Tap­ping with scales

Shaun Bax­ter shows that us­ing both hands to tap on the fret­board can pro­duce some truly spec­tac­u­lar ef­fects. Let him show you how...

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Creative Rock -

In the pre­vi­ous les­son, we looked at ways of us­ing pick­ing hand tap­ping with scales. This month, we are go­ing to add fret­ting hand tap­ping to the mix. Fret­ting hand tap­ping is the prac­tice of start­ing a new string with a ham­mer-on us­ing fret­ting hand fin­gers, and, when used in con­junc­tion with pick­ing hand tap­ping, can be used to pro­duce ul­tra-smooth and fast ar­peg­gio, pen­ta­tonic scale and other scale se­quences; how­ever, be­cause this tech­nique is used in con­junc­tion with pick­ing hand tap­ping, we should be­gin this tu­to­rial with a recap of that par­tic­u­lar ap­proach.

Pick­ing hand tap­ping is the prac­tice of adding ham­mer-ons and pull-offs us­ing one or more fin­gers of the pick­ing hand: an ap­proach that is usu­ally used in con­junc­tion with fret­ting hand legato (ham­mer-ons and pull-offs us­ing the fret­ting hand). In this ar­ti­cle, we are go­ing to con­fine our ap­proach to tap­ping with just one fin­ger of the pick­ing hand.

A lot of mod­ern rock play­ers use licks that com­bine pick­ing with tap­ping, so it’s im­por­tant that you are still hold­ing the pick be­tween your thumb and first fin­ger when you prac­tise pick­ing hand tap­ping. It’s for this rea­son that I rec­om­mend that you tap with the sec­ond fin­ger of the pick­ing hand. Af­ter all, the sec­ond fin­ger is the long­est fin­ger, con­ve­niently sit­u­ated in the mid­dle of the hand.

As with all of your play­ing in gen­eral, you must make sure that you are rest­ing with the side of your pick­ing hand (karate-chop style) on all of the idle bass strings. When tap­ping, try tilt­ing the hand so that the palm is turned up­wards (to­wards your face). This will cause you to make con­tact on the string with the in­side edge of the tap­ping fin­ger.

I also rec­om­mend that you tap up­wards with the tap­ping fin­ger (al­though many play­ers don’t). Tap­ping down­wards (to­wards the floor) is me­chan­i­cally less ef­fi­cient and tends to in­volve a hand mo­tion (rather than just the fin­ger), which makes it more dif­fi­cult to erad­i­cate un­wanted han­dling noise.

Also, you should try to avoid sud­den lat­eral shifts (along the length of the gui­tar neck) as this will pro­duce noise as the side of the tap­ping hand scrapes along the strings (es­pe­cially at the start of the move­ment). Don’t leave it un­til the very last minute to shift from po­si­tion to po­si­tion with the tap­ping hand. Give yourself enough time to make each po­si­tion shift with one con­tin­u­ous and un­hur­ried move­ment. Fi­nally, I rec­om­mend that you place the tips of the third and fourth fin­gers of the tap­ping hand on the un­der­side of the neck. Firstly, they will serve to act as a phys­i­cal ref­er­ence (you can feel where the neck is when you’re tap­ping). Sec­ondly, us­ing these fin­gers like this will help you to an­chor the hand into a sta­ble po­si­tion. Thirdly, the un­der­side of these fin­gers can then be draped across the idle tre­ble strings when tap­ping the thicker bass strings, in or­der to erad­i­cate the risk of ex­tra­ne­ous open string noise.

Pick­ing hand tap­ping is im­por­tant be­cause, by free­ing the fret­ting hand, it opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing fret­ting hand taps.

Fret­ting hand taps are dif­fi­cult to ap­ply us­ing the first fin­ger, be­cause the nat­u­ral pos­ture of this hand in­volves us­ing the fin­ger as a pivot or ful­crum (whereby it is clamped closely to the fret­board). This poses a prob­lem when play­ing an as­cend­ing scale se­quence, be­cause the first note of each new (thin­ner) string is usu­ally played us­ing the first fin­ger; how­ever, pick­ing hand tap­ping al­lows us to sur­mount this prob­lem.

When a pick­ing hand tap is held down, the fret­ting hand is able to leave the fret­board, which al­lows it to come down onto the fret­board with suf­fi­cient strength to make a fret­ting hand tap pos­si­ble.

Tap­ping, when used sym­pa­thet­i­cally, can be one of rock gui­tar’s most ex­cit­ing tools.

When used in con­junc­tion with pick­ing hand tap­ping, fret­ting hand tap­ping can be used to pro­duce ul­tra-smooth and fast pas­sages.

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