Guitar Fretboard Tapping

guitar fretboard tappingRight hand guitar fretboard tapping is a really useful technique to employ in all areas of guitar playing for many reasons. Firstly it makes very wide intervals, which would be either a massive stretch or impossible for the left hand, a possibility along the length of a single string or on different strings in conjunction with left hand hammer ons/pull offs. It adds an extra finger(s) to the left hand fingers already in use meaning that there are more potential notes to be added to a lead guitar lick/run or riff, which can mean potentially more speed that can built up as there are more team members who can contribute to the cause. It also brings fresh ideas to the table when phrasing or riff writing, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve hit a brick wall when writing riffs/licks and solved the problem by experimenting with some wide interval tapping ideas.

Great solos have a seamless blend of techniques and tapping offers an ear catching sound which is well worth practicing

So this is my introductory post on fret-board tapping. I’ve crafted the exercises here to mirror my own learning and refining of this great technique and have also provided a backing track to practice them to. It would be foolhardy to think of this as an easy technique, some tapping ideas can seem very easy at first, but the rules of timing and accuracy are as applicable here as they are with any other technique. This is a very popular technique (pioneered in the late 70s through the 80s by Eddie Van Halen but by no means invented by him) and it can be easy to sound like other people so experimentation is a must to find one’s own niche.

These exercises will use only one tapping finger, personally I use my right hand middle finger as my ‘primary’ tapping finger. As the pictures below show, it means I can move in and out of tapping ideas without disrupting my other techniques too much (if I used my right hand index finger, for example, I would have to re-grip my pick each time and therefore slow myself down) –

guitar fretboard tapping

guitar fretboard tapping

Guitar Fretboard Tapping

I have, however, seen people who prefer to tap with their right hand index finger instead, there is no ‘right way’ to tap – it must be comfortable with the player but what is important is that once the decision has been made and confirmed as the right choice it is stuck to, chopping and changing just leads to much slower progress. As this category progresses I will develop the tapping posts to include more than one tapping finger, I have heard players who use up to all four right hand fingers in tapping licks/riffs making a massive eight fingers all playing notes on the fret-board – tons of potential for original and ear catching ideas.

Exercise 1

This is a single string exercise which combines an ascending and descending pattern and also has a 16th note/16th note triplet, push/pull rhythm which continues into the following exercises.

Here is the audio of me playing the exercise –

And the transcription –

Download (PDF, 25KB)

Exercise 2

Exercise 2 adds some lateral movement to Exercise 1 whilst keeping the basic elements the same. All of the shapes present are diatonic to G Major which, with the A min root note in the backing track, will present A Dorian (the 2nd mode of G Major which will be posted on in the future) to the ear.

Audio –

Transcription –

Download (PDF, 30KB)

Exercise 3

Now the exercise shifts to different strings. The tapping finger leads the position movement and care needs to be taken not to accidentally produce unwanted string noise. This can be achieved by starting extremely slowly and following the instruction in this post.

Audio –

Transcription –

Download (PDF, 25KB)

Exercise 4

This is a tapping only exercise to demonstrate the possibilities of using only taps and hammer ons from nowhere which are left hand hammer ons which have not been started by a pick of another note – the left hand produces all of the sound by itself. This means that there is great possibility for very wide interval sounds when using this technique and more potential ‘attacking surfaces’ (hammering fingers) to contribute to a riff/lick.

Audio –

Transcription –

Download (PDF, 28KB)

Here is the backing track which lasts approximately 4 & ½ minutes for these exercises to be practiced to and for experimentation to take place for new ideas and technical workouts –

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