A Quick Guide to Rolling Harmonics

Here's a quick lick or technique that will work nicely in any guitarists "trick bag."

It's not very musical, but it's something I often use in my rhythm and lead playing. I'm not entirely sure if there's a name for this technique, but I like refer to it as "rolling harmonics."

The basic idea? You trill on a string with your fretting hand, then use your picking-hand pinky to catch harmonics. You can move your finger back and forth over the pickups, and you will catch different harmonics at different points along the sting. You have to be very gentle with your picking hand, otherwise you will "choke" the string and won't produce harmonics.

This technique can be performed on any string and not necessarily with just trills on an open string. You can trill anywhere on the neck, but generally speaking the higher you go the harder it is to catch the harmonics. As I previously stated, it's not very musical but it's a cool effect and a great substitute for pick scrapes.

I recorded a quick video demonstrating this technique using a 1959 Les Paul Reissue through an Orange Tiny Terror amp. That particular combination creates a very decent tone, and although there isn't a lot of gain, the harmonics come out very easily. I made a TAB for my video example — but any trills will be fine for you to try.

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

I've heard many players use this technique, most notably Eddie Van Halen. Play around with it and see if it fits into your playing. It's not for everyone, but you might find it useful every once in a while. Next week I will begin a new classical study similar to my previous Paganini series.

Will Wallner is a guitarist from England who now lives in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and toured Japan, the US and Canada in 2012. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.

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