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...
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.