Question:

How can I get a "harmonic" sound on the guitar at places other than the 5th, 7th, and 12th fret?

How To Perform "Touch" Harmonics Anywhere On Guitar Neck

This article will explain in detail how to perform touch harmonics anywhere on the guitar neck. Most people who have learned to play guitar at a fair to intermediate level understand that there are open harmonics on the guitar neck at the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets respectively.

By very lightly holding a finger over the string and fret, and then continuing with that action,can sound these “open” harmonics. They have a “ringing” or bell-like resonance to them. With much practice, one can learn how to put these harmonic sounds together, and incorporate these notes into a song.

“Touch” harmonics are totally different in the manner, which they are played, but they are “true” harmonics, and not “fake” as some people believe. They are based upon the dynamics of the instruments unique qualities. “Touch” harmonics are played in a “closed” fashion; meaning that they cannot be sounded without first “fretting” the note being played as a harmonic.

To break this down to where it is easily understood, let us consider how the “open” fret (5th, 7th, and 12th frets) harmonics work. Since they are played in these positions – by fretting any single note on the guitar, then counting up 12 frets from where it is fretted – you may lightly touch the string (12 frets from where it is being “closed” (fretted) then place the finger of the right hand exactly at the 12th fret above where it is fretted – then very lightly “pluck” the string (while holding your finger slightly upon it) it can be sounded as a harmonic.

It does not matter where you decide to fret a note; what does matter is that you lightly “touch” the string with the finger of the right hand exactly 12 frets above where the note is fretted. For example – to sound a harmonic at the 14th fret – you would have to do 4 steps.

(1.) The first thing being – choose the note of whichever string you want to sound as a harmonic, and “close” or “fret” it, at the 2nd fret. (Then, you know the harmonic will be played at the 14th fret.)

(2.) The second thing you need to do, is press the same string down (or “fret) the note with the left hand – in the 2nd fret.

(3.) The third thing to do is to count 12 frets above the note you want to do a “touch” harmonic on.

(4.) The fourth step is two-part – lightly “touch” the same note with the right hand fingertip. Then at the same time – “lightly pluck” that string – about an inch behind where you are touching it with the right hand. (This works best with a finger-pick – the kind that goes on your thumb.

Therefore, to “get” a “touch” harmonic to sound – you must do all four steps at the same time.

This may sound somewhat hard to do, but with a little practice, it will become easy. If you understand how to play scales, (doing them one note at a time – in the thinking process) you put the chosen notes together, and play them one at a time, this process allows you to put the scale together, and play a “riff.”

Once you understand how to do the “touch” harmonic, you then can even play scales using nothing but these touch harmonics. This sounds pretty awesome to do so. I have been playing guitar for over forty years – but I was never shown how to do a “touch” harmonic, until about 3 years ago.

I now can play complete scales using “touch” harmonics. There is no end to what you can learn to do with them – once you fully understand how to use them. If you have ever heard the famous Australian guitarist: Tommy Emmanuel, then you know he uses many harmonics in his playing.

He plays a finger-style (thumb-picking) and the arrangements he comes up with are nothing short of astounding. He says he first heard the famous Chet Atkins doing an arrangement on the radio (nearly fifty years ago) and he knew enough about guitar to know that he was doing the entire piece at the same time. (It was no recording trick)

They became friends, and Chet taught him the “touch” harmonic technique, and the rest is history. Tommy took this technique, and greatly advanced the use of them to get a sound which is completely his own. If you go to YouTube, and type Tommy Emannuel's name in, you can watch at least forty or fifty of his videos. He will greatly inspire you as a guitar player.

His guitar arrangements are legendary, and his sound is completely his own. Once you “get” and understand how to use these “touch” harmonics, you can then incorporate them into your own playing. They make the guitar have a unique “harp” sound, and are quite beautiful.

To further your knowledge of how to use harmonics to increase your playing, try this exercise:

Simply make any guitar chord (using the closed position for all six strings,) then reach up 12 frets for every note, (one at a time) and touch with the right hand fingertip the individual notes of the chord being fretted, and "pluck very gently" behind the fingertip, (as you touch it) wherever you touch it: 12 frets up (with the right hand thumb) to sound each note independently as a harmonic.

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