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Tapping 101

Tapping 101

If there’s one technique that proves that guitarists will always strive to find new ways to play their instruments past what their creators intended, then it’s probably tapping. Tapping is a guitar technique where notes are played by pressing directly onto the fret with one finger instead of being traditionally strummed. Tapping can involve both the left and right-hand in the fretting of notes, and allows guitarists to play both bigger intervals then they could otherwise reach and to pull off some pretty high-speed guitar lines. 

If you are unsure exactly what tapping is, here is a pretty classic example by the guitarist most widely associated with the technique. You can see Eddie pull out his tapping technique at about 0:15 seconds into the video. After watching that, you should hopefully be feeling inspired enough to get into learning the technique yourself! 


First Taps

In order to start tapping yourself, the first step is to start tapping notes with your strumming hand. Start by trying pressing the 8th fret on the 1st string with the index finger of your strumming hand (this would mean your right hand if you are playing a right-handed guitar). You are going to want to press the note with the very tip of your finger, just as if you were fretting the note as normal. 

Don’t be discouraged if your finger hurts as you try tapping. Unless you are an active fingerpicker, there’s a good chance that you have yet to develop callouses on your strumming hand, so it’s normal if it’s a bit uncomfortable at first. Remember though that it’s not any different than the way your fretting hand hurt back when you first picked up the guitar and were struggling to your G and E minor chord shapes, and you made it through that! 

Keep on pressing that note with your index finger until you are able to get to it to ring out as a clear, sustained note. Getting that first note to clearly sound out can be a tricky task at first, because if you’ve only so far used that hand for strumming than using it to fret notes can feel foreign. However once you do get that note to ring out, you’re already over the biggest obstacle in learning how to tap on guitar. 


Tapping Chords

Once you’ve managed to get that note on the 8th fret to ring out clearly, try pulling off that note and onto the open 1st string. A good way to achieve this is by bending the string ever so slightly with the finger that just tapped the note on the 8th fret, then releasing it sharply, thus allowing the open string to ring out. Once you’ve got down that motion of tapping the 8th fret with your strumming handing and then pulling off onto the open string, trying using your fretting hand to hammer onto the 5th fret from the open string. 

Now try cycling everything you just did: start by tapping the 8th fret on the first string with your strumming hand, then pulling off onto the open string and then hammering the 5th fret with your fretting hand, and repeating. You see can all of that transcribed into tablature here: 

The above phrase is A-minor arpeggio, which means that it’s a deconstructed version of the notes that make an A-minor chord (you can see more about that sort of thing here. Try tapping that A-minor arpeggio pattern until you have play nice and smoothly. 

Once you’ve got the pattern down, try playing the same exact thing except hammer on the 3rd fret of the first string instead of the 5th fret. By changing that one note in the pattern, you’ve now gone from playing an A-minor arpeggio to playing a G-major major arpeggio. Once you’ve got the G-major arpeggio shape down as well, try switching back and forth between A-minor and G-major shapes. You can see the whole thing in tablature here:  

By going back and forth between these A-minor and C-major arpeggios, you are essentially doing the same as going back and forth between strumming your A-minor and C chords, except with a bit more flash and style. Any other chord you may want to try tapping can be done in the same exact way. All you have to do is figure out what notes are in that chord, find those notes along any one string on your guitar, and tap that pattern. 


Some More Chords To Tap

With that being said, here are some tapping patterns still along the 1st string for a few other common chords, plus a few on other string as well to help get you started:

A-major Tapping Arpeggio 

E-minor Tapping Arpeggio 

E-major Tapping Arpeggio 

G-major Tapping Arpeggio 


D-major Tapping Arpeggio 

D-minor Tapping Arpeggio 


There’s a whole lot more to the world of guitar tapping that we just covered, but if you can get down everything discussed in the piece then you’ll already be well on your way! 

Ben Fitts is a musician, writer, and instructor at New York City Guitar School. He is the guitarist of the indie rock band War Honey, the author of numerous works including the short story collection My Birth And Other Regrets, and a former NYC Guitar School student himself.


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