• Understand the fundamentals
of 8-finger tapping.
• Create smooth, legato lines
that combine open strings
with linear phrases.
• Develop a more precise hammer-
on and pull-off technique.
Click here to download the audio files from this lesson.
Hey there! Right now you are either
saying, “Who the heck is this guy?”
or “Hey, I know that dude!” If it’s the first,
here’s the story: I might be one of the busiest
guitar players you’ve never heard of. I
have a double major in working my butt
off and remaining relatively unknown. I
play with the band Night Ranger, the hit
Broadway show Rock of Ages, and also tour
with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
When I was a kid growing up in the
’80s, I was lucky enough to have a great
guitar teacher named TJ Helmerich who
got me going with the 8-finger tapping
technique. After missing the first wave of
commercial relevance for this technique
in the rock world (see “shred era”) and
entering a seemingly endless period where
nobody thought lead guitar was even
remotely cool, I now find myself with
three really great gigs where this technique
is not only used, but has proven to be a
major asset for me—an ace up my sleeve
if you will.
Here I’ll share a few tapping ideas that
I’ve been using lately and hopefully get
a few of you to develop calluses on “the
To start, we are just going to work on
Fig. 1, which is a simple chromatic exercise
that will strengthen all of your fingers. It’s
really important to start very slow to make
sure all of the notes come out nice and
clear. This can be done on any eight frets
and any string of course, but to keep things
easy, we’ll just go with the 5th fret through
the 12th fret on the second string.
Fret the index finger of your left hand
down on the 5th fret and then use some
simple hammer-ons moving up to the 8th
fret. Now the real fun starts! Use your
right-hand index finger on the 9th fret,
and while keeping your index finger down
(all four left-hand fingers should still be
down), fret your middle finger on the 10th
fret, ring finger on 11th fret and pinky on
the 12th. The next part is where most people
run into trouble with this technique:
pull-offs. Work your way back down by
lifting your pinky up and across the string.
You’ll notice the pull-off will sound much
better by lifting the pinky up instead of
down. Pushing down is the equivalent of
pushing up for a pull-off with your left
hand—not good. Now that you have the
important info, let’s keep going. Lift the
ring off to the middle, middle to index,
and then index off to those left-hand
fingers that are still waiting. Now simply
repeat the process and move it around. It’s
an easy concept, but a great way to get all
your fingers going.
For those unfamiliar with Rock of Ages,
it’s a Broadway show based on all the hit
rock songs from the ’80s. It begins with
me playing something similar to the Steve
Vai intro solo to the David Lee Roth song
“Just Like Paradise.” During this part I’m
at the front of the stage with a fan blowing
my hair. The director liked the moment
so much upon first viewing that she said,
“Can we add to that and go two more
times around?” I had about two seconds
to think of something before she changed
her mind, but immediately I thought of
tapping as a perfect signature technique of
the ’80s and came up with Fig. 2.
Basically these are simple triad arpeggios
that outline the G–D–A progression.
Night Ranger has a built-in need for
this technique, thanks to Jeff Watson’s
groundbreaking signature solo on the
song “(You Can Still) Rock in America.”
My ability to duplicate Jeff ’s work in
the band these days alongside the amazing
Brad Gillis has been very important.
Most fans are there for those classic
songs and solos and I do my best to
give them what they want. Recently,
I recorded my first album with Night
Ranger, Somewhere in California. So, in
an effort to continue that element of the
band’s sound, I squeezed in a few 8-finger
moments of my own. Fig. 3 is an example
of what I came up with on the song “Say
it with Love.”
Another advantage of this technique
is the ability to grab wide interval jumps
with ease. Fig. 4 is from the song “Lay It
on Me” on the latest Night Ranger album.
It’s a great illustration of how tapping
simple octaves can give your lines a more
I hope this inspired some of you to try
something new, or maybe it’s revisiting
something old for some of the vets out there.
Now get working on those calluses!
is a New York City-based guitarist that
plays for Night Ranger, the hit Broadway
musical Rock of Ages, and the Trans-
Siberian Orchestra. Hoekstra can be heard
on Night Ranger’s latest album, Somewhere
in California, Jack Blades’ Rock N’ Roll Ride,
and Jeff Scott Soto’s Damage Control. His
solo effort, 13 Acoustic Songs, is available at
his website joelhoekstra.com