How to Play Harmonics on Acoustic Guitar • Acoustic Tuesday 239

Harmonics on acoustic guitar can be tricky! You can’t rely on the gain of your amp, which means accuracy is super important. This episode will cover everything you should practice to start playing harmonics on acoustic guitar.

Before we go any further, you might be wondering what harmonics are. Harmonics create a bell-like tone you can make on your guitar by gently placing your finger above certain positions on the fretboard and plucking the string. It creates an overtone on the guitar. The end result is an airy, bell-like tone.

Between natural and false harmonics, there’s a whole sonic landscape to discover with harmonics. The only problem is that playing harmonics on an acoustic guitar is much harder. Electric guitars benefit from having amplification, which means harmonics can be played even if you miss the sweet spot of where the harmonic is.

Natural harmonics are located on the 12th, 5th, and 7th frets on a guitar. There are other locations, too, but these are the common places guitarists play natural harmonics. These are considered the easiest harmonics to play on your guitar.

Additionally, there are also false harmonics, located all over your fretboard. Playing false harmonics requires accuracy, a gentle touch, and a little bit of trial-and-error.

Be sure to catch this whole episode to see how you can get better at playing harmonics on acoustic guitar!

Also featured on this episode…

  • Charlie Parr
  • Cristina Vane
  • kyle orla stringworks
  • Billy Strings
  • Post Malone
  • Jon Gomm

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  1. Thanks Tony! You removed the mystery of playing harmonics over chords. I always wondered how it was done.

  2. Hey Tony, have you been introduced to Ruthie Foster yet? I just saw a feature on her on PBS and she is doing some wonderful stuff.

  3. Thanks Tony,

    I have seen Tommy and other players use harmonics but was never able to replicate them. I thought they were creating the tones from their finger strikes. You pulled the curtain away for my “duh” moment when you demonstrated striking the string with your thumb. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for that information on the harmonics.
    I knew how to do it on the 7th and 12th fret, but not how to play harmonics after a chord.
    It will take some practice, but after you memorize it, this will add more flavour to your music.
    Love it.
    Thanks Tony.

  5. Another great show Tony! Always love harmonics in a song, adds dimension especially if you can play them well. I’ve fiddled around with harmonics for years, but it wasn’t until hearing and seeing acoustic players fairly recently that I realized the potential harmonics offer. You demonstrated that today. Another harmonic to expore is the pinch harmonic that I’ve really only used playing electric guitar with a pick. I’m sure there must be ways to add these to acoustic playing, perhaps you could include that topic in a future show. Thanks!

  6. Looking forward to your Acoustic Tuesday Ep. 240 next week! I am in the market for a Santa Cruz guitar. I’ve loved the one you’ve played and the one you gave away a few years ago. Wife has given the OK to get it. I just want to play if first before I buy, Thanks Tony…

  7. Thanks for the harmonics tutorial, Tony! In particular how to play the false (of fretted) harmonics – and sharing the videos of Tommy E and the world record harmonics player. It helps show what can be achieved.

    Also appreciate the highlights on the artists you shared. Always looking for new fresh music. Finally the intro to Jon Gomm is much appreciated – a treasure trove of info and music!

  8. Great lesson! I’ve been trying to work on this technique for a while and your explanation has been very helpful!