How to Play Right-Hand and Artificial Harmonics on Classical Guitar

Harmonics, in all forms, are one of guitar’s great “magic tricks”.

Their otherworldly sound adds mystique and marvel to any piece.

We play the “natural” guitar harmonics at the 12th, 7th, and 5th frets. But using the techniques below, any pitch can become a harmonic. Using these techniques, we can unleash a whole new range of musical colors.

How to Play Right-Hand Harmonics

For most natural harmonics, first we touch a string with the left hand at the appropriate place. Then we pluck the string with the right hand.

natural harmonics

For natural harmonics, the left hand touches the string above the fret, and the right hand plays the string.

But we can also move both these responsibilities to the right hand alone.

To play right-hand harmonics:

  1. Touch the string with the index (I) finger.
  2. Next, pluck that same string with either the ring (A) finger, or the thumb.

The index finger touches the string above a fret, and the right ring finger (A) plays the string.

right hand thumb harmonic

The index finger touches the string above a fret, and the right-hand thumb plays the string.


Create Distance Between the Touch and Pluck

To get the most sound from the harmonic, keep as much distance as possible between the tip of the index finger and the pluck.

If we pluck the string too close to “touch-point”, the string will vibrate less. This causes a quieter or more muted sound.

Artificial Harmonics on the Classical Guitar

Using the right-hand harmonic technique, our left hand is free to do other things (such as hold down frets).

As said above, we can play a natural harmonic on the 12 fret.

Likewise, we can play a harmonic 12 frets above any fret, provided we hold down the string at that fret.  We call this an “artificial harmonic”.

For example, the left hand can hold down the first fret. Then, the right hand can play a harmonic 12 frets up from there, at the 13th fret.

Using this technique, we can play any pitch as an artificial harmonic. We can play melodies or counter-melodies. We can create new musical effects and bring our music to life.

Practice the Choreography

Using the right hand in this new way, we may need to practice the choreography.

To practice, play the note just before the harmonic note. As the right hand plays the previous note, immediately jump to the artificial harmonic, and freeze there.

Don’t actually play the artificial harmonic, just snap into position and stop.

This practice trains our muscle-memory to move our arm into position. And it lets us create space for an intentional and precise harmonic.

Have fun!

Related: 3 Tips for Better Harmonics on Classical Guitar

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully. Click here for a sample formula.

Become a Member and Play More, Beautifully!

“The basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.”
Charles Poliquin

Join the program that takes you from the beginning fundamentals to advanced mastery, so you…1

  • Move your hands safely and fluidly
  • Enjoy fulfilling practices and meaningful work
  • Play beautifully with expression and flow

Click the button to take a step towards an
organized, effective guitar practice. >>>

Featured Courses

jesu bach classical guitar

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach

One of the best loved of all classical pieces.

See more...

read music guitar high positions notes

Play and Read Music in the Higher Positions

Learn to read music and identify notes on the entire neck.

See more...

how to play segovia scales

Better Technique, with “Segovia’s Favorite Scales”

Detailed explorations of this popular technical tool.

See more...

pachelbel's canon guitar

Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Great for beginners to intermediate players.

See more...

how to read music for guitar

How to Read Music for Guitar

A full course to get you started reading music

See more...

malaguena guitar

Malagueña, by Ernesto Lecuona

One of the most fun and recognizable guitar songs in the world!

See more...