Two Handed Tapping On Bass Guitar

You've seen Sheehan doing it, now it's your turn to impress everyone.

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So maybe you've always been impressed by the way guys like Billy Sheehan play, or maybe you just saw this article and were like "Hey, I'd look really cool if I could tap on bass." Well, here's your chance to learn one of the most impressive techniques on bass, and not only is it impressive, very few people take the time to learn it right, so if you put yourself to it, you'll be one step ahead of the rest. So, for starters, do an open hammer on on your G string. Good job, you tapped your first note. Now practice making it sound clear and defined, and get used to stopping the note. Now, since everybody has a different right hand approach, I'll give you mine and with time you will develop your own. I usually wear my bass low, but when it comes time to tap, the strap goes up. Not super high, just a comfortable high. Now position your right arm almost parrallel to the strings, and find a position where you will note be muting them. Go ahead and tap the 12th fret on the G string, and practice starting, holding, and ending the note properly. It should be as clear and controlled as note played conventionally. Take the time to make sure you have this down, most players skip this part and then never learn to tap correctly. This part is crucial, so if it takes you a week to get it perfect, practice for two before moving on. So now you've got that, and you have a real impressive sounding riff that goes like this:
G--12---12---12--12--|
D--------------------|
A--------------------|
E--------------------|
That's mad there. Probably the technique most used in tapping is a pull-off. RIght now you're going "I already know how to do a pull-off, I'll just skip this." Well, you can if you want to, but you will be a little lost later on, because pulling off from a tapped note is a lot different than pulling off a fretted note. When you pull off a tapped note, you want to slide the tapping finger (RH) off the string, in order to give the note more volume. So practice catching pull-offs, and the finger slide (the 15 is right hand, 12 is left hand):
G--15p12-15p12-15p12--|
D---------------------|
A---------------------|
E---------------------|
Again, seemingly simple, but crucial if you want to tap. Let's go ahead and bring some hammer-ons into that riff, try this:
G--15p12h14p12-15p12h14p12--|
D---------------------------|
A---------------------------|
E---------------------------|
Again, really simple, but that riff right there will be impressive once you get it up to speed, and will provide a basis for you to get your own riffs going. Practice really is key to getting tapping down, just like you had to build up muscles to slap, and even play fingerstyle, your hands have to get used to tapping. Eventually, you will find it coming naturally, and after that your playing ability will multiply. Hope this was helpful ( 1st artice by the way, all for you Dan). One more thing, once you get tapping down, and I don't recomend this while learning because it will hide your mistakes, is turning on some distortion, nothing comletes a tapping line like some fuzz to blend it all together. I personally prefer to set my EQ flat, with a moderate amount of disortion of fuzz, and tap away. Have fun. One more line...
G--------14p12h14-14p12h14p10------15p12h14p1215121412--|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A--10--------------------------------------12-----------|x2
E-------------------------------------------------------|

G--19p14-19p14p12--17p14-17p14p12-15p12-15p12h14--------|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------------------------|x2
E-------------------------------------------------------|

G--12p0-7h8-12p0-7h8-12p0-7h8-12p0-7h8------------------|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------------------------|
E-------------------------------------------------------|

G--12p0-9h10-12p0-9h10-12p0-9h10-12p0-9h10--------------|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------------------------|
E-------------------------------------------------------|

G--12p0-5h6-12p0-5h6-12p0-5h6-12p0-5h6------------------|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------------------------|
E-------------------------------------------------------|

G--12p0-7h8-12p0-7h8-12p0-7h8-12p0-7h8------------------|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------------------------|
E-------------------------------------------------------|

G--19p14-19p14p12--17p14-17p14p12-15p12-15p12h14--------|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------------------------|
E-------------------------------------------------------|


G--19p14-19p14p12--17p14-17p14p12-15p12h14p12-15--------|
D-------------------------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------------------------|x2
E-------------------------------------------------------|

G--15p12h14p12h15p12h14p12--|
D---------------------------|
A---------------------------|
E---------------------------|
Play double the speed of the rest of the piece and use it to impress people. All right, enjoy. BTW, I tabbed this line out without my bass, not sure if all the notes are right, I just wrote a few minutes ago and can't remember the whole thing.

