Tag Archives: Harmonic

Guitar Harmonics Lesson

Hell’s Bells – Guitar Harmonics- Part 1 – Dimebag Darrell Lesson

Guitar Harmonics Lesson: In This Lesson, we’re gonna talk about harmonics-how to get ’em, where you can find ’em and what you can do with ’em. There are a number of different ways you can make harmonics happen. You can induce ’em with your pick (pinch harmonics), you can tap ’em like Eddie Van Halen does sometimes (tap or touch harmonics) or you can get ’em by lightly resting one of your left-hand fingers on a string and then picking it. The last type is called natural harmonics, and they’re the suckers we’re gonna be dicking with.


The easiest place to get a natural harmonic on any string is at the 12th fret. All you do is lightly rest one of your lefthand fingers on a string directly above that fret and then pick it. Don’t let the string touch the fret, though, or it won’t work, dad! When you do this right you’ll hear a bell-like note that’s exactly one octave higher than the open-string note. To help make harmonics easier to get, use your lead (bridge) pickup and a lot of gain. When I first started experimenting with harmonics, I’d sometimes hook up two distortion boxes just to get my strings “frying,” which helped bring out the harmonics. Also, once you’ve chimed the harmonic, it’s not necessary to leave your finger on the string – in fact, if you let go of the string immediately after you pick it the harmonic will ring twice as well.


You can also get harmonics happening above other frets like the 7th, 5th, and 4th. Some dudes seem to think that these are the only points where harmonics happen but, as far as I’m concerned, there is literally a harmonic to be found at any place on any string. Check this out and you’ll hear what I’m saying: rest your left-hand bird (middle) finger lightly over the highest fret of your fat E string. Then start chugging out a groove on that string with your pick. While you’re doing that, keep your left-hand finger resting lightly on the string and start moving it slowly towards the nut. You should hear a shit-load of different harmonics all over the string!

Some of my favorite harmonics are located between frets. There are two really cool ones between the 2nd and 3rd frets that I use a lot. One is at about a quarter of the way between the 2nd and 3rd frets and the other is at about three-quarters of the way. They’re pretty hard to get, so once you find ’em make a mental note of exactly where they are.

I use some pretty radical harmonics at the beginning of “Heresy” (“Cowboys From Hell”). FIGURE 1 shows a riff similar to the one I’m talking about and, as you can see, it uses harmonics on the low E string.

Guitar Harmonics Figure 1
Listen Figure 1

The best way to make sure you’re playing this right is to listen to the record real carefully and then find the exact spots where all the guitar harmonics are. Use your ears and your eyes, man–look and listen!


A lot of guitarists tend to only use harmonics when they want to make weird noises with their whammy bars. That’s cool but, as FIGURE 1 shows, you don’t need a tremolo arm to make harmonics wail. Two of my favorite players, Edward Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, did some real happening things with harmonics without reaching for their bars! FIGURE 2 is similar to the verse riff of “Mouth For War” [“Vulgar Display Of Power”].

Figure 2
Listen Figure 2

In bar 4 I play a simple little fill using harmonics a quarter of the way between the 2nd and 3rd frets on the G and B strings to create a high-pitched percussive sound that gives the riff an extra dimension. And, once again, no whammy shit is going on.

Guitar harmonics s are cool to screw around with, so don’t be afraid to experiment with ’em. As long as you remember to look and listen you’ll do just fine. Next month I’ll tell ya all about how I get my trademark harmonic screams, like the ones at the end of “Cemetery Gates”(“Cowboys From Hell”). Until then…try, fail, live, learn–and die happy trying!

Check the next episode here:

Hell’s Bells – Harmonics – Part 2 – Dimebag Darrell Lesson

Hell’s Bells – Harmonics – Part 2 – Dimebag Darrell Lesson

What’s shakin’, tough guy? Like I promised at the end of last month’s column, this time I’m gonna light you up on how to do “harmonic squeals,” like the ones at the end of “Cemetery Gates” (Cowboys From Hell). A bunch of you have written in asking about this technique. Thanks for all your letters; keep ’em coming, man!

