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from Jeff Scheetz’s Rock Tricks
Pinch harmonics are perhaps one of the more difficult techniques to develop and require a fair amount of wood shedding to execute consistently – but once mastered, they offer up an excellent way to squeeze more notes out of each position without moving your left hand. Simply move your right hand around a bit and voila! You’ve got multiple notes from the same position. Give a listen to the pinch harmonic masters – Roy Buchanan, Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck, Brian May and Zakk Wylde – to get an idea of what’s possible using this technique.
The technique involves usually choking up a bit on your pick (depending on how you hold it in the first place) then digging in, just a skosh deeper than usual, with your right hand when picking the note. Just after the pick’s initial attack, the fleshy part of your right thumb should brush the string, creating the squealing pinch harmonic. Part of the trick to this technique is trying to get these two events – the initial pick attack and the thumb brush – to occur as close to the same time as possible.
Initially, your results will tend to be hit or miss; the harmonics will occur almost arbitrarily, mixed in with some decidedly non-harmonic sounding notes. These few tips are in order to help make things easier. First, dial in plenty of gain to help the pinch harmonics jump out a bit more – some compression can help with this, too. Also, if you are having trouble getting them to sound, try a lighter gauge pick than usual; this can often help to initially get the technique dialed.
Additionally, humbucking pickups’ fatter sound and higher output lend themselves well to making the harmonics pop.
As you zero in on making the harmonic occur consistently, experiment with right hand placement in relation to its position along the length of the string. This will help you find the “sweet spots” where the pinch harmonics tend to jump out more.
When you are able to make the pinch harmonics jump out consistently, begin listening more closely to the above players to hear the musical contexts where this technique fits. Zakk Wylde pops them out during quick single note parts within his rhythm riffs, while the Reverend Billy G. tends to throw them down when he’s wrangling with a blues riff down on the lower strings, a la “La Grange.” Roy Buchanan was often able to make his really whistle and would ride them to create tension within his solos. Brian May wins the “tastiest use” award, often using them for a single note within a solo, often at the beginning of a bend.
Of course, a few words of caution are in order, and come from the collective voice of experience from everyone who has spent time developing this technique: a little goes a very long way. Think of them as a spice rather than the entrée.
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