Cool Harmonic Exercises (Guitar Lesson)

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David Anthony

Cool Harmonic Exercises

David Anthony teaches a basic harmonic exercise. The exercise is modeled after "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica.

Taught by David Anthony in Tips and Tricks seriesLength: 10:48Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:28) Lesson Introduction

David applies a type of harmonics referred to as “artificial harmonics” to his introduction music. Artificial harmonics are commonly referred to as “harp harmonics.” This is the term that David uses when discussing this technique. Also, notice how David adds percussive effects to his acoustic guitar playing. Essentially, he is slapping the strings on beats 2 and 4 to imitate the sound of a snare drum. Percussive techniques as well as harp harmonics are presented in later lessons in David’s Tips and Tricks series.

Lesson Content

In the previous lesson, you learned how to produce a natural harmonic at the 12th, 7th, and 5th frets. In this lesson, David will show you how to apply this technique within a musical context. He has devised a basic natural harmonic exercise based on the arpeggio pattern to the song “Nothing Else Matters.” This great James Hetfield tune can be found on Metallica’s self-titled “black album.” “Nothing Else Matters” begins with a slow arpeggiation of an Em chord in 6/8 time. David takes this basic arpeggio pattern and applies it to a tuneful exercise.

Note: Open the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to the introduction of “Nothing Else Matters.”

Chapter 2: (06:55) Harmonic Exercise

Note: Open the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to this exercise.

The first few measures of “Nothing Else Matters” feature a repeated Em arpeggio pattern. Instead of playing this pattern with open strings, David transforms the pattern into a natural harmonic exercise.

The exercise begins with natural harmonics played at the 12th fret. The pitches produced by these harmonics still form an Em chord. As discussed in the previous lesson, harmonics produced at the 12th fret create the same pitch as the open string one octave higher.

Exercise Fingering

Any left hand finger can be used to produce the harmonics in this exercise. Most players find it most comfortable to use either the first or second finger when playing harmonics along a single fret. David chooses to use his second finger. Experiment with each finger to find which works best for you.

In terms of the right hand, David plucks every note with this thumb finger. You may find it easier to play the exercise with a different fingering. The fingering listed below is the recommended fingering for the exercise. With this fingering, your fingers are already planted on the strings and prepared to play each note. This will eliminate some awkward leaps with the thumb.

6th string: thumb
3rd string: index
2nd string: middle
1st string: third finger

Reminder: A natural harmonic is best produced by lightly laying the right hand finger directly over the fret wire. Remove your left hand finger from the string as soon as it is plucked. This will produce the loudest possible harmonic. Harmonics are naturally quieter than regular fretted notes. For this reason, you should pluck the string slightly harder to produce more volume.

Play this exercise as slow as you need to. Make sure that each harmonic is as loud and clear as the next. Also, make sure that you keep the rhythm perfectly even. Set your metronome around 65 beats per minute. Pluck each note right along with the metronome click.

Once you feel comfortable with playing the exercise at the 12th fret, practice the same arpeggio pattern at the 7th fret. Remember that harmonics become more difficult as you move closer to the nut. As a result, you will need to pluck the string harder to produce a clear harmonic at the 7th fret. Repeat the same process with the 5th fret once you have mastered playing at the 7th. Finally, combine the individual sections of the exercise together. Repeat the arpeggio pattern at each fret twice.

Chapter 3: (01:19) Lesson Wrap Up

In this scene, David gives you an idea of what to expect from later lessons in this series. In future lessons, he will discuss other types of harmonics including pinch, harp, and tapped/slapped harmonics. David will also present a myriad of acoustic guitar tricks. In the meantime we recommend that you check out some guitarists that utilize these techniques to great effect. The late, great Michael Hedges provides the best example of this playing style. Also, check out guitarists like Kaki King and Michael Kelsey. Stay tuned for more great lessons!



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Member Comments about this Lesson

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OverRipeThree49OverRipeThree49 replied

The teacher made mistakes sometimes, but overall it's a very nice and fundamental introduction to this technique.

ingridshevkuningridshevkun replied

Cool. Thanks a lot for the lesson. The only time I had actualy used harmonics was when I tuned my guitar (for me it's the easiest way), but now I'm learning how to use harmonics in the actual music. Thank you so much!!!

