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Tapping For Beginners

Tuesday 12th March 2013 Hints And Tips

This lesson is designed to give you a basic introduction to the technique known as tapping.

Maybe you've heard people talking about it and never knew what they meant, or maybe you looked at some of our jamtrack packages and were confused by the tapping licks. Or maybe you just always wanted to play Van Halen's groundbreaking 'Eruption'! Whatever the reason, we're going to give you a gentle introduction.

Let's start by explaining what we're talking about. Normally, you have one hand holding the pick (or plucking the strings with your fingers) while the other hand presses the strings against the frets. You knew that, right? With tapping, your picking hand is also used to press strings against the frets. Both hands are now doing the same job.

Here's what a simple tapping lick looks like in Tab. We're doing a regular hammer-on from 10 to 12, then tapping 14, then pulling off the tapping finger and finally doing a regular pull-off from 12 to 10...

Let's look at the basics... which finger should you tap with? Different people do different things, but we'd recommend using your 2nd (middle) finger as your primary tapping finger. This means you can hold your pick as normal, making it easier to switch quickly between tapped notes and regular picked notes.

And then, exactly how do you tap? Well, you already know how to do a hammer-on, right? Tapping is EXACTLY the same movement. Doing a pull-off with your tapping finger is just like a regular pull-off, except you have two choices... you can pull upwards or downwards. Try both! Possibly most people prefer to pull upwards, but Guthrie Govan is one notable player who pulls downwards.

The basic tapping action is shown here. In the first photo, we have already hammered the 12th fret and the tapping finger is moving towards the string. In the second photo the tapping finger has hit the string. Note how the pick is held in the normal position between thumb and first finger.


You might be wondering... why would anyone do that? Why not just play the notes normally? Well, tapping is one of the "legato" techniques, which are used to make the notes flow smoothly. Tapping simply allows you to play MORE notes without breaking the flow. You now have five fingers working together instead of four. You can also have wider jumps between the notes. Some players like to take things further and use two or more fingers to tap. But we should definitely save that for another lesson!

Just to show you what's possible with some creativity and MASSES of technique, check out Guthrie at his best in the track Fade To Blue (Preview 5 from Contemporary Series 1).

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