Guitar Rhythm and Techniques For Dummies
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Tapping, also called finger tapping or fretboard tapping, is a technique where you tap the fingertips on your picking hand onto the guitar’s fretboard to sound notes. It’s basically hammer-ons performed with the picking hand. Although forms of tapping exist in many styles of music, the hard-rock genre is where the technique is best known.

The debut of Eddie Van Halen in 1978 is what started the tapping craze, and since then guitarists such as Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai have made it a signature part of their styles.

This tapping example is one where you bend a note, in this case a fourth interval to a fifth interval in the A-minor pentatonic scale, and hold it up while you tap a higher-pitched note on the same string with a finger on your other hand. In tablature, a note that is tapped with the picking hand is marked with a T (in standard notation, a tap is marked with a +).

You can tap with any finger on your pick hand, with most players opting for either the first or second finger. Because tapping is usually done only momentarily, many players like to keep a flatpick on hand by cradling it under a finger. This way, they can quickly maneuver it back into position and resume normal picking.

With the pick cradled, you need to initially pluck the string in both of these measures with a thumb or finger. You can pluck using the same finger you tap with. Another option is to grip the pick normally between your thumb and first finger, and then use your second finger for tapping.

Bending and tapping.
Bending and tapping.

Something similar to this is done in Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” with a bend and hold in F minor at the third fret of the third string, a tap and pull-off at the 11th fret, a bend release, and final tap at the 10th fret.

These tapped notes produce the pitches G and A. But wait, you may say, the taps are at the 10th and 12th frets, which is where the notes F and G are located, not G and A. Yes, but because you’re bending the string up a whole step, all the pitches along it are raised a whole step, too. So, the positions of F and G actually produce pitches a whole step higher (G and A).

Here’s another way to think of it: If you want to tap while holding a bend on the same string, locate your target notes and move backward from them by the same number of steps as the bend.

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Desi Serna has built a substantial online platform as an engaging and approachable guitar guru-a guitar player and teacher with more than 10,000 hours of experience providing private guitar lessons and classes. Serna is hailed as a "music-theory expert" by Rolling Stone magazine.

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