IN THE WOODSHED
We’re keen to see those fingers strong and in command, so this month Charlie Griffiths works on the tapping strength of your three weakest picking-hand fingers.
Charlie Griffiths taps with fingers 2,3 & 4
Most of us have dabbled in the classic Eddie Van Halen tapping method, using one of our picking-hand fingers to hammer and pull off notes on the higher frets, essentially extending the legato technique between two hands to create licks that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Although EVH will always remain the king of tapping, the technique has evolved over the decades to utilise more than one finger from the picking hand. Multiple-finger tappers such as Kiko Loureiro, Jennifer Batten, TJ Helmerich, Chris Broderick and Ron Thal have used all eight digits to great effect. This month’s examples will work on strengthening the stamina and improving the accuracy of your picking-hand fingers with five licks. The examples start off relatively simply, with an exercise to help build stamina in your second finger and gradually introduces the third and fourth for some more challenging licks.
A lot of picking-hand tapping relies on good fretting-hand tapping and string muting. This means hammering on to a fresh string ‘from nowhere’ to initiate the note. The lick shown in Example 3 uses this technique and is based around the A minor Pentatonic scale (A-C-D-E-G), which should be a familiar shape to you despite the string-skipped arrangement. First hammer-on to the 5th fret with your first finger and simultaneously mute the other five strings with the underside of your finger and the side of your picking hand. You can use any bit of finger or hand you have in order to silence those idle strings, so experiment with what feels most comfortable. Once you have effective muting in place, it makes adding those picking-hand taps a lot easier.
The first example is a second finger tap, which is a good way of increasing stamina as it starts with a single tap and increases in rate with each repeat. The tapping technique is just the same as a frettinghand hammer-on. When practising, focus on accuracy to produce a clear, crisp note rather than using force as you will get tired quite quickly. Example 2 is our first introduction of tapping with the third and fourth fingers. This may feel unnatural at first but with practise your fingers will learn where the string is. Examples 3 and 4 are string-skipped licks using the second, third and fourth fingers to traverse the fifth, third and first strings without having to move the whole hand. The tapped notes fit within the A minor Pentatonic scale and are played an octave higher than the fretting-hand notes. Experiment with moving your tapping hand around the scale to create different melodies.
The final example is the most challenging as it involves two successive picking hand hammer-ons per string. At first try taking your fretting hand out of the equation and focusing on your tapping hand until your fingers can find the strings more naturally, then try combining your two hands.
when practising, focus on accuracy to produce a clear note rather than using force as you will get tired quite quickly
Developing strength in your weakest tapping digits