Artificial Harmonics: How To Create Unique Guitar Sounds

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

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Artificial Harmonics have become increasingly popular in guitar playing and have greatly added to any guitarist’s arsenal of techniques.

This technique can create unique and creative sounds that cannot be achieved through traditional means.

In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of this powerful technique and look at how it can be used to add a new layer of sound to your guitar playing.

What is artificial harmonics

What are Artificial Harmonics?

Artificial harmonics are a technique used by guitarists of all styles and levels of playing to add unique tones and colors to chords and melodies. Artificial harmonics are formed by lightly touching a string at particular points, rather than directly fretting the strings as normal. This produces higher pitched notes, thus creating an artificial harmonic tone. Artificial harmonics can be used to create glassy high-end tones, or ‘flageolets’ as they are also known. They can also be linked with regular fretted notes to create chord shapes that weren’t previously possible; as well as adding shimmering upper voices to single-note exercises.

In this tutorial we will take a look at artificial harmonic theory which outlines the most common approaches in creating these tones on the fretboard. We will then look at some specific examples of how you can use these harmonic techniques in your playing, such as playing chords with multiple voices or creating arpeggios with shimmering overtones. We’ll finish off by exploring how you can use these techniques live and/or incorporate them into your recording techniques for added texture and interest in your music.

Different Types of Artificial Harmonics

Artificial harmonics are a unique method of extending guitar sounds. Using the right technique provides added texture, complexity, and interest to the sound of your playing. Generally, there are two main types of artificial harmonics — standard and tapped — as well as acoustic-electric hybrid application.

Standard Harmonics: This is the most common form of artificial harmonic created on an electric guitar. It involves using your left hand to gently brush against select strings while simultaneously using your right hand to pick those same strings. The sound created is a mix between the natural distortion and the articulation resulting from each simultaneous action.

Tapped Harmonics: With this type of artificial harmonic you will use one finger of your fretting hand (usually the index) to tap on a string at a specific fret just after picking it with your other hand. When done correctly it will generate a different resonance than what would occur normally from just picking that string alone and thus create an alternate harmonic effect.

Hybrid Application: In this approach you can combine standard and tapped harmonics by picking notes with your plucking hand while simultaneously tapping notes with your freely-positioned index finger at nearby frets above or below where those original notes were picked. Combining two distinct approaches creates an unpredictable mix of sounds that can then be integrated into multiple arrangements or improvisational pieces seamlessly without missing a beat!

Preparing Your Guitar

Learning how to create unique guitar sounds using artificial harmonics can be a great way to make your music stand out. However, before you can do that, it’s important to make sure your guitar is properly prepared. This means making sure the strings and tuning are set correctly and that your pickups and controls work properly. Once you’ve ensured your guitar is ready, you can begin exploring the world of artificial harmonics.

Tuning Your Guitar

Tunings for the guitar can range from open tunings (an alternate tuning of the open strings, commonly used for slide guitar playing) to various modified versions of standard E A D G B E (also referred to as Standard Tuning). Each style or genre may require its own specific tuning. It’s worth experimenting and trying out different ones until you find one that works best for you.

Tuning your guitar is always done starting with the 6th string, also known as the low E string, and using a tuner to ensure accurate pitch. When you start to tune your guitar remember it might not be perfectly in tune, even if it has just been tuned with a tuner. With time and use, all strings will inevitably go slightly out of tune due to environmental factors, such as heat and humidity. Checking the tuning on each string every time you practice is essential! Here are some quick steps on how to do it:

1. Start by grasping your 6th string at the 12 fret while plucking it open (without fretting), then pluck it again while lightly fretting its harmonic at the 12th fret;
2. Use a tuner or relative pitch reference from another instrument close by to compare the two pitches;
3. If they are not equal then adjust the tuning peg until both pitches are equal;
4. Move onto each new string using this same method until all your strings have been tuned.

Setting Up Your Effects Pedals

Setting up your effects pedals is an essential part of creating unique guitar sounds. Effects pedals allow you to alter the basic sound of your electric guitar with distortion, delay, flanger and other sound-modifying devices. For example, if you want to create a classic bluesy tone, you can use a reverb or chorus pedal. While the order in which you place your pedals will not make or break your tone, it can help shape it in subtle ways.

When setting up and using effects pedals, there are some key points to keep in mind:

• Start simple: You don’t need a lot of gear to get started. Keep it simple with a couple of basic effects like distortion and delay.

• Chain placement: The order of your effect pedals matters because signals from one will be impacted by the others. Start with gain-based effects like distortion and overdrive first for best results since these tend to distort the signal more than others like reverbs or delays .

• Remember volume controls: Different types of guitars require different amounts of volume coming from them so be sure to adjust your volume knobs accordingly. Many also have built-in EQs that let you adjust bass/mid/treble frequencies as well as gate levels depending on what type of sound you’re trying to achieve.

• Double-check connections: Make sure all connections are secure before playing or else you may encounter problems down the road due to poor contact or lose signal altogether due to poor connections among multiple devices at once. This suggestion is particularly important when using patch cables with effects loops that employ an incomplete circuit circuit design (as opposed to true bypass circuits).

Playing Artificial Harmonics

Artificial harmonics are a special guitar technique that can be used to create unique and interesting sounds. In essence, they are artificial harmonics created with your picking hand, rather than the standard method of fretting. This technique takes some practice to master, but once you do, you can use it to create some interesting sounds that will set your playing apart from others. Let’s take a closer look at how to play artificial harmonics.

Pinch Harmonics

Pinch harmonics are a type of artificial harmonic that rely on the light touch of the picking hand and careful positioning to extract specific notes from the string. Also known as ‘squealies’ for their tendency to emit higher-pitched sounds, pinch harmonics can produce distinct bell-like tones that have been widely employed in rock, blues, metal and jazz music.

The technique itself involves lightly placing the thumb on a note while placing the index finger slightly behind it as if ‘squeezing’ a note out of it. It may take some practicing to get it right, but once perfected you will be able to create unique guitar sounds with only two fingers! The two fundamentals of creating pinch harmonics are: the right positioning and the right dynamic (force applied).

Positioning wise, try experimenting on different parts of each string. Keep both fingers very close (within 0.5mm distance) but not touching while lightly brushing against it when you make contact with your pick/finger tip. This will require a little bit of sensitivity with your hands in order to master this technique quickly and accurately -– each string behaves differently! As for dynamics –- pick or brush up strongly enough so that you can hear all notes cleanly pronounced by your guitar strings when combined with an electronic tuner or metronome.

Pinch harmonics can add an interesting flavor to many styles of music! So don’t be afraid experiment and find what works best for you when it comes to creating unique guitar sounds through artificial harmonics -– feel free to rock out!

Natural Harmonics

Natural harmonics are tones that occur naturally in stringed instruments and generally come from notes played by a left-hand fingering. These same notes can be made to sound differently when the performer creates artificial harmonics, which are achieved by lightly pressing down on the string at certain points along its length with the right hand rather than strumming or plucking it.

Natural harmonics mostly appear as a result of sympathetically vibrating strings that create accompaniment to the melody being played, or simply by ringing out natural overtones associated with any given note. Natural harmonic frequencies tend to increase in higher octave ranges the further along from the bridge you move, and are generally easier to find in certain open tunings such as C-G-D-A.

Some other ways of finding natural harmonics include “interval picking” in which two different notes on different strings are held at once and then played together, creating other harmonic relationships; picking above and below a given note on one string; as well as damping some strings while ringing out others. Playing with various tunings will also yield different results, since those introduce special relationships between specific strings that resonates differently when artificially harmonized than simply strumming or plucking them.

Tapped Harmonics

Tapped harmonics are achieved by lightly touching the string at the fret where you want the harmonic to take place, then picking the same string and launching off it a harmonic if you hear two tones then it is being performed correctly. The guitar is usually tuned half a step higher, perfect fourths and other intervals so this will not work in standard tuning. It’s best to use thicker strings on an electric guitar with higher action.

This creates a strangely ethereal sound and can be used in almost any genre, from blues to heavy metal solos. Some artists have found ways of creating harmonic chords with tapped harmonics on one string and different added pitches behind it.

One way to practice tapping harmonics is to mute all the strings except for one with left hand fingers then pick that one string several times going consecutively up or down the fretboard until you reach a certain number of frets (usually around 1-4). When practicing this, each time your finger touches the string during its movement across the fretboard multiple overtones will be produced so try adjusting the volume of your pick when necessary for more control of tone. It may take some time before you discover interesting combinations but keep experimenting as you gain experience with these techniques!

