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Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson: Slap Harmonics


One of the interesting and unique qualities of stringed instruments is that their construction allows players to quickly access a wide range of harmonic tones with relative ease. The easy access to harmonics allows players of nearly all stringed instruments to implement these unique sonic textures into their playing in limitless creative and boundary-pushing ways. These harmonics are particularly beautiful and offer an ethereal sonic flavor when played on the acoustic guitar.


What are harmonics?

Many of you may be wondering, “what are harmonics?” When you play a note on any instrument, it is comprised of a vast array of pitches. The pitch one generally hears and associates most with each note is referred to as the note’s “fundamental pitch.” However, every note has a series of harmonic overtones (or higher pitches) that accompany and are derived from the note’s fundamental pitch. Players can isolate those overtones on stringed instruments by lightly plucking specific locations on each string that divides the string into even intervals. We refer to these isolated overtones as harmonics.


In this online acoustic guitar lesson, world-renowned acoustic guitar virtuoso and ArtistWorks fingerstyle guitar instructor, Andy McKee, teaches a progressive technique that he uses in his unique performance style called slap harmonics. When executing this method, Andy uses his picking hand to gently slap the strings of the guitar over a specific fret to create a group of ringing harmonics. This makes a distinctive sound that is both angelic and ambient, and percussive.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play acoustic fingerstyle guitar from a master musician like Andy McKee? Try some free online acoustic guitar lessons now!


“There are three cool effects that slap harmonics create,” Andy explains with a chuckle. “First, you get the harmonics ringing out, which are beautiful. Second, you also get this sort of percussive metallic effect when you hit the strings against the frets. And, the third cool thing is that it just looks visually awesome.”


Like many techniques on the guitar, there are near-infinite ways to employ slap harmonics on your instrument. The best place to start when learning to play them is to practice slapping right over the 12th fret to produce the first octave harmonics of your guitar’s open strings. Once you’re able to produce those tones cleanly and clearly, you can quickly begin utilizing slap harmonics on other frets or integrating them with chords and other techniques.


“The first guitarist that I ever saw perform a slap harmonic was Preston Reed,” explains Andy. “I was mostly focused on the electric guitar at the time, but when I say Preston using slap harmonics and playing percussion on the guitar body, I was blown away. I just thought it sounded so cool, and it changed the course of my musical career.”


To learn more about slap harmonics and how to integrate them into your acoustic guitar playing, dive into this online acoustic guitar lesson from Andy McKee:


Slap Harmonics with Andy McKee:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play acoustic fingerstyle guitar? Through our comprehensive acoustic guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Andy McKee, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Andy’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced performance techniques, including two-hand tapping, slap harmonics, and percussion on the guitar body. Plus, you’ll learn many of Andy’s unique original compositions and imaginative covers. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as guitarists and musicians!


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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