Tips and Tricks

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Every guitarist gets to a point where he/she wishes to add his/her own touch to songs. Basic techniques such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, rakes, and harmonics are a great way to put an original spin on the music you play.



Intro to Lesson SeriesLesson 1

Intro to Lesson Series

David Anthony introduces the Tips and Tricks lesson series.

Length: 4:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Basics of HarmonicsLesson 2

Basics of Harmonics

David explains the basics of natural harmonics.

Length: 25:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Cool Harmonic ExercisesLesson 3

Cool Harmonic Exercises

David Anthony teaches a basic harmonic exercise. The exercise is modeled after "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica.

Length: 10:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Rakes and HarmonicsLesson 4

Rakes and Harmonics

David Anthony explains a technique known as string rakes. He explains how rakes may be used with harmonics.

Length: 15:30 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Harmonic ExerciseLesson 5

Harmonic Exercise

David Anthony teaches a beautiful harmonic exercise. This exercise is a short piece that is great for building harmonic skills.

Length: 15:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Tap HarmonicsLesson 6

Tap Harmonics

David Anthony covers the basics of tap harmonics. He demonstrates an exercise that will help you with this technique.

Length: 24:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Slap Harmonics and Open TuningLesson 7

Slap Harmonics and Open Tuning

In this action packed lesson, David Anthony teaches slap harmonics and CGDGAD tuning.

Length: 15:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
More Slap HarmonicsLesson 8

More Slap Harmonics

David demonstrates a new exercise involving slap harmonics.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Harp HarmonicsLesson 9

Harp Harmonics

David introduces harp harmonics.

Length: 16:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Harp-Slap Harmonic JamLesson 10

Harp-Slap Harmonic Jam

David Anthony brings harp and slap harmonics together in a practical, musical exercise.

Length: 10:03 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
More Harp HarmonicsLesson 11

More Harp Harmonics

David returns to the world of harp harmonics. Once again, this lesson uses an alternate tuning.

Length: 14:30 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
David Anthony

About David Anthony View Full Biography David Anthony was born on November 9th, 1982, in the small town of Mount Hope, NY. As a child he absorbed the church flavored musical environment that his parents provided. With this influence he realized at a young age that music would not simply be a passive experience for him. It was not until the age of 15 that he decided to string up his first guitar. Relying solely on his father for his foundational chord knowledge, he quickly became enamored with the possibility of endless melodic structures, and the goal of becoming a fantastic player himself.

His early shredder influences came from Kirk Hammet of Metallica. During his first few years of guitar playing, he developed a very workable knowledge of pentatonic, major and minor scales. Over the years his musical interests swayed from rock to standards, from jazz to classical, and a strong love of the art of flamenco guitar; Spanish finger style. It was not until the age of 18 that he decided to surround himself entirely with the music of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. This influential exclusivity enabled him to learn more about thinking outside of the musical box. In one year he had learned than in the prior 3 years. Picking up multiple ways to structure melodies, create chords and use different modes, his writing and improvisational abilities grew exponentially. In his senior year of high school, he was responsible for the development of the first Musical Appreciation class in the schools history, and had aided the instructor in the teaching of those classes.

After high school, his focus started to rest mainly in writing. With this he realized that he would need additional, abstract influences to develop a unique style of writing. After a couple more years of playing in a small band, and writing some decent material, he greeted 2004 with a move to Nashville, TN. There he found the exact influence that would change his opinion of the guitar forever. Attempting to weed out a strong foundation in shredding and solo techniques, he began learning finger style guitar, and quickly realized the options that his door would open for him.

As he picked up more complex chord structures and jazz scales, his style became a passion for him that continues to drive him and push him to learn more. He feels strongly about the connection between musical input and the music you write. He notes that his subconscious pool of influence, developed from the music he listens to, is almost directly responsible for the type of music that he writes. He adamantly believes that in order to create a unique, soulful style, the pool must remain unpolluted by substandard music. What's that mean? As David puts it, "If you don't want to play crap, don't listen to crap."

David currently teaches Jazz guitar in Fort Collins, Colorado, with plans to move back to Nashville in the spring to pursue a career in writing.

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