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Tapping Technique: Bi-Dextral Hammer-Ons in the Style of Eddie Van Halen

Tapping Technique: Bi-Dextral Hammer-Ons in the Style of Eddie Van Halen
Tapping is a term that describes legato techniques that employ both hands on the fretboard. Often referred to as two-hand tapping, this technique was revolutionized and popularized by Eddie Van Halen in the late 1970s (“Eruption,” 1978) and taken to extremes by guitarists such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jennifer Batten, and jazz great Stanley Jordan.

The concept is simple. Since the string does not have to be ringing when executing a hammer-on, the right hand can hammer on to the string to sound a note. Once the note is ringing it can be pulled off to sound a note below it on the same string. This note may either be a fretted note using the fretting hand or an open string. The hammer-on should slam the finger tip down on the string with enough force to sound the note loud enough and then remain holding the string down for the desired length of time. This motion should come from the muscles in the fingers themselves—not the wrist. The direction of the pull-off is a matter of preference. It is common to pull off upwards with the picking hand then pull off downward with the fretting hand creating a good balance and avoiding too much bending of the string in one direction. The finger used for single-note tapping is also a matter of preference. If the first finger is used, the pick will have to be set aside or palmed using the other fingers like a magician with a hidden coin. If the second finger is used then the pick may remain in its normal position. Timing is always a consideration, and good timing on the tapping phrases will produce the best results. Also, dynamics are important. Try to keep volume levels the same for hammer-ons, pull-offs, and taps.

The tapping finger in the following examples should be either the first or second finger. Try alternating them both on each exercise. The third and fourth finger may be used for more extreme tapping technique. Alternating all four is also an exercise worth trying.

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The next set of exercises change strings while tapping. This is done the same way as on just one string. Remember, the string doesn’t have to be ringing to sound the tap. Also, the fret hand may be moved freely behind the tap.

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It is common for a finger of the fret hand to do the first hammer-on onto the string before the tap as in the following examples.

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Here an open string is added to the exercises. There is nothing new here in terms of technique. This allows for wider interval leaps and bigger arpeggios.

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Vibrato may also be added to the tap. The easiest method is to execute a normal left-hand vibrato on the string while holding the tapped note. You may also do similar vibrato techniques with the tapping finger itself, but it is not necessary since the fret-hand vibrato is just as effective. Also, the same technique applies to bend-tap with vibrato.

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The next step in tapping is to use multiple fingers of the right hand. The pick will most likely not be held anymore at this point. Muting becomes very important to keep the licks clean, without extra string noise. Some players even go so far as to use a string damper—a device that stops all open strings from ringing. The first step is to add one more note on one string to the previously covered techniques. Although chromatics are an obvious benefit with up to eight notes on a single string (not including slides), the bigger benefit is a wider note range. In the following examples the suggested right-hand fingers are indicated with circled numbers. Since the pick is not held, it is common to rest the thumb of the pick-hand on the top of the neck for balance and placement reference. Try these extended arpeggios.

Download Example Audio 6...

This lesson comes from:

Ultimate Guitar Technique
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