Two-Hand Tapping

Audio Examples

Transcriptions

Note: The fingerings at the top of the transcriptions are for the fretting hand. Those at the bottom are for the picking hand: up- and down-strokes (U, D) for the plectrum, and 2, 3 and 4 for the middle, ring and little fingers.

Two-Hand Tapping [Issue 49]

Seeing as how two-hand tapping is experiencing a comeback of sorts I thought I should revive a few of my ideas from the '80s. Like almost everyone, I was inspired by Edward Van Halen (EVH), and later Steve Vai, but out of respect for the originality of these players I always tried to come up with my own ideas based on their initial inspiration.

I'm sure there's plenty of articles already out there explaining basic tapping, so hopefully these ideas will be a little out of the ordinary and, like everything I try to present here, open to interpretation so you can come up with your own brand of craziness. Use whatever digit you like for the tapping. I use my second (or middle) finger, as it allows me to continue holding the pick with my thumb and index finger, although EVH holds his pick with his thumb and second finger so he can use his index finger to tap. Once again there are no rules!

Exercise 1

Ex 1 will take a bit of explaining! The fretting hand remains in a static position while the tapping hand hits notes above and below it. I used this lick in a song called "Infatution" from the John Farnham Whispering Jack Live convert video, so if you can find that it'll help. The first three notes are in the regular tapping style, but for the next tapped note reach behind your fretting hand. When you hit the 4th note (2nd string, 10th fret), your tapping hand will be behind your fretting hand and will remain in this position for the 7th note (11th fret, 3rd string). The succeeding notes played by the fretting hand will be hammer-ons and you'll have this "hand over hand" visual thing happening, so it's good fun to do in a live situation. Experiment with this technique on one string at a time until you get familiar with it and then try the entire lick.

Exercise 1
Exercise One Notation

Exercise 2

Ex 2 is a good way to tap arpeggios. I use the 2nd and 3rd fingers on my right hand to tap these notes, so it allows me to keep holding the pick. The first four notes of this lick form an Em arpeggio, so by raising the 2nd note a half step, you'll have an Emaj arp.

Exercise 2
Exercise Two Notation

Exercise 3

Ex 3 involves harmonics and not fretted notes. Do the regular pull offs with the fretting hand for the first three notes and then touch the string above the fret wire with your tapping hand at the 12th, 10th and 9th fret to produce the harmonic. This lick is from the John Farnham song "Let Me Out", which is included on my Rock Improvisation DVD. EVH would actually hit or tap the fret wire to produce the harmonic, so try that as well. I just liked the sound of touching the string, but either way will work so try both.

Exercise 3
Exercise Three Notation

Exercise 4

Ex 4 is a lick directly following Ex 3 from the "Let Me Out" solo. Once again, regular hammer-ons and pull-offs with the left hand, but make sure you're touching the strings at the 9th fret to create a harmonic! Otherwise this lick will sound really weird (and not in a good way). You can either use individual digits from your tapping hand or simply lay your index finger across the strings. The tapping hand holds a harmonic by resting on the strings above the 9th fret, while the fretting hand will change the pitch of the harmonic. Also experiment with moving the tapping hand along the string while doing the pull-offs and it'll make all sorts of bizarre sounds!

Exercise 4
Exercise Four Notation

Exercise 5

Ex 5 is from the John Farnham song "In Your Hands", which is on the Chain Reaction album. John and his producer Ross Fraser were always up for me doing crazy things and this is a good example. Use regular tapping at the 21st fret while the fretting hand changes harmonics at the 7th and 4th frets, so instead of the tapping hand pulling off to a fretted note, it's now pulling off to a harmonic.

Exercise 5
Exercise Five Notation

Exercise 6

Ex 6 is a more "blues"-oriented version of a lick I used to end a solo piece that was originally on the Classic Jack concert video, but is also now included on my Rock Improvisation DVD. Sorry for the continual shameless self-promotion, but it does help if you can see this stuff being done. It's the same technique as Ex 5 and would work over and E7 chord. I stopped using two-hand tapping in 1990, as I wanted to devote all my attention to my hybrid picking style, but also as I'd started working with TJ Helmerich, who is in my opinion the greatest two-hand stylist in the world. There's a clip on the DVD featuring TJ and you've just got to see it to believe it. There's no limit to where this technique can be taken, so use your imagination and just go for it!

Exercise 6
Exercise Six Notation