What is Tapping on Guitar?
Tapping is the technique where fingers on our picking hand are used to play notes on the fret board, via hammer ons and pulls offs. It’s a great way to add large interval jumps and play them smoothly, which conventionally would require large hand position changes or string skipping.
Guitar Tapping Technique
This technique is going to focus on using the higher strings rather than the bass strings. Hold onto your pick as normal (between your first finger and thumb). Rest the squidgy bit of flesh under your thumb on top of where the guitar neck meets the body – so it sits on the dots of frets 15/17/19. There are two big advantages to this:
- This gives a stable platform from where you can tap. We are going to use the middle finger of our picking hand to carry out the tapping.
- The palm of your hand will now mute the bass strings to stop them ringing out. This gives you a very clean sound.
A Tapping Exercise
Now try hammering on and pulling off on frets 15, 14, 12, 14, 15; in that order, with the middle finger on your picking/tapping hand. Next, try pulling off so that the open string rings out, so we get this:
The fretted notes are all being tapped. When playing this, try to get the open string and the tapped notes ringing out at the same volume. If you are struggling to get the open string ringing out at the same volume as the tapped note, make sure that when you pull off, rather than lifting your finger directly off, ‘flick’ it down and away.
Once you have the hang of getting the notes ringing out at equal volumes, we want to start looking at co-ordinating our tapping hand with our fretting hand. For this, we are going to use an excerpt from one of my favourite pieces of music, Handel’s Concert Grosso n12:
The hand movement for this is: left hand changes fret, then right hand changes fret.
How to Mute While Tapping
When you play this, you may find that you get several open string ringing out.
With your fret hand, whichever finger you use, make sure it also mutes the high e string. The bass strings should be muted with the palm of your tapping hand. This ensures that only the string being played (the B string) is ringing out.
So there you have it, an introduction to tapping on guitar!