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Tapping Part 1

My way of thinking

Now, in order to introduce my way of thinking regarding the use of tapping, I'd like to paraphrase Eddie. In an interview, he was asked how he actually came up with the technique. He said that he had been listening to the solo in "Heartbreaker" (by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin) and had been fiddling with the legato-licks in that solo. Suddenly, he thought "What if I use my right hand as an extension of the left hand? I can play notes that I can't reach with the right hand that way". So basically, he started to do hammer-on's and pull-offs with his right hand, just like he was doing with the left hand, thereby simulating an incredibly big left hand).

And that is a neat approach to think of tapping, instead of considering it just a gimmick or a trick. And I do think that quite a few people actually do think it's nothing but a nerdy-looking gimmick. I do kinda understand this approach, as the tapping-type techniques were kinda over-exposed and over-used in the 80s. You'd watch some video, and suddenly the guitar player would start to tap, making it look like a "Hey, look here what I can do" type thing.

However, in my opinion it doesn't matter what a technique LOOKS like. If you have a certain sound in your mind and you can't get it any other way than with tapping, why limit yourself? Also, I think that a lot of people simply don't know what you can do with the technique, and since they probably think all you can do is play something that sounds like "Eruption", they decide to not get into using it.

Know what I mean? I once had a student and I asked him what techniques he knew. (He had taken lessons from another guy before). He told me, and I asked "How about tapping?" He said "Ah, I don't wanna tap. It looks stupid". So, I showed him not only the "obvious" cliche-type stuff, but also the melodic possibilities you have with it, and suddenly he wasn't so sure anymore that he didn't wanna learn it.

Sure, if you stand on a cliff with spandex pants, a leopard-skin tee, a pink Explorer with yellow pickups, a 30 inch wig, with explosions and stuff going on behind you in your video, you might look goofy or at least a tiny bit outdated, but in my opinion, the music is what matters, and if tapping is the technique you need to play a certain part, you should be above some "what is hip and what is not" type talk by people on the internet, but should go for what you wanna hear.

With that outta the way, let's get into it, shall we?

Getting started

As described above, tapping can be considered a way to expand the left hand. Basically, when we talk about tapping, we're talking about hammer-on's and pull-offs, just like the ones we do with the left hand. I hope that you're familiar with those left hand techniques (if you're not, you might wanna check out some of the legato-articles on the web, i.e. The one I wrote for this site)

Check out the first clip. That's hammering on and pulling off between D and E on the G-String, with the left hand. I pick the first note, and then hammer on to D and pull off to E.

Click HERE to see the video

Now, we're gonna start to tap.

Let's keep fretting the D (7th fret) with our left hand index-finger. Now, tap (same technique as a hammer on you do with the left hand) with your right hand index finger. Imagine you do the same thing you'd do with your left hand when you execute a hammer on.

Of course, doing it with the right hand means you have a different angle etc., but the approach is the same.

Check out this video:

Click HERE to see the video

It sounds as if I am hammering/pulling with the left hand only, while actually, I play the G (and the pull off back to D) with my right hand index finger.

The tough part is to move economically. You can get a pretty good speed doing this, but that requires some work. Try to find the right balance... you don't have to move your finger away from the fretboard too much, really.
Also, try to work on an equal volume for all notes. You want the tapped notes to be about as loud as the other ones.

QUESTION: Which finger should I tap with?

Well, this depends on what you prefer, and what you feel comfortable with. Eddie Van Halen for example seems to prefer tapping with his index finger (We're talking about licks utilizing one right hand-finger for now... later on we'll look into using more of them). When he does, he either puts the pick into his mouth or holds it like this:

I apologize for the poor quality. If you can't see exactly what's going on in the picture: I took the pick and held it with my middle finger. I curl up that finger and the pick is "wedged" in there. With some practice, you can do that with only one hand, moving your pick to the middle finger while tapping with the index finger, and then moving it back to continue playing the "regular way".

I used to do this when I started getting into tapping, but with time I moved onto tapping with the middle finger instead. This way, I can keep holding the pick in the normal way while tapping with the middle finger, and can easily switch back and forth between alternate picking and tapping.

QUESTION: It feels awkward putting the hand there to tap. Am I doing something wrong?

As you can hopefully see towards the end of this next clip is that I rest my right hand thumb on the edge of the neck. That way, I support the hand and have more control over tapping. I occasionally rest the palm of the hand on the lower strings. That works, but you have to be careful when you move the hand along the neck (for example, to tap in a lower or higher position) as you might get unwanted noise, similar to a "pickscratch"

OK, let's move on...

Here is the right hand >>