Tap Harmonics Overview | Hub Guitar

Tap Harmonics Overview

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Hi, this is Hub Guitar.

Let's do a quick lesson on tap harmonics. So in addition to playing harmonics by gently muting the string and plucking them [demonstrate] and in addition to playing "pinch harmonics" by using the pick and the thumb together. We can also play harmonics percussively.

There are two techniques here and they're very similar. The first is called a slap harmonic.

This is a way of slapping all of the strings at a point of that corresponds to that harmonic ratio. I'll demonstrate wit a typical chord progression, Amin7 to D9.

Of course, this only works well if the chord shape is flat, pretty much across one fret. Though, I was getting Major third of D# by angling my finger a little bit. But you can adapt it if the chord shape follows a straight shape of some sort, like this F maj7 chord.

The other technique is the drum or tap harmonic. That works best on the thicker E and A strings as well. Let's try doing that with a G major scale. So my fretting hand will be playing a g major scale shape on the third fret of the guitar. And my right hand will be hammering on those harmonics right above the fret, each time 12 frets higher than the note that I'm fretting with my other hand. Like this.

If you want to develop the technique faster, try tapping each note several times in succession. It's like lifting weights. The more repetitions you do, the better you'll get.

I'm hoping to hear from you and hear the stuff that you play using these new techniques.

What are Percussion Harmonics?

There are two families of harmonics-based techniques that are performed in a percussive fashion, where the picking hand slaps or taps the strings to create the harmonic.

The first technique called slap harmonics is associated with Michael Hedges and new-age guitar styles. This technique is commonly used to play entire chords, especially chords with a “flat” or “straight” shape. The chord is fretted with the fret hand, and a picking-hand finger gently slaps the fret five, seven or twelve frets higher than the notes of the chord.

Slap Harmonic Example


Let’s start by attempting this technique using only open strings. Line up the middle finger of your picking hand so that it is parallel to the fret XII. Gently slap all 6 strings at this fret, being sure to immediately remove your hand from the strings once you’ve slapped them. If performed correctly, the natural harmonics at fret XII will be activated.

Now let’s barre the first fret and repeat this last exercise, this time slapping fret XIII.

Finally, we can experiment with different shapes of the chord if we keep in mind the natural limitations of our picking-hand fingers. For instance, the Fmaj7 chord (left) can be activated with slapped harmonics because it has a straight shape. You can slap the same shape 12 frets higher, creating an identical angle with your finger.

Tap Harmonics

Begin by striking fret XII of the E string with the tip of your index finger. Once you’ve successfully produced the harmonic, try to do it again on the A and D strings.

Now we can play a scale or melodic line using this technique. Such as the G major scale.

A related technique, called tap harmonics, or sometimes drum harmonics involves the same motion: percussively attacking a string to produce a harmonic. Drum harmonics are played as individual notes, with a single finger striking the harmonic location. Drum harmonics are much easier to create with the heavier bass strings than they are with the high treble strings. For this reason, we’ll focus on producing drum harmonics on the bottom 3 strings.

Key Exercises

  1. Try doing some slap harmonics with the Fmaj7 chord above.
  2. Play a G major scale, one octave, using drum harmonics. The fret hand frets at fret III, and the picking hand taps above the XV fret, and so on.
  3. Play A–7 and D9 in position V. Slap the chords into harmonics.
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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