How do you perform a pinch harmonic while playing with distortion?

How do you perform a pinch harmonic while playing with distortion?

Guitarists who delve into the world of distortion often find themselves enchanted by the raw, powerful tones it can produce. One technique that can take your distorted guitar playing to the next level is the pinch harmonic. Pinch harmonics, also known as artificial harmonics or squealies, are a technique where a guitarist creates harmonics by pinching the string while picking. This article will delve into the art of performing a pinch harmonic while playing with distortion, providing step-by-step guidance and tips to help you master this expressive technique.

Understanding Harmonics

Before we dive into the intricacies of pinch harmonics, it’s essential to grasp the concept of harmonics. A harmonic is a higher-pitched, pure tone that occurs naturally when you lightly touch specific points on a vibrating string. These points, called nodes, divide the string into fractions, creating distinct pitches. Harmonics are an integral part of guitar playing, and understanding their fundamentals is crucial for mastering pinch harmonics.

The Anatomy of a Pinch Harmonic

A pinch harmonic is essentially an artificial harmonic created by pinching the string with your picking hand immediately after plucking it with your fretting hand. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform a pinch harmonic while playing with distortion:

  1. Choose the Right Gear:
    • Start with a guitar equipped with a humbucking pickup, as it can help enhance the harmonic’s clarity and sustain.
    • Use a moderate to high level of distortion on your amplifier or pedal to make the harmonics stand out.
  2. Pick the Right Spot on the String:
    • Pinch harmonics are most accessible near the bridge pickup. Experiment by picking around this area to find the sweet spot where harmonics are the most pronounced.
  3. Fret the Note:
    • Fret a note on the guitar neck as you would for a regular note. The note you fret will determine the pitch of the pinch harmonic.
  4. Pluck and Pinch Simultaneously:
    • As you pick the string with your fretting hand, let your thumb or side of your picking hand lightly graze the string. The key is to touch the string right after picking it to create the harmonic.
  5. Adjust Your Picking Technique:
    • Experiment with the angle and position of your picking hand to find the right balance. The more you angle your hand toward the bridge, the more pronounced the harmonics will be.
  6. Experiment and Refine:
    • Pinch harmonics require practice and patience. Experiment with different frets, strings, and pick angles to discover unique harmonics and tones.

Tips for Mastery

  1. Use a Heavy Pick:
    • A thicker pick can help you control the string better when attempting pinch harmonics.
  2. Pay Attention to String Gauge:
    • Lighter gauge strings are more forgiving for pinch harmonics, but heavier gauge strings can produce unique, throaty harmonics.
  3. Watch Your Pick Pressure:
    • Varying the pressure of your picking hand’s thumb can alter the harmonic’s pitch and intensity.
  4. Study the Greats:
    • Listen to guitarists known for their pinch harmonic prowess, such as Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell, and Eddie Van Halen, to gain inspiration and insights.


Performing a pinch harmonic while playing with distortion can add a mesmerizing layer of depth and expression to your guitar playing. Like any technique, mastering pinch harmonics requires practice and experimentation. So, grab your guitar, crank up the distortion, and start exploring the world of pinch harmonics. With time and dedication, you’ll unlock a new dimension of sonic possibilities and become a master of this captivating technique.

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