6 Common Mistakes That Keep You From Playing Killer Pinch Harmonics On Guitar (And How To Solve Them)



Your lead guitar playing will sound totally badass once you learn to play clean, articulate and screaming pinch harmonics any time you want. When done right, this technique adds MASSIVE amounts of drama, passion and fire into your guitar licks. Likewise, pinch harmonics can become a source of huge frustration in your guitar playing if you practice them incorrectly, making mistakes that make mastering this technique impossible.

To start mastering pinch harmonics right now, watch the video below to see how I helped one of my students to go from struggling with this technique to playing it accurately in just minutes:

Now that you’ve seen how simple pinch harmonics are to play, here are the most common mistakes guitar players make when trying to learn this technique and how to avoid them in your playing:

Where to play pinch harmonics on guitar

Mistake #1: Not Knowing The Right Place(s) On The Strings To Play Pinch Harmonics

To play articulate pinch harmonics, you must know where to strike the string with the pick and you must hit the string in that spot every time. If you simply strike the string in a random place, you will likely hear a sloppy noise instead of a clear harmonic and you won’t be able to consistently produce clean sounding pinch harmonics any time you want.

How to solve this problem:

Invest time to find the sweet spots on your guitar where you can produce the harmonic most easily. To do this, practice playing the harmonic in many different places along the string (sliding the pick up or down) to find where it responds the best. Watch the video above to see this approach demonstrated.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to pause for 1 second between each pick stroke to LISTEN if the harmonic came out clear and strong before making any adjustments. Your ears and mind must be focused when practicing this technique.

playing pinch harmonics cleanly

Mistake #2: Muting The Harmonic With The Thumb After It Is Played

After you play a pinch harmonic, the last thing you want is to kill it before it has a chance to sustain. Yet, this is exactly what happens to most guitar players as they follow the common (wrong advice) to "strike the string with the pick first and then touch the string with the thumb. Fact is, both the thumb and the pick need to strike the string at the exact same time to produce clear pinch harmonics

How to solve this problem:

Practice playing a scale (any scale) with all downstrokes while holding the pick very close to the tip. This will train your thumb and pick to strike the string at the same time, which is key to making the harmonic come alive. This will also train your thumb to NOT touch the string after you picked it (giving harmonics a chance to scream). All this will help you to produce the harmonics more consistently.

How to play pinch harmonics consistently

Mistake #3: Not Looking At Your Picking Hand

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Most guitar players are so used to looking at their fretting hand while playing, that they completely forget to pay attention to (and look at) their picking hand when practicing pinch harmonics. By looking at the incorrect hand, you cannot identify what you are doing wrong and what needs to be fixed to finally master pinch harmonics.

How to solve this problem:

Stop looking at your fretting hand (when practicing pinch harmonics) and watch your picking hand instead.

playing better pinch harmonics on guitar

Mistake #4: Not Integrating Pinch Harmonics With Other Guitar Techniques

Most guitarists become so focused on learning pinch harmonics in isolation, that they never practice applying this technique into guitar riffs and solos. This makes all the time you invested into mastering pinch harmonics virtually worthless…since you won’t be able to use the technique when it counts.

To test how close you currently are to mastering all of the most important lead guitar techniques, take this free guitar technique assessment.

How to solve this problem:

Set aside a portion of your pinch harmonic practice time to practice them in musical contexts… even if you still haven't mastered them in isolation. For example, think of a cool riff you like and implement pinch harmonics into it. As your pinch harmonics get better in isolation, ALL of your guitar playing (where these harmonics are used) will start to sound better as well.

Here is an example of how to practice integrating pinch harmonics together with a guitar riff:

Riff with pinch harmonic

Hear it

how to add drama to your pinch harmonics

Mistake #5: Having Poor Vibrato

Without vibrato, your pinch harmonics will sound lifeless. Even though vibrato itself is a completely separate technique, you MUST master it and integrate it with pinch harmonics to make them sound truly badass. Vibrato helps the harmonic to sustain longer and have a more aggressive/screaming sound.

Think of pinch harmonics like fire and vibrato like the fuel for it. Every time you light the fire, pour fuel over it and make the flame grow larger!

How to solve this problem:

Set aside 10-15 minutes per day to practice and train your vibrato, just as you would work on any other guitar playing skill. To learn how to use vibrato to play killer pinch harmonics, read this article about how to master guitar vibrato.
 

how to play clean pinch harmonics on guitar

Mistake #6: Not muting Unwanted String Noise In Your Guitar Playing

Controlling unwanted string noise is important no matter what you play, but it is especially important when playing pinch harmonics. Any little sound in the background (that shouldn't be there) will destroy the entire pinch harmonic and the emotion you intend to create with it.

How to solve this problem:

Use a combination of techniques in both picking and fretting hands to mute all strings except the one you are playing. The most effective technique to use for achieving this goal is the thumb muting technique - using the picking hand's thumb to rest on the lower (in pitch strings) and mute them. This is a technique I teach all my online guitar students to master to help them learn to play lead guitar cleanly. To learn more about this (and other) techniques for muting string noise, read this article about stopping guitar string noise.

Now that you know how to avoid the most effective ways to practice pinch harmonics, realize that this technique is only a tiny element of all that goes into becoming a truly awesome lead guitar player. To learn what other areas of your lead guitar technique you must improve to fully reach your musical goals, take a few minutes to test yourself and find out how close you are to mastering electric lead guitar technique.


Learn how to become a great guitar player with electric guitar lessons online.

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