Tapping Technique For Guitar - Lesson 1

Tapping is a very fun and cool-sounding technique used to expand upon your fretting-hand's legato technique ability. It involves using one or more of your picking-hand fingers to fret (i.e. tap) notes on the fretboard. This simple act of tapping notes with your picking-hand allows you to play things that would be very hard (or even impossible) to play just with your fretting-hand alone. It's also a good technique for showing off to friends, family members and neighbors. :-)

In this tapping guitar lesson we're going to take a look at some ideas to help you develop your tapping technique. And we'll get things started right now by looking at the first exercise…

Tapping Exercise #1:

Tapping Exercise 1

This is a relatively simple tapping idea that in this case is being used to play an A Minor arpeggio. It is a great one to learn and is played in the following way…

  • Tap the second finger of your picking-hand onto the 12th fret of the thin E-string. Notice that I've used the symbol T2 to indicate that the second finger is the tapping finger. (Side Point: If I wanted you to tap with your third finger then I would have used T3 as the symbol. And if I wanted you to tap using your fourth finger, then I would have used T4 as the symbol ).
  • Using a downwards flicking motion with your tapping finger, pull-off to the 5th fret which is being fretted by your left-hand index finger. This index finger doesn't really have to do anything other than press down at the 5th fret. (The pull-off being done with the tapping finger makes the 5th fret note sound).
  • With the fourth finger of your fretting-hand hammer onto the 8th fret note.

At this point you might be wondering why I used my second finger to tap the note. Well, in all honesty, there is no real reason why you couldn't use another finger. I prefer to use my second finger because I hold my pick between my thumb and index finger. And this means my second finger is available for tapping…so why not use it?

Let's now analyze the mechanic of this tapping exercise…

Tapping Mechanic From Exercise 1:

Tapping Mechanic 1

What the above mechanic means is this…

  • Tap a note on any string with the second finger of your picking-hand.
  • Pull-off to a note on the same string that is being fretted by your fretting-hand.
  • Hammer-on to another note on the same string using a finger of your fretting-hand.

Once I understand the basic tapping mechanic, what I then like to do is to make up tapping ideas that only use that mechanic. This helps me to learn to integrate the mechanic into my technique in a creative way. And hey…it's a lot of fun making sh*t up!

Here are a couple of licks that I prepared earlier that use the mechanic above…

Tapping Lick #1:

Tapping Lick 1

Here are a few notes about this tapping lick…

  • It is composed using notes from the A Harmonic Minor scale. This scale has a very classical sound and is comprised of the following notes: A B C D E F and G#.
  • It is played using sixteenth notes. (This is when you play four notes per click of your metronome). You might notice when you play the lick as written that the timing is quite tricky. The reason for this is that we are playing a three-note pattern using four notes per beat. This means that you have to play the pattern four times in a row before you get back to the beginning. But don't panic. If you find the timing too tricky then just play the lick using three notes per click. (This is MUCH easier because all your tapped notes will be played when the metronome clicks).
  • Apart from the last note, this tapping lick is played exclusively on the thin E-string. Notice also how both the tapping and fretting hands have to do position shifts. So be sure to pay close attention to the fingering shown underneath the TAB.

OK. Now that we've looked at a single string lick, let's now take a look at a tapping lick that moves across all six strings…

Tapping Lick #2:

Tapping Lick 2

Although this lick looks a bit scary, in some ways it's easier to play than the first tapping lick. Here are a couple of important points about this lick…

  • It is made up from notes of the A Minor Pentatonic scale. If you've been playing lead guitar for a while then you should already know this scale. But just in case you don't, it is constructed from the following notes: A C D E and G.
  • You have to play the lick using sixteenth-note triplets (these are also called sextuplets). What this means is that you have to play six evenly-spaced notes per beat. If the thought of doing this scares the living daylights out of you, then just play the lick using three notes per beat (I promise I won't tell anyone that you wimped out like a cry-baby).

Your Homework

Before you move onto the next tapping lesson make sure that you have done the following…

  • Memorize the tapping exercise and the two tapping licks.
  • Practice them until you can play them in a smooth, clean and flowing way. Also make sure that you can play them perfectly in time with a metronome. (At this point in time don't worry about playing them super-fast. The goal is to be able to play them perfectly at a moderate speed).

Return To: Free Online Guitar Lessons

Improve your electric guitar playing for FREE

Click here for more details