Two-handed tap­ping

In the sec­ond part of his new se­ries Shaun Bax­ter demon­strates how you can pro­duce spec­tac­u­lar ef­fects by tap­ping the fret­board with both hands.

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Creative Rock -

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.

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