Natural Harmonics as Chords


One of the coolest sounds we can create on a guitar is the natural harmonic! Typically, this is where you very lightly touch any of the strings directly over the 12th fret, and then pick that string, and you get a sustaining note that reverberates through the guitar with a very pleasing and rich sound. If you play the harmonics on the 12th fret, you are simply playing the octave of the open strings (EADGBE). This technique also works over the 7th fret, and the 5th fret too, although it’s somewhat harder to get a strong sound on the 5th fret.

Thinking about the octave harmonic on the 12th fret, we can apply this technique to actual chords! If I play an open D chord, which would be frets X-X-0-2-3-2 (notated from nose to toes), in order to go up a full octave on each note (12 frets up), I  can play a harmonic on frets X-X-12-14-15-14! You can always use a guitar chord chart to identify these chords.

The challenge becomes, “How do I play the harmonic if my left hand is busy playing the D chord, and my right hand is for plucking the strings?” In order to do this, you can use your right-hand index finger to lightly touch the string for the harmonic, and your right-hand’s ring finger to pluck the string!

Natural harmonics can be a fun way to play some guitar chords and impress your friends. This technique is nice to have in your tool belt. While it isn’t the first lesson you should go over if learning how to play guitar, it can be a great way to change your sound, and also can be a great party trick.

By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer