CHORD TAPPING Video lesson
In the first of a three-part video series on chord tapping, Paul Bielatowicz explores some of the wonderful sounds that can be created using this unique approach.
Paul Bielatowicz begins a journey into the wonderful world of chord tapping. Discover this incredible way to make beautiful music.
For many, the phrase ‘two-handed tapping’ evokes images of shredders using both hands to take their solos to hyper-speed. But that’s not the whole picture and if that’s your view of the technique then you’re missing out on a huge tonal palette and arguably a more tasteful application for the technique.
There is a long-held debate over who first stumbled upon the two-handed tapping technique; certainly its use and popularisation in rock guitar can be traced back to Eddie Van Halen and Steve Hackett’s innovations, but it’s probable that the technique has been experimented with for as long as the guitar has been in existence.
We’ve all come across that awkward stretchy chord voicing that made us wish we had extra digits, or the awkward leap to a high note in a melody: you can’t help thinking that the idea of using digits from both hands to make life easy in such situations must have occurred to guitarists playing the earliest versions of the instrument. Far from being a cool trick to pull out when we want to impress fellow guitarists, two-handed tapping can be a hugely valuable tool that allows us to play things otherwise impossible, as well as opening up new ways of thinking about our instrument – approaches closer to the way a pianist might think. Introducing a tapping finger or two gives us access to new chord voicings – many of which would be unplayable using the digits of one hand alone. It also adds new tonal colours to our palette of sounds: giving us smooth rippling legato or percussive blocks of harmony.
When venturing into the world of tapping, we’re faced with a few challenges that we might not have previously considered on our instrument. The first is a matter of making sure we only play the notes that we want to play, while minimising open-string noise. Many guitarists struggle with string-muting while tapping using multiple digits, as all fingers on both hands are often far too busy playing notes to think about muting. A great solution for this is to use a damping device: I used hair ties before I discovered Gruv Gear’s FretWraps – a cheap purpose-made string damper. However, the drawback of any kind of damper is that it renders open strings unusable; if we want access to these we must ditch our dampers and learn to mute unwanted strings using the sides of digits and palms of both hands.
But don’t spend too much time worrying about it, because string-muting tends to be something of a natural instinct most guitarists develop without thinking too much about its precise mechanics – and so it is with muting during tapping. The best advice is just to be conscious that you’re not just focusing on the notes that you’re playing, but also on keeping the unwanted strings muted using whichever ‘spare parts’ of the two hands are available.
Stick with me and I guarantee you’ll discover some amazing - and rather impressive - new sounds. If you’ve never seen players like Stanley Jordan in action, check him out on YouTube to see the kind of thing that’s possible with chord tapping.
WE’VE ALL COME ACROSS THAT AWKWARD STRETCHY CHORD VOICING THAT MADE US WISH WE HAD EXTRA DIGITS
COVER FEATURE Stanley Jordan made a massive splash in the ’80s with his amazing chord tapping