acoustic adventures

There are sparkling, harp-like notes lurking just above your fretboard that can add a magical touch to any composition. We’ll show you where they are and how to coax them out.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Understand the fundamentals of natural harmonics.
• Outline pentatonic melodies using harmonics.
• Sharpen your crosspicking technique.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

As the leader of a guitar-based instrumental trio, I’m constantly trying to stretch the limits and find new sounds to make with the instrument. Fortunately, we have many wonderful techniques at our fingertips, from plucking and picking, strumming chords, or even drumming on the body, and I try to make use of them all. One of my favorite techniques is using the guitar’s natural harmonics to create a melody. Many guitarists use this approach, but I can’t think of anyone who is better known for it than the late Lenny Breau. He could play cascades of harmonics up and down the neck and make it seem effortless. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we’re able to hear Lenny describe and demonstrate this technique in the video below.

There are two types of harmonics—natural and artificial. (Breau’s command of the latter sets him apart from most guitarists.) In this lesson, we’ll look at natural harmonics—the logical starting point for exploring this technique.

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