To get “harmonic screams” (same shit, different term) happening, you need a whammy bar. So, if your axe doesn’t have one, then you’re gonna have to sit this lesson out-sorry, dude! Also, just so you know, we’re gonna be doing some pretty brutal dives that will definitely knock a non-locking tremolo system way out of tune. So a locking one, like a Floyd Rose-type, is kind of essential.

In case you’re not exactly sure what I mean by a harmonic scream, there’s a real long, slow one in “This Love” (Vulgar Display Of Power) which starts at 6:21 (CD time) and runs to the very end of the track. You can also hear me doing a bunch of them in “Cemetery Gates, ” between 6:14 and the end, where I imitate Phil’s [Anselmo, Pantera’s vocalist] screams. I love that sort of vocal stuff, but there’s no way in hell I can do it with my voice-I don’t have that kinda range! So, harmonic screams are my way of “singing out”, using my guitar instead of my throat. That’s why I really dig this technique.

I stumbled on harmonic squeals when I was dicking around one day. A lot of people think I use a harmonizer or a [Digitech] Whammy Pedal to do them, but I don’t; all I use is my bar and some natural harmonics. To make harmonics scream, I first dump my Floyd Rose real quick, hit a harmonic with my left hand while the string is still flapping, and then use the bar to pull it up to the pitch I wanna hit.

If this sounds kinda complex to you, don’t schiz; it’s actually a pretty simple thing to do once you’ve got the technique down. So, let’s learn how to do a real basic harmonic scream in “slow motion,” by breaking the idea down into four easy steps. Let’s use the harmonic that’s directly above the 5th fret on the G string (‘cos it’s a pretty easy one to nail) and make it “scream” up to its original pitch of G. First though, dial up a distorted sound (remember, gain helps harmonics happen) and switch to your lead (bridge) pickup.

Step 1: Position your left hand so you’re ready to hit the 5th-fret harmonic on the G string with your bird (middle) finger. Then mute the high E and B strings with your left-hand index finger, and the low E, A and D with your thumb by wrapping it around the top of the neck.

Step 2: Flick the G string with your bird finger and dump the bar down to the pitch you want the scream to start out at. You can take the bar down as little or as far as you want; just don’t take it down too far, or the string will die of shock and the harmonic won’t happen.

Step 3: As soon as the bar is dumped, sound the harmonic by lightly tapping the G string directly above the 5th fret with your bird finger. While you’re doing this, make sure you’re still keeping the other strings quiet with your thumb and index finger.

Step 4: As soon as you’ve hit the harmonic, release pressure on the bar and let the G string return back up to pitch. As long as you’ve sounded the harmonic properly, it’ll “scream” up to G (as shown in Figure 1).

Figure 1
Listen Figure 1

The first few times you do this you’re gonna hear the open G string “growl” before the scream starts happening. This is just because you’re doing everything in slow motion. Once you’ve got this technique down, though, you won’t hear the growl because you’ll be doing the first three steps so quickly they’ll almost be simultaneous. If it takes you some time to get these squeals happening, don’t skid-it took me a while too.

Work on this technique until you can nail FIGURE 1 no problem, then move onto FIGURE 2.

Figure 2
Listen Figure 2

This one stays on the G string but has you “screaming” a bunch of different harmonics up to pitch. The last one can be a bitch to hit, but stick with it ‘cos it sounds real cool when you nail it. Once you get this one down, try doing the same thing on the other five strings.

Shit, I’m outta space. Bust a nut on FIGURE 2, ‘cos next month we’ll be cranking these sons-of-bitches so high that dogs’ll be barking! Time for me to unhook! Gotta book! Until next time, don’t forget how ripper the guitar sounds. So GET SOME OF IT *#$%* damn it! Lata!