Practice Tips and Techniques

Artificial harmonics are a great way to add unique sounds to your guitar playing. This technique can help you create beautiful, lush guitar sounds that will make your music stand out. Mastering artificial harmonics requires a lot of practice, but with the right tips and techniques you can get great results. Let’s take a look at some useful practice tips and techniques that you can use to improve your artificial harmonics technique.

Practice with a Metronome

Using a metronome is an essential practice tool for any musician. A metronome can help you maintain a steady beat, play in time and achieve the tempo you’re aiming for. It’s also used to work on your overall sense of rhythm and can be used to develop complex phrasing or challenging time signatures.

When using a metronome, it’s important to set the tempo in increments that are comfortable for you and practice slow enough that are able to play each note cleanly and accurately. As your skills improve, slowly increase the tempo of your exercises until you are able to perform them at the intended speed. The most important point when practicing with a metronome is to be consistent—if you miss a beat or become sloppy, stop completely and start again from the beginning so that you don’t develop playing bad habits that are difficult to break later on.

For maximum effectiveness, practice with both an accompaniment track and without one when using a metronome as it helps develop good time-keeping skills which will enable better synchronization between you and other musicians or when playing live. With shoulder-tapping exercises where you sing or play part of a phrase while counting in your head with an imaginary metronome, some people find this exercise useful for increasing their rhythmic development as well as internalization of beats with elements of improvisational challenges for more experienced players.

Use a Pick

Creating a perfect artificial harmonic requires exact timing and accuracy, making it best done with a pick. With a pick, you can easily hit the string with enough force to achieve the desired sound. When using your fingers, some of the focus may be taken away from just hitting the string as hard as possible resulting in weaker output. A good way to practice this technique is to try it without an amplifier first so that you can focus on exactly where and how hard you are hitting the string.

Experiment with Different Effects

When it comes to creating unique guitar sounds with artificial harmonics, experimenting with different effects can help a great deal. Effects such as delay, chorus and even flange can make a huge difference in the way the harmonics sound. Using a combination of these effects can create truly amazing sounds that were once only thought to be impossible.

Delay is often used to create ambient harmonics which sound lush and complex. Stereo delays combined with chorus are particularly effective for making full-bodied passages that feel like they are constantly shifting and changing in unique ways. Tie the delay on one side to an octave up or down, and have it cascading off into the clouds of warm ambience.

Reverb enhances long notes and chords, while at the same time adding depth and character to short notes when used tastefully. Flange is ideal for adding vibrato-like sweeps across single- or double-picked notes that give your music a classic psychedelic feel . Experiment with different settings until you hit just the right signature tone you are looking for!


In conclusion, artificial harmonics can be a great way to create unique and interesting sounds on your guitar. They can bring a completely new element to your guitar solos and give them a unique flavor. With practice and experimentation, you can achieve some truly amazing sounds from your guitar.

The Benefits of Artificial Harmonics

Artificial harmonic techniques allow guitarists to get creative and add a sense of melody and motion to their music. By creating these unique tones, guitarists can explore a wide range of sounds, from classical-inspired chords to wild leads. The technique is also relatively easy to execute; once the player can accurately find and play natural harmonics, creating artificial harmonics is just a matter of refining the technique.

Playing artificial harmonics not only helps guitarists build their skills, but it also increases their musical depth and creativity. Players are able to craft complex lead lines or background accompaniments with ease — all by tapping the strings with the pick hand in special positions. Furthermore, artificial harmonics play an important role in certain styles of music that could be difficult to re-create using natural techniques alone. For instance, progressive rock or metal often utilize these sounds in part due to its wide range of tonalities that can create an unpredictable element — combined with natural techniques.

In conclusion, artificial harmonics offer guitarists a way of crafting unique tones with relative ease without sacrificing too much technical skill. Although finding the right notes on any instrument can be challenging at first try — mastering the use of artificial harmonics grants you access to an intriguing new world bubbling up behind it!

Where to Go from Here

Now that you have a better understanding of what artificial harmonics are and what they can do for you as a guitarist, the possibilities are endless. From using basic techniques to maximize your sound to incorporating alternative styles like finger tapping and two-handed-tapping, you can use these techniques to create unique music.

Once you have practiced the basics and experimented with the available techniques, get creative with it — record or jam along with backing tracks, apply artificial harmonics to specific scales or regions of the fretboard and move beyond the notes on the page. With a little bit of practice, experimentation, and creativity you will be able to make great sounds on guitar — try out some of these ideas in practice today!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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