonics you wish to create may take some time and practice. Be patient and regular in your practice sessions. Get yourself the right equipment that will support your efforts. Not having the adequate equipment will render your efforts futile. If you are a beginner, spend time on learning scales, soloing, riffing, strumming patterns, and blues before you try your hand at more advanced techniques like pinch harmonics.

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