How to Make Your Guitar Squeal / Scream – Play Pinch Harmonics!

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Harmonics are fun. Not only are they fun, but they are also a valuable tool in every guitarist’s bag of tricks.

They add some extra flavor to your playing, making it truly stand out. The most important type of harmonic for every shredder and rocker is the pinch harmonic.

The pinch harmonic is one of those secret weapons that rock and metal guitarists have to take their performance to the next level. Mastering the pinch harmonic is, therefore, very important and useful for aspiring hard rock guitarists.

How Pinch Harmonics Work

Pinch harmonics are characterized by their high-pitched sound. This sound is often referred to as a “squeal” or “scream”, especially in metal guitarist circles.

Simply put, a pinch harmonic is caused by cutting off the frequency of a note. This is done by preventing the string from vibrating fully and cutting it short.

How to Create Pinch Harmonics

The crucial part of getting a good pinch harmonic sound lies in the position of your thumb and how you hold your pick. Your thumb should stick out over the edge of your pick slightly. Not too much but just enough to ensure that your thumb makes contact with the string

When you pick the string, twist the pick away from your body slightly. As soon as you pick the string, twist your thumb and wrist slightly. The important thing is that you shouldn’t feel the string hitting your thumb. If your thumb makes too much contact with the string, it will just mute it. It is a lot easier to listen for a pinch harmonic than to feel it.

It will take a few attempts to get the angle of your picking and thumb contact right. The best way to practice is to fret around the 7th – 10th fret on either the D or G strings.

These strings are usually the easiest to pinch and these frets the loudest. This will let you focus just on the picking until you can do it consistently.

Changing the Pinch’s Sound

Unlike natural harmonics, pinch harmonics aren’t as static. The pitch of the harmonic depends on the note. Higher notes will create higher-pitched harmonics.

Where you pick on the string can also change the sound. Closer to the neck will create a more rounded harmonic, while closer to the bridge a twangier one.

Pinch harmonics can then also be sustained by adding some vibrato. This will let those pinches ring out and really make an impression.

Getting the Best Sounding Harmonics

While you can create pinch harmonics with a clean sound even on acoustic and classical guitars, they won’t sound as great. You will also need to pick much harder to get a nice and audible harmonic.

To get the most out of a pinch harmonic, use a decent amount of gain. Distortion is the best and the more you add, the more aggressive and piercing the pinch harmonics will be.


Those are the basics of pinch harmonics. And with some practice, you’ll be making your guitar squeal in no time. Maybe even one day your pinches will rival those of Dimebag’s and Zakk Wylde’s.

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About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

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