How To Play Harmonics On The Guitar – Natural And Artificial Harmonics


Learning the art of playing harmonics on your guitar is a highly creative and expressive skill. There are two distinct types of harmonics that you can produce – natural harmonics using open strings and artificial harmonics played from fretted notes.

Exploring Natural Harmonics

Natural harmonics are created by lightly touching specific points along the vibrating string. To get started, let’s focus on the octave harmonic. To produce this type of harmonic, gently touch the string with your picking hand exactly 12 frets higher than the initial note you struck.

Before we delve into examples of playing natural and artificial harmonics, it’s crucial to understand the technique required by your picking hand. Lightly touch the string at the octave (12 frets higher than the fretted note) with your index finger, and then pluck the string with your thumb from behind that finger. Refer to the images below for a visual representation of the correct picking hand technique for playing harmonics on your guitar.

Harmonic Picture with Thumb
With Thumb

Harmonic Picture with Pick
With Pick

Artificial Harmonics Unveiled

To produce artificial harmonics, which are played from fretted notes, position your fretting hand to bar the 3rd fret. Use the same technique as with natural harmonics, but this time, perform it 12 frets higher than your fretting hand position, at the 15th fret (3 + 12 = 15). Remember, you always need to be 12 frets higher to achieve the octave harmonics.

Take a look at the example below for a clearer understanding:

Harmonics on Guitar at 3rd and 5th fret

In the 3rd and 4th bars of the example above, shift your fretting hand to the 5th fret and your picking hand to the 17th fret to produce the desired harmonics (5 + 12 = 17). It’s a basic mathematical calculation, really.

It’s important to be patient with this technique as it may initially feel challenging. However, with practice and time, you will become more comfortable and proficient.

Expanding Your Harmonic Repertoire

Both natural and artificial harmonics introduce an exciting dimension to your guitar playing. There are countless possibilities and techniques to explore. While this article covers the basics, you may want to further enhance your skills by studying guitar players who have mastered the use of harmonics. Here are a few notable guitarists to inspire you:

  • Lenny Breau
  • Chet Atkins
  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • Danny Gatton


Unlock the full potential of your guitar playing by mastering the art of harmonics. These techniques will add a new level of creativity and flair to your musical repertoire. For the best online fingerstyle guitar lessons, continue honing your skillset and exploring new possibilities.

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