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Harp Harmonics: How to Play Ethereal Harmonics on Your Guitar

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

You’ve undoubtedly played open-string harmonics at the 12th, 7th and 5th frets, but you can sound harmonics all over the fretboard once you understand the technique of playing harp harmonics. Guitar greats like Chet Atkins, Lenny Breau and Ted Greene were masters at this, playing fluid melodic lines using harmonics alone.

In this video, guitar instructor Simon Candy shows how you can perform and use this technique to produce ethereal harplike tones. Though the technique takes practice, Simon breaks it down step by step to help you understand the mechanics and application of it.

Simon demonstrates the finger technique, first using open strings and then using fretted notes. If you’ve never done this before, Simon explains that to sound the harmonic of a fretted note, you apply the technique exactly 12 frets above the fretted note. He then demonstrates it with various fretted chords. As he explains, part of the technique involves being able to visualize what your fretting hand is doing 12 steps higher up the fretboard.

“It’s the visualization part that’s important as well as the physical technique of harp harmonics,” he notes.

Finally, Simon demonstrates how to include normally sounded notes in with harp harmonics to create a true harp-like effect.

Take a look, and visit Simon’s site, AcousticGuitarLessonsOnline.net, and his YouTube channel for more.

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Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player (opens in new tab) magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World (opens in new tab), a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.