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Natural and Artificial Guitar Harmonics

    A guitar string has a number of frequencies at which it will naturally vibrate. These natural frequencies are known as the harmonics of the guitar string. The natural frequency at which an object vibrates at depends upon the tension of the string, the linear density of the string, and the length of the string. Each of these natural frequencies or harmonics is associated with a standing wave pattern. What you will see below is a combination of natural harmonics and artificial harmonics.

    Harmonics are represented in this case with the parentheses around the note. You can also see that above the tablature you will see the abbreviation “N.H.” which stands for natural harmonics. For artificial harmonics, you will see that there is a “A.H.” in the tablature above the notes to be played using artificial harmonics. Those are sometimes called “right-hand harmonics.” That means that you will use your picking hand to produce the harmonics.
    Natural harmonics are played with your fretting hand. What you do there is lightly touch the string(s) where the note(s) are to be played. This is rather tricky to get down at first, but with practice you will sound just like the audio and video examples in this lesson.

    Right-hand harmonics are executed by lightly touching the harmonic node (usually 12 frets above the open string or fretted note) with the right-hand index finger and plucking the string with the thumb or ring finger or pick. For extended phrases played with right-hand harmonics, the fretted notes are shown in the tab along with instructions to touch the harmonics 12 frets above the notes. The “c” that you are seeing under every note below means that the pitch that you hear will be in C, no matter where you are on the fretboard with these notes.

    Here they are together. See if you can play both styles of harmonics together and you should then fully understand the difference in feel between the two.