Lessons > Artificial Harmonics

Artificial Harmonics

Artificial harmonics refer to harmonics produced using fretted notes (opposed to natural harmonics, which always use open strings). All harmonics discussed in this section are types of artificial harmonic. Harp harmonics, touched harmonics and tapped harmonics will be explained.

Harp harmonics

  1. Place you 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the E-string.
  2. Touch the E-string with your right hand index finger 12 frets higher (15th fret) making sure the finger is placed exactly above the fret bar.
  3. Pluck the string with your thumb or pluck with the pick (held between the thumb and middle/2nd finger).
  4. Release the touch on the 15th fret immediately to allow the string to vibrate.

Holding the pick like this may be tricky. Harp harmonics take lots of practise. Try ascending each string; notice how the harmonic is always an octave higher. You could also do scales with harmonics or arpeggiate chords.

Touched harmonics

Touched harmonics are very simple because all they are is a variation on harp harmonics. Basically you touch the string twelve frets higher than the fretted note after the string is plucked. This avoids the awkward way of holding the pick involved with harp harmonics.

  1. Place the 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the E-string.
  2. Pluck the string.
  3. Whilst the note is sounding gently touch the vibrating string 12 frets above the 3rd fret (directly above the 15th fret) and release immediately.

The harmonic will be an octave higher as with harp harmonics.

Tapped harmonics

Tapped harmonics are also a variation on the harp harmonic. These are easiest to perform on the thicker strings. The tapped note and the fretted note are both sounded and so both are included into the music notation. Notice in the instructions below that there is no need to pluck the string. Try ascending/descending scales and chords for a variety of exercises.

  1. Place the 1st finger on fret 3 of the E-string.
  2. Tap the string directly above the 15th fret (12 frets higher) with the right-hand index finger.
  3. Withdraw the finger immediately to avoid muting the string.

Note - the 12-fret distance between the fret and the harmonic spot is based on the same principle as the natural harmonics. A 12-fret distance provides the clearest harmonics, which are always an octave higher. Different notes can be produced from one fret by altering the distance between it and the harmonic spot (try a 7-fret distance instead of 12 when performing any artificial harmonic). All the frets natural harmonics can be produced on can be used as a distance for artificial harmonics.