How to do pinch harmonics like Zakk Wylde & Dimebag

If you've listened to Ozzy Osbourne or Black Label Society, you've heard the incredibly heavy groove riffs of Zakk Wylde. Zakk is a guitar player's guitar player. He knows how to write catchy riffs, he can shred, and he can even rip it up on acoustic guitar every once in a while (go check out Book of Shadows).

One of Zakk's signature techniques is the pinch harmonic. Listen to any of Zakk's heavier playing, including his take on Crazy Train, and you'll hear this fun sound. You might've also heard it while listening to Dimebag Darell of Pantera. Zakk and Dime were good friends, so it makes sense that their styles influenced each other.

Countless students have asked me how to do pinch harmonics that I decided to write this post on exactly how to pull it off, with an easy step by step guide, and a few photos for reference.

How to do pinch harmonics

 Choke up on the pick, with only a little bit of the tip sticking out.

Choke up on the pick, with only a little bit of the tip sticking out.

  • First, you'll want to make sure you hold your pick at a slight angle, pointing towards the fretboard. You'll also want to make sure you choke up on the pick so only a little bit of the tip is actually hitting the string.

  • Next, as soon as you hit the string with your pick, play "through", really dig in, and make sure the string hits the underside "fleshy" part of your thumb.

    Think of it as if you were only playing with your thumb, or performing a sweep going right into the next string - but with the pick and then your thumb. Hit with the pick, and immediately have your thumb touch the string.

  • This technique doesn't require a ton of gain, but it does help if you really want to make the harmonic sing.

  • To get the squeal really sounding more like Zakk or Dime, give the note a slow bend with lots of vibrato.

 See the small part of my thumb that's showing? Make sure that hits the string second, after your pick.

See the small part of my thumb that's showing? Make sure that hits the string second, after your pick.

That's it! If you practice this technique for a couple of minutes a day, I'm sure you'll get it down in no time. It's a fun sound to have in your arsenal, but don't overdo it! What makes the sounds of Zakk and Dime so fun is that they're always tasteful with their playing.

What's your favorite song with pinch harmonics?

Squeal on! What's your favorite song that has pinch harmonics in it? Reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook to let me know.