Tapping Overview | Hub Guitar

Tapping Overview

What is Tapping?

Pioneered by legendary guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, this technique uses both fret hand and picking hands to fret notes on a single string. Both hands are executing hammer-ons and pull-offs forcefully enough to cause the note to ring clearly. The note is never picked, and is only articulated as a hammer-on or a pull-off. This allows for cycling quickly between high and low-notes, and the result is a very unique sound only achievable on guitar by using this method.

This is primarily known as a technique for distorted electric guitars. It’s difficult to tap on an acoustic guitar; the electric guitar amplifies the notes and distortion compresses them so that they will ring loud and clear, with strong sustain. However, the determined acoustic guitarist can master tapping as well, especially if willing to make some adjustments to the guitar such as lowering the action.

Let’s start with a tapping pattern that cycles back and forth between two notes. The high note is played by striking the appropriate fret with the middle finger of the picking hand. Repeat these exercises over and over again, very, very slowly. Speed will come in time. The initial note is plucked but after that the tapping and pulling off is all that is needed.

Tapping Example 1

  1. With your fretting hand, fret the note A at the Vth fret of the 1st string.
  2. With your picking hand finger, tap the note D at the Xth fret of the same string. Do not let go of the note on the Vth fret.
  3. As you release the tapped note, use a pull-off to re-articulate the note A.

Tapping Example 2

Now, let’s cycle the high, tapped note so that it alternates with another note above it. Pull-off with the same finger that did the tap.

  1. Fret the note A at the Vth fret of the 1st string.
  2. Tap the note D at the Xth fret of the same string.
  3. Pull-off of the note tapped with the picking hand
  4. Tap the note E at the XIIth fret with the picking hand.
  5. Pull off again—and repeat.

Tapping Example 3

We can also cycle the lower, fretted note with a nearby note. It’s best to fret the lowest note in the pattern with your first finger.

  1. Fret the note A at the Vth fret of the 1st string.
  2. Tap the note D at the Xth fret of the same string.
  3. Pull-off of the note tapped with the picking hand
  4. Hammer on to the note B of the VIIth fret, using the fretting hand.
  5. Pull off again—and repeat.

We can also tap our way up and down an entire scale. Notice that as the gap between the fretted note and the tapped note widens, it becomes harder to tap, for two reasons: first, the frets are getting smaller and thus harder to play accurately and second, the string tension is lower as you move towards the middle of the string length and therefore you have to push harder activate the relatively loose string.

Combining The Tapping Patterns

To make our tapping patterns more decorative, we can combine tapping with fret-hand hammer-ons from above.

Key Exercises

  1. With the first finger of the fret hand on “A” at the fret V, tap up and down the A minor scale. Very slowly.
  2. Tap fret X and fret XII, back and forth.
  3. Tap the X and fret XII back and forth while hammering on the fret VII.

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