52 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    SIX1989
    great lesson. hopefully, with enough time i can get this down and get some of my own riffs and stuff goin. Thanx!
    Newmeegol
    do you have any video or soundclips for this tapping lesson. i not really understand.
    ska_jimmy
    this articles sweet dude, ur lessons provide versatility to the community. well done mate! also that Inferno555 guy is full of shit
    mr.lame
    Pretty much, bass tapping is not only done in one string. Which is hard cuz the strings are apart. It's what I am trying to learn now. Tapping on one string is pretty easy. Try having 3 note tappings.
    SouthernBassist
    This is a great lesson. I knew the basics of tapping, and this helped me a good bit. Thanks a bunch.
    NoDeadHeroes
    This is a good starter. I think it's about time I learn to slap bass and become more experimental with me pride n' joy!
    metalheadbabe
    jem_fanatic wrote: what no mp3 file of what the line shud sound like?
    Yeh that would help us out more!
    Vaul96
    (quote button not working properly) The Powerslave wrote: Never knew you could tap on a bass. I only play on my friends occasionally. I assumed it was possible, just it wouldnt sound good. I'll try it next time. pretty much anything that can be done on guitar can be done on bass, its just a little harder because of the fret sizes and string thickness, but with practice and strength and speed training you'll be playing Paul Gilbert styles riffs on 4 strings on no time
    corrda00
    The Powerslave wrote: Never knew you could tap on a bass. I only play on my friends occasionally. I assumed it was possible, just it wouldnt sound good. I'll try it next time.
    U think thats bad. My friend didnt know bending was possible.
    bass_emagdnim
    Cool cool, been getting into tapping more recently so that's helped me out some, 'specially with remembering to mute the note after sounding it. Thanks (: I'm trying all this on a fretless so it's an added challenge =P
    Bryan2
    A cool bass song is 'a chick from corea' or 'a chick from korea' depending on how you spell it. Its by victor wooten and is quite tricky.
    dreamerthinker5
    metallicamadmik wrote: bassist_chick wrote: good stuff well worth reading omg a chick that plays bass lmfao
    I'm a girl... anyways good lesson I think I get it, if I had more time today I'd work out that riff, but I'll come back to it on a later date! wish u cud fave lessons on this site like u can tabs
    tasteless
    I'm unfamiliar with reading so this may be the problem. I get pull offs get hammer-ons I'm unsure what pulling off to a hammer-on is like. Is it saying to pull off to an open G then hammer-on to the octave?
    affe110
    usually i dont brag but im pretty good at bass tapping already, i know the moonlight sonata and some other stuff that Stu Hamm performed on bass but good guide anyway btw for those who want to play some cool tapping, just read Stu Hamm tabs
    The Powerslave
    Never knew you could tap on a bass. I only play on my friends occasionally. I assumed it was possible, just it wouldnt sound good. I'll try it next time.
    Secondhandloser
    Sorry, currently no recording cabability, besides, the line is just to get you started, play it however you want...
    mangablade
    hey secondhandloser! remember me? eh eh? ya good article. ill try doing that 12th fret right hand tapping thing. cuz you say its crucial, and my tapping sounds like crap.. so ya ill tell you in 2 weeks how its going
    mong12345
    i learnt this sort of well and then i went straight onto tapping the one solo by metallica! uhhhhh..... it's not that easy specially on bass anyway do you have to have your be-atch cranked up into an amp to make a nice sound?
    scottishmob
    Hmmm... I'm surprised most people don't know this already, but at the same time that line at the end is a great practice run for anyone, good job.
    MoshkI
    listen to incubus' bassist..he's an ex-jazzer...or a fustrated one...lotta slap n' pop! especially the song "redefine" from their album science! check it out and if someone can teach me how the f*** he slap those f***ing notes then i would worship you! thanks...nice article! though i already knew some of it...
    CallumJ
    great lesson thanks, anyone got any songs they can recommend that are good for tapping?
    4-string-4-eva
    good for the secondary use of tapping in my opinion. tapping is not a technique that is used to make you faster its to allow you to play notes which are too far away from each other or in the wrong timings to play normally. listen to 'overjoyed' by victor wooten and you will get what i mean
    4-string-4-eva
    CallumJ wrote: great lesson thanks, anyone got any songs they can recommend that are good for tapping?
    try and learn the opening lead riff in rainmaker by iron maiden, i worked it out a while ago and i can play it so damn fast now, =) cant wait to turn up at janick gerrs' house with my bass and show him
    sidetracked
    hey retards!! whoever needs a sound recording sucks. you don't use exactly that, thats an example of the frets you can use. you make up your own thats kinda close to that. put your own style in your basslines.
    Inferno555
    why cant u just play normally, sounds fine. im for an easy life why make things comlicated, eh?