How to tap on guitar looking at the guitar tapping basics

In this lead guitar lesson, you’ll be learning how to tap on guitar. We will be looking at easy and simple ways of tapping which will enable you to quickly and effectively incorporate the tapping technique into your guitar playing right away! I’ll be breaking this beginner tapping guitar lesson down into 8 parts, each of which shows something slightly different. Look at all the parts and take in as much information as you can. Before we get to the TAB, let’s first define what tapping on guitar actually is.

how to tap on guitar introduction to tapping

What is tapping on guitar?

The tapping technique on guitar is actually a very simple concept. Tapping is basically the act of performing hammer ons and pulls offs with fingers from the picking hand. It really is that simple. Tapping is used in a wide range of styles and by many great guitar players. Way too many to list here. If you would like an example of the tapping technique in action, then check out Eruption by Eddie Van Halen. This track is often considered one of the greatest tapping exhibitions of all time. Tapping is the focal point of this piece of music. Eruption is a showcase of what can be done with the technique.

There are multiple types of tapping but as this is an introduction to tapping, we’ll be looking at basic single tapping today.

Is tapping on guitar easy or hard?

Tapping is a technique that both looks and sounds extremely technical and difficult. This is sometimes the case but often, tapping looks and sounds a lot harder than it is. Tapping can actually be quite easy once you know what you’re doing. In this lesson, I’ll show you some easy ways to break into the world of tapping on guitar and we’re going to start right now. I know that as a guitarist, you’ll be struggling with reading this much so let’s get to it.

How to tap on guitar part 1 – a simple example

This first example of tapping on guitar is tapping in the most basic form. We’re using triplets here and we have a total of just 3 notes. The “tap” note is the highest in pitch and the way you perform it is easy. Simply use the middle finger on your picking hand to hammer on the note that’s indicated. After that, simply execute a pull off. If this sounds simple, that’s because it is.

Practicing the tapping examples

Tapping is something that is often performed at pace so being able to play today’s material at a higher BPM is certainly the goal. That shouldn’t be your starting point though. As with a lot of things, accuracy is king. What I’d like you to do with this material is to practice with a metronome. Start at a slow beats per minute and, once you’ve attained 100 percent accuracy, incrementally increase the tempo.

It’s important to ensure that the tap note is equally auditable to the other notes and that the notes last for the correct amount of time. When you have achieved this, increase your beats per minute by 5 and repeat.

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How to tap on guitar part 2 – fully utilising our first example

It’s easy to use the tapping technique all over the fretboard. The first example that we saw was in the key of A minor. Our root was at the 5th fret. If we were to shift the entire lick up a few frets, we’d be in a new key. Take a look at the example below in the key of D minor. As you can see, the difficulty of tapping doesn’t alter (much) when done in different keys. The root note is now found at fret 10.

One could argue that tapping lower on the fretboard is harder. This is down to the fact that your tapping hand has to travel a longer distance, both at the start, and at the end of the lick. This would therefore mean that mistakes are more prominent. Be sure to practice your tapping all over the fretboard.

When you’re playing a piece that includes tapping, you’ll sometimes need to transition to and from the tapping part quickly to ensure that your playing things at the right time. This is why practicing all over is important.

How to tap on guitar part 3 – adding more tap notes

The first example we saw is single tapping in the most basic form. Tapping even at that level sounds really cool and the best part is, you can make it sound even better very easily. We can do this by simply adding a few extra notes at the tapping end. We are going to revert back to the key of A minor. Take a look at the example below. Everything higher than fret 8 is a tapping note, performed with the middle finger of your tapping hand.

I’ll point out at this stage that every tapping note in this lesson is to be performed with that same finger but tapping in general is not limited to that. This is just your starting point.

In the example above, all I did was add notes from the A natural minor scale to create something more unique. I selected the notes completely at random to demonstrate just how easy it is to create tapping licks in this way. This shows that the possibilities for unique licks are endless.

How to tap on guitar part 4 – tapping on different strings

Its easy to take what we’ve done so far and use it on different strings. Take a look at the example below on the B string. This is another demonstration that proves that with tapping, your options are limitless. You can use the technique wherever you like on any string with ease.

How to tap on guitar part 5 – tapping chords

Next up, we have one of my favourite approaches to tapping. We’re going to look at a couple of examples of how you can tap chords. Below you will see 3 marked examples. You’ll find a tapping example of a minor chord, a major chord and a diminished chord. To keep things as simple as possible, all the examples are in A. This doesn’t mean that the examples have to remain in A. You can move these shapes around freely simply by shifting the root note to make different chords. Move the shapes up 2 frets and you’ll have a B minor chord, a B major chord and a B diminished chord.

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Tapping chords like this can be very effective. You can also combine shapes like these into mini chord progressions. This is a particular favourite tapping approach of mine. We’ll look at that next.

How to tap on guitar part 6 – tapping chord progressions

Here you can see one way of combining some of the shapes that we saw before into 1 single lick. The below is an example of a I IV V progression in A minor. The example is across multiple strings. This is simple, yet very effective.

Next, we have another example of tapping a chord progression. This time, I’ve incorporated a diminished chord and mixed up the progression to demonstrate the versatility of the approach.

How to tap on guitar part 7 – changing the rhythm

You may have noticed that so far, every example has used triplets. Tapping doesn’t have to use triplets. Next you can see an example of a tapping lick that uses 16th notes. There’s more going on here, but the difficulty hasn’t increased by much.  We’re staying in the key of A minor, but you’ll notice that this approach has its own distinctive sound. This example demonstrates that the rhythm of the tapping is down to the composer.

How to tap on guitar part 8 – tapping with the guitar pick

This is a technique that I discovered through the music of guitar legend Joe Satriani. He’s used it on more than one occasion in his music, but I came across it in a track called Surfing with the Alien. The technique sounds insane but it’s very easy, despite the intense look of the TAB.

All you need to do is perform the “tap” notes with the guitar pick instead of your tapping finger. To be specific, you would tilt the pick onto its side, pointing the tip of the pick downward toward the ground. You use the pick to tap rapidly. This creates a space / robot / alien like sound which I feel is pretty epic. Give it a try. You’ll be surprised on how quickly you pick this up. Be warned, once you get the hang of this, you’ll want to do it all the time. Keep the pick very close to the fretboard.

Altering the examples

All of the examples of tapping that you’ve seen in this guitar lesson are fluid. They can be altered and used however you like. You can break them up, you can add or remove notes, you can lengthen or shorten them, and you can include them in other licks.

The idea of this lesson isn’t that you take the examples shown here and use them exactly as seen in the TAB. The material here is intended as a steppingstone. Take what you’ve learned here and use it to create some awesome lead guitar music. Use the material to create your own tapping guitar licks. With a little practice, you’ll be tapping away like Eddie in no time at all. Here’s a challenge. See if you can create 5 of your own tapping guitar licks by using what you’ve learned here in this introductory lesson.

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In a future lesson, I will be doing just that. I will be creating a whole bunch of tapping guitar licks using some of the things you’ve seen here so do keep an eye out for that.  

Here is a couple of things to think about when learning how to tap on guitar

Remember when you first started playing guitar and your fretting fingers hurt really badly after playing? Well sadly, if you’re new to the tapping technique, the same thing is going to happen again, but this time, with your tapping hand. You’ll have to build up the callus all over again but just like the first time, it doesn’t take that long. You’ll get over it quickly.

Another tip is related to how hard you have to tap. The answer is quite. Back in the day, my guitar teacher used the example of a woodpecker pecking a tree. You can’t just lightly touch the fret which you’re hammering on to. You really do have to apply some force, On the flip side, you don’t have to tap with full force. There’s no need to tap the fretboard as hard as you can as that would be a waste of energy and would be inefficient but yes, you definitely need to be a least somewhat forceful when tapping.

What next?

That just about wraps things up for this introductory lesson on how to tap on guitar. I hope you found it useful and I hope it gets you off to a good start with the tapping technique. Your next task is to take what you’ve learned here and begin incorporating it into your own guitar playing.

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