Tapping is no doubt one of the coolest guitar-playing techniques. It’s also one of the most difficult and misunderstood. It involves playing the guitar like a piano. You heard that right. In other words, it uses both your picking and fretting hands to tap notes all over the fretboard.
Usually, guitarists play the guitar with a pick or pluck with their fingers. On the other hand, the tapping technique involves tapping the strings, so they vibrate and ring out. Some players tap with one hand while others use both. However, a perfect guitar tap involves using both hands as the other hand is used to pull-off and hammer-on.
So who started tapping first?
If you also think Eddie Van Halen started finger tapping first, well, no. Steve Hackett is known as the first guitarist to set aside his pick and use his index finger on the fretboard of his Les Paul in the 70s.
Steve has boldly claimed the title of the inventor of finger tapping, and in his exact words, he said, “I’m the inventor of finger tapping on record.” However, Steve admits that Eddie Van Halen popularized the tapping technique.
Let’s dive into everything you need to know about guitar tapping.
History of Guitar Tapping
Although Steve Hackett is known as the inventor of the tapping technique, other musicians have used it over the years. Steve Vai, Stanley Jordan, Paul Gilbert, Randy Rhoads, Buckethead, and Niccolo Paganini are skilled musicians who have used tapping. Let’s not forget Eddie Van Halen.
In 1977, Van Halen—the rock band—released their debut album titled “Eruption.” They used finger tapping in ways like no other, and this album popularized the technique.
Beginner Guitar Tapping Tips
Legendary guitarists tap like it’s a piece of cake but trust me, it’s not. They’ve invested a lot of practice hours to produce the melodious sound you’re hearing. Here are some things you should note if you wish to learn the tapping technique.
Know Which Finger To Tap With
Most guitarists use their middle or ring fingers when tapping so they can continue holding the pick between their index finger and thumb. However, it’s not a standard. Some other guitarists move the pick to any other finger so they can tap with their index finger.
It would be best to find what works for you before you start learning to tap well.
Play Through the Pain
Finger calluses are a small price to pay for the melodious tune you’ll produce with tapping. Do you remember how your fingers hurt when you started learning chords for the first time? You’ll have to go through that again with your second hand. It’ll hurt at first, but you’ll get used to it.
Master Chord Progressions
Tapping is moving through chord progressions, so if you want to be good at it, you need to master chord progressions. Learn to switch between chords as fast as possible before learning to tap.
Why Is My Tapping Quiet?
If your tapping isn’t sounding as loud as you want it to, it’s because the strings are not vibrating enough to ring out. You should focus on how you hit and release each string to get the most out of tapping. Tap quickly and accurately to keep the string vibrating as you release the note.
Below are some tips on tapping louder and becoming better at tapping overall.
A pull-off is one of the essential things for guitar tapping. It’s essentially pulling the finger downwards to get the most sound from the string. The string you tap will be bent downwards when you play and ring louder.
Beginners struggle with the pull-off because you’re used to tapping or holding the string without moving your finger in any direction. Once you learn to do it, it’ll become easier. Additionally, you need to know how to do a legato and hammer-on to tap better.
Although it’s tempting to tap faster, you can’t neglect accuracy. If you’re inaccurate, your taps will sound wonky, and you won’t improve. Start slow, then increase speed as you get more accurate.
Play Unplugged or Clean First
When learning to tap, play your electric guitar clean or unplugged first. Distortion sounds cool, but it’s also deceiving. When you crank up your amp to the maximum, it’ll be harder to hear all the tapping mistakes you make, and you’ll sound terrible when you play clean.
Try Lighter Strings
Lighter strings won’t require less pressure to sound good. Although it all comes down to personal preference, heavier strings are harder on the fingers, and you should consider getting lighter strings to tap better.
Steve Hackett, Eddie Van, and many other musicians have contributed to the evolution of guitar tapping. It’s an amazing technique that can scale up your guitar skill if done well. So why don’t you grab a guitar and learn to tap some notes?