In the second part of his new series Shaun Baxter demonstrates how you can produce spectacular effects by tapping the fretboard with both hands.
last month we looked at picking-hand tapping; here we add fretting-hand tapping to the mix. This is the practice of starting a new string with a fretting-hand hammer-on, and when used in conjunction with picking-hand tapping, can produce ultra-fast arpeggio and scale sequences. Many rock players combine picking with tapping, so it’s important to keep the pick held between your thumb and first finger. For this reason I recommend you tap with the picking hand’s second finger; it’s the longest, and conveniently situated in the middle.
If you generally rest the side of your picking hand on the idle bass strings, when tapping, try tilting the hand so that the palm is turned upwards. This will cause you to make contact with the string with the inside edge of the tapping finger. I also recommend you tap upwards, since downward motion involves full hand motion, which makes it difficult to eradicate handling noise.
Also, try to avoid sudden shifts along the neck; this will produce noise as the side of the tapping hand scrapes along the strings. And don’t leave it until the very last minute to shift position; leave enough time to make each position shift with one continuous, unhurried movement.
Finally, I recommend that you place the tips of the third and fourth fingers of the picking hand on the underside of the neck when tapping; they act as a physical reference and will help you anchor the hand in a stable position. The underside of these fingers can then be draped across the idle treble strings when tapping the bass strings, to eradicate open string noise.
Fretting-hand taps are difficult to apply using the first finger because the natural posture of the hand involves using it as a pivot. This poses a problem when playing an ascending scale sequence, because the first note of each new string is usually played using the first finger; however, picking-hand taps allows us to surmount this problem. When a picking-hand tap is held down, the fretting hand can leave the fretboard, allowing it to come down onto the neck with sufficient strength to create a note.
Practice attaining sufficient strength from a fretting-hand tap by focusing on the fourth note in bar 3 of Ex 1 (8th fret, fifth string). On the third note of bar 3, the fretting hand should spring away from the strings when the picking-hand tap is placed down. This allows the fretting hand to come down on the following note (a fretting-hand tap) from sufficient height to generate a strong note. On the fourth note of bar 3, release the pressure exerted on the previous string by the righthand tapping finger so the note is no longer held down; the picking hand should not leave the string completely, because it will cause the open string to ring out. Practise this slowly, so that when you increase the tempo, you simply speed up a specific chain of events.
I divide my practice into three categories: Vertical - shifting up and down the same scale shape within one area of the neck; Two-string lateral - shifting up and down the neck on two adjacent strings (although this approach can be expanded to encompass string skips); and Single-string lateral - shifting up and down the neck on the same string.
See how many configurations you can think of in the above three categories. Once you have started to build an arsenal of different combinations, there are lots of ways in which each can be expanded, such as adding slides or pick-scrapes with the picking hand; or slides, bends and vibrato with the fretting hand. Have fun!
When used with picking hand tapping, the fretting hand can be used to produce ultra-smooth arpeggio and scale